District Fellowship News

May, June 2011

Charity—Provision of help or relief to the poor.

 Turn on any news program, check the headlines on your laptop or Iphone, and almost certainly there will be a story about the financial mess, we find ourselves in. Stories of unfunded mandates, budget deficits, bankruptcies, and demands for more seem to multiply each day. Promises have been made that truly will be impossible to fulfill. The specter of class warfare raises its ugly head on a regular basis, and political dogmas are built on shaky moral principles about gain, need, and want. What is the difference between want and need? What is a society’s responsibility to the needy and poor? What should our expectations be from our fellow citizens? You will probably not like the Biblical principles involved whether you are the richest of the rich or the poorest of the poor.

 Everything must work through two Biblical truths, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul”, and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How do these two things apply to financial or material principles. Simply. The Kingdom of God is not about what you have or don’t have, but it is about your love of God, and your relationship with others, that is how the world is designed to function. There have been many who have accused the church of not helping those in need, and sometimes that accusation was legitimate, but it has not always been right, because they have forgotten the first of the two truths. You may think it is trite to offer a man eternity when he is hungry, but that is only because your worldview is skewed by the world you live in. “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” We must realize that  living and dying here is only the start of our journey, a journey that will be either with God in eternity, or without Him in eternal misery. If you have a gift like that to offer, do not think it stupid, or senseless, or somehow worth less than the gift of a loaf of bread or a loan payment. God’s gift of relationship with Him is infinitely more valuable than the glass of water or the basket of grain. For if I were to die tonight without food and bread I would still be welcomed into his family, but if I died without Him, the outcome would be disastrous. That does not mean we preach at people and do nothing else. Once we get our perspective right, we will also realize we are God’s hands and feet on this earth. We do have a responsibility to use that which we have been entrusted with to help those in need around us.

 There is a wonderful dream that is sometimes annunciated of ending world hunger and poverty. That if all mankind would come together united by a common purpose we could somehow bring about a miraculous change in attitude, distribution, and supply. It would seem to fit with the second truth we listed above. If I love my neighbor as myself, I should want them to have all I have and be willing to sacrifice what I have to make it happen. Yes we should be willing...and no it will not work. What? The truth is that through the machinations of humankind there will never be an end to hunger. To begin with we have no control over nature itself. We can’t bring rain, or sun. And without abiding by the first truth above, we will not even be able to get the supplies we need to those who need them. There will be avarice and greed to stand in the way. Recent headlines speak of leaders who have plenty and will not share with their own people who have none, of speculators who for their own gain will drive up the price of foodstuffs to a point where the poor can not afford them. Even our well intentioned government cannot supply people’s need, because it is an entity devoid of humanity, an organization, a distribution service.

 That is the difference between the church and everyone else. The church in it’s true sense as the body of Christ are the individuals, the people, joined together in unity under the banner of Jesus. The government can not love neighbors, the food shelf can not love neighbors, (they can however be the tools used to facilitate distribution) but the members of the body of Christ have neighbors and can love them. True charity comes from living out our relationship with God here on earth. We are stewards of God’s provision, and we should gladly share with others to help meet their needs. But it requires the selflessness of individuals sold out to following the principles of God to make this happen. There is no inherent right of the poor and needy to take what they want or need. But there is an inherent responsibility of those who have to give to those who are less fortunate, to help those who cannot help themselves. This is not the government’s responsibility, it is our responsibility. Because of what God has done for us, and what He requires of us, we should and must be His agents on this earth. Love is not just a principle spouted from our lips when we are feeling virtuous, but it is shown in our actions, our giving. Be Christlike, be selfless, be loving, be charitable.