Money and Benevolence

Terry Gardner

A brother in the Lord was recently describing a debate that he held on whether churches can support institutional orphan homes. He was for it and told in great detail the arguments that he made in support of the practice and added parenthetically that the congregation he was a member of did not support the homes and gave little to the poor. The brother was "for" it but did not do it. His opponent was against it and did not do it either. This is reminiscent of Mark Twain's comment of the weather, "Everyone talks about it but no one does anything about it."

The early Christians were givers. They realized they were not their own and that nothing they possessed was theirs. "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul: and not one of them said that any of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common" (Acts 4:32). These early Christians met the needs with love, compassion and unity. The idea of debating an issue like institutional support of orphan homes would have been ludicrous.

Benevolence was a natural result of the attitude of gratitude the early disciples of Jesus felt. Where there was a need it was met. We have debated benevolence to the point that very few are practicing it. It is a rare church of Christ that gives as much as 5% of its contributions to help the poor. Generally less than 2% is given and we argue over that tiny portion. We say, "Are they really needy; they got themselves into the mess; let them get themselves out; her husband doesn't work and it's his responsibility to support his family!" And yet everyone of us got ourselves into sin by our own actions. None of us could get ourselves out. "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

We teach children to share. We emphasize this lesson to a child over and over again. Do we in teaching others forget to teach ourselves? "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need" (Eph. 4:28). "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased" (Heb. 13:16).

Remember the judgement, "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, for I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me'" (Matt. 25:41-43). Perhaps fewer debates and a lot more practice would do good on both sides of this issue.