i read an article on cnn.com the other day that said that 2 out of every 10 people in my state (oklahoma) live in poverty. that is a staggering number. perhaps that explains why people call/stop by the church office with numbing regularity to ask for money.
think through this with me.
my wife and i were driving around our fair city last weekend, when we encountered one of the first rites of summer: a homeless man on the off-ramp of the interstate (by the way, where do they go all winter?). he had a fancy sign–not some thrown together cardboard number–no, his sign was solid, painted and built to last. the most striking feature of this man’s sign was the christian fish painted into the corner. i remarked to my lovely bride, “look, honey, this fellow is a brother.” (does it seem to you like an inordinate number of panhandlers are devout?)
here’s my question: does the church have a scriptural mandate to feed to poor? deeper questions might be, “how do we define poor?” or “how do we determine whether someone has fallen on hard times or is just lazy?” it seems clear that there is some kind of societal assumption that the church is the de-facto dispenser of charity and their attitude of expectation–and even entitlement–always shocks me.
i hope to elicit a little conversation on this topic. what do you think, dear reader? is it the church’s job to give to anyone who asks? should we try to ascertain whether the need is genuine and, if so, how is that accomplished? in the age of government welfare, is our charity a statement of our compassion, or are we being taking for granted? should we try to find out how our money will be spent? do we give to assuage our conscience and avoid getting more deeply involved? what does the lord expect of us?
i’ll share more of my thoughts in my next post. for now, what is your opinion?