thoughtful charity

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?

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3 thoughts on “thoughtful charity

  1. This is a tough one for me Randy. We have the roadside panhandlers all year ’round. While I admire their fortitude to stand out there in almost zero degree weather, I also know that many of them can work but make more money panhandling than working. One time we pulled off the interstate for a break and as we got back on there was someone standing there. I gave him my last sandwich. Did he eat it? I have no clue. but I believed that was what I was supposed to do. I have to watch my cynicism though. I don’t think there is an easy answer.

  2. I admit myself, as well as Bill, I can be a cynic at times… (esp. when I see someone take a cell phone out of their pocket on the street corner…) There are too many times when I try to ignore them, but then again there have been times when I tried to ignore someone, and God just wouldn’t let me.

    What about the whole issue in the Bible about the man providing for his family? I hear all of the time about the economy, but I see help wanted signs all over. I think we have created a society that expects hand outs instead of a hand up. Should we as the church help an able bodied man to continue in his, for lack of a better word, laziness? Again, I agree with Bill, there isn’t an easy answer. There are those who are willing to work and can’t find a job, but there are those who are completely unwilling to work, and those who are unable. All to often, they are hard to distinguish between.

  3. I am a tv addict so please just bear with me….

    I saw a tv show many years ago, so long ago I don’t remember the name of it! This particular episode was the “Christmas” episode and this widowed woman and her 3 or 4 kids had to rent out a room to a tenant. The tenant asked her if she believed in God and she said that she did. He asked her why she wasn’t in church and she told him a story.
    She had counter herself and her family blessed and had been in a church and eager to serve and it came time for the “Christmas Charity baskets” and she had brought several jars of pickled eggs. Then the Women’s auxilary group made baskets and left them on the porch step of those THEY thought had need. She was devastated when she awoke on Christmas morning with one of those “baskets” on her front porch and with a jar of her own pickled eggs. And she never went back to any church.

    I think that there are so many willing to put their hand out because there are so many with the means that can’t see past the end of thier nose or aren’t willing get to know the members of their own church body. They think that no matter the BODY they give the charity to that God will sort it out and they will be blessed.

    Charity without discernment is enablement. And like the Pharisees, they are simply dooming them to hell without even the benefit of an apology.

    Sorry if my views are upsetting or even miss the mark all together.

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