Brrr! It is COLD in western Pennsylvania. Last night the temperature dropped to -9°. It hasn’t been that cold here in over 20 years! This morning, my car didn’t want to start any more than I wanted to go outside.
Last night, during the news reports about our current “polar vortex”, a commercial kept airing with a young boy who had to wear his winter jacket around the house all of the time because his family couldn’t afford the cost of fuel to keep the home warm. The purpose of the ad was to evoke sympathy so that people would contribute to an energy fund for the poor. I would guess that the ad served its purpose well.
As I think about it, in recent weeks we have been bombarded by images of abused puppies, starving children, and sick people of all ages as non-profit organizations have sought to raise funds for their worthy causes. And, I would have to say, that many such causes are indeed worthy of our attention. Still, sadly, the inundation of humanitarian needs can be overwhelming for any person who has a heart to help others.
Sometimes, in order to appease a nagging conscience, we will write a small check as we try to shake a sense of guilt off of our shoulders. A few people are compelled to give beyond what they are able—not because they want to, but because they feel they must. Another common option is to harden our hearts—to block out all feelings of empathy, effectively ignoring any and all humanitarian needs.
The Bible calls us to meet the needs of others and to be cheerful givers in the process, but I don’t think that its writers had the same type of exposure to the problems of this world that we have today. I can’t imagine the Apostle Paul receiving dozens of requests for money from various ministries across the globe as the Jewish calendar year drew to an end.
My hope is that the following Biblically-based principles will help you to process and address some of the many needs around us:
- Do not give out of guilt or in response to pressure or manipulation. If I am in a church service and feel that a Christian leader is pressuring or manipulating me to give, I put away my wallet. A reasonable effort to persuade is understandable, but true Christian giving must take place in an environment of freedom.
- Consider the causes that move your heart and prayerfully budget the money to serve those causes. Giving can be highly pleasurable—and highly effective—when it is both Spirit led and prayerfully planned.
- Ask appropriate questions. Will the cause make a genuine difference in people’s lives? Does it honor Christ? Will the funds be used wisely? Simply giving $20 to a homeless person, for example, is probably not the best course of action. Buying a meal for a homeless person and sharing the love of Christ is a much better option.
- Understand that meeting humanitarian needs is a ministry of the entire body of Christ; no one person can do it all. I realize that a lot of people are down on the church in our day, but even at her worst, the Christian church is one of the most powerful forces on earth when it comes to meeting humanitarian needs. I can’t imagine how much worse our world would be if it were not for the collective generosity of the church.
- Endeavoring to give as a part of the body of Christ enables us to effectively and wisely join hearts and hands with those who care, allowing Jesus—the head of His church—to direct efforts where He feels the funds are best used. We have a small ministry with a small budget and can in no way investigate and respond to all of the requests we receive for financial help. We can, however, donate some money to the Salvation Army each year and then steer our callers in that direction.
- Make your entire person available to God. Although financial giving is most emphasized in non-profit circles, the true spirit of giving is not limited to money. Time is valuable; skill, effort, and energy can go a long way; and prayer is one of the most needed—but often the most lacking—“commodities” that we can give.
- Develop a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading. While we can—and should—make logical decisions about giving, it is ultimately the Holy Spirit’s leading that should guide us. More often than not, God seeks to stretch us to believe for more than we think is possible. As we learn to hear His quiet voice, and respond accordingly, we will find great satisfaction—and far-reaching fruit—in giving of ourselves for the glory of God!