The Church's Purpose to Love People
Is Expressed Through Benevolence
Participating in God's Work of Meeting People's Needs
The Priority of Benevolence:
- God's attitude toward the poor and oppressed (Ps. 10:14, 17-18; 35:10; 140:12; 146:5-9; Prov. 22:2, 22-23)
- doing for the poor likened to doing for God (Prov. 17:5; 19:17; Matt. 25:31-46)
- modeled in the Old Testament (Lev. 25:1-55; Deut. 14:28-29; 24:19-21)
- Jesus' example (2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:5-7)
- early church example (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37; 5:1-11; 6:1-7)
What greater motivation do we need to engage in benevolent ministry? But, there is more! We see it modeled for us in the Old Testament, by the Early New Testament church, and by Jesus Himself.
Click here for resources and ideas on ways to engage the Body in service-oriented ministry to others.
The Program for Benevolence:
- voluntary not compulsory (2 Cor. 8:3-4)
- priority to household of faith (Gal. 6:10; 1 Jn. 3:17)
- justice (equality) not mere charity (Prov. 29:7; 31:8-9; 2 Cor. 8:13-15)
- inter-church assistance as well as inner-church (2 Cor. 8:1-4; 9:12-15)
We are more likely to follow God's program when we truly understand:
God's Heart: He is full of compassion and completely just and therefore detests oppression. From the beginning God directed His people toward a more equitable living. In the Old Testament we read of specific programs He instituted as a check and balance system to keep the rich from getting too rich at the expense of others -- Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:8-55), the Sabbatical Year (Lev. 25:1-7), the Law of Tithing (Deut. 14:28-29) and Gleaning (Deut. 24:19-22).
God's Ownership: All things belong to God so we ought not to hold on too tightly. We should, instead, participate with God in meeting people's needs with resources that in reality belong to Him and not us.
The Process for Benevolence:
- not merely applying quick fixes but assistance to help people do better (Prov. 3:13-14)
- not merely addressing felt needs but getting beyond to the core issues (Matt. 9:1-5)
- not merely providing resources but fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20)
- not merely doing out of duty but loving those being helped (1 Cor. 13:3)
According to Luke 4:18-19, Jesus' mission was to free the oppressed and heal the blind. He wanted to see changed lives as a result of His help. Jesus had a balance between meeting physical and spiritual needs. He met physical needs but He also preached and taught truth. (See Matt. 4:23.)
Meeting physical needs is the easy part. Addressing the spiritual core issues of the heart is another matter. Jesus did both. (See Matt. 9:1-6.) He took care of the physical to authenticate the spiritual. Since we don't have the advantage of Jesus' omniscience to get right to the core, we must go through a process of discerning the real needs. We need a filtering system. Prayer is a major part of the process.
Follow-up is missing in so many benevolence efforts. What are we doing to help people prevent problems in the future? The greatest act of benevolence will go beyond physical assistance to a compassionate investment and commitment of time, energy, and love. Are we willing to come along side of a person and not merely distribute money, food, clothing, or other goods to them? It has been said, "Give a man a fish and he has food for a day. Teach a man to fish and he has food for a lifetime."
The Product of Benevolence:
- reap what you sow (Gal. 6:7-10; Prov. 11:24-25; 21:13; 22:9; 28:27; Matt. 5:7)
- greater equality (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35)
- God is honored (Prov. 14:31)
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice, and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter --when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: here am I. ... then your light will rise in the darkness ... You will be like a well-watered garden; like a spring whose waters never fail."