Every day in our mailbox, we get requests for financial support from worthy causes—both secular and Christian. There's just no way we can give to all of them. But how do we reconcile that with the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:42, which imply we should always give when asked?
—Norma Lambert, via e-mail
Norma, I know what you mean. My mailbox is full of those appeals, too. It can be frustrating—the needs are so overwhelming, and our resources are limited. The scripture you mention says, "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." There are many others like it, in both the Old and New Testaments, in which we are commanded to give generously to those in need. Acts 2:44 tells us that in the early church, "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." Wealthier believers shared with those less prosperous, and wealthier congregations supported those that were struggling.
The Bible tells us those who give generously will be blessed and rewarded for their sacrifice (Mal. 3:10, Prov. 28:27). We're to give according to our ability (Rom. 12:6-8, 2 Cor. 8:12). And give what we can cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7). But Jesus also said, "The poor you will always have with you" (Matt. 26:11). The reality is that no matter how much we give, we will never be able to completely eliminate poverty and need. And when the Scriptures were given to us, there was no such thing as an e-mail "blast," a telethon, mass-mailing, or any other kind of professional fundraising. The requests Jesus directed us to respond to in Matthew 5:42 were personal and local and fell under the category of "loving thy neighbor." Today we're likely to receive hundreds of appeals for financial support, above and beyond that which we give to our local church and community. So how do we respond?
Christian financial experts say it's better stewardship for believers to prayerfully select a few Christian ministries or charitable organizations to support at one time, rather than sending a small amount to every group that asks. Of course, be open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit as special needs arise. From time to time, reevaluate how the Lord is leading you in your giving. Pray fervently for those you can't afford to support, as well as those you do. Also, consider volunteering your time and talents. As you bless others, you'll be even more blessed in return!
Christin Ditchfield is the host of the syndicated radio program Take It To Heart, and the author of The Three Wise Women: A Christmas Reflection (Crossway).
Copyright © 2006 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian magazine.
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