Biblical Charity: Church Based Accountability

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, April 19, 2017 0 comments

by David Odegard

The church gets its money through the love and good will of Christian people. Therefore, they must add accountability to its benevolence programs.

We know that state-run welfare is riddled with corruption, fraud, and a lumbering bureaucracy, but it has massive bales of cash that it has taken from the middle class. The local church by contrast is quick and nimble in its decisions to help, almost no corruption and fraud (there are notable exceptions), but not a whole lot of cash. Only the church is really in a position to offer insightful accountability.

The apostle John records an occasion when Jesus fed 5000 people with five barley loaves and two fish. It was a miracle of multiplication that showed that Jesus was not limited by material. Merrill Tenney says in his commentary, John: The Gospel of Belief, that this miracle showed Jesus to be the master of quantity. But in purely economic terminology, this miracle shows that Jesus is not bound by scarcity.

Scarcity is one of the fundamental problems with the material world, and it is a foundational concern for economics. Basically, scarcity is the observation that there is unlimited human wants, but only limited resources to satisfy them. Even though the world has abundant supplies of some things, they are still scarce in the sense that they are limited. As my farmer neighbor replied when I wanted to buy more of his land, “Land, they ain’t makin’ any more of it.” Which means, if you want it, you’re going to have to pay for it. Just to reiterate: human wants are unlimited, material resources are limited. This is absolutely true unless Jesus shows up and does a miracle.

Since Jesus showed himself to not be bound by the law of scarcity, the crowd was very excited. Jesus could give them bread and circus, the two main pillars of population control at that time. He could show up and do his multiplication miracle, wow the crowd and feed them all in one fell swoop. John 6:14 says, “After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did… they intended to come and make him king by force.” So Jesus leaves them and goes to be alone with the Father, hiding himself from people. The people go around the lake to where Jesus was expected to be next.

Jesus does make it there the next day after a very long night. John 6:25-26 says, “When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.’” He tells them what should be their focus.

My point in sharing this story is that Jesus miraculously disregarded the economic law of scarcity to prove to these people who he really was—God the Son, the One who fulfills prophecy. But did they believe and repent? No, they just wanted free food from then on. Jesus did not give into them. Instead Jesus preached a very hard sermon about who is going to be saved. He said only those who eat his flesh and drink his blood will be saved. Verse 52 says, “Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’”

This sermon was so hard not only did many people desert Christ at that point, many of his closest followers grumbled. Thus Jesus winnowed out those who truly believed and those who did not.

Jesus held the beneficiaries of the food distribution accountable to Biblical truth. We as his followers must do the same. We should pass out food and clothing while never forgetting that our primary responsibility is to hand out the Truth of the Gospel.

It is our love and care for people that opens up a door to hear the message of the Gospel. The government has taken over charity to turn the heads of the needy to them. Many look to the government for solutions to every problem including poverty, while fewer people look to God. God has the real answers and they are not merely economic. People need food, clothing, and shelter in emergency situations, but most of all they need real truth from heaven. Let us not go beyond Jesus.

At my congregation, we are very willing to come along side someone who is needy. We partner in a food bank, we give away clothing and sometimes money to people we do not know. We also would go the distance if one of the members of the church ever lost a job or needed a longer-term solution, because we have a relationship with one another. However, after the immediate needs are met, we do a financial assessment and outline steps of action, and we also share the Gospel. If they take our steps of action, we walk through it with them. If they do not respond to the steps of action, we cannot justify using other hardworking people’s money to sustain someone who is unwilling to cooperate, and we refuse to give them any more help. That is the right and Christian thing to do.

Jesus could have fed the 5000 every day until the day they died, but he wouldn’t do it. On day 2, all they got was the Gospel and not a crumb more.

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