How many Christians know the context of “He who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully, but he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly”? I think most Christians would assume that this is talking about he who sows into a TV ministry or a church building fund, since that’s probably where they’ve heard that verse quoted the most. But the actual context is about an offering for the poor, not for a preacher, a ministry or a church! Please understand that the Bible does talk about taking care of preachers who feed you, but this particular verse isn’t about that. And of the very few Christians who can tell you that it’s about helping the poor, even fewer could tell you which poor people it’s talking about – it’s believers in need!
“This Christian charity work assists all poor people equally, without regard to religion, sexual preference, yada yada yada…” Sounds really inclusive, but did you know it’s unbiblical? It may be forced on you if you take money from the government, but what if you don’t?
The Bible teaches that when we give to the poor, we are supposed to give Christians priority. That’s right, we are supposed to discriminate on the basis of religion! People in the household of faith have preference over others. That doesn’t mean that you never give to anyone else, but other believers come first. Maybe that’s a new and radical thought to you, and I don’t expect you to believe it without showing you Scripture for it. So here goes!
Galatians 6:10: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” This isn’t saying, “NEVER help an unbeliever.” But believers have priority.
Acts 11:29: “Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.”
Romans 15:26: “For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.”
1 Corinthians 16:1-2: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must so also. On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collection when I come.”
2 Corinthians 8:4: “…imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of ministering to the saints.”
2 Corinthians 9:12: “For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God…”
In 1 Timothy 5, the rules for churches providing for widows are laid out. The widow must not have believing children or grandchildren; they are supposed to provide for her, not the church. The widow must have a track record of trusting God, serving the saints, praying “night and day”, lodging strangers and more! In other words, she must be an on-fire believer, not just an old lady who needs money. We should discriminate!
Like all other churches, we get calls from various Yellow Page Panhandlers. These are people who just go through the Yellow Pages, calling every church and asking for a handout. I haven’t talked to more than one or two who showed any interest in Jesus or coming to church (I usually ask about that!); they just want money. At this writing, I told one who called twice, “Look, I don’t know you, and for all I know, you’re just going to take that money and buy drugs.” She was busted on drug charges shortly thereafter. If such people will not take the time to listen to godly counsel (which I usually offer in vain), there is no sense just handing them money – they’ll just blow it and the problem isn’t solved. If they’re spending a fortune on booze, tobacco, drugs and lottery tickets, a handout will not solve their problem; it will merely finance it. I told one pushy guy that I’m a pastor, not an ATM. I know some people don’t understand that, but if they’d read these Scriptures, they’d realize that my main interest in helping the poor would be helping a Christian in need, not a telebeggar or an e-beggar. It’s sad, but I’ve taken quite a bit of time to check out cold-callers’ stories (I don’t always have time to do this), and the unknown person on the other end is often a shamster of some kind. We pastors have big hearts and want to help people, but we have to be wise enough not to be taken in by crooks, and there are a lot of people going around asking for small donations from churches, making up elaborate stories that can be debunked if you take the time to ask pointed questions. I’m not saying it’s wrong to ever help a cold-caller, but you’d better pray first and make sure God’s in it so that you don’t get ripped off.