I was with a group of men recently and I was teaching on biblical stewardship. At one point, one of the men asked, “what kinds of ministries do you like giving to?”
“Before I answer that, I have a question for you. How much of what you own, belongs to God?” I asked. “All of it,” was his reply.
“Well then, what ministries I like giving to, or what you like giving to, is the wrong question. The most important question is this; where does God want his resources invested?” I have a wealthy friend who has a small staff to oversee their private foundation. The staff understands that the money they give away isn’t theirs. It belongs to my friend. So, their job is to make sure every dollar given, goes to the kinds of ministries my friend believes in and has a passion for. What kinds of ministries they personally “like” should have no bearing on their decisions.
So what kinds of ministries does God “like?”
In the Old Testament, there is a theme that runs through every book – God cares for the poor, widows, orphans and aliens – social injustice.
“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” Psalm 82:3
“I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.” Psalm 140:12
“Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31
“The poor are shunned by all their relatives—how much more do their friends avoid them! Though the poor pursue them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found.” Proverbs 19:7
“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 them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isaiah 58:7
“He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 22:16
There is a second group who God commanded Israel to care for – the Levites. The majority of their tithes and offerings were to be given to support those who worked in the temple. I’ll not quote all those verses. Every Christian knows that. So I think a strong case can be made that in the Old Testament, the two groups of men and women God expected his people to care for the most, was the poor and the “church.”
What about the New Testament? In the New Testament Jesus reaffirms his heart for the poor many times. Among his many commands regarding caring for the poor is this, his most famous quote;
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” Matthew 25:34-36
James, Jesus’ own brother says this; “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:14-17
Then John, Jesus’ beloved disciple nails it home with this; “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” 1 John 3:17
And of course, you can’t read the Book of Acts or Paul’s letters and not see God’s heart for the Church and those who serve God as pastors and other employees.
But a major new ministry is added in the New Testament – evangelism. The Old Testament had prophets, who were spokesmen for God, but there were no evangelists. But Jesus commanded his disciples to make evangelism, one of their new top priorities when he said; “ Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20
So, Paul and John preached the gospel and planted churches in Asia Minor and Europe. And by tradition, Mark evangelized Egypt and Thomas, in India.
So, what’s the point? 97% of the money Americans give to ministries, stays right in the U.S. Only 3% goes to helping the poor and evangelizing the unreached people in the rest of the world. So, if God loves the whole world, do you honestly believe it’s the will of God that the most prosperous nation on earth, keep 97% of their giving to care for their own?
Next week, I’ll address some reasons why it’s so easy to “care for our own” and share some practical ideas on how to rebalance our portfolio and begin being more biblically strategic in our giving. But in the meantime, take a look at your own giving last year. What percentage of your giving was for the poor and least evangelized people in the world – unreached people groups?
How following Jesus works in real life.
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