We should be generous with what we have, and be willing to share with everyone, but God’s word gives us a focus. That focus is the Christian poor: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10).
This verse tells us to do good
- to everyone
- as we have opportunity (we can’t carry the burdens of the whole world on our limited shoulders)
- and especially to those who are of the household of faith (the focus).
Just as we are responsible for those in our immediate families, we have a natural responsibility for those in our spiritual family. If we cannot look after our own, how could we presume to look after others? Charity must begin at home. Complete the following sentence:
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for __________. (John 13:35)
Even the famous Matthew 25, which some general aid groups insultingly call “the great omission”, is talking about caring for fellow believers: “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matt 25:40).
All the examples in the life of the early church reflect this focus. Jewish believing widows were provided with food (Acts 6:1; see also 1 Tim 5:9-10). Paul collected money from those in Asia, Macedonia and Greece to support the financially struggling believers in Judea (1 Cor 16:1-3; 2 Cor 8-9).
Here are some reasons why we must not lose this focus:
- It preserves theological truths as the grounds for generosity. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ (i.e. it is particularly Christian to give to other Christians with whom we have no other relationship than calling on the same Father). At least in rhetoric, Muslims have a much more global sense of brotherhood and looking after each other than we do. It should be the other way around.
- It follows the pattern of the Scriptures (as has been shown above).
- It helps ensure that giving to the poor does not become a public relations activity to give us a hearing for the gospel!!!! We should do good because it is good. Our public generosity to outsiders should be an overflow of the way we look after our own, not a outward sham to make ourselves look good.
- And yet, it shows the whole world that we are Christ’s disciples. The missing words from the verse above were “if you have love for one another”.
Someone might say that these people are going to heaven already; why should we care for them? That is the teaching of demons, and is not in line with Christ and his Scriptures. We are our brothers’ keepers after all.
For a whole range of reasons, there are very few Christian charitable organizations that publicly maintain a focus on looking after our own spiritual family. The Barnabas Fund is one organization that tries. It supports many Christians who are financially cut off or disadvantaged for being Christian. Some groups like Compassion Australia openly and exclusively operate through local churches.
Do you know of any others? Perhaps God has gifted you and some of your friends to start your own fund or mercy ministry that will keep the focus on the Christian poor.