A number of years ago I was talking with an old friend who had not been to church in a while. One of the reasons he gave was that he did not feel that churches were doing enough to help people in need. While I ceded that there was always room for improvement , I also told him about a number of outreaches my church at the time was involved in. He responded, rather curtly “Do you train them for jobs?” When I acknowledged that we didn’t do that, the conversation completely shut down. He wouldn’t listen to anything else I had to say.
Certainly, this does serve as a sobering reminder to believers not to neglect our duty in these areas. Caring for those in need is the single most frequently repeated command in the entire Bible. As we attempt to live this out, albeit imperfectly, there are some who are quick to criticize the church for it’s shortcomings. Often the criticism is valid, other times it
is based on faulty and even unbiblical reasoning.
- Are there churches that neglect God’s command to care for the needy? Unfortunately, yes.
- Are the “megachurches” that misuse their privileges and resources? Yes, but that is not typical of most churches.
- In all areas, is there room for improvement? Absolutely!
First of all, having a nice place to worship is not at odds with Biblical charity. Simply look at God’s instructions to build the Tabernacle (Exodus 26) and later the Temple (1 Chronicles 28). Many years later Jesus Himself would worship in a similar temple, and while He certainly did challenge its corrupt leadership, He still acknowledged it as God’s house
In all likelihood, these homeless shelters, missions etc. are operated and funded by many of these same churches. Those volunteering on any given day may very well be members of these churches. Who is to say that the people in the SUV may not volunteer there on other days?
I do not deny this is a problem. I have personally left churches in the past over what I felt were inappropriate financial practices and will certainly never defend a church that participates in it. That being said, it is important that we don’t take things to the opposite extreme as some do.
There is nothing unethical about a minister being paid a decent salary. Jesus said the laborer is worthy of his hire (Luke 10:7, also see Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; Galatians 6:6, 1 Timothy 5:17-18 and Hebrews 7 1-11).
- We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited (2 Corinthians 6:3, NIV, emphasis added).
- We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man. (2 Corinthians 8:19-20, emphasis added).
- But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people (Ephesians 5:3, NIV, emphasis added).
As for taxing churches, the problem with that is that it would be punishing all churches for the sins of the few. For each ministry that does these sort of things, there are countless others who are faithfully doing the work. They may be smaller and less visible, but they are out there.
In the meantime the big money ministries the meme refers to would still find ways around it. They could simply write off their private jets and other extravagances as business expenses, for instance.
And finally, a favorite of many politicians:
I once had a part-time job as a security guard for a church. When I first started the job and the pastor was going over the various responsibilities, he made it a point to tell me about people who came by the church seeking financial help. As he explained, there was a procedure they had to follow. For example, they would call other churches in the area to see if the people in question had been there first. The reason was that some people made their entire living panhandling from churches. While it is sad that this is the case, these people can quickly drain all of the resources from a benevolence ministry if proper precautions are not taken.
Interestingly, we see similar issues discussed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to his protégé’, the young Pastor Timothy. In this Epistle, we learn that Timothy’s church is establishing a program to care for its widows, which is certainly a noble effort. However, Paul gives some advice to his close friend which would seem surprising by today’s standards. He tells Timothy that those widows receiving the aid must meet rigid requirements regarding age (1 Timothy 5:9), and they must have no family or other means of support (1 Timothy 5:3-16). They must also have a proven reputation for pure lives and service to the church (1 Timothy 5:10). Paul even goes as far as to say refuse the aid to younger widows, as they would abuse the privilege (1 Timothy 5:11-12). The same compassion that inspires the church’s charity should also inspire proper stewardship of its resources to see that they do the maximum good.
I will conclude with a challenge. It is very easy to criticize from the sidelines. If you see something you feel is not being done, have you considered that God may be giving you a vision to help do something about it? If you have never surrendered your life to Christ, that is where it starts. Then, find a good Gospel centered church to partner with and see what God does from there!
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