When Jesus said, “You will always have the poor with you”, He wasn’t kidding, and there is a reason.
I have to admit that I had become pretty cynical about benevolence ministry, and felt perfectly justified in my thoughts and feelings on the matter. Too many times I have seen our church give money to an impoverished soul without seeing any Spiritual return on investment. Really, shouldn’t something great and wonderful happen to a person when we Christians financially minister to them in the name of Jesus?
Being on staff as Director of Women’s Ministry in a small town where over 51% of our population lives below the poverty line we have ministered to many women in financial need, and we gladly do it. I have given them a tour of our church in hopes they will be less intimidated by our building. I have shared my stories of difficult years as a struggling single mom in order to be more relatable. I have followed up with cards, letters and personal visits in order to get in several more “touches”. Even so, when I look back over the years, I see little to show for the financial investment when it comes to a Spiritual return. So why do we keep doing it? Should we continue to do it?
I have been pondering the concept of benevolence ministry for a few weeks now. I’ve discussed the topic with my pastors. I have sought counsel from my brother-in-law who is on staff at one of Nashville’s mega churches. And I have read the scriptures. From all my research and inquiry, here is what I have discovered:
First, my husband simply put it this way, “Stuff doesn’t change people. Only Jesus does.” I must stop placing my confidence in distributing dollars and duds. Secondly, I found a church that creates opportunities for their congregation to be personally involved in benevolence projects. This made me consider the possibility that the Spiritual return on investment might be more on the end of the giving believer than the recipient. Lastly, and most importantly, I found a wonderful scripture of when Jesus declared His authenticity, which pretty much says it all:
“The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” Matthew 11:5.
Note that the scripture did not say that the poor received wealth. What it does say is that it gives believers an opportunity to proclaim the Good News. The Good News is the hope one has in salvation because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. When I review my benevolence offerings I may say I do this in the “name of Jesus”, but I fear that those words are too abbreviated to accurately convey the depth and breadth of God’s grace. I may even offer an invitation to my church, but is that as powerful as sharing Jesus’ work on the cross? Whether we encounter the poor in Spirit or the poor in society, are we making the most of our opportunities to share the entire gospel message as scripture declares? If not, let me challenge you. Give on! And don’t forget to share all of the Good News, too.
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Gina Duke is the author of “Organizing Your Prayer Closet: A New and Life-Changing Way to Pray” (Abingdon Press). To subscribe to her blog, go to www.GinaDuke.com. Look for her on Pinterest – Gina Duke / Churchtown Ministries. You can also follow her on Instagram and Twitter @TheGinaDuke