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Who should we support with our charitable giving?

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Where should our charitable giving go? 

Rad Zdero gave a great answer to this in one of his comments on a previous post. He said

"The only authoritative voice is the New Testament teaching about finances. To what did the early church give? There were three groups that funds were given to:

  • First, the needy in the church (Acts 2:44-45), such as helping believers in crisis (Acts 11:28-30), feeding hungry believers (Acts 8:1-3), caring for widows who are believers (1 Tim 5:8-9), and so on. 
  • Second, the needy in general, who are not necessarily believers (Luke 10:30-37; James 1:27).
  • Third, material support for traveling apostolic leaders, such as Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc (Matt 27:55-56; Luke 10:7; John 13:29; 1 Cor 9:1-14; Philip 4:15-16; 3 John 1:3-8). 

I believe we need to deliberately recapture this kind of New Testament practice for today’s simple/house churches, otherwise people will vacillate between the extremes of giving based on their own personal preferences or not giving at all as a reaction to their institutional church past."

I agree with Rad that these are the Scriptural precedents. But that leaves a number of questions concerning Scriptural giving. 

  • Is it ever scriptural to give towards a "sacred" building? 
  • What about supporting leaders who are not in traveling ministry?
  • Should we apply criteria to the "poor" as in 1 Timothy 5:9 (where widows were only to be supported if they were over 60, had been faithful to their husbands and were well known for good deeds). What about the person asking for money on the street corner?
  • What does it mean when it says, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." (1 Timothy 5:17)?

What other questions do you have?

3 replies on “Who should we support with our charitable giving?”

Ultimately believers will be guided by the Spirit in their giving decisions.
I don’t know that it is “scriptural” to give to a building, but perhaps in some cases the Spirit might lead a church to pool resources for some type of structure. In no case would I consider the structure “sacred.” “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. … But a time is coming – and now is here – when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be His worshipers. (John 4:21&23)

I agree with Rad that the three priorities he listed were the top three financial priorities in the NT church, and that for the church today to move closer to those priorities would be a great move. It seems to me that 1 Tim 5:17 does refer to providing support to some local church leaders, probably those who are investing so much time that it takes time away from their primary livelihood. But this is a far cry from the current common practice of having salaried professional staff. And, of course, we are not to invest in “sacred” buildings, but that doesn’t mean we would never spend money on meeting places. Did Paul pay rent for his meetings in the School of Tyrranus? Probably. So it is probably presumptuous to say that the NT church never spent money on meeting space, though obviously nothing like the practice of most churches having a “church building” existed in the NT. Rad’s list is a great start, but it is incomplete.

Eddy and Mark, good thoughts. I agree with you about the 1 Tim 5 passage, since it goes on to talk about a worker deserving his wages. However, I am cautious about anything that promotes a clergy/laity distinction, so, like you, I don’t think this is creating a professional, paid position.
The School of Tyrannus is an interesting one. It might fit in the category of Acts 28 where Paul stayed in his own rented house but taught people there. Maybe the school was rented, maybe loaned by another disciple. I don’t think we have enough to go on. But in general, I don’t see sacred buildings in the NT church. And we never hear about church meeting in a synagog.

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