Saturday, August 29, 2009


Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
Rescue the weak and needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 82:3, 4

Benevolence: from the Latin meaning “good wish.” The synonym the dictionary gives is “philanthropic.” From the Greek meaning “love of mankind.”

Almost all churches have a benevolent fund. We had one in my little first pastorate but I don’t remember ever having to use it. At my second church, a much larger church, we were on a main highway and we had frequent visits from people who were asking for gas or food. At my third church, a church plant, we used our benevolence fund mainly for our own people who ran into troubles. (We had no building and no phone so nobody else could find us!)

I have rarely met a pastor who enjoys dealing with the weak and the needy. Most churches have their benevolence fund so structured that pastors don’t feel they can be of any real help. Often people in need go from church to church hoping to find help. Our local ministerium has organized with the local grocery store, the gas station, and the police department. They have a shared benevolence fund. If anyone comes to their churches they are sent to the police department to register and then receive script for food and gas. One of the pastors in the group said laughingly, “When I tell them they have to go to the police department they usually just leave town!” I guess with this plan they don't ever have to really get to know the people who are asking for help.

I have sat in so many meetings with elders discussing benevolent needs that it makes me stressed just to think about it. How many times have I heard a leader say something like, “We really have to be careful because this person may be taking advantage of us.” Or, “They really should be working; we shouldn’t help if they’re not working.”

Now I am pastoring in a community where there are some very real needs. It’s harvest season so there are many, many migrant workers in the area to do the harvesting. I don’t know if the farmers need fewer men this year or if there is a surplus of workers but there are a number of people who can’t find work.

We had a family come to church for the first time three weeks ago. The man wasn’t working. They have two little children under the age of three. They are staying with his niece but have to be out of the house by the first of the month and have no place to go. They are receiving aid in the form of food. No car. No car seats for the kids. No place to live. What are we supposed to do? We have no apartment for them to live in. We have no car to give them. We aren’t even an official church yet so we don’t have a benevolence fund!

What would you do? Should we just pass them off to social services? When is the church going to realize that God brings these people into our lives so WE can help them? Mia has spent many hours with the lady over the last few weeks. The woman’s sister invited her and the kids to come and live with her a couple of hundred miles away. The man is staying here, hopefully to find some work. So what did we do? We bought her and the kids bus tickets to her sister’s town. Mia took her shopping this afternoon at Walmart and bought her two car seats and some clothes, diapers, baby wipes, etc. The total for all this stuff came to just over $200.

Two hundred bucks. That's nothing! On the one hand, I feel like we did what we were supposed to do to “rescue the weak and needy.” I think we did what Jesus would have done. On the other hand, I wish we could have done more. I believe we are called to do more. I’m conflicted tonight.


At 7:34 AM, Blogger Anne of The House said...

"my need turns 'I' into 'we.' " (Steinbeck)

We don't know how to help need in others until we have it ourselves. (And then sometimes all we can do is pray that God changes the heart of someone with means.) But I guess it's the process that God is interested in.

I'm conflicted too.


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