What Is the Bible’s View?
WHEN was the last time someone asked you to “give”? In many areas people are continually hounded by requests for money or other types of gifts for various charitable causes. Prospective donors often receive literature advertising drawings for prizes or perhaps depicting horribly deformed or emaciated children.
How should you respond when someone asks you to give?
The Scriptures encourage generosity. Under divine inspiration Moses counseled his fellow Israelites: “You must not harden your heart or be close-fisted toward your poor brother. For you should generously open your hand to him.”—Deut. 15:7, 8.
The Bible provides many fine examples of the spirit of giving. One of these was in connection with an unfortunate situation that arose during the first century C.E. When Christians in Judea became materially impoverished, fellow worshipers willingly came to their aid. (Rom. 15:26; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2) In this regard, Christians at Macedonia came in for special mention. “From the depths of their poverty,” writes the apostle Paul, “they have shown themselves lavishly open-handed. Going to the limit of their resources, as I can testify, and even beyond that limit, they begged us most insistently, and on their own initiative, to be allowed to share in this generous service to their fellow-Christians.”—2 Cor. 8:2-4, The New English Bible.
But never should a person feel compelled to give. Concerning the above-mentioned relief work for needy fellow Christians, the apostle Paul writes: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”—2 Cor. 9:7.
What about charitable organizations that solicit money? Does this type of giving identify one as meeting the Scriptural obligation to be generous? Not necessarily, since donations to any cause may stem from wrong motives. In such cases even large-scale giving is worthless in God’s eyes. The apostle Paul writes: “if I give all my belongings to feed others, and if I hand over my body, that I may boast, but do not have love, I am not profited at all.”—1 Cor. 13:3.
Some organizations actually encourage wrong motives by publicizing the names of their donors. Jesus counseled against seeking such publicity, saying: “When you do some act of charity, do not announce it with a flourish of trumpets, as the hypocrites do in synagogue and in the streets to win admiration from men. I tell you this: they have their reward already. No; when you do some act of charity do not let your left hand know what your right is doing; your good deed must be secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”—Matt. 6:1-3, NE.
Another thing to consider is that not all who seek a handout are worthy of your hard-earned money or other valuable things. For instance, the Scriptures state: “Because of winter the lazy one will not plow; he will be begging in reaping time, but there will be nothing.” (Prov. 20:4) Poverty and hunger are the expected thing for such lazy ones. “If anyone does not want to work,” says the Word of God, “neither let him eat.”—2 Thess. 3:10.
As for charitable organizations, many have proved to be frauds; and even legitimate ones frequently send but a tiny amount of the money they collect to advertised worthy causes. “According to the State Board of Social Welfare,” writes Francis Cerral in the New York Times, “charities raise about $22 billion a year in the United States and $2 billion in New York. But in some cases, no money or as little as 5 or 10 percent of it ends up going to the charitable purpose, with the rest being pocketed by the fund-raisers.” Back in 1974 one church-sponsored charity collected $3.3 million. Astonishingly, only $54,000 reached the advertised charity. An indication of what happened to the rest is seen in the fact that $45,000 went to one of the church’s clergymen, and $110,000 to three of his assistants.
It is important to realize, too, that, according to the Bible, charitable organizations can never eliminate or appreciably reduce all poverty and other things that afflict mankind. Because of inherited sin and invisible rule by Satan and his demons, the present system of things has always been marred by such woes. (Rom. 5:12; Eph. 6:12; Rev. 12:9) Jesus therefore declared: “You always have the poor with you.” (Matt. 26:11) These things will disappear only when God’s kingdom sweeps away this system and extends a new system of divine rule earth wide.—Dan. 2:34, 35, 44.
Does this mean that it is altogether wrong for Christians to give to charitable organizations? No. Certain charities do accomplish a measure of good. So, it is a matter of personal choice as to whether a person donates to such a cause.
As noted earlier, however, there is a Scriptural requirement to be openhanded and generous. (Deut. 15:7, 8; 1 Tim. 6:18) This is possible even when individuals do not have spare cash to donate. How so?
Perhaps the most important place to demonstrate the spirit of giving is right in the family circle. Marriage mates and family members must give time and attentiveness to one another. Do you pay attention when your marriage mate or other family members talk to you? Are you genuinely interested in what they say and do?
Perhaps your material possessions are few. But could you use them in ways more beneficial to others? Offering transportation to persons who cannot get around by themselves, running errands for those elderly or infirm, or just spending some time with lonely individuals are effective ways to display Christian generosity.
Besides things like these, the Scriptures admonish Christians to give out publicly “this good news of the kingdom,” helping their neighbors to learn of God’s purposes and how to gain his approval. (Matt. 24: 14) Regarding this vital aspect of Christian giving, the apostle Paul declared: “If, now, I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” (1 Cor. 9:16) Are you having a regular share in this activity?
The Scriptures require worshipers of God to be generous. But since charitable donations may stem from wrong motives, or go into the pockets of greedy persons, not all of this type of giving conforms to Biblical requirements. Rather than limiting generosity to giving away money or material possessions, the Bible urges Christians to give of themselves, especially to those of their own households.—1 Tim. 5:8.