Religious Charity versus Good Works
EVERY year hundreds of millions of dollars are contributed by the public to what are termed reputable, legitimate and worthy charities, many of which are sponsored by religious organizations. The question is, Should true Christians, who are under the godly commandments to do good, contribute to these supposedly humanitarian money-raising schemes?
Jehovah God is the best example of one that does good to others. He gave the first man a beautiful home with all the necessities of life. (Gen. 1:29-31) Thereafter, and in spite of the original man’s disobedience, condemnation and execution, the sinful offspring of the first pair have continued to enjoy many blessings from God’s merciful hand. All living creatures are completely dependent on Him for the sunshine, air, rain, soil, fertile seed and all other things essential for life.—Ps. 145:15-17, Yg.
Why, then, are there so many poor and needy people in the world, so many who are sick, diseased and suffering, and who are in need of the bare necessities of life? Satan the Devil is the one responsible for all this woe and trouble. God is in no wise to blame for such miserable conditions even though so falsely charged. The Devil, by and through his world organization, has ruled the people with the spirit of greed and selfishness. With cruelty and harshness the masses of common people have been oppressed and kept in subjection.
The state tells farmers what and how much they may plant, how many pigs to kill off and bury in the ground, how much cotton to plow under, how much coffee to burn—all this to keep prices excessively high. The government dumps potatoes and destroys other crops when prices are “too low”, and in this way the increase that God gives to the land and its animals is destroyed by selfish men.
Substituting communistic co-operatives for capitalistic governments does not remedy or correct conditions. Under one system of government or under another, the people continue to suffer. The poor we will always have with us, Jesus said, until this present evil world is swept away and God’s glorious new world is established.—Mark 14:7.
GOD COMMANDS US TO DO GOOD WORKS
To know that Jehovah is able to shield and protect the poor against the strong oppressor and the mighty rich is surely a great comfort. (Ps. 35:10) The Lord has always been interested in helping the poor. All true Christians likewise do good to the poor. “The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.” “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.” (Prov. 29:7; 14:31) The poor love life and its blessings the same as all other folks. So why should anyone who loves God make them suffer or rob them of what little they have? How foolish it is for the rich to hoard up possessions for themselves. They cannot take it with them when they die, and it will be of no help or protection during Armageddon. “Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.”—Prov. 11:4.
The important thing, the Word of God says, is to be rich in good works. But can one wealthy in material possessions also be rich in good works? This question was in the mind of the rich young ruler in Jesus’ day who asked the Master what he must do in order to gain eternal life. You can read the account in Matthew 19:16-24.
Jesus did not speak evasively, but plainly for the young man’s own good. From all outward appearance this fellow was a respectable, law-abiding individual. There is nothing to indicate that he oppressed or robbed the poor. Apparently he had come by his money and holdings in a lawful manner. But the question was, What was he going to do with what he had? How was he to use his wealth? Said Jesus: ‘If you give to the poor you will have treasure in heaven, provided you come and follow me.’
Thus it becomes clear that donating to charitable causes as a philanthropist is of no value in God’s sight unless one goes farther and becomes a true footstep follower of Jesus. It also appears that the possession of wealth is in itself of no particular harm. The question is, How is that wealth used? If you are rich in this world’s goods will you do what Jesus said? Are you willing to give up your material wealth and follow the course Jesus did, work in the interests of the poor and with the Kingdom message comfort those who mourn? Or will you hang tightly on to what you have and turn aside grieved and peeved at what the Lord has said, as the young man did nineteen centuries ago? To do that is selfishness, greediness, covetousness. (1 Tim. 6:10) Yes, the right thing is the hard thing to do, and Jesus knew it: “Truly I say to you that it will be a difficult thing for a rich man to get into the kingdom of the heavens. Again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.”—Matt. 19:23, 24, NW.
The apostle Paul was one of those that followed the wise counsel of Jesus. He gave up his rich earthly position as a Pharisee and spent his time, energy and substance feeding those hungering after the truth. His counsel to Timothy was: “Charge them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, open-handed and generous, storing up a valuable treasure for themselves for the future, so as to grasp the life that is life indeed.”—1 Tim. 6:17-19, AT.
THE GOOD DEEDS OF JESUS AND APOSTLES
A blind beggar, sitting beside the road, cried out as Jesus passed by, “Have mercy on me.” Now, what did Jesus do, reach down and give the poor fellow a couple of Roman coins for a crust of bread? No, not at all. He gave him a far more valuable gift in restoring his eyesight! (Mark 10:46-52; Matt. 20:30-34; Luke 18:35-43) Jesus’ “charity” was not measured out in money to religious organizations for questionable distribution. Jesus’ loving-kindness, tender mercy and bountiful gifts consisted of restoring the sight to the blind, making the lame to walk, curing the horrible disease of leprosy, opening deafened ears, and even raising up the dead. To the poor and downtrodden he untiringly preached the good news about God’s kingdom.—Matt. 11:5; Luke 7:22; 4:18.
The apostles Peter and John followed a similar course when they came upon a poor cripple who requested a donation. “Peter said: ‘Silver and gold I do not possess, but what I do have is what I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!’ With that he took hold of him by the right hand and raised him up. Instantly the soles of his feet and his ankle bones were made firm, and, leaping up, he stood up and began walking, and he entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God.”—Acts 3:1-8, NW.
GOOD WORKS, NOT ADVERTISED CHARITY
The gaudy practice today of bestowing honor and praise on heavy contributors to charity drives is directly opposed to Jesus’ counsel. “But take care not to do your good deeds in public for people to see, for, if you do, you will get no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you are going to give to charity, do not blow a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues and the streets, to make people praise them. I tell you, that is all the reward they will get! But when you give to charity, your own left hand must not know what your right hand is doing, so that your charity may be secret, and your Father who sees what is secret will reward you.”—Matt. 6:1-4, AT.
Judas Iscariot, one of those hypocrites that liked to make a show of his generosity, well represented those today that criticize Jehovah’s witnesses for not building hospitals, setting up food kitchens in slum areas. Such Judaslike ones announce with a blare of horns their personal gifts of mercy to the poor. Judas grumbled about Mary’s pouring costly perfumed oil on Jesus’ feet, saying that it should have been sold and the money given to the poor. “He said this, though, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief and had the money-box and used to carry off the monies put in it.” (John 12:3-6, NW) What the woman did, however, was more pleasing in the sight of God on that occasion than a mere donation to the poor. Lacking real love, any contribution Judas would have made would have no value.—1 Cor. 13:3.
The people have been robbed and beaten and left half-dead by the ruling elements of this world, just like the “certain man” that Jesus told about who fell among robbers on his way down to Jericho. The Catholic, Protestant and Jewish religionists have observed the spiritual condition of these poor people but have steered clear of them, held aloof and passed them by on the opposite side of the road. Jehovah’s witnesses, on the other hand, like good Samaritans, have searched out these spiritually sick, maimed and half-starved people and, when they were found, have bound up their wounds, have fed them and cared for their needs.—Luke 10:29-37.
It is no secret, many so-called “charity” organizations operate a fraud and racket. For example, the New York Times, September 6, 1950, carried an account of how certain “religious charitable organizations” operating in Brooklyn, New York, are giving the poor only 15 per cent of the money they beg from the public. The other 85 per cent goes for what they call “overhead” expense. God’s faithful people cannot afford to donate to such organizations. They must use what they have to preach this gospel of the established Kingdom for the benefit of the poor everywhere, as commanded.—Matt. 24:14.
It takes much time, energy and money to carry out this divine command, but Jehovah’s witnesses are happy to use their substance to do it. Investing their money in Bibles and other life-giving literature, they take these to the people at great personal expense. But this is really a sound investment on behalf of the poor, for by so doing Jehovah’s witnesses are storing up treasures in heaven and helping others to do the same thing. And just as the ancient brethren of Macedonia and Achaia contributed material things for their needy brethren at Jerusalem, so also do Jehovah’s witnesses. (Rom. 15:25, 26; Gal. 2:10) All of these things are good works done out of love for and to the honor of Jehovah God.