How do we handle poor true Christians in other parts of the world?
Underlined is the word “true”. The reason for this is that there are many so-called “Christians” who will claim Christianity but fail to keep the commandments of God, such as the keeping of the Sabbath and annual Holy Days, tithing, clean and unclean meats, or who celebrate pagan holy days, such as Christmas and Easter, to name a few. So we really need to have context as to whom we are talking about. We MUST realize that we are not here to make this world a better place or to make a difference in the world by focusing on “good deeds.” (Please see our Q&A on this subject for further reference).
Rather, it is the foremost commission of the Church of God to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God in all the world as a witness so that Jesus Christ can return (Matthew 24:14). In our free booklet, “How to Find the True Church of God,” How to Find the True Church of God | Church of the Eternal God we explain in detail what all is contained in that announcement. We also say this: “The Church of God must be watchful and zealous in fulfilling its commission of preaching the gospel. It must be committed to doing the Work of God (James 1:25). It must not become complacent and detracted, losing the focus on the most important Work of preaching the gospel by perhaps replacing it with other pursuits; such as trying to make this world a better place by voting in governmental elections; joining the military; or by performing ‘missionary works’ in Third World countries.”
We also explain that the Church of God has a duty to feed the flock. This includes feeding the flock spiritually, but also physically, by helping those members who are in need (Please see our statements in the booklet about the tithing system).
When we keep God’s commands fully, He opens the door for blessings.
It has been observed by the ministry in the Church of the Eternal God and its affiliates that many times people in poorer parts of the world claim that they want to know the Truth and say that they keep the aforementioned commandments, but oftentimes, they are trying to get something out of the deal by misrepresenting or some variant. This is not to say that all are like this, but it is true for the vast majority. When we can help individuals who are truly doing their part and are or want to become faithful Church members, then we do so, as we are able. We have sent a minister to Africa in the past, we have baptized a person in Africa, and we have members in many parts of the world.
In regards to the poor in the church, in 1 John 3:16-18 we are told (NIV): “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
When John wrote this, there were church congregations scattered around. Some of them were able to help others. And so John is saying here that it is right and good to help other Christians if and where possible. He says “sees”, meaning we see a literal need. When we read about the early Church in the book of Acts, we note that they were all near each other in proximity.
Later, when Paul would go and visit other churches in various parts of the world, they were making provisions and gifts for him for the sake of continuing the work of preaching the gospel in all of the world at that time! He would also carry some things to other churches in need, but this wasn’t his primary mission. He wasn’t just distributing goods. Also of interest is that in the early church, they selected 7 trusted men who could organize the distribution to the poor in the congregation, so that the ministry could continue in doing the work appointed to them, that of preaching the Gospel. Ministers have various duties and responsibilities.
When talking about the Church at that time, it is crucial to note that these people were all of one accord. They were in one group. They were NOT split up. They were pointed all in the same way. Amos 3:3 rightly states: “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” In fact, in 1 Corinthians 1:31, when there started to be some contention between members due to people liking one minister over another and actually “adoring” them, Paul was quick to point out that there should be no discrepancies as they were all mere men, of like mind and working together to preach the gospel, each in their own way and calling as God saw fit. Unfortunately, there are many splits today, and many individuals and groups who are teaching various things or holding on to the way that they perceive the Truth to be. Due to this reason, we in the Church of the Eternal God and affiliates are holding on to the Truth as God has shown us, and we will continue to do so as God opens the doors for us to preach this truth!
We cannot assume to know how many “poor” are in the various churches of God which are not affiliated with us, nor can we assume to know who is converted. We would think that they are being taken care of, physically, by the organization that they belong to. Indeed, it would be quite challenging to think otherwise as there are hundreds of offshoots of the Worldwide Church of God. If a church organization were to attempt to help every poor person whom they became aware of, there would be nothing left to help preach the Gospel as we have been commissioned to do. So, when we have the means to do so within our realm of influence regarding those whom we know, as they are affiliating with us, we reach out and help whenever possible.
Paul reminds us in Acts 20:35 that it is more blessed to give than to receive. This is a general way of thinking that does not come naturally to most people. Most people are more worried about themselves, individual needs and interests, often even to the detriment of others. Going above and beyond is what Christ taught.
When Christ was here on the earth, there were the poor then as well. Yet we do not find Him condemning the use of costly fragrance on Himself. John 12:1-7 (NIV) shows us that Christ was making a point that there would always be those to take care of. We find in many places that taking care of those who are poor is good in the eyes of God. He was NOT talking about those in the world, as we find for example in Deuteronomy this command (given by Christ Himself as the God of the Old Testament). Chapter 15 and verses 7-11 (NIV) reads: “If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: ‘The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,’ so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” (Compare James’ admonition in New Testament times in James 2:14-17 regarding needy brethren).
In the early Church it was a very unique time. When study is given into what was happening at that time and the situations at hand, it is interesting because the wealth distribution system in the Roman Empire at that time was very skewed and unjust. 90% of people lived below the poverty line in those days!
Also interesting is the use of the words, “those in your land.” That is, those with whom you have contact. The nation of Israel was a great people and scattered. But this would have to be localized. This was to be happening where it was local. While we have the internet today to quickly disseminate information, there are still principles involved. Currently we do not have ministers in Africa or remote places. We have contact with a few faithful in parts of the world and we send help when there is a need and when we can do so.
Another point to make is that God does and will bless those who faithfully keep all of His commandments, no matter where they live. Sometimes this includes having to suffer through extreme trials and hardships. We cannot expect to be able to help every single poor person within the Churches of God. There may be situations which God is using for His own purpose to enable people to grow in allowing them to go through whatever trials they have to endure to make it into the Kingdom of God, to ultimately become a part of His Family. Let us think about the early Christians who were martyrs, and of those in the near future who will be persecuted and will also have to face martyrdom for the sake of the Truth! The Bible prophesies this! Many times we think we know what’s right or best in a situation or a matter and we don’t take into consideration what God wants, what He is working out, or the path that He has laid out for each of us individually. On the other hand, it is fully supported in Scripture that when we see someone in need we do what we can to help them if at all possible (note Galatians 6:10).
When focusing on tithes and offerings, including freewill offerings and third tithe, we should of course be sure that we are sending the money to the right place, approved by God, but once we have done so, that is, once we have made a tithe or an offering to God, possibly even a freewill offering, that money is no longer ours. Where that money goes should no longer be our concern. An offering is to be given with a cheerful heart, not a begrudging one that needs to know where and how the tithes and offerings will be spent. It is pretty bold to take on the proclamation that one needs to know where and how money is being used. Some within the greater Churches of God have written to us in the past, and their attitude is that the leaders in charge should be transparent with funds! Is this what God says? Is that what we find in the Scriptures above? No! It is plain that God expects the leadership in the Church to lead righteously and to do those things that are expected! Unfortunately, it has been experienced by the ministry (think of Moses and moving on through the Bible) that people will always find a way to complain about how money is being used. There have been unfortunate circumstances where money has been misappropriated or misused within the Church, but this doesn’t nullify God’s commands, and those who have misused funds will have to give an answer just as all of us will before the judgement seat when it is our time.
This includes a little bit of a warning for all of us. It is unwise to make broad-stroke assumptions about the ministry and the time that they have. In some instances there are those in the ministry who are paid and work full time for the church. In other instances there are those ministers who work “outside,” not being employed by the Church, and still find time to do the work given to them in the Church on top of their full schedule. Each has been called by God to accomplish a role within the Church, which is also true for each of the members.
God has ordained the ministry as He sees fit! If we truly believe that Christ is the Head of the Church, then we also have to take instruction and listen to the people whom He puts in charge. This is no light thing! 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 shows us that all in the body of Christ are put in their respective positions, as God sees fit! This includes the ministry and those in charge under Christ. Ephesians 4:11-16 reminds us that the ministry is there to help guide and direct everyone to grow in unity. Each part doing its work! As we said above, without unity, how can a body function? It cannot!
God’s Family is a hierarchy. God the Father at the Head, Jesus Christ below Him and in subjection to the Father, then the various ranks in the ministry and then deacons and members. This is not a justification for trying to “lord” it over people. It is the fact. God has ordained tithing. In fact, in Malachi 3:8, we find the question: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.” When God appointed the Levites as the priests and those who would take care of the temple and all of the process that went along with that, He laid out very careful instructions on everything that was to be done. In those instructions, nowhere do we find the command that the other tribes were to be auditing and looking into how the Levites carried out their responsibilities. Remember that even Jesus did not “control” Judas who had the money bag, even though he was a thief. But all of this was for a purpose—Judas was to betray Christ because of his greed, and Christ knew this.
Paul had something to say in this regard. He said in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Many times we have heard people complain and say something along the lines of: “Well, then you are just following a man,” but they really misrepresent and are being stubborn in this regard! As mentioned, the ministry was put in place by God! Christ tells us in Matthew 7:15-20 that by people’s fruits we WILL know them! We can see from the fruit of the Spirit in someone’s life how they are living, how close they are to God. This is what the Bible tells us! This is not to say that the ministry doesn’t make mistakes, but in general, we need to look at the overall picture.
God commands generosity and giving as a general attitude where and when possible. We are not supposed to be hoarding riches for the sake of becoming rich. Psalm 128 talks about the blessings that come from those who fear God. That is, keeping all of the commandments which are in force and effect today (we are not talking about rituals and ordinances which were superseded by Christ’s death). It also says that if people are doing this, then they will have food to eat and will be happy.
Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 5:18-20, relates this knowledge (NIV): “I have seen personally what is the only beneficial and appropriate course of action for people: to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in all their hard work on earth during the few days of their life that God has given them, for this is their reward. To every man whom God has given wealth and possessions, he has also given him the ability to eat from them, to receive his reward, and to find enjoyment in his toil; these things are the gift of God. For he does not think much about the fleeting days of his life because God keeps him preoccupied with the joy he derives from his activity.”
We know about the rich ruler to whom Christ spoke saying go and give all you have to the poor, and follow Me (Matthew 19:20-22). Is this saying that we should all be giving everything we have to the poor? Should we not be enjoying the product and fruit of our labors?
God knows everything about us. He knows our hearts and our needs. He provides and makes provision for us in different ways. Christ knew what the rich ruler needed to do to follow Him—apparently to become a minister—and in order to inherit eternal life in the Kingdom of God. In this instance, it was to do as He commanded. But this man couldn’t bring himself to do this. He loved his riches too much and was unwilling to give them up to follow Christ. This is not to say that money is wrong, nor are riches. But the concept is that this should not be the main focus in our lives. If we can and want to help others, then we can give to those whom we know personally or we can give free-will offerings to the Church for dispersal as seen fit by the ministry and those who are in charge. But we should never lose focus and forget our main collective and individual responsibility as the Church of God—to be involved in and support the most important Work on earth today: To announce the soon-coming Kingdom of God so that Christ can return to make an end to all hardship, misery, pain, suffering and poverty for all peoples.
Lead Writer: Kalon Mitchell