The answer to your question, whether to send donations to organizations which help the poor, is one that requires a BALANCED approach. Considering the life of Jesus Christ, one must conclude that the focus of His life was in serving God. He put God FIRST. However, He also had great compassion on the poor: “‘…I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way'” (Matthew 15:32).
Consider what Jesus said about the fruit of His efforts in a similar occurrence following His miraculous feeding of another great multitude of people: “Jesus answered them and said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled'” (John 6:26).
Even today, the Church is contacted by people who are seeking an association with us for purely financial gain. They are not joining with us to learn of God’s ways. Rather, they seek monetary support, and once that is not available they become offended and leave.
What Jesus ultimately gave people that had a lasting effect in their lives was the TRUTH! Here is what He said in this regard: “‘…If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free'” (John 8:31-32). In this same regard, note how Peter responded to a lame man asking for alms: “Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk'” (Acts 3:6). Peter acted as Jesus did, and we can gain an important principle to apply to our own circumstances–help those who immediately need our help.
God instructed the whole nation of Israel to “‘…not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother” (Deuteronomy 15:7). Then, in verse 11, God–through Moses–further explains: “‘For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.”‘” In this same context, note what is stated in Proverbs 19:17: “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, And He will pay back what he has given.”
Christians must be careful in their approach to these kinds of activities, as Jesus taught: “‘Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, WHEN YOU DO a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly'” (Matthew 6:1-4).
In another example, a woman anointed Jesus’ head with a fragrant oil. When bystanders criticized her Jesus said: “‘…Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her'” (Mark 14:6-9).
Remember, too, that Jesus prioritized His actions in line with God’s purpose for Him: “‘For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me'” (John 6:38). This approach by Jesus is the same kind of course of action Christians are to follow.
We are to be lights to the world of the way of Jesus Christ–His pattern of living and the embodiment of His love for all of mankind. Our first area of responsibility has to do with what God has also called us to accomplish in our own lives. That involves the Church of God in unique ways, and it extends to doing good to all men. Romans 12 through 14 contain helpful instructions in this regard.
Note, in particular, this approach taught through Paul: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, ESPECIALLY TO THOSE WHO ARE OF THE HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH” (Galatians 6:10). That is why we have a Third Tithe fund, which is established to help the poor IN THE CHURCH. The Church has taught that we should have our main focus on serving the Church of God in its unique work of proclaiming the Gospel–the good news of God’s Kingdom when this world’s problems will be addressed and solved! Rather than seeking outlets that might engulf one in volunteer and charitable works or sending contributions to unknown poor persons in Third World countries, we would recommend that one maintain the role of “ambassadors for Christ” and address those needs that fall within one’s immediate opportunity to help (Compare 2 Corinthians 5:20)–especially within the community of believers, the Church of God (Compare Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-37).
Lead Writer: Dave Harris