Lesson 7 - A Sharing People

Philippians 4:14-16
Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.  15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.

I was once involved with the benevolent program in a church of Christ.  During my involvement I learned many things about how the world views the church.  First, as you might expect, I found that the world viewed Christians as a source for assistance when help is needed.  Many people had fallen on hard times and needed money to make ends meet and the church was able to help in many of these instances.  Second, I learned that there are those who, given the opportunity, will take advantage of the giving nature of Christians.  During one such encounter I discovered the person asking for help was not being honest.  When I spoke to him about the situation, and he realized I had figured out that his story was not true, he said "usually the churches of Christ are the easiest to take advantage of."  I will honestly say when I heard this I was furious inside!  How dare he flaunt his dishonesty and be so bold to say my brethren are foolish and gullible!  Even after such a brash statement the elders and I decided to help the man anyway because he had small children and our heart ached for them.  Inside, however, I was not a peaceful soul.  After time passed, and my immature anger cooled, I realized the man had actually paid the churches of Christ a tremendous compliment.  He said, not in some many words, that my brethren were the most generous group with which he had dealt.

Our first thought about sharing with others should be that what we have comes from God (1 Timothy 6:17).  When we share what God has given us we are sharing not only the assistance the money brings, we are sharing the very blessings of God.  When we have the mindset that what we have is a product of how God has used us we can more freely share His gifts with others.  Once God gives us a blessing, including money, He allows us to chose how, or if, we will share it with others. In Acts 5:1-4 Peter told Ananias that the money he received from the sale of his property was "your own" and under "your control."  He was punished not because he did not give it all, but because he lied about the amount he received for the land and SAID he was giving it all.  This was a matter of a prideful heart.  When we give we must have a humble heart and a mind of purity.

Another thought that will help us make the sharing decision is "what if it was me who needed help."  A person who truly needs help is suffering two ways.  First, the embarrassment of needing help in the first place.  Second, the humbling experience of having to ask for it.  The bible speaks clearly about a man who does not provide for his own household (1 Timothy 5:8).  When someone truly needs help (not someone who will not work) they might be fearful they may be judged as a lazy unrighteous person.  This makes asking for help HARD.  So asking ourselves "if this were me how would I want to be viewed" will allow us to be the truest brushstroke possible.

Jesus said the poor would always be with us (Matthew 26:11) and as long as there are poor folks the church must be there to help them.  With this is mind it is a good idea to create a plan to best use the gifts God has given us.  Here are some ideas to consider:

1.  Have a benevolence program for nonmembers with established guidelines in place.  Here are some suggestions:
   a.  Have one, or two, people handle requests for assistance.  Make sure everyone know who handles these requests so people in need can be placed in contact with the right people to help them.  Have a limited number of people coordinating benevolence ensures needs are being met and the Lord's resources are being used wisely.
   b.  Ask those needing assistance to come to the building to receive support after attending a worship service or bible study.  Tell them no one will know they are there to receive support AND DO NOT TELL OTHER MEMBERS.  Having the meeting at church protects the reputation of the church and those tasked with providing assistance as well as exposes the needy to God's Word and God's people.  Feeding souls is more important than feeding mouths.
   c.  Have gift cards on hand to allow the person to buy groceries at a local supermarket.  Purchase cards that can only be used to buy food items.
   d.  Have gift cards on hand to allow the person to buy gasoline at a local gas station.  Many people who ask for support express a need for gas.
   e.  Create and maintain a food pantry containing canned item, dry goods and other nonperishable items.  Have groceries bags on hand so you can give the hungry a large bag of food.
   f.  Create and maintain a clothes closet.  Have members donate clothes, coats and other items useful to those in need.  Once a year, or when the closet gets too full, hold a free yard sale.
   g.  If someone asks for help with utilities pay the bill directly to the organization to whom the money is owed.

   Note, you should also consider a benevolence program for members.  This is should coordinated by the elders (if no elders exist then a man with high character must be chosen) and privacy should be maintained.

2.  Have a personal benevolence plan as well:
   a.  If you live or work in an area where needs exist keep a care package in the truck of your car to give to those in need.  When I worked in downtown Nashville I had to walk a few blocks from my car to my office.  I made it a habit of carrying a Snickers bar in my pocket to give to anyone who asked for help because they were hungry.  I gave away a lot of candy bars.
   b.  Carry gift cards to fast food restaurants and gas stations to give to those in need.

Notice in all of the suggestions above there was never a time when money was given directly.  Of course you may chose to give money but once the person has cash they can do whatever they want with what you have given them.  By having a preplanned action based benevolence program you can meet every need and use your resources, and the resources of the congregation, wisely and perhaps help those receiving assistance make better choices as well.

When we are placed in the situation to help someone we must do so with the attitude of humility and do so privately otherwise the praise of men will be our reward (Matthew 6:2-3).  Money and earthly possessions are temporary and the only way they can help us reach our heavenly home is if we use them to God's glory.  No amount of money can purchase God's reward (1 Peter 1:18).  Our love must be reserved for and completely spent on God and our fellow man.  Having any love left over, for money, will have dire consequences indeed (1 Timothy 6:10).


Philippians 4:14-16
Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.  15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.

1 Timothy 6:17
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.

Acts 5:1-4
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife's full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.

1 Timothy 5:8
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Matthew 26:11
For you always have the poor with you...

Matthew 6:2-3
So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.  3 But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing

1 Peter 1:18
knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold...

1 Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.