I notice that there was no scramble to set up a GoFundMe campaign for any of the 30 to 40 employees of Mars Hill Church that recently got laid off from their jobs.
There has been no GoFundMe fund for restitution to Paul Petry or Bent Meyer for the pain of their firings and loss of income because of the slander that was used to discredit them.
There was no GoFundMe set up for the loss of income supporting the Agathos orphans when Mars Hill Church cut off support after Mark Driscoll threatened to destroy that ministry after the 2007 trials.
As heartwarming as it was to see many of us put together $105,000 for the four former elders (link, link), I note that there are clear biblical guidelines for who the church should raise money for. I hate to see so many lose their jobs at Mars Hill Church in the wake of the numerous scandals that have resulted from the actions of the elders and leadership of Mars Hill Church over the years that is recently coming to light.
It would be fantastic to generously help all who have been plunged into crisis as a result.
As we look at how to help going forward, and before I lay out some biblical guidelines, I must say that I love the generosity displayed to the handful of former elders, and, as an immigrant to the USA I am always amazed at the generosity of Americans to almost any crisis. I see this regularly around the fire where several brothers that meet weekly will rise up and support fellow brothers that are struggling financially. It is true Christian charity at work.
Having said that, there are clear biblical guidelines for the church when providing financial assistance to those in need both outside the local church and for members within the church. We are clearly told who we should give to.
FIRST, give to the orphan and the widow.
This is the most basic directive regarding our Christian charity. Without question or hesitation it should be to the orphan and the widow.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. — James 1:27
Note that we are not to give to all orphans and widows, but only to those that are in distress.
SECOND, give to those in crisis.
Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me. — 1 Corinthians 16:1-4
The Apostle Paul’s collection for the Jerusalem church occupies significant portions of his letters (1 Cor 16:1–4; 2 Cor 8:1–9:15; Rom 15:14–32). He was willing to put time, effort, and risk into collecting money for the church in Jerusalem which was in crisis. When there is a crisis, it is totally appropriate and biblical to raise money for those in crisis, and to risk one’s life to make sure the money gets into the hands of those in crisis and meets their critical needs.
This was the first time we hear of weekly giving in the church. It was not to support the local church, but to support the poor brothers and sisters in crisis in Jerusalem.
THIRD, give to support the widow in your church.
Paul addresses supporting the needy widow in 1 Timothy 5. He teaches that even truly needy widows in the church must first look to their own families before the church kicks in. This is not to be mean, but to be biblical. The first order on God’s civil structure is the family. Therefore the family of the hurting widow should be writing the check and caring for their own widows.
Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. — I Timothy 5:3-11a
This list of which widows should receive help can seem quite harsh. Imagine if you were the widow who had lost her husband and was struggling. Some friends of yours go to Timothy and the other elders and suggest a GoFundMe campaign for your plight. Timothy, while moved with compassion at your loss, remembers the words of the fatherly Paul, and asks you about your family. You have family who are able to take care of you, and the GoFundMe idea is scrapped, allowing your own family to enjoy caring for you.
FOURTH, give to the poor.
Numerous passages talk about being generous to the poor. This should be the core of a person’s generosity. The bible verses to this end are too numerous to quote. While it is clear that every member of society should be productive, and the man who will not work should not be rewarded, generous care for the poor should be the hallmark of every church and every Christian’s budget. This should be Generosity 101 in the giving curriculum of every Christian church.
FIFTH, give generously.
There is no biblical injunction against simply being generous to anyone. God lavishes gifts on his children, even though we do not deserve it. We can give gifts out of love. We can give gifts out of thanks. There is no biblical prohibition to an individual from giving gifts to whomever he pleases.
SIXTH, give when restitution is required.
When Zacchaeus was convicted of his sin, he paid back to his victims fourfold. Biblical law always had restitution in mind where the actions of the offender had impacted the victim financially. To fail to do this permanently robs the victim of that which is rightfully his. That is why, when slander is exposed, in most cases there is financial recompense as the slander robbed the victim of his name and therefore his ability to earn.
IN SUMMARY THEN….
- Give to the orphan and widow in their distress.
- Give to those in deep crisis.
- Give to the widow in your church. a. Only to those that are in need and have no family to support them through their crisis. b. Only to those that are known for good works c. Only to those that have cared for her own relatives. d. Only to those who have been faithful to their own husband. e. Only to those well known for her own good deeds. f. Only if she is not young (over 60) and not capable of working or finding a husband.
- Give to the poor.
- Give generously.
- Give when restitution requires it.