It is good to give. It marks us out as different from the animals. We are made in the image of God, and He is a God who loves to give. We have a deep-rooted desire to give. That desire can be drowned by the cares of life and it is so easy to forget the joy of giving and harden our hearts to those in need through indifference and self-interest.
If we come across a fellow human-being in great need, there are a number of responses we make.
- We could be totally indifferent to the need and not consciously acknowledge that there is anything we should do.
- We might think that it is the other person’s fault and that they deserve to be in their present state.
- We might feel that we could help, but we are worried about our own finances and so fail to help.
- We might be totally overwhelmed by so many people in need that we fail to help at all.
- We might think that it is the government’s responsibility and not help out of principle.
- We are of the opinion that the needy person might become dependent on charity and fail to see individuals as real people with varying circumstances.
- We might help by pointing the needy person in the direction of a charity or government programme.
- We can give money or material goods, either directly or via a charity, to meet the need.
- We can help the person directly by getting involved and giving our time by providing counsel, comfort or friendship to the other person.
The first six of these responses, mean that we have shut our hearts to the need and are effectively the same, at least as far as the needy person is concerned.
The last three of these responses involve action on our part and a sharing of resources, whether material, emotional or spiritual.
Advantages and disadvantages of giving
|Advantages of giving||Disadvantages|
|The recipient obviously gains materially or emotionally.||We might suffer a net loss in our resources, whether in time or money|
|We feel a sense of well-being and fulfillment by doing the ‘right thing’.||There is a risk that the needy person may become dependant on help and fail to try themselves to get out of the situation.|
|Society as a whole gains by being or more equal, a more just society.|
|The Biblical principle of sowing and reaping means that in some way the lives of givers will be enriched.|
|Individual responses are always much more efficient than government programmes, so the country will prosper more as people take the initiative to get involved.|
The sheep and the goats
Jesus told a parable that we call the parable of the sheep and goats. In this Jesus said that our right standing with God was measured by the way we treat our fellow-man.
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
- For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
- I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
- I was a stranger and you invited me in,
- I needed clothes and you clothed me,
- I was sick and you looked after me,
- I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:34-40 NIV)
Who needs our help?
People in our own community who are:
- Hungry or thirsty – we can give money or help directly by providing food.
- The stranger or foreigner (immigrant) who, because of language, culture or poverty, feels excluded from society.
- The homeless.
- Those who need clothes or other material possessions.
- The sick, the disabled or others who need looking after.
- Prisoners, or those imprisoned by their circumstances, who need our emotional or spiritual involvement.
People living in other countries who we cannot help directly, but can do by giving of our resources through international charities:
- Children who need education to prevent one poor generation producing another poor generation.
- Clean water to drink to prevent many fatal waterborne diseases.
- Ensuring health-care is available to all.
- Research into diseases which kill or severely effect the life-style of the sufferers, such as malaria and HIV/Aids.
- Providing income generation schemes to help families lift themselves out of poverty.
How we can help
- Getting involved in our own communities where there are people with needs.
- Giving money to charities working amongst the disadvantaged in our own community.
- Giving our time as volunteers to charities working in our own community.
- Giving money to international charities who work where we cannot help directly.
- Fund-raising for local or international charities.
- Campaigning on behalf of those who are in need or disadvantaged.
- Using our voice and our vote to influence politicians in order to advance the cause of justice for the needy.