(Continuation of Part 1)
What do we observe in the above Scriptures (see Part 1)? We need to understand that these exhortations were not written to social organizations or charitable groups; these were written to the local churches of Christ Jesus. When we examine all the exhortations on giving in the New Testament, which need takes prominence in the priority list? Where did the money in the early church primarily go?
It is quite obvious from the Scriptures—the poor and needy people were of primary importance to the early church. John MacArthur in The MacArthur New Testament Commentary 1 Corinthians (pg. 451), comments, “The primary purpose of giving, as taught in the New Testament, is for the support of the saints, the church.” Also, Church historian Earle E. Cairns, in Christianity Through The Centuries, notes that even during the middle part of the second century the collection was primarily taken to help the poor and needy people. According to the information found in First Apology by Justin Martyr and Didache, Earle E. Cairns mentions that at the end of the fellowship of the church, “They finally took up a collection for aid to widows and orphans, the sick, the prisoners, and strangers. The meeting was then dismissed, and all the people made their way to their homes” (pg. 84)
Besides the New Testament’s emphasis on helping the needy, even in the Old Testament, wherein tithing was an act of obedience to the law, there was a special tithe which the Lord ordained to help the poor people. Interestingly, those who emphasize on the mandatory practice of tithing today rarely mention this Scripture, much less practice.
At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (Deut. 14:28-29)
Sadly, where is most of the money going today? Are poor and needy in the priority list of the modern day churches? Sometime back, I did a survey of some churches in my city to rate their overall activity in charity. Do you know what the result was? Not more than 8% of the churches are active in doing service to the poor and the needy.
It seems most of the money is going towards buildings, administration and programs, but the poor and needy are greatly neglected by the churches when they should be on their priority list. We need to ask, “Is this pleasing to God for whom the church exists? There is a great necessity to do the former which is our highest priority.
We need a reformation in the way we use the finance of the church. The preachers and teachers of our day must realize the importance of the poor and raise their voice to wake up the churches. Someone rightly commented, “No kind of religious services paid to the Deity can be of any avail, if we neglect the royal law of charity.” Our words have no value if we do not practically demonstrate the love of God. So the leaders must change and bring change into the churches.
The churches must take heed to what John MacArthur said, “Support of the poor and needy in the world in the name of the Lord is a high-priority Christian activity by Scriptural standards.” May God’s people and churches wake up to walk worthy according to the good purpose for which God has prepared us in advance – "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Eph. 2:10)!
But some may question—what about giving to missions? What about supporting the pastors? How did the early church give much to the needy when it seems to be highly difficult in our modern day church?
TO BE CONTINUED.....
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