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'If a man doesn't work, neither should he eat': When helping hurts [part 3 of 3]

What is the answer?

     There is a secular organization in Branson whose purpose is to assist the needy. They proclaim: “We can love people, serve people, even educate people, but the only thing that will move people out of poverty is employment.”  The following Chinese proverb is referenced by them to promote their efforts; "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime." 

     This is not always true, especially among many of those who have come to exist by relying upon the goodwill of others. Without proper motivation, education just produces an intelligent sluggard. Physical relief for those in need will always be temporary if that person has no desire to please God. And obviously the desire to please God requires the knowledge of God. That element will always be missing in the efforts of those in the world. Only the church has the ability to provide the means for everlasting assistance.


Proper attitude

     True benevolence is only experienced if a person has a compassionate heart. When the opportunity to do good is presented, what is your attitude? Do you see a soul who Jesus went to the cross to save from their sins? Or do you immediately judge the person to most likely be unworthy of help? Granted, the professional panhandlers have challenged our ability to be very sympathetic. But the Christian still must judge righteously and not by appearance (John 7:24). Our goal in giving financial assistance to another should be to bring glory to God. Ultimately this would include trying to share the message of the cross with that person. Am I truly interested in trying to create an opportunity to teach this person? Or am I willing to go through the motions of caring as I inwardly hope the process will not take much of my time or effort? Am I treating them the way I would desire to be treated (Matt. 7:12)? True benevolence requires compassion.


Due diligence

     All that we possess belongs to the Lord. Christian stewardship demands that we use what we have for the purpose of glorifying the Lord. It is just as wrong to not use our money for good; i.e. dig a hole and hide our money in the ground (Mat. 25:24-27) as it is to waste it on sinful living (Luke 15:13).  Many elderships will give an account for the large sums of money that will be burned up on judgment day because it was being “saved.”

     A good steward will desire to use the Lord’s money, but use it wisely. In the area of benevolence, due diligence involves inquiry. If I do not know the person requesting assistance they should not be insulted when I inform them that I must try to confirm their information. After all, they are asking for a portion of that which belongs to the Lord.

     The following are questions and procedures we use in trying to perform due diligence concerning the motive of the person requesting help.

1. Sadly, there are many evil people who prey upon the benevolent nature of churches. It is not unusual for the “professional” solicitor to be on the run from the police. If I am contacted by telephone, I inform the caller that I may call the police to perform a background check. Many choose not to show up upon learning that is part of our process.

2. Always make a photo copy of the requester’s ID. Many times, the address on the ID tells a different story from the one verbally shared.

3. Keep a file of those who have requested help. This should include their picture, request and any decision made concerning their request. If they do not have a photo ID, ask for permission to take a picture with your camera. In my experience, some will revisit periodically to see if you remember them. I was told by one man, whom we had helped one year earlier, that he had never been to our city and that we had helped his twin brother.

4. Ask common sense questions:

“Where are you from?” 

“Why are you here?”

“How did your route from Florida to Ohio lead you to Branson, Missouri?”

5. Ask for references. Who do you know that can verify your story?

Have you been helped by other churches? If so, which ones?

6. If they claim to be a member of the church there should be someone in another congregation who knows them.

7. Ask if they are affiliated with any religious group. Why are they not receiving help from “their” church?

8. Ask if they are interested in pleasing God. Pleasing God includes worship. Are they interested in Bible study? Some may fake their interest in order to hopefully obtain physical relief. But even the Lord had those who temporarily followed Him in hopes of a free meal (loaves and fishes). If your requester has an impure heart, it will not be long before it is manifested.

8. If the one requesting assistance is from our local area we always ask: “And what is your plan?” We only give assistance to those who have a plan of recovery, or are willing to let us help them develop a plan of recovery. If they prove to be true in their desire to work “the plan” we continue to help them. But we always include Bible study and church service as part of the plan.

     Seldom has been the case where we assisted people who had predetermined that the church is “supposed” to help them just because they proclaim they are having financial difficulty. One young man demanded we pay for a motel and that we give him $300 for a drug rehab program fee. When we refused to immediately agree he stood up and shouted at me, “Take off your glasses!” On that occasion we needed the assistance of our local police department.



     There will never be a shortage of people in need. Our goal as children of God should be to help those with honest hearts to realize that Jesus is the answer to all their needs. That process may first involve showing compassion. It should not be our desire to be finished with the needy as swiftly as possible. Sometimes the ground in which we want to plant a garden needs preparation. Is it possible that we pray for opportunities in which to share the gospel, and then become selective as to who we are willing to expend our effort? Let us pray that is never the case. 

     Sadly, however, it is possible that our effort to be compassionate towards those requesting assistance is as beneficial as presenting pearls to a pig as a gift. Pigs do not appreciate the value of a precious jewel. They will certainly mash the pearls into the mud under their feet. All should agree that to give valuable jewelry to a pig is foolish.  

     If you do not give pigs what they desire, they will eventually turn and attack you. Pigs only want what pigs want (Mat. 7:6). Pigs expect what they desire. Some people in need are like pigs; they only want what they want, and expect to receive only what they desire. It is wrong to give what is holy to dogs (Mat. 7:5). Sometimes it takes much effort to determine whether a person in need is a greedy pig or just a sheep in need of a shepherd. May it be our desire to always do that which is good when we have the opportunity; but we should never help someone to be comfortable in their sin under the pretense of doing that which is good and right. Under such circumstances physically helping is spiritually harmful.

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