Meeting Economic Needs With Christian Generosity
Meeting Economic Needs with Christian Generosity
Our world looks entirely different than it did this time last year. The COVID-19 pandemic’s economic crisis has affected every country on our planet. The United States alone has now passed multiple economic relief bills for trillions of dollars aimed at keeping businesses and entire industries afloat. Tens of millions of people in this country alone have filled for unemployment or have lost their jobs since March. Diving beneath the surface of these statistics, you find devastation at middle- and lower-tiered income levels, affecting people working in industries such as hospitality, food, transportation, and service. Not everyone here has the privilege to pivot to a Zoom platform and work from home like I do. Unfortunately, this disparity is nothing new to society.
As we have all worked in varying degrees to curb the spread of COVID-19, all our lives have been changed, but not to the same degree. The economic implications continue to cause a divide in our society on a large scale, and as followers of Jesus Christ, we must take time to sit in that reality. In the economy of mercy, I recognize myself as a poor and begging man. And through this lens we must ask how God sees those forgotten by society.
Throughout the long history of human wars, pandemics and economic crises, the people who suffer the most are those who are already economically vulnerable. This tends to manifest for myriad reasons, some of which are completely beyond their control. The same was true throughout biblical history. Therefore, in the Levitical laws that God gave to Israel, God made sure the vulnerable in the population had their needs met. Moses and the prophets talked in detail about how the Israelites were to care for immigrants, widows, orphans, and the poor. For example, Deuteronomy 15:11 says: “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore, I command you, you shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in your land.” The biblical response to poverty and need is often an open hand of generosity.
All throughout the Bible, God calls on his people to care for others and steward the gifts He has given us. 1 Peter 4:10 tells us, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” This is deeply rooted in the belief that every human is carefully made in the image of God and therefore has sacred dignity, value and worth regardless of social and economic status. Jesus shared his Heavenly father’s love for all kinds of people, including those who perhaps did not know where their meal would come from. We are given vignettes into the movement that Jesus began throughout the book of Acts with generosity as a core value of Jesus’s early followers. Acts 2:46-47 shares, “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.”
The Call of the Ordinary Christian
So what can be done? When I read headlines of multi-trillion-dollar relief packages and tens of millions of people unemployed, I am like many of you. Paralyzed and overwhelmed. So much about this pandemic is overwhelming for the individual. So let us make this very simple and practical. There are needs all around. What can we as God’s people do about it?
First, I know that I need to repent of my tendency toward self-preservation. Jesus is our example in giving of himself not just to the physically needy around him, but also for the spiritually needy. As Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” I can die to myself because Jesus lives in me, and I can give of myself as Jesus gave so generously to me.
Next, let’s look outward: You almost certainly know someone who has taken a financial hit that they can hardly bear in this season. What if you were to check in with that person and offer to help? Maybe someone needs groceries. Maybe someone you know needs help with rent or their mortgage. Or if your friends and neighbors are doing reasonably well, find out what the needs are at local nursing homes, foster care centers or food pantries. Support them however you can.
As Christians, we should never look at economic need and assume we need to move forward with our business as usual. Rather, we are called to open our checkbooks, hearts, and homes to properly steward our God-given resources and simply give to those who have need – in times of both prosperity and adversity. Followers of Jesus have the unique opportunity to display courage, honesty, and the generous heart of God himself in a very practical way.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes, “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”
Living Out of a Heart of Love and Generosity
Ezekiel 36:26-27, God promised, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
As recipients of this promise through faith in Christ, we know that God has already taken out our heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh. In this, we are no longer wicked and beholden to self-preservation. But if we’re honest, we still find it hard to live out that truth on a daily basis.
Village Church, let us live and love in the generosity of Jesus, who became the ultimate example of sacrifice. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
May God grant us all the courage and humility to love our neighbor as ourselves, even when it comes at a cost to ourselves.
Note: If you are a Village Partner and are in need of practical or financial help from the church, please reach out to your care pastor about the Benevolence Fund.