Must a Christian Know the Purpose of Charity to the Poor?

Do we, as Christians, have a responsibility to know for what purpose moneys will be used as we give to those who would ask us for help?

Jesus said in Matthew 5:42, “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” We read in Ephesians 4:28 “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” In Luke 6:35 we read, “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” In Luke 14:12-14 we read, “Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”

As Christians, we have a personal and individual responsibility to give to the poor. The church also has a responsibility according to Galatians 6:10 but this does not negate our individual responsibility to help the poor. When we help the poor, we are not to expect anything in return. We should not expect them to pay us back. We should not expect them to return favors. We should not expect them to use the money in a certain way–anything that we expect in return for our giving to the poor is expecting too much according to the words of Christ. So we should not expect the poor person to even use the money in any particular way.

The natural response to this answer is, “Well, what if the person specifically said that he was going to use the money to buy alcohol, drugs, or do something illegal with it?” Most poor people who ask you for money are not going to tell you how they are going to use. Most are probably just going to say thank you and go on. So don’t ask. You have no responsibility to do that. You have the responsibility to give. The person who receives the money then has the responsibility before God to use it properly. After you give the money, then your responsibility is completed and his or her responsibility begins. Now I must say that if the man gets up and says, “Thanks, now I can go buy that gun I have needed to kill my wife,” then I would want to have a few words with him. I would want to report the situation to the police. It would be criminally negligent of me to allow such a situation to go forward unchecked and as Christians, we must obey the law. Rarely is such a situation going to occur. But if we give, God says that we have done well. That should be sufficient for us provided the recipient of our gift does not tell us the purpose for which he is going to use the gift.

The passages at which we have looked do assume that one will be giving money, but they do not assume that this is the only way to give. We can give other things besides money. When Peter and John were on their way to the temple in Acts 3:6 Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” Peter gave this lame man the gift of walking. We can give in other ways than “silver and gold.” If you personally are not comfortable with giving money, then you can give food, clothing, or shelter. This ensures that the person to whom you are giving is going to receive the things that he or she needs. Even these things, however, can be used inappropriately. So in giving, there is never the 100% certainty that those who are receiving the gift will do what they are supposed to do with it.

The bottom line is that if you give money to someone who asks, you have done that which is right (period). It is not your responsibility to make sure that person uses the money you give for good things. As soon as the gift is complete, then that person has a responsibility to use it appropriately and God will bring him or her into judgment for how he or she uses that gift. Is this not also true regarding the gift of God’s Son, Jesus? God gave to us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). He gave us what we needed–what we could not do for ourselves–a sacrifice to wash away sin. His gift is complete. Now does He have a responsibility to make sure that everyone uses His gift appropriately? No. It is the individual’s responsibility to use this gift in a way that will please God and so will he be judged. When we give, we are no more responsible to ensure that those to whom we give a gift use it properly than God is responsible to ensure that those to whom He gave His gift use it properly. Let us give and be children of our Father!

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