Monday, December 3, 2012

A Challenge to Charitable Christians

This is going to be a controversial post today, but I think it's important to say.

Since I've been back in Vegas, I have been approached ten different times by people who were supposedly in need. Now, having lived in Chicago for sometime, I have heard a lot of stories and can usually spot them pretty well.

For instance, when someone says they have been abandoned by their boyfriend or car broke down and they are from out of state, that's almost a sure sign that you're getting a bogus story. The reason why many approach you this way, as opposed to asking for food or saying they live locally, is because you can't just offer them food or give them a ride. It's highly unlikely someone is going to give you a ride from Las Vegas to California (unless the guy is really in need of something to do or is a serial killer), so the prospect of getting some cash out of people is really good.

Others might be homeless because they want to be. For instance, take this story about the homeless man who was recently given boots by the officer.

Many are homeless due to drug and alcohol addiction. Still, others are homeless because they had a hard hand dealt to them. 

But even when you do bump into those who are homeless for legitimate reasons, or are propositioned by a charity, or just want to give to some organization, Christians need to be aware of something that I don't think most realize, and that is this: the Christian practice of giving to the poor needs to be directed to poor Christians. In other words, Christians need to give to Christians. By this, they will know that you are His disciples: when you love one another (i.e., fellow Christians).

So I'm going to challenge you to think about something you may not have thought about before today. Search the New Testament and show me one passage anywhere that either commands or praises, or even describes, Christians giving to unbelievers. You're not going to find it. Christians are too busy taking care of other Christians, precisely because those other Christians represent Christ. Their love for Christ compels them to take care of one another, as opposed to just wanting to feel good about themselves in giving to just anyone.

In other words, the reason why Christians are to give is different than that of much the world. We give out of love for Christ first. The world does not give because it loves and wants to care for Christ through His children, but that is why Christians give. Hence, their love for one another displays their love for Christ and shows the world that they are His disciples.

There are a couple problems with giving to people who are not children of Christ. The first is that when you give to one person, you inevitably take away from another. This is a necessary result of having limited resources, but what it means is that we have to be considerate to whom it is we are giving those resources. I could imagine myself a great man for giving to the children of my poor neighbors, but if I let my own children starve to death in order to do so then I should be considered a pretty evil guy who shuns his responsibility to those who have been given by God to him for the purpose of his taking care of them.

Likewise, if I give to an unbeliever, I am really taking away from a believer who is in need (and there are many in need). This can mean that the very act of giving, the act that our society considers to be the greatest act of love and godliness, can be an evil that robs the children of God from life-sustaining resources. We are not, therefore, commanded to love the world by giving them tangible resources so that they can survive another day before hell, but instead to give them the gospel and make disciples out of them--disciples who take care of other disciples in their love for Christ.

Second, a genuine Christian is more likely to use the money toward living rather than drinking and drugs. He's unlikely to scam you. Now, of course, anyone can claim to be a Christian off the street, so Paul set up instructions for churches to only support widows who have a history of seeking Christ in godliness/good works (1 Tim 5). In fact, he directs that the church's funds be used to support only those Christian widows who are really in need and have no other familial resources and to elders who are to be supported by the church. This same line of thinking can be applied to the poor in general (i.e., only give to those Christians who have proven to be Christians by their pursuit of Christ in godliness and to those who are truly in need and without any other familial resources).

The reason for this is because, again, to give to one with limited resources automatically entails the taking away from others. But it also gives us an understanding that early Christians, under apostolic instruction, did not give to the poor indiscriminately, but rather gave to fellow Christians who were truly in need: Christians who were widows and orphans (i.e., a family that has lost the husband/father), Christians who were sick, Christians out proclaiming the gospel or devoted their lives to prayer and preaching the word, and therefore, had no other means to survive, etc.

Thirdly, it muddies the witness that Christians are Christ's disciples by caring for Him through His people, because it muddies the waters as to the identity of His people. We may, in fact, be giving the impression that everyone is saved, because everyone is cared for by Christ's people as though they were Christ's people. This hurts, rather than helps, the witness of charity to the exclusiveness of Christ's salvation being in Christ. It may help people think you're a nice people, but it doesn't witness toward the need to become a Christian.

Now, in an ideal world, we would be able to give to everyone without exception. Who wants to see a child starving, Christian or otherwise? But the truth is that Christians need to get a reign on irrational emotion and realize that giving to that child means you are letting a child of Christ die instead. As I have said before, we can love everyone, but not in the same way. We have to give preference to one and not the other in numerous scenarios. Love is not without direction, but takes care of its responsibilities first (family, the larger family of fellow Christians, the larger family of humanity) and then reaches out beyond that if it can. The problem is that there are so many in need that, in reality, there never is a time that one can reach beyond the realm of family and Christian family without taking away from them in order to give to those who are currently hostile toward God.

As such, I think we need to consider the giving of resources that God has given us to take care of His children to unbelievers as a betrayal of those other Christians, and therefore, of Christ Himself. Notice, again, that judgment of believers surrounds loving and taking care of other believers or the lack thereof in the great judgment of Matthew 25. It characterizes those who are truly saved versus those who are not in John's first epistle. Paul praises certain churches for digging deep and helping other churches. Christians don't just go out and throw money to the wind because it makes them feel good about giving to others. They give to the Master who bought them, precisely because they love Him and want to take care of Him more than anything and anyone else. The poor you always have with you, so Christ said, but I with you only for a short while. Christ, in that statement, shows that the love of Christ is to be considered greater, and hence, the giving to Christ greater, than that of giving to the poor. To take away from giving to Him in order to give to the poor who are not identified with Him would be wrong.

So I am not merely saying today that we really should try and help out other Christians too. I'm saying that the Bible seems to indicate that we are only to help out other Christians with our limited resources. With infinite resources, like the truth of the gospel, we are able to help unbelievers too, and are commanded to do so by seeking to unite them with Christ; but limited resources are to go to those to whom God has given us as our family (biological and extended within the Church), and in this way, our love will actually give us the ability to care for Christ more thoroughly through His people. The Bible seems to set up government and society itself to help out those who are not His own, as a means to display His common grace upon people. It is shameful today that Christians too have to be taken care of by the state because the churches are too busy giving to all sorts of charities that do not necessarily direct their resources toward those Christians.

Of course, there are instances when Christians can only reach other Christians through those organizations, but Christians within one's own church should be taken care of first before one attempts to go through those organizations.

So pray for those who approach you on the street, but save what you would have given them for the offering, for the Christians at church you know need it, for your family members who may be in need. Don't steal from them what God has given you to take care of them. Do not waste your resources on those who have not shown themselves to be Christians, lest you end up in the wicked seat of the damned who can only say, "Be warm and filled," to other Christians because you squandered you resources on those who are not ambassadors of Christ. But be a cheerful giver in love to those who are Christ's, precisely because you are not giving to men, but to Christ Himself.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“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.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matt 25:31-46)


  1. how does this apply to an evangelically minded and focused orphanage? You'd be giving your money to feed and clothe unregenerate children.

  2. Well, one might argue that children in an orphanage are under the parental possession of those who oversee it, so one might consider the kids within a Christian orphanage as Christians.

    But let's take something like a shelter that only holds 100 people. Let's say you have a thousand people, 50 of which are Christians. To give away 100 spots indiscriminately to unbelievers so that even one of those Christians is out on the street is to turn Christ away for the sake of sheltering those who are hostile toward Christ. So I think the principle is that one should not take away from Christ's children to give to the devil's. If one has enough to do both, then one may be free to do so, but it seems counter-Scriptural to not give preference to believers for the sake of loving Christ directly.

  3. I don't mean to be argumentative... but back to the orphanage, not the adult shelter. If "one" considered the kids Christians, "one" would fail to see the need for evangelization there, and the purpose would fail.

    I am speaking of missionary orphanages in 3rd world countries, who's missionaries primary purpose is to reach parentless unregenerate children with the Gospel.

    Should they simply preach to them on the road where they have to live and starve, or bring them in to a facility and remove the "distractions" to the Gospel of hunger, safety, clothing, and warmth as they attempt to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

    How far do you take this idea? If you have visitors at the church do you withhold the resources of love and compassion till they are Christians?

    Isn't it conceivable that part of demonstrating the love of Christ might spill over with a little active practical love toward a lost soul?

    Perhaps like an ambassador giving a presentation of their country and including some tastes of the food from their country to an attendee of their presentation. The ambassador wouldn't just demonstrate the flavors by giving a taste to another native of their country, and then ask that person to describe it! No, they'd give a taste to those who they contacted. (All analogies have weaknesses, for sure, but you get the picture)

    We are supposed to be ambassadors for Christ to the lost and dying world around us.

  4. Also, how do you deal with Christ's words in Luke 14:12-13, and the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan didn't ask the beaten man for his creed, he just helped. And Jesus lifted this up as an example of how to live out the 2nd greatest commandment.

  5. FYI: Luke 14:12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.

    No mention of asking their relationship with God.

  6. Thanks Jon.

    I realize I'm hitting hard against a longstanding tradition within Western Christianity (largely stemming from the social gospel that has come into so much of evangelicalism and fundamentalism).

    The first thing to note is that we should argue from the Bible to experience, not vice versa. So the question remains, "Where is the practice of giving to unbelievers for purposes of evangelism or showing the love of Christ in the Scripture?"

    I don't think we'll find it, as it would contradict the other things I mentioned that are in the Bible. If we should give to anyone and everyone to show the love of Christ then we cannot be judged for running out of resources when Christians are in need, nor can Paul tell us to just give to these widows and elders and not to others, etc. Also, it would be odd for James and John to talk about giving to Christians as proof of our love for Christ when our love for Christ can be seen in giving to everyone, regardless of whether they belong to Christ.

    Second, I didn't say anything about a creed. This cheapens the argument I'm making to something selfish toward an "in-group" when I'm arguing about loving Christ versus robbing Him to love His enemies instead. So I wouldn't phrase it that way.

    Third, appealing to children is merely an emotional argument. That's why people do it and why I moved away from it to something a little more emotionally neutral in some sense. But the objection that this diminishes the need to evangelism is only true if you don't believe that you need to continually teach people to believe the gospel of Christ regardless of their profession or lack thereof. I believe we constantly call Christians to repentance and belief in the gospel and so I see no conflict between considering children of believing guardians as Christians who also need to be discipled (remember, our commandment from Christ is to disciple, not merely to "evangelize" in the sense of converting). If we obey the command to disciple, evangelization takes place in the process.

    Fourthly, we can conjecture what makes us more appropriately loving ambassadors of Christ, but we don't have to conjecture because Christ told us what displays our identification as loving disciples who belong to Him (i.e., our love for one another, and that love is interpreted by John himself as taking care of other Christians in a tangible way, not by giving to everyone regardless of whether they belong to Christ). I can say that I think sending up big banners on balloons that say, "I love Jesus" or having a license plate that says that same, displays my connection with and love for Christ as His ambassador, but that's my thinking, not the Holy Spirit of Christ's words.

    Finally, the text parable is a good one to bring up, and one I anticipated, but it needs to be seen in light of the explicit and also in the context of the gospels. All of the gospels speak to the community of believers. The community of believers is made up of people who help the poor within the community (i.e., what I said above). The biggest misunderstanding people tend to have about the Good Samaritan parable is that it's about helping anyone, regardless of who they are. But that isn't the point. The question is, "Who is my neighbor?" The answer is the not the guy of the same ethnicity (they all passed the Jewish man by). The answer is the guy who not only claims to know God, but displays the love of God by taking care of you (a believer) by tangible means. In other words, the parable teaches that a "dog" Samaritan can be your neighbor and pious Jews can be foreigners to you. The real neighbor (i.e., fellow person within the community of God--which is what the term means in the Bible) is the one who acts like it in his love for you. Hence, believers are identified by their love for one another. So the parable is consistent with what the rest of the New Testament says.

  7. The Sermon on the Mount, again, is to believers, speaking to people within the community. It is also misinterpreted by A LOT of people within our culture, but it's important to note that it refers to relationships within the believing community. The enemies there are the opponents at Law, brothers who may have something against you, etc. In other words, within the believing community. Otherwise, if you interpret the Sermon outside of its context, you end up with having to let Iran nuke your country in order to be more Christlike.

  8. I have a great difficulty agreeing with your interpretation of the Good Samaritan. Its seems like a lot of theological acrobatics to get from one end to the other as I plainly see it.

    Jesus chose a man from a clearly different group of people, both ethnically and religiously. To presume that we should see them as from the same "community of faith" seems to be counter to the very story and the characters Christ chose. He even specifically chose others who failed to show love who were of the same community of faith.

    So who is your neighbor? Who should you show practical love to? Seems to me that Jesus is saying "who ever you run into that clearly needs it.

  9. LOL, Jon. We're now witnessing one of the biggest problems in discussing the interpretation of a passage when a traditional interpretation has taken deep roots. To you, I'm employing theological acrobatics by noting the context of the Sermon, the Gospel of Luke, and the entire New Testament, but you are just taking it plainly without considering any of those and using your own religious tradition on the subject as the context. Really?

    I just gave you the context. Samaritans don't believe in a different God. They're Pentateuch is almost identical to that of Jews (the only difference is who the people of God are, not who God is and what He required of His people). They were closer to believing Jews than the Sadducees were. But the point of the parable has to be taken in context of Luke's purpose. Luke's purpose is to bring out what we see taught by Christ in Matthew 25. That's why Luke is continually talking about the poor within the community. What's missing in your "plain" interpretation is context, and that makes your interpretation dependent upon your tradition, which is why it is so hard for you to see what I'm saying as the plain interpretation and your interpretation as theological acrobatics.

  10. "So who is your neighbor? Who should you show practical love to? Seems to me that Jesus is saying "who ever you run into that clearly needs it."

    Then Jesus contradicts Paul and the other apostles? I'm not sure how you reconcile this to what the rest of Scripture is saying. It seems to me that if the above were true then you shouldn't withhold resources from anyone at anytime, and that the love of Christ, and our salvation, is displayed in giving to everyone, not just believers. So are the apostles wrong?

  11. In other words, shouldn't have Christ really said, within your interpretation, "By this they will know that you are My disciples, when you love everybody in the world"?

  12. Just to bring the point home, Jon. Notice what the conclusion is:

    36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

    37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

    Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

    Notice, the answer isn't, "Everyone is your neighbor." The answer is that man who had mercy on him, not the man who needed help. Hence, Jesus tells the man to go do likewise and then he will know that he is saved. Hence, it has to do with who is a true believer in how he treats believers.

  13. Four parts coming (limtied to 4096 characters)

    I understand what you are saying, but I disagree with your understanding of the framework. To characterize my view as ignoring context is incorrect, you just disagree with my view of the context.

    We have a parable here. Jesus chose characters, a setting, and a point to be made. The characters he chose are quite clearly chosen to show a stark difference between people. He chose a couple who were of like faith, and one that was viewed with contempt due to variation in faith and mixed ethnic background.

    When all the characters are viewed, one cannot help but recognize that the differences noted DO include issues of faith.

    But that aside, the Samaritans response is what I believe Jesus was looking at. Jesus asked the people which of the characters proved to be neighborly at the end. The Samaritan did. Then Jesus told them to go and live like that Samaritan (had to be a tough pill to swallow for Jews to hear). The point being, that if you want to love in a neighborly fashion, you are not bound to those within some made up radius or zone, but rather you ought to be showing love to those in your walk.

    This doe not contradict anything else Jesus or the apostles taught elsewhere. Sure, Jesus spoke ALSO about caring for the community of faith, sure Paul spoke about caring for the community of faith. It is true that we have a major responsibility there, but it is not to the exclusion of sharing with others.

    Its like caring for your family (and given the propensity with which Paul referred to the followers of Christ as brothers and sisters, I think its a fair analogy). You will care for your family, but this does not exclude you from aiding someone next door who's house just burnt to the ground.

    Sure the bulk of your aid may go towards helping your family, but that doesn't outlaw aiding others too. For most of us, there is enough to go around, locally, enough to help here and there regionally, and also to aid when a call comes in for a need among the church in a foreign place.

    One doesn't have to exclude the other.

  14. I don't know if you have ever spent any time talking with folks who evangelize people who are at the very very bottom of the world's social ladder. People who are living on the street (not of their own desire or making), people who are regularly raped, beaten, taken advantage of, and left hungry, and cold... in their misery and experience, they have walls built up around their heart and mind that will not come down when someone simply comes over and preaches words.

    Those walls needed to be lowered. I see it as a perfectly acceptable part of evangelism to show love, and in the process remove some of those walls. I have seen the fruits of this process.

    While we might not see a perfect picture of this in the New Testament to use as a proof verse, it is also not prohibited or in any way discouraged. The Bible doesn't talk about using the internet either... we could go on and on with things the Bible didn't get specific on.

    One final thought on the Good Samaritan. I think their is some vagueness as to Jesus' command to "go and do likewise" - the question prior was "who was his neighbor?" The answer was "The one who had mercy on him" (the Samaritan) - and the reply was go and do likewise... so I would have to say that Jesus is telling them to go and do like the Samaritan - nearest antecedent subject.

    You could certainly continue to talk about the fact that other examples in the Bible can be viewed as being faith-community-only charity, but I would suggest that some of that is presumption and coming to the Word with an idea looking for evidence. When we do things like that we can often find SOME level of support for anything.

    I would ask you to show me where in the Bible we are forbidden from using practical love as a way of reaching people. I see practical love as a resource, just like the internet, or a printing press, or publishing house. You can print material that describes the love of Christ, explains what it is like, why he loved, the need, etc... or you can use the same resources to demonstrate love, WHILE explaining that this is a reflection of the love of Christ... continuing on with the Gospel.

    (Note: I would stipulate that Christians, IF they decide to give resources toward some form of charitable endeavor that reaches unbelievers, that there MUST be a Gospel focus. That would be our PURPOSE in sharing practically.)

  15. The reason I brought up and went back to the issue of the orphans was NOT to simply raise an emotional appeal. It is much more than that. I went to that because I see a plethora of verses in the Bible where God speaks to his special caring for the fatherless.

    In the Law, we see some of the heart of God on this matter. While we may not be under the specifics of these laws today, you cannot blind yourself to see that God saw fit to provide for those outside the community of faith then.

    "He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing."
    "Sojouner" (גָּר) clearly speaks of foreigners.

    "...and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do."

    "You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns."

    "When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands."

    "When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow."

    "...When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled..."

  16. Furthermore, in the Psalms, we see that God declares himself (through divine inspiration) to be specially watching out for groups like widows and orphans.

    "Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation."

    We see a contrast to God's position in the ways of the evil: "They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless;"

    "The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin."

    Later in the OT we see:

    "learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause."

    Again, In all of these verses, I think we can see the view of God with regards to dealing with those who are considered "outsiders". I see no reason to erase the chalkboard of all God demonstrated IN HIS commands to the nation of Israel. God's character isn't changed, and we can see some of that character in the way he spoke to Israel about "outsiders".

    I leave you with Deut 10: 17-19 "For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. "

    Wow - them some powerful words right there!!

  17. Thanks Jon, A few problems here.

    1. You've not given me the context at all. You've described a speculative backdrop of the story where you think the Samaritan is not similar enough to one of the wide varieties of Judaism to be considered a believer in God. That's a lot to pour in, and not at all considering the purpose of Luke, the purpose of the pericope, and the conclusion of the parable, which is to say that only the Samaritan was the man's neighbor/a believer, not the others. Hence, it is meant to show the actions of true versus false Christianity by showing what a true believer does to another believer. The context is the believing community, and that's where your interpretation is ignoring the context. So you haven’t appealed to context by simply saying that Jesus chose certain characters. We all agree He chose certain characters. What you need to ask is to what those characters are in reference to in the larger context. In other words, “Why is Jesus telling this story here?” “How does this fit into what Luke is saying in this larger passage and in the larger argument of his Gospel?” You’re not asking those questions. You’re assuming the meaning of the story based upon how you’ve always interpreted it (or what you call “plainly”), but that’s not the context. You can’t assume you know what Jesus is trying to get at without looking at the context, which is about what it means to be a disciple of Christ within the pericope, the fact that Luke is talking about the poor within the believing community throughout his Gospel, and the fact that the parable has the true neighbor (i.e., the true disciple) as the Samaritan who takes care of a fellow believer (which is really what would sting the Jewish leaders). Christ says plainly that the neighbor is the Samaritan, not anyone in need. He doesn’t say that the Jew who was hurt is the neighbor, but the Samaritan, so you’re even confusing who the neighbor in the actual story is by trying to say that everyone that comes across your path in need is the neighbor. That’s the opposite of what’s being said there (and that should be pretty clear to everyone who reads it carefully). The problem is preconceived concepts of what it means to be “Christlike” when it comes to giving are getting in the way of interpreting the passage in context.

    2. The "sojourner" in the Bible refers to a non-ethnic Israelite who has become a believer and dwells among them. That's why the law requires the sojourner to obey it. So the majority of verses you quoted there are speaking about people within the believing community. Again, you're ignoring the context and appealing to a preconceived idea that what is said within these texts speaks universally of all people. That's not going to pan out when you read the entire texts. The widow and orphan in a lot of these texts are widows and orphans within the believing community.

    1. 1. I see no evidence for your preconceived notion that Jesus MUST have been only ever talking about believers in Luke. By your reasoning, even if Jesus WANTED to make a statement about non-believers demonstrating the law written on their hearts (conscience), He wouldn't be able to get through to you because you'd automatically assign that as a believer.

      Just because you can see a multitude of teaching about believers and the community of believers doe not force everything to be in that scope. This is one of the problems I see with "over-theologizing" the Bible. Everything is forced to fit a derived form. I grant you context, context is good and right, but the breadth of context CAN sometimes be debatable and hard to be certain of.

      I can come to terms with your argument as valid, but not one I ascribe to. I agree that it can carry water, but it is not "certain". I believe my argument also holds water, and I ascribe to it. We might have to agree to disagree here.

      2. Can yous hare with me where the Bible defines sojourners as "non-ethnic Israelites" as opposed to simple foreigners?

  18. 3. I said above that God does care for everyone. But He doesn't take care of them through the same institutions, nor are we therefore to ignore that and use the same means to care for them. The Church, His eternal Kingdom, takes care of Christians. Unbelieving governments are to take care of unbelievers or they will fall under the wrath of God for not doing so. It's not for the Church to deprive believers of resources to help unbelievers. Your claim that you have enough resources to take care of everyone is hard to swallow, Jon. Is every Christian you have heard needs help OK now? You have no more Christians in need around you that you can take your resources and direct them elsewhere? We can also argue about whether you should save it for future needs among the community, but if you notice I said that I don't think it would be a problem if the community of faith was taken care of first. That was my whole point. Christ did not rob His children in order to give their inheritance to unbelievers. He gives to His children what they need through His children. To take that and give it to another when Christians are in need is evil. I don't need a verse to spell that out for us. I have plenty that tell me to direct my resources toward Christians. I have nothing telling me to direct it to unbelievers, which brings me to the next point.

  19. 4. Your argument is merely experiential. It just says, "I've seen this work, and so it must be OK." I'm not concerned with what "works," because God uses evil to bring about good. I can't decide what I should do based upon what God does, lest I begin to argue that it's OK to evangelize in strip clubs because God occasionally might save someone that way. So what? I have to decide what the Scripture directs me to do first and then judge my ministry practices by that. Scripture is the top authority, not what gets results in our eyes.

    5. My argument wasn't that if Scripture doesn't tell you to do it, then you can't. That creates false dichotomies, like the one you think I'm guilty of. My argument is that the Scripture only directs Christians to help other Christians with their limited resources and that they are told not to give them to people who are not only not Christians, but anyone who is not a faithful Christian. That was my point in bringing up Paul's commands concerning what widows should receive support from the Church. So we have both the continual command and indication in Scripture that a Christian is to give to other Christians and this signifies his genuinely being a disciple of Christ (which is what the Lukan passage is about if you read the whole thing and not just the parable of the Good Samaritan out of that context), and we have commands that exclude people who are not Christians or unfaithful "Christians" from being supported by other Christians. I would further argue, as I attempted to above, that the command concerning loving one another as our signal to the world that we are Christ's disciples implies, together with John's own interpretation in his first epistle, that it is when we give to other Christians because they belong to Christ, and therefore as an exclusive group to whom this love is due, we must be exclusive in order to accomplish that picture. Hence, within the command to give to believers is the implicit idea that unbelievers are not being loved in that same way. Otherwise, you change the command from loving the brethren to loving everyone, which is a different command than the one Christ actually gave. And my point there is that changing the command negates the potency of what actually identifies a Christian as Christ’s disciple.

  20. Finally, as a note on loving others who are not believers, I hope it's understood, and don't think it is by some of the verses you gave me, that I am not saying to not love the unbeliever. We're commanded to love everyone, but, just like God, we love in different ways. We love unbelievers by giving them those resources we have an infinite amount of, the gospel as primary. But we love believers specifically by taking care of each other as fellow disciples of Christ, precisely because we love Christ more than those who are not representatives of Christ. We love Him in tangible ways with our resources that are more finite because taking away those resources from Christ in order to honor the unbeliever is to dishonor Christ. One cannot, therefore, do both with those resources unless his entire world of Christians are warm and filled.

  21. Once more, Bryan, you've explained something that I've felt for a while but couldn't quite articulate. The implications are quite important in today's evangelical climate.

    Based on your response to Jon, I'm pretty sure I know what you're going to say, but here goes: I spent a couple of months last summer volunteering at a Church-run homeless hostel. Some of the residents over the years came to Christ, and many of them went to church and Christianity Intro courses, etc. But in your opinion, should that project not have been started, but the resources diverted to needy Christians, and the gospel simply taken out to the homeless on the streets?

  22. Thanks Ben. I think I would say, "Yes" in general. There may be times when one has to make an organization more general in order to help Christians (e.g., when a city will only allow a shelter if it's for everyone, or when Christians, say, in Haiti, need help and the only way to reach them is through an organization that helps everyone).

    Having said all of that, I understand the thinking that says we gain an opportunity to preach the gospel by participating in social action. I come from that tradition. I just don't see it in Scripture when we have limited resources, but instead see all over Scripture that needy Christians are to be given those resources as our witness to the world that we are Christ's disciples. Atheists can be charitable, but we take care of Christians because we are taking care of Christ by taking care of Christians.

    So let's say I have an opportunity to take care of a Christian family who is starving and in need of shelter. Christ says that to do so is taking care of Him. But then I instead decide to give those resources to unbelievers in the hope that they will turn to Christ. Now I've let Christ starve against what He commanded in order to employ an evangelistic method that He did not command (hence, I nullify the Word of God for the sake of my tradition, and like the Pharisees think that I'm doing so for God). In reality, the gospel changes people, not our emotionally driven ploys to endear people to us. In other words, I can obey Christ and preach the gospel within the biblical framework (finding ways to gain opportunity that do not transgress other commands), but I can't do both within our modern social gospel tradition. That to me is a huge problem.

  23. Matthew 5:43-48

    43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, ***do good to those who hate you***, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

    God be with you,

  24. Thanks Dan.

    If you look at the above comments, I address the fact that the Sermon on the Mount is limited to the sphere of one's community. The "enemy" is the one who is the opponent at law, the brother who has a problem with you, etc. But I would even expand this to apply to those who live among us, believer or unbeliever, as I said above. We are to love everyone, but we do not love everyone in the same way. There is nothing here that speaks of loving unbelievers by using limited resources that are to go to Christ's people. This speaks of blessing and doing good to those who hate you. What's the "good"? I would say in the context of the entire Bible that it is seeking their unification with Christ through the gospel. Again, there is no need to ignore the other commands of Scripture that limit our giving to believers in order to obey this generic command. They all go together.

    1. BC,

      The sermon was given to believers but it's not only about believers. For example, is it OK to look at unbelieving ladies with lust? No. The command is to believers but it's not only about believers. So you would need some further argument to limit enemies to believing enemies.

      As for defining "good", while preaching the gospel is good, the whole bible teaches good is not just that. In the more immediate context, Matthew 6:1 speaks of charitable deeds, which seems to be a general topic of large portions of 5 & 6.

      As for limited resources, practical issues and discretion come into play, and we can always ask God for wisdom, but we cannot rule out doing good to unbelievers.

      God be with you,

    2. I wasn't saying that because it was given to believers, it's only about them. I was saying that the context is how you conduct yourself within the community. You would lust after a woman within your community. You can apply that elsewhere, but you have to be cautious about what principle you apply, as if you apply the turn the other cheek principle to Iran, you need to let them nuke you (TWICE) in order to be an obedient nation to Christ. But this is talking about personal relationships within the Church, not governmental relationships. That's why it's speaking about how you treat other people within the visible community.

      As for defining "good." I agree that good encompasses a whole host of creative acts toward other people. The issue is that the Bible delineates these and doesn't just say to disperse them without discretion of the recipient. So one does good to one's wife by having sexual relations with her and allowing God to give her a child, but that doesn't mean you can say that your doing good to your neighbor's wife by doing the same thing. Good is only good when it is directed appropriately in love for God and others in Christ, so Christ is primary and others are second to Him in our doing of good. My point is that you never run out of Christians who need care, so you never have a time when you can redirect your limited resources to unbelievers, lest you shun Christ for the sake of our tradition.

  25. In the end, I believe I just disagree with some of your suppositions or frameworks.

    1. I agree that if given the choice of whether to help a believer in need or an unbeliever in need, we give to the believer in need.

    2. I do not think that giving to an unbeliever in some fashion is equal with "robbing" from a believer. (When that giving give the opportunity to share the Gospel with someone you would not have otherwise been able to share it with.)

    3. I don't see where the OT defines "soujourner" as "believing foreigners". There are SOME instances where the OT speaks of sojourners who wish to take part in the faith, and give provisions for that, but many places where maters of faith are left out.

    4. I disagree with your supposition that everything Jesus says in the Gospels MUST fall under the canopy of the community of faith. Some clearly do, some we can see have priority int eh community of faith from the apostolic teachings, but its not so clear that it is uniformly or restrictively so. I don't see the exclusivity you see.

    5. Hopefully by my continued engagement in this discussion, you do see that I am open to learning more about it, but I am not convinced of your position to the extreme you hold it.

    6. I do think that many "christians" and "christian churches" are guilty of misappropriating the Lord's resources in giving them to secular or non-Gospel-centric aid organizations. I don't even think its enough for the organization to bear the name of the church. There MUST be a clear, highest purpose, driving reason of the Gospel, in the very framing, working, and planning of any such ministry. And I will acknowledge - when dealing with such ministries it can be VERY hard to keep that on top and throughout the work.

  26. Jon, I think that's it. I think, to be honest, you're not taking into consideration that the Gospels are entire works that are getting a point across to the believing community. I'll give you an example of this with Luke. Most people think that story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is about giving to the poor in general, but it's clear from the context that this is about a so-called fellow believer within the community who does not care for another believer. Abraham, who he calls his father, says that his brothers have the Scriptures (only Jews had them at this time) and they can listen to them. Lazarus is a Jewish name. This isn't a message about doing good to the poor in general, but to "thy neighbor" (i.e., fellow person within the faith community, which is what the term has always meant in the Bible). As one who has preached through the Gospels, passage by passage, noting how their individual passages connect to the larger message, I have to conclude that you don't agree because you're not aware of how concrete my interpretation here is because you're not familiar with looking at the biblical books wholistically. This isn't over-theologizing, I'm not sure what that means and how you're not doing it. It's allowing the biblical writer to speak for himself rather than speak for him by placing our presupps into his texts. In other words, the text interprets the texts within the text, so that we keep the text as authoritative over us rather than usurping that authority and getting the text to say what we think it says when placed into our personal frameworks.

  27. Second to this, everything that Jesus says is to the community of faith, not only when we look at the larger messages of the Gospels, but at Jesus' words themselves. He was not sent to the Gentiles by His own admission, but to the house of Israel (i.e., those considered the community of faith). The Gospels are therefore words for those who are in that community (whether directly or applicable to), which is now the Church. Why would God instruct unbelievers as though they were believers? But Christ makes it clear that these commands of love through resources are to believers by calling the recipients "the least of these brothers of Mine," or "to a disciple of Mine," etc.

  28. Third, the sojourner is not the same as the foreigner. They are two different words with two different concepts associated with them. I'll give you the distinction given in NIDOTTE (which is another good source you can use for Hebrew and Aramaic words).

    "The sojourner is distinguished from the foreigner in that he has settled in the land for some time and is recognized as having a special status. As individuals or a group they have abandoned their homeland for political or economic reasons and sought refuge in another community . . ." (837)

    Hence, when God gives instructions about the sojourner, He's talking about non-ethnic Israelites who live among the people. In fact, the word is close to meaning "those who dwell with you," that sometimes it's employed to just mean "dwelling." It also appears most with a beth preposition or with betok "among" or "in the midst." So it's not talking about people in other countries, who are not a part of the community, but people who are from other countries who have now become a part of the community.

  29. Finally, I think if you grant this:

    "1. I agree that if given the choice of whether to help a believer in need or an unbeliever in need, we give to the believer in need."

    then you have to grant my argument, as there is never a time when there will not be a believer in need.

    Now, this may come down to our understanding of what it is to support someone in need as well. If you think that giving someone who is in need of food a bag of groceries is dealing with the problem and they are no longer in need, then that's going to affect whether we think we can help Christians and unbelievers too. If that's all that's needed, then great, we can help most people, believer or not in our path. But if helping is supporting someone until they either get out of that hole or we can't support them any longer for lack of resources, then I just don't see where we will run out of Christians in need. Hence, as you agreed above, it would be wrong to give to an unbeliever instead of those Christians who still need it.

  30. So how do you determine who is a "true Christian" or not? Do you pester them as to whether they are 5-point Calvinists (or not) before assisting them? Do you inquire as to their lifestyle and moral choices? If you encountered a man like Abraham (who had three wives, one of them his half-sister) who was in need, would you assist?

    I'm just wondering how this works in reality ...

  31. John gives guidelines as to what a "brother" is in terms of orthodoxy in his First and Second Epistle.

    Paul gives some guidelines for those who are to be considered within realm of orthodox confession:

    No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband,and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. (1 Tim 5:9-10)

    This all suggests that you know these people or these churches or these ministries before you give to them. There should be no need to ask about their lifestyle. If you don't know your congregation well enough, then there is a bigger problem at hand.

  32. As a further note, the early church used to require official papers that you were from such and such a church in order to receive help from that church, because many people knew of Christian charity and tried to scam the church often by saying they were sent out from certain churches.