Is it scriptural to donate to those outside the faith?



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  • Is it scriptural to donate to those outside the faith?

    Is it scriptural for a church or organization to give money to people who are in need who are not Christians?

    This is a difficult subject to apply a blanket statement, where it is difficult to express an answer one way or another, where any number of variables might present an exception. But there are some general guidelines reflected in Scripture, which may surprise many of us who already have a position based on emotional persuasion.

    There is no doubt that individual Christians, according to their ability, were commanded to provide benevolent deeds for unbelievers. In James 1:27, James admonished the brethren to “visit the fatherless and widows in the affliction…” Also, in Galatians 6:10, Paul told the brethren to “do good to all men, especially the household of faith.” In context, neither of these passages were commands for church or organizational action since all the related commands in the surrounding text can only be fulfilled by individual action.

    Now let us look at collective action by a local church, after the New Covenant became active, which starts in the book of Acts. We have to be careful not to isolate the Old Covenant teachings under the law as the current instruction for the New Covenant church. In Acts 2:44-45 and 4:32-35 we note that during a time of great need it was believers who had all things common and were “distributing to each as anyone had need.” Could this possibly have included unbelievers? In Acts 3:6, we have a lame man begging alms from Peter and John. Though we know that Peter and John with the other apostles had control of the money that was being collected by the church for those in need (4:35,37), Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have, I give you…rise up and walk.” Peter is claiming not to have any personal money or resources that he could offer this unbeliever. What about the collected money of the church? That money was only to be used for the believers. Later, in I Corinthians 16:1-2, when Paul commanded the church in Corinth to take up collections on the first day of the week, he said, “Now concerning the collection for the saints…” Every time a church gave money for the purpose of benevolence in the New Testament, the passage specifies saints. Consider these additional passages: Acts 11:29; Romans 15:25-27; II Corinthians 8:1-4; I Timothy 5:3-16. In this last passage, Paul even warns that a needy believer is not even to be cared for by the church if he has family who can first provide for him.

    We might note that the first century believers set a high standard for giving. They sold their goods and gave money to any believer in need (Acts 2:45). They sold their property and gave the entire amount to the work of the apostles (Acts 4:36-5:2). And they also gave generously to the ministry of Paul (2 Corinthians 8:1-5) on a continual basis (Philippians 4:16-18). From all these examples, tithing was for empowering the Gospel of Christ and assisting the poor in the church. Paul also makes it clear that Christians are not to give “grudgingly or under compulsion” but as each believer has “purposed in his heart” (2 Corinthians 9:7), and this is true for any church or organization as well. Our giving should be a deliberate act instead of a quick response to some emotional appeal. Certainly there is nothing wrong with giving a freewill offering because God has moved us to support a particular project, but we should overall have a purpose and a plan to our giving, as Messiah Missions does.

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