In this blog, we have consistently noted that we must read and follow what the entire Bible says about a subject and not just pick and choose verses that agree with our particular viewpoint. We have emphasized this point in regards to salvation and God’s sovereignty/human free will. It also applies to our beliefs in regards to charity.
The Christian religion has always taught that we should help those who are in need. In Matthew 25:31-46, which describes the Day of Judgment, Jesus said that feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the needy, and visiting the sick and those in prison are the necessary actions to gain admittance into heaven. Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) teaches us we should provide help to anyone in need.
However, the Bible also tells us that if someone does not work, they should not eat and that we should earn our own living. Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 states:
. . . If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
It seems that the Bible is giving us contradictory information. This seemingly contradictory information gives some the opportunity to choose one side, to ignore the other teachings, and then to criticize those who espouse a different belief. However, ignoring certain passages of the Bible that do not agree with our doctrinal beliefs is essentially telling God we know this particular subject better than he does.
So what should be our position on helping others? The general principle is that we should help those in need but giving someone charity when they could earn it with their own effort is just as detrimental as not giving someone charity who truly needs it.
In this short space, I cannot resolve this issue nor do I think I should attempt to do so. In fact, God does not resolve this issue for us. It is apparent that he wants us to develop our discernment in this matter. Two books that have provided assistance in developing my approach to charity are listed below.
Marvin Olasky, The Tragedy of American Compassion, Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1992.
Robert D. Lupton’s Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life, Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2007.