the weblog of Alan Knox

Christians giving directly to others because of need

Posted by on Oct 25, 2011 in hospitality, love, missional, scripture | 8 comments

Christians giving directly to others because of need

This is the second post in my series on Christians and giving from the perspective of Scripture. (See the introduction post here.)

There are two primary aspects to this type of giving as found in Scripture: 1) someone is giving directly to someone else, and 2) the item given is needed by the person receiving it. This is the most prevalent type of giving found in the New Testament. (If Scripture is an example of us to learn from – and I think I read that somewhere in Scripture itself – then this probably means that our primary method of giving should be to give directly to someone who is in need.)

There are so many passages of Scripture that model or command this type of giving that I can only highlight a few. For example, this is the method of giving that Jesus praises when contrasting the “righteous/sheep” to the “unrighteous/goats” in Matthew 25:31-46. Similarly, after the Holy Spirit indwells believers on the day of Pentecost, this is one type of giving exemplified in their community when “they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all as any had need.” (Acts 2:45)

In each case, the believer has something that someone else needs. The person needs this for life and survival. The believer – that is, the one who is following Jesus – provides what is needed directly to the person who has the need.

There are two passages in the general epistles which uses a very similar story of giving directly to someone who has need. Those passages are in James and 1 John:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17 ESV)

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18 ESV)

Interestingly, James writes that a person who refuses to give directly to someone in need demonstrates a lack of faith (or a dead faith), while John writes that that person demonstrates a lack of love (love of God or love of others). But, this should not surprised us since love and faith are often interwoven in Scriptures.

This passages primarily demonstrate that believers should give to other brothers and sisters in Christ who are in need. However, several statements made by Jesus indicate that similar concern and giving should be practiced towards those who are not believers. (For example, see Matthew 5:43-37.) The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 also seems to demonstrate that our neighbor – that is, the recipient of our love – should include those who do not have the same beliefs as us. Finally, in Galatians 6:10, Paul instructs his reads to do good to all, though he does focus on other believes in that particular passage.

Thus, when we think about Christians giving in Scripture, the primary method of giving is directly to those who are in need. This type and method of giving is the most prevalent (wide-spread) in Scripture and so should probably be the method most practiced by Christians today.

What would you add to this discussion of Christians giving directly to those who are in need?


Giving and the Church in Scripture Series:

1) Introduction
2) Christians giving directly to others because of need
3) Christians giving indirectly to others because of need
4) Christians giving to other Christians who are traveling from place to place
5) Christians giving to other Christians in response to some service


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 10-25-2011

    I have a couple of questions/comments.

    First, nothing has challenged my idea of the church or what we think of today as vocational ministry (i.e. paid pastors) than the what the New Testament really seems to say about giving.

    Secondly, I think most Christians today don’t see giving directly to people in need in as “real giving.” Don’t we need to give to “ministries”? Doesn’t our giving need to be through some kind of chartered, 501c3 organization for it to really count? Well, apparently not if we follow the teaching of NT.

    Third, many won’t give in this fashion because it messes up their ability to claim a tax deduction. I really believe this. And again, if it can’t be claimed as “charitable giving” then it probably doesn’t really count (or so the thinking goes).

    Fourth, what pastor is going to ever preach this? Talk about cutting your own throat.

    Fifth, can you list more Scripture passages which refer to this type of giving?

    I eagerly anticipate your future posts on this issue.

  2. 10-25-2011


    Those are good questions/comments.

    My understanding of giving has been changed drastically by reading the New Testament also.

    I think that the “charitable organization” and tax issues are huge for the church today. I agree that many will only give if they can get a tax deduction. That’s a problem.

    Our elders and others taught the church this kind of giving. So, I know some would teach this. Of course, none of us rely on tithes for our income.

    Here are some of the passages that I think demonstrate direct giving because of need (I left out parallel passages): Matthew 5:15-16, Matthew 5:42, Matthew 6:2-3, Matthew 10:8, Matthew 10:42, Matthew 19:21, Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 10:33-35, Luke 19:8, Acts 2:45, Acts 9:36-39, Acts 20:35, Romans 12:20, 2 Corinthians 9:9, Galatians 6:10, Ephesians 4:28, Hebrews 13:16, James 1:27, James 2:14-17, 1 John 3:16-18. There are definitely others, but these are the ones that I considered in writing this post.


  3. 10-25-2011

    I’m guessing that as Scott says, this stuff would be a real eye opener to many Christians today. You would think that on the topic of money and possessions, at least the carnal saint would be sure to get their facts straight.

    This topic reminds me again (as does your “scripture as we live it” insights) how much “bible,” “truth,” and “practices” we have learned by word of mouth and by tradition (by observing what everyone else does in our circles), which bear so little resemblance to what the bible says.

  4. 10-25-2011

    I wonder if our society in general doesn’t prefer a more impersonal giving and receiving. The government certainly would rather collect taxes and then distribute that to those in need. They do nothing to foster individuals giving directly (even though it would be way more efficient). Giver and receiver remain unrelated to one another. Ostensibly, this is for “fairness” reasons and to reach beyond circles of givers and receivers who are known to each other.

    This enculturated practice may be at least why many would prefer to “tithe” to the church and then let the church distribute the funds to those in need.

    But when giving is based on relationships and knowing the persons involved (or between communities who are related to each other as in the collection for the Jerusalem saints), the needs are met more accurately, more fully and provide more than just the money and possessions.

  5. 10-25-2011

    Thanks for the response, Alan.

    I have another question which has arisen from the post and reading the Scripture you’ve cited. Are there any guidelines given to us in Scripture for giving directly to others in need?

    In other words, do I ALWAYS have to give to the person who approaches me looking for money? Is this a personal choice (I’m thinking of 2 Cor. 9 here)? Obviously we are called to be generous and to give to others in need, but in exercising wisdom and discernment can I say no?

    I suppose my view on this is to understand what Scripture commands and models for us, follow the leading of the Spirit, and use wisdom and discernment when determine to whom we should give.

    What do yo think?

  6. 10-25-2011


    I think you’ve made some very good observations. In fact, I think the “impersonal” issue has affected the church (and American – probably Western – society) in many ways, including giving. By the way, your last statement about direct and personal giving is worth repeating: “the needs are met more accurately, more fully and provide more than just the money and possessions.”


    That’s a good question, again. I think there are some passages of Scripture that may be relevant to the question of when to give, but in this series, I’m only going to look at giving itself. Maybe I’ll work on another post (and addendum?) dealing with that question.


  7. 10-28-2011

    It seems that the way Paul viewed giving, went beyond relieving the needs of others. With his statement “that there might be equality” he showed he had a higher standard which went further than just relieving the needs of others:

    Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” (1 Cor. 8 )

    That the first Christians had everything in common is an example of this same principle.

  8. 10-28-2011


    Thanks for the comment. I think the passage you quoted shows that we are talking about the same thing: “…your plenty will supply what they need.” If people are in need, we share what we have with them, so that we both have enough to survive on (equality). On the flip side, if we have more than we need, then find someone who is in need and share with them, so that we both have enough to survive on (equality).