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:
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