UPDATE: I took this post down for a while while I considered and prayed about how to clarify it since I’ve had a lot of interesting comments and questions since I put it up 12 hours ago. This is NOT an attack or even a criticism of my or any particular church. I love my church, and am ecstatic about the priority we place upon giving and serving each other. I’m not even arguing against the practice of having a benevolence offering. I am trying to make a point about the way the body of Christ (all churches and congregations) express and meet needs, NOT JUST FINANCIAL ONES! I think we can do better; that’s what this post is about. This post is not a public vent of mine against my church or any church administration who collects a benevolence offering. Okay, carry on reading . . .
A pastor announces that the church will take up money for the needy within “the body”. We put money in the basket. Money is anonymously (and sometimes tax-deductably) given to someone among us who is in need. We usually don’t know who it is. They don’t publicly admit being needy. We help, anonymously. They don’t have to share struggle. After all, no one wants to be needy. . . or have needs. . . . or need things. It’s practically un-American not to be able to provide for yourself.
That’s how it’s supposed to be, right? Private. Quiet. Secret. Non-embarrassing and non-shameful. We expect that the needy will be ashamed of their need because that is what we think, AND that is what our culture teaches us. We teach ourselves and our kids the same thing.
Be strong. Work hard. Plan ahead. Save money. Support yourself. Be independent. Smile big. DON’T BE NEEDY. Don’t depend on others. Needy people are mooches. Needy people are weak. Needy people failed to plan. Needy people have
self-imposed problems. Needy people should be slightly ashamed. Needy people are expecting a handout. We politicize. We blame the government for creating entitlement. Or enabling. But I’m not talking about the government. I’m talking about the church.
We say the rules are different for people like missionaries or non-profits. Yet if a person we perceive as “comfortable” NEEDS money for missions, we scowl. We think we get to decide who is really needy and who is not. Like the rich young ruler who couldn’t give up his wealth to the poor for eternal life, we are uncomfortable saying we are needy; therefore, you never can be needy either. If you are needy, it’s better that the church doesn’t know about it.
The solution. The needy and the givers prefer not to know who the needy among us are. (We can guess, but technically, it is a secret.) The body helps itself involuntary without ever really drawing together, unifying, and lifting itself up.
We give quietly, namelessly, because if we didn’t, we’d become all puffed up and proud of ourselves for how much we helped the needy person. I will concede that we shouldn’t try to become self-righteous by giving in a showy fashion, but what about being family? What about the so-called “body of Christ.”
Paul talks about what the Body of Christ is supposed to behave like in 1 Corinthians, but I can’t help but wondering if how we operate is more like this.
The foot says to the hand, “I’m really cramping miserably and can barely walk. I could use a rub, but please don’t just rub me yourself. That would be too humiliating even though you’d be perfectly gifted and equipped for the job. Could you just grab the back of the head and push it down here and massage the sole of the foot with the back of the left ear, but without really letting the ear know about it? The ear really doesn’t like to touch the foot since it is kind of weird. Eyes, make sure you are closed. Nose, you are definitely going to want to be plugged. Thanks.”
We end up doing this strangely ineffective contortion to “protect” all the parts of the body. Needs aren’t properly met. Gifts aren’t used. Everyone is left feeling kind of . . . disconnected.
This is totally dysfunctional on every freaking level.
The more I read the Bible, I keep noticing something.
Jesus helped the needy. In order to be helped, the needy came to Jesus. Needy people expressed in word or action that they needed something from Him. The paralytic had his friends carry him and lower him through a roof. The bleeding woman pushed her way through the crowd to touch Jesus. Parents came to have their children healed. People without food sat on a hill WAITING to be fed.
Jesus told the needy and wounded time and time again that their admission of need demonstrated their faith. Then . . . . HE MET THEIR NEEDS. Big needs. Small needs. (I am including this link to a search where you can read numerous examples.)
Let me break that down simply. Expression of need to Jesus=Faith
Faith in Jesus led to —–>healing and provision THROUGH Jesus’ body, which was here on Earth in physical form.
He healed, blessed, and provided for those who, demonstrating faith in Him, were poor in spirit and expressed need.
NOW, today, 2012, WE Christians, are Jesus’ body on this Earth.
This has led me to two conclusions.
1. We, the body of Christ, need to express our needs. Big, small, financial, physical, spiritual, relational, emotional, and the rest. We need to stop being stupidly independent, self-sufficient, alone, un-blessed, anonymous, and faithlessly, anxiously, trusting our own empty provision, insurance, and wallets. Hiding in the false shame of our unmet need brings no glory to God. BE NEEDY.
2. We, the body of Christ, need to love and care for our needy to their precious, lovely, chin- lifted, hopeful, faithful faces. BE GENEROUS. Give. Give it to their face.
I have a lot more to say about this, but I’ve realized you readers poop out at 800 words, so let me know what you think so far . . . .