Be Needy

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 . . .

Something about the “benevolence offering” has started to bother me.

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.

If we really took care of each other without shame or obligation, it would be beautiful. Wouldn’t it?


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  . . . .



22 thoughts on “Be Needy

  1. I am horrible at being needy… Well, not really. I have a black belt in needy. I am horrible at having enough faith to admit that I am needy. I can not agree more that we need to stop this mindset that we are all just (John Steinbeck style) ‘temporarily embarrassed millionaires’. We are wasting so much time & effort being ashamed that could be spent instead on achieving something real…

    Your writing is spiritually challenging and I so appreciate it.
    Tabitha recently posted…You liked your own wedding until…My Profile

  2. Great post Katrina, so true! Also, I think we tend to look at others around us and relativize our needs. I’m not looking forward to the limitations of living in PNG again (materially, in terms of the food shortages, limited goods available, as well as in other ways) but I know that when I’m there I’ll feel guilty because the local people are so much more needy than I am in every way. Or, at least, I consider them to be more needy by my western standard of judging ‘need’. Does that make my need any less? I don’t know. But I do know that I’ve burnt myself out in the past because I’ve sucked it all in and pretended I wasn’t needy – emotionally, spiritually, socially, as well as materially.

    So… yeah… all care packages will be greatfully received 😉

    Kate (enjoying my last few months in England.)

    1. You are right about comparing our needs to others and minimizing our need. That is why our job is two-fold. We have to admit our need AND acknowledge need among our “family” whether they are more or less needy than we are. Interestingly, I don’t see Jesus creating need hierarchies the way we do. He acknowledge needs, both large and small, always stressing forgiveness of sin. In fact, he even MAKES himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, giving God a chance to be glorified through him. He encourages the disciples to put themselves into positions of reliance upon others. I’m not saying we should intentionally be financially stupid, but I am becoming more and more convinced that we are supposed to be giving till we are needy, expectant that God will be the one to satisfy our needs through His body. More on this in Needy Part II. 🙂

  3. Your commentary is valid but although it was spurred by the offering opportunity, I think it’s a wrong connection. I like being sure the body has some funds laid aside for pastors to disburse as needs arise. That monthly opportunity is a reminder to each of us in the body that we are ready to helP each other. And we are pretty open among ourselves as needs arise, because we are like family. It is indeed healthy for us to get beyond our dependence on our own abilities and resources and let our needs be known, first admitting our neediness to ourselves, then to God, and also to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    1. That’s a good point Kate. I’m not saying that we should do away with the benevolence offering, so I guess I should clarify. I think the fund is a good way to make sure we are prepared to help should needs arise. I guess I’m just seeing that the anonymity can really isolate us in our need, robbing us of the opportunity to really bless another mutually. Certainly some Christian communities are better than others at seeing need and being vulnerable, but for some of us, the whole idea of neediness is for “others”. I talked to a friend recently who just couldn’t accept the idea of raising support for a mission trip; it made her really uncomfortable. I just think we should challenge one another to step up in honesty and generosity, not waiting for some cloak and dagger exchange of funds that doesn’t create relationship. Does that make sense? I’ll have to keep praying about this for my next “Be Needy” post and dig into Scripture even more. Thanks for challenging me . . .

  4. We have a number of folks with major mental illness who attend our church, and we are all struggling to figure out how to be a Body with folks who are completely convinced of their own neediness to the point that they cannot look up and see anything else. It’s really hard because we want to be caring but when we do that in a way that seems balanced and normal to us, it’s unacceptable to the other person. What the other person wants is for all of us to sit and listen every single minute every single week. It doesn’t take too many weeks for this to become a problem! I DO realize that’s a function of the mental illness and this is probably something that most churches don’t struggle with. Our happens to be in a unique place (inner city). But it does challenge me to think about the more subtle hierarchical structures in other relationships. And I think whenever you have a rescuer-victim structure, it’s not just the rescuer doing it. The victim is right in there with it. I think you are right that this is unhealthy! But I think it’s a really deep and subtle problem.
    Kay Bruner recently posted…InsanityMy Profile

    1. Oh Kay, I hear you. It is a deep, subtle problem. That is the disaster of what happens . . . In a “perfect” church, we would all be authentically vulnerable, but not self absorbed. We would be generous without showiness. It would all be balanced. As it is, we have people who ARE mooching and being overly taxing on the body to the point that the other members of the body are exhausted, overly taxed, and burnt out. People with genuine neediness are afraid to be associated with those who are “sponging.” The generous are afraid of being bad stewards and they resist giving. We’ve damaged the body and the way it relates to itself. How do we fix this? I have to think, not “what would Jesus do?” (a question that makes me a little insane), but WHAT DID JESUS DO? But you are right; I am oversimplifying it to some degree.

  5. Oh man! I SO get this! Your description of the body in motion was hilarious! I am super blessed to be ‘churching’ with some really great people. But even then, it is such a maturing process to learn to be so vulnerable among each other. And even when we ‘get it’ within – say – a small group we hesitate to live out the same belief in the greater church body.

    It is hard to receive. Period. I love in Acts where it says the followers meet everyday, eating together, sharing all things in common. We explored that recently in Sunday School. I think if we considered everything we have as manna (even our time), worship would trump. All would be worship.

    I can’t wait to hear more because this here, friend, is REAL FOOD for the spirit!

    Be blessed

    PS. Your words that I high five you for: “This is totally dysfunctional on every freaking level.” 🙂
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  6. Good post – you’re right, we should feel free to express to each other when we need help….whether it be financial or for prayer or practical help. The problem, I think, is that (1) We’re afraid to be a burden on someone (2) We’re afraid they’ll resent our asking because that puts a burden on someone (3) We’re afraid of rejection if no-one responds to our need….and the flip-side of that is people may feel guilty for not responding to a need (4) As you said, we’re supposed to be self-sufficient, according to our culture (5) I think the church has made the whole process anonymous possibly in an effort to honor people’s desires to not make a fanfare out of their giving and on the other hand to not try to force people to display their needyness if they don’t want to. Now, having said that, if we just give generously and quietly directly to a person without announcing it to the world for great praise, then we are indeed giving quietly. It’s ok for the recipient to know we’re helping them!!! I’m a big believer in responding to needs when I feel an intense urge to do so. There are plenty of ‘needs’ that I feel comfortable passing by…..but I try to seek the Holy Spirit’s leading in which ones I should be doing something about. When I feel that urge, I act. And I have a confession…we have never dropped money in the benevolence plate and rarely given to the church. I think part of this is because I like to control where my giving goes (analyze that…I’m sure there’s plenty wrong with that!) and I also think it has a great deal to do with what you’ve said in your blog, Katrina. I feel much more connected as a giver when I KNOW where my money has gone. When I’m not just throwing money at some “need” out there, and instead feeling directly led by the spirit to become emotionally engaged with a person in need and reach out to them – emotionally/spiritually as well as financially. Does that make sense? Not that God doesn’t also honor and make use of straight-up cash donations! 🙂 I guess it’s just the way I’m wired, though. I don’t know if this is a right-or-wrong issue. Anyway, interesting post. 🙂

    1. Megan, great thoughts. In thinking over everyone’s comments, I want to be careful not to imply that I think we should only give directly to a person’s “face”. I mean, should our church staff have to stand up on a weekly basis and proclaim their dependence upon the church as a source of income? I don’t think so. What we should be working toward is the model talked about in Acts where there WEREN’T needy people because needs were anticipated and the church family was generous in advance. I just don’t think the process of giving and receiving should be so cumbersome and laden with shame and suspicion, but it is. As I said to Kay, I’m not sure how to get from where we are (totally messed up) to where we need to be, but I do know that we need to start. We need to start. We need to start.

  7. keep talking. 🙂
    So this is what i find hard. So I feel needy emotionally, physically, or spiritually. But then if I share this with someone who happens to have bigger needs than me (a number of people close to me), I feel guilty for sharing. I feel that i need to put it in perspective and get over it. So how do I deal with that? If admitting my needs equals faith then I don’t want to hide behind independence/self-sufficiency and be lonely and yet I don’t want to be a negative or complaining person either.

  8. Love, love this post. Love the comments too! I think I see both sides of the fence. Having grown up most of my life in the church you write about with the benevolence fund and just chunking money in to bless others, I see how many think that is giving. We don’t dare share our real-selves and needs, but it’s there for others. I love the commenter that pointed out the church in Acts – they shared everything. Then again for the last two years I’ve been at a church in the inner city and my world, thinking, and heart have been challenged and wrecked to a new way of thinking. You want to see a “real” need – head downtown to your inner city and try to meet their needs there. Our daily work there is benevolence – not just in finances, but in food, clothing, and time. Serving the “least of these” can not be tied up in to a pretty benevolence package. I so wish it was that easy. I love your words here, girl! The needy came to Jesus — may I need my Lord and Savior that much that I become needy too.
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    1. I definitely don’t think “benevolence,” whatever it looks like, needs to stop. I just want us to be less passive and more active in connecting ourselves with one another, as you said “not just in finances, but in food, clothing, and time.” I think in order to end our passivity we (people sitting in the congregation) have to look hard at ourselves, prayerfully giving as the Holy Spirit directs, not just “chunking money” in. Of course, with all that said, I have and DO give to benevolence.

  9. Wow! Great post! I have been needy…still am. I would much rather be the giver. But that is pride, is it not? If only we could see all through God’s eyes. Jesus should be our example. Amen!
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  10. Great post! This applies to all areas of our lives as Christians. I heard a great pastor one time say, “The biggest downfall-sin-problem (can’t remember which?) for Christians is PRIDE.” The Lord tells us to humble ourselves, be humble, blessed are the humble. We need to swallow our pride and eat some humble pie everyday in all areas of our lives. Again, thanks!

  11. Beautiful post Katrina! I wonder what would happen if we asked folks in the congregation to write down THEIR need and put it in the benevolence plate. We would then pass the plate around again for congregants to draw out a “need” and meet it. I may be wrong, but I don’t think I have ever read in scripture where Christ met a need with money. Sure, folks have financial needs however, I think Christians (including me) are quick to give money for ANY need. Thank you for writing about neediness. This is one way we can “be transformed by the renewing of our minds”, changing how we think about being needy. Awesome post!

    1. This is a great comment, Corina. I think it is a failure to monetize everything in our lives, limiting the way that our needs might be met. Additionally, the ways that we can “give” are so much broader than just with money. Seeing how the church around the world operates in the absence of wealth demonstrates that money isn’t necessary to create a vibrant “Body”.

  12. You’ve articulated the words that have been rattling deep within. I just didn’t have the courage to voice them.

    Thanks for posting this! For what its worth… you’re spot on!

  13. I really agree; it’s taken me a long time to be even just a little more transparent about MY financial situation, to ask for help from God and man. I have been told to my face that when you act needy, people (in other words) run in the other direction. Like it’s a subtle disturbing cue we give off, a bad odor, and coming right out and asking for it is no better than “acting” needy either (or so we feel when we’re turned down in the physical world…maybe even when we think God isn’t answering our prayers?). But it feels GOOD to be honest and authentic. It feels BAD to be fake and to pretend. And perhaps it’s another way of weeding people out of our lives, those who aren’t helping us on our path — go ahead, run the other direction if that’s what needs to happen. It’s all in God’s plan, after all.

    What I really REALLY like about this post is that expressing a need to Jesus = faith. It makes me feel somewhat better about doing so, because there are also a lot of others out there who say that if you are always “needing” something, you will Always. Need. Something. So I really find that a fine line to walk personally, between being grateful and content that yes, my needs really are met and maybe realizing, hey, I’m just not being a good steward, or faithful, or responsible, and maybe what I need is a swift kick in the pants, not a bigger paycheck.

    I have recently started to pray to be moved to give, and I hope that others learn to do the same. If you aren’t moved, and it feels obligatory, you’re not doing anyone any favors, including yourself.
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