Charles Spurgeon once called a meeting of his board to consider a pressing financial need of his famous Tabernacle. The members all agreed that the thing to do was to pray until the Lord sent the supply. At this point Mr. Spurgeon interrupted, “Wait a minute! Before you begin this prayer meeting there is something I’d like to do.” Taking a sheet of paper, he wrote, “C. H. Spurgeon gives 50 pounds.” Next he passed it around that the others might write down how much they would give. When the “subscriptions” were totaled, the prayer meeting turned out to be a “praise and glory” session, for the need had been fully met!
When it comes to meeting a need, we should always, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) but we should remember “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). Sometimes we pray for God to move somehow when He desires to move through someone – and that someone could be us. As we pray, we should ask, “God, are the resources to accomplish my prayer or a certain need found in me?” If we are open to God working through us at all times and believe prayer is simply God communicating to us (and not just us communicating to Him) then God will show us how He wants to use us to meet a need. I remember once my pastor stated there were those in our church in need of a coat. I thought, “I sure hope they get one – it is cold outside!” He then asked for us to come lay down our coats on the church altar and then people who were in need could come select a coat for themselves. God impressed on my heart to give the coat I brought to church that day.
I don’t help every situation I know about though. There are thousands of charities and organizations to give to and it’s impossible to give to every one of them that calls or sends you a letter. I give first to my local church then to other Christian charities and organizations who help with orphans, foster kids, adoption, battered women, and feeding the hungry. When faced with a new opportunity to give I ask, “Am I already meeting that need through other giving?” Some charities are more effective and efficient in meting needs than others and I want to give into the best ones. What about individuals who ask for help? I give to some and not to others. While I give it thought and prayer I may not give it resources. Now I know someone is going to say, “Jesus said give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30; Matthew 5:42). True – but Jesus didn’t say to give them exactly what they asked for. I think this is where prayer and wisdom come into play. Sometimes it’s more loving to give counsel and prayer than money or resources. Sometimes people need our time, prayers, company, contacts, patience, mercy, talents or listening ears more than they need our money. I rarely give money directly to individuals who ask for it. I usually ask if I can go buy the food, pay the bill direct, etc. so I ensure the money is spent wisely. Perhaps the person isn’t needy, honest, or capable of handling money wisely?
A good rule of thumb is to err on the side of grace but never check wisdom and discernment at the door of compassion and love. Jesus sent His disciples out to do ministry but cautioned them to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” because of being sent out among wolves (Matthew 10:16). I’ve given “blindly” before but I usually ask questions about my giving because I want to be a good steward of what God has given me. Asking loving and thorough questions helps me determine if the need is legitimate and the best way to offer long term help. Sometimes giving what they ask may not be the best way to help at all. I remember buying a lunch for a man holding a sign near our church. The sign said he had no money and was hungry so I gave him a list of job openings and a sack lunch as well. He later dropped by the church to say thank you as he got a job. Another time I didn’t give to someone who asked me for money because I found out they were able but refused to work. Sometimes I’ve given when it didn’t seem right and other times I’ve not given when I should have. Giving requires faith as well as wisdom. Remember God doesn’t always give us what we ask Him for out of love and when we give or withhold giving it is always done towards Jesus Himself (Matthew 25:35-36).