The Hardest Thing We Do

Michael J. Brooks

I used to say it was the hardest thing we do in our churches, though after a year of Covid-19, I think there might be another few things on this “hard-to-do” list. But I still maintain benevolence is in the top two or three most difficult things we do.

Every church I know sets aside money for people in need. The needy can be members of the church, or they can be members of the community, or in some cases, strangers passing through the area.

Two churches I served were near major interstate highways, and it wasn’t uncommon for travelers to stop by for gasoline or a meal.

In one of these places the community churches received benevolent offerings at joint Thanksgiving worship services and dispensed the funds as needed. I was treasurer of this fund for a number of years and shared an idea with the pastors I’d heard from a friend in Tennessee. His community had a similar plan and discovered, to their chagrin, that they’d aided an escaped felon with their offerings. They turned to local law enforcement and began to send travelers to the police for the travel request forms where their drivers’ licenses were routinely checked first.

We talked with the two local police departments in our area and instituted the same practice.

Another interesting thing is that most of those we helped in that ministry promised to return the money when they reached their destination. This wasn’t a requirement of the ministry, but many offered. To my knowledge we never received any reimbursement to the travelers fund.

A pastor told me about a family in constant need in his congregation. He said he was compassionate when they had no food, but less compassionate when he saw how they spent money on fast food rather than following Dave Ramsey’s oft-spoken advice, “Rice and beans, beans and rice.” He was outdone when they brought home stray animals, adding another burden to their finances since they couldn’t feed themselves.

I understood his predicament.

We want to help people in need, even when they suffer from bad decisions they’ve made. As someone once observed, “We should care if a person hurts no matter what we think of what caused their pain.” True enough. But it’s also true that the benevolent funds we have come from the sacrificial gifts of our members. We have responsibility to them to give careful thought to disbursement. For example, do we give money to those addicted to alcohol? What about those who lose money gambling?

I’m grateful our church asks the deacons to assist me in making these decisions. I value their insight in how to perform this needed, but often perplexing ministry.

K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at kboyer@gannett.com, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.  

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