I saw a story today about a church in Tennesee who GAVE an $80,000 house free and clear to a couple who were victums of Katrina. Instead of gratitude and moving into the house, the couple sold it and pocketed the money saying, "Take it up with God". I know they were dolts. I know they were leaches. But they are a bad/good example of Christians trying to do good and ending up doing bad. By their actions that Church sanctioned the greed and lack of morals of that couple. That church had other options. I'll be they take it next time. So, if the following seems just a little hard hearted, it's harder hearted to just be enablers and give without expecting some effort on the part of the reciever.
From Ron MacKinzie's Blessed Economist
Christians will actually help the poor using three main methods.
Daily Food Distribution
During times of crisis and in poor countries, Deacons will organise a daily distribution of food to those who are poor. For example, the apostles organised a “daily distribution of food” in Jerusalem (Acts 6:2).
Regular distributions of food may not be necessary during more normal times. The focus will shift to caring for widows and others who have fallen into hardships. Some pragmatic principles for this work are outlined in Paul’s letter to Timothy. The aim was to focus on those with real needs.
Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need (1 Tim 5:3).
Help is only provided to those with genuine needs.
1. Poor people who are unwilling to work would not receive help (2 Thes 5:10).
2. People with families should seek help from their families first. They should only go to the church if their family are unable to help (1 Tim 5:4).
3. Poor people receiving help must help the church by devoting themselves to prayer (1 Tim 5:5).
4. People who live for pleasure should not be helped. (1 Tim 5:6).
5. Young widows should remarry rather than remain dependent on the church for a long time (1 Tim 5:11-15). Some of these widows might have been the wives of martyrs.
Five principles will shape the efforts of the church to care of the poor.
1. Efforts should focus on those in serious need.
2. Care should normally be short term. People were encouraged to take steps that would enable them to support themselves.
3. Most attention will be given to older widows who are unable to care for themselves.
4. The church should always be the last resort for those seeking help.
5. Caring must take place within strong relationships. All assistance to the poor should function at the local level where the people are known.
Interest Free Loans
The second main method for assisting the poor is an interest-free loan. When a person strikes temporary hardship, they will often need help to get started again. They may need to pay for training or need capital to start a business. The solution is a loan of some money. God’s people are commanded to be generous to those in need.
If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tight fisted toward your poor brother. Rather be open handed and freely lend him whatever he needs. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to… Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. (Deut 15:7-11).The context of this passage is interest on loans to poor people. There are several important principles that apply.
1. No interest should be charged on a loan to the person who is poor.
Do not charge your brother interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but not a brother Israelite, so that the LORD your God may bless you in everything you put your hand to in the land you are entering to possess. (Deut 23:19-20).The loaner gives up the interest that they could earn if they put the money in bank. They are effectively giving their interest away.
2. The loan should have a seven-year term (Deut 15:9). We do not know the future, so we should not commit ourselves for longer than ten years.
3. If the loan has not been repaid at the end of seven years, it should be cancelled (Deut 15:1). This removes part of the burden from the recipient. They have an incentive to succeed, but if they fail the burden will be lifted. This principle also means that the person making the loan must be prepared to lose the entire amount. They face additional uncertainty. They might just lose the interest, but there is a possibility that they will lose the lot. They should be prepared for that eventuality.
4. Often the loan should be provided by a family member (Lev 25:25). If no one in the family can help, someone in the church might provide the loan.
5. If the poor person has no family to help and their character is not known to the church, they might be asked to give something of value as a pledge. If the pledge is something that they need during the day, it should be returned in the morning.
If the man is poor, do not go to sleep with his pledge in your possession. Return his cloak to him by sunset so that he may sleep in it. Then he will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of the LORD your God (Deut 24:10-13).
6. We must always show kindness and respect to the person in need. The fact that she is poor does not give us the right to charge into her house or tell her what to do.
When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbor, do not go into his house to get what he is offering as a pledge. Stay outside and let the man to whom you are making the loan bring the pledge out to you (Deut 24:10-13).The problem with charity is that it makes the recipient feel dependent and worthless. Providing a loan says to the person that you are confident in their future. You are saying that you have faith in them. This helps build the person’s self esteem and self-respect.
Loans give an incentive for the person to get back onto their feet. Most people do not want to be in debt. They will usually work hard to pay back the loan.
The worst effect of government social welfare is the effect that it has on the incentive to work and succeed. People no longer have to work to supply their needs, because the government will provide for them. Those who do work are taxed heavily, to pay the cost of social welfare. They soon get the feeling that it does not pay to work hard and the whole economy is weakened. Interest free loans strengthen the economy.
Poor loans are an excellent method for helping people in third world countries. The greatest problem is lack of capital. Local lenders often charge exorbitant interest rates that enslave people for life. Providing people with an interest free loan to start a business if often the best way to help them. They will often be able to repay the loan quite quickly. An effective business will provide financial support for the entire life time. Those who are successful will be able to help families. Interest free loans are often the best way to help the poor.
Gleaning is another way that people Christians can help the poor. This is a biblical principle.
When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. (Deut 24:19-21).
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God (Lev 19:9-10)
Land owners were required to leave some of their crop for the poor to glean.
The interesting thing about this approach is that the poor person has to work quite hard to get the help. Gleaning is harder work than harvesting, because the easiest part of the crop has been already been harvested. This hard work develops good work habits. It also contributes to the self respect of the gleaner.
Rural gleaning is not practical for people living in urban cultures, so developing modern gleaning methods is a challenge for Christian business owners. They should be looking for ways to give some of there surplus stock or spare capacity to poor people in ways that will help them get ahead. This will require creativity to be effective.
Business people should be looking for opportunities to apply the gleaning principle by helping poor people through their business. An ISP operator might provide free access to the internet for job searches. Another business might provide training on how to use machines or equipment during the evening. Businesses could give surplus machinery or computing equipment to poor people starting a business.
The bonded employment option is only used for really serious poverty. Sometimes a person will have a financial problem that is too serious to be dealt with by an interest free loan. This is most like to occur where a person has to make restitution for a crime and has no credit record to justify the loan and no family member willing to act as guarantor to a lender.
The poor person will bond themselves to an employer for up to seven years in return for a lump-sum advance of their future wages.
If a fellow Hebrew, a man or a woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free (Deut 15:12).The length of the loan will depend on the amount advanced and the productive capacity of the person receiving the loan. During the time that the person is bonded, they will not be able change employers or move to a different place of residence. The employer would give them enough to pay for food and shelter, but the rest of what they earn would go towards paying back the loan.
The employer making the loan is running quite a risk, because they would not know how useful their employee will be. He may end up advancing more wages than he can recoup within seven years, especially if he is generous. There is also a risk that the bonded employee might abscond.
The employer is also required to treat the bonded employee well. If the employer does physical harm to a bonded employee, he or she must be set free from their debt.
If a man hits a manservant or maidservant in the eye and destroys it, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the eye. And if he knocks out the tooth of a manservant or maidservant, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the tooth (Ex 21:26-27).
When the bonded employee has repaid the amount of the bond, they are to be set free. The employer must be generous to the departing servant.
Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you. Do not consider it a hardship to set your servant free, because his service to you these six years has been worth twice as much as that of a hired hand. And the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do (Deut 15:13,18).The employer’s help allow the departing employee to get started in their new life. The employer can be generous, because they will receive God’s blessing for providing help in this way.
Poverty is one of the more persistent problems faced in the modern world. Governments have spent billions and billions of dollars on social welfare schemes with only limited schemes. They have donated billions of dollars as foreign own aid, but the problem of poverty in the third world has hardly been dented. The problem is that man’s way always fails. God has provided clear wisdom and guidance for dealing with poverty. We will only eliminate poverty from the world, when we do it God’s way.