What is it?
Church folks and non-church folks often need help, and that requires benevolence. Our Lord instructed how this is to be done. So what is Bible benevolence? In a short Bible definition, a Christian has a need, a brother has resources, and that brother shares resources with the one in need. Also, one church may have a need, and another congregation may send resources to that church. There is also a benevolent action of a church toward its members. The New Testament gives many examples of what to do and what not to do regarding benevolence.
Saints to Others
Of course, a Christian can help someone. Our Lord instructed assisting those in need in Luke 10:27-37, the parable of the Good Samaritan. Galatians 6:10 shows that a Christian must help others. James 1:27 has it that Christians are to help those in need. And Matthew 25:41-46 shows that Christians who don’t help others will be condemned to hell’s fire.
Saints to Saints
Members of the church at Jerusalem contributed funds to alleviate the needy among them, Acts 4:34-35. The New Testament also shows Christians giving their resources for the needs of the Judean churches during a famine, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2. First John 3:17-18 explains that we must express love in actions and truth. Saints have the responsibility to help their brethren.
Church to their Members
Interestingly, the New Testament shows churches gave only to their members experiencing distress. There are no New Testament examples or commands for a church giving to non-members. A widow, therefore, defined in 1 Timothy 5:9-10, could be placed on the “church roll” only if she met the qualifications. There’s also an example of the Jerusalem church taking care of its own in Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32-37. While individual Christians may give to relieve anyone needing help, the church is to help only its members. Small distinction? Maybe, but that’s the way the Bible reads, and therefore it’s the way our Lord wants it.
Churches to Churches
The New Testament gives examples of churches sending aid to saints in other locations. The church at Corinth determined to aid the Judean churches and was instructed by the apostle Paul to do this, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, and 2 Corinthians chapters eight and nine. The churches in Achaia and Macedonia were in on this, too, Romans 15:26.
The Lord placed limits on the type of actions a church may take in benevolent steps. The church’s mission is to share the gospel, making disciples, Matthew 28:19-20. Understand, churches are spiritual organizations, not social institutions. Churches are most concerned with getting folks to heaven yet recognizing the needs of their members.
It might seem that if Christians aid non-Christians, churches are too. Paul’s instructions to Timothy show that a church has limits on what it can do in a benevolent action, 1 Timothy 5:9-10. We can’t say the responsibility of a church is the same as that of the saint; it’s just not Bible. In Galatians 6, emphasis is on individual action, not the congregation. All one needs to do is notice the personal pronouns expressed there. The individual is not the church, and the church is not the individual. Thereby, the church only aids its members while individuals are tasked with helping anyone.
This is Bible instruction
The Lord is adamant regarding benevolence. Do it, or else, He says. Still, He gives instructions to His church to relieve only saints.