How Much Charity Is Enough?

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Jesus was very specific in saying that His followers need to provide for and protect those who can’t take care of themselves. And He also pointed out that whoever does something good for someone else in His name is effectively doing it for Him.

A good reason to be charitable, don’t you think?

My wife and I contribute a percentage of our income to our church, and part of the church budget helps provide for people having special needs. In times of death or severe illness, we’re also apt to sign up to bring a meal to a family in need. And we have many needy people in our individual prayer lists.

Richmond has a special program called CARITAS. While I can’t remember what the acronym stands for beyond “Churches around Richmond,” I understand their purpose. To try to break the cycle of homelessness for as many people as possible.

Our church is one of many that participate in CARITAS. One week a year, we host forty to fifty homeless adults–sometimes men, sometimes women–in the church fellowship hall. Various Sunday School classes sign up to prepare and serve an evening meal and fix a bag lunch for each of our guests for the next day. Other volunteers come in to fix breakfast.

The Sunday School class my wife and I belong to ministered to our CARITAS visitors last week. As heart-breaking as it is to think about these people being homeless, it’s a real pleasure to extend Christian love to them through our meager efforts.

My wife and I recently spent a long weekend in Washington, D.C. Although I’ve seen an occasional street person in other places I’ve visited, never had I seen such prominent homelessness as I did in our nation’s capital. (See the two pictures above.) It seemed as if many of the benches in every public park–D.C. has a number of them–was occupied by a street person with all of his or her belongings stashed within easy reach.

Nobody asked us for money, and we didn’t feel endangered. But I can’t say that we felt entirely comfortable, either.

Kathleen and I are just average middle class Americans, but to the folks in CARITAS and the street people of Washington, D.C., we probably seemed wealthy.

Jesus’s words about providing for those who can’t provide for themselves are disturbing. Even if we gave every cent we have to help others, it would hardly make a dent in the world’s needs. Yet is it right for us to enjoy so much that so many others don’t have and may never have?

How much charity does Jesus expect us to provide, anyhow? Alas, He’s not here on earth to answer that question, but God’s Holy Spirit is. I suppose we’ll have to pay closer attention to the Spirit and let Him lead us to give when we ought to give and to serve where we ought to serve.

What’s your take on helping the homeless? Have you been involved in any ministry to them? Please share with a comment.


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