What's the purpose of a Benevolence offering?
Every Christian church has the God given responsibility to care for each other not only spiritually, but materially as well. Our love for one another must go beyond pious talk and prayer, and when needed must involve practical acts of care, mercy, and generosity. Any church unwilling to do this faces the warning of the Apostle John:
1 John 3:13-18: "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."
This kind of material care and provision was a duty embedded in O.T. law and is echoed clearly and repeatedly in the New Testament:
Deuteronomy 24:19-21: "When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, ... When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow."
Galatians 6:10 "So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith "
Luke records that the early church was characterized by this kind of radical material generosity, even to the point of selling off some of their personal property so that they would have money and resources to give to those in need (See Acts 2:44-45). Because of their radical generosity, Luke could write of the early church "There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold" (Act 4:34). In Acts 6, we learn just how important this was in the early church. Confronted with the problem of certain widows being overlooked in the daily food distribution, the apostles commanded the church to set aside and appoint godly men (probably the origin of the office of Deacon) who were filled with the Spirit, in order to solve the problem. It was clearly a priority, and God blessed the church as they met this need. "And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem" (Acts 6:7).
One way in which Redeemer seeks to meet this need is by having a separate benevolence fund. We take a quarterly offering, above and beyond the normal weekly offering, which is money designated specifically for helping those who are in need, with a priority to those inside our church. In our denomination, the deacons as a group have the responsibility to oversee and administer this fund as needs arise in our congregation and community. Our Book of Church Order puts it this way: "It is the duty of the deacons to minister to those who are in need, to the sick, to the friendless, and to any who may be in distress. It is their duty also to develop the grace of liberality in the members of the church, to devise effective methods of collecting the gifts of the people, and to distribute these gifts among the objects to which they are contributed."
This Sunday we are taking our quarterly benevolence offering. Please consider (1) whether or not benevolence assistance is something that could help you if you are in a season of difficulty. We are an extended family at this church, and there is no shame whatsoever in asking for help. That is the purpose of the benevolence fund, and what we do for one another as a church. Talk to any of the deacons if you have a need. (2) Prayerfully consider giving over and above your normal contribution to the benevolence fund. May God continue to bless us as a church as we generously and sacrificially use what he has given us to be a blessing to others.