Why Biblical Christianity and Effective Charity are Inseparable.

Why Biblical Christianity and Effective Charity are Inseparable.

There is a growing misconception about poverty which defines it as merely a lack of material resources. Rather, more accurately, poverty is a result of broken relationships and the absence of something called shalom, which is Hebrew for wholeness, completeness, and soundness.

When it comes to poverty, we cannot truly meet someone’s need without first understanding the root causes. Here is a helpful analogy to consider. A few years back, I let myself go physically as my eating habits turned unhealthy and I developed extremely high cholesterol for someone my age.

My doctor prescribed medication but also urged me to change my eating and begin exercising right away. While I faithfully took the medicine daily, I did not change my eating, nor did I incorporate exercise.

When I returned to the doctor months later, my cholesterol numbers went down even though I skipped the diet and exercise part. The medicine worked! I was thrilled! Problem solved, right? Wrong.

Ignoring the wisdom of my doctor, on my own, I stopped taking the medicine and I continued eating poorly with no exercise. When I went back to the doctor again for my next follow-up, the cholesterol numbers skyrocketed even higher than before! My doctor warned me that if I continued down this path, I would be at risk for severe health issues, particularly pertaining to my heart.

I did not want to acknowledge the root issue of my cholesterol, which was my lifestyle. It was then that my wife and I decided to embark on a fitness journey, completely revolutionizing our eating and exercise habits which have continued to the present day. Only when I finally decided to deal with the root issue, I was able to change my situation for the better.

Effective poverty fighting in America was at its highest peak during the 19th century. Biblical principles were the guiding factor in each individual situation of poverty. The focus was on a relationship with self, others, creation, and most importantly God.

While Biblical faith is not a “silver bullet” for all forms of poverty, it does improve MUCH of life. In Deuteronomy 30, God spoke to the wayward Israelites through Moses: “… when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore you and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back… if you obey the Lord your God and keep His commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

When God’s character informs charitable practices, it brings transformation to all other relationships.

Tragically, over the last several decades, a popular movement has risen in America which falsely categorizes God’s Biblical truth as “oppressive,” so to speak. American culture has bought the enormous lie that the God of the Bible does not have our absolute best in mind and His ways seek to keep us from progressing. Eliminating God’s authority and boundaries have NOT provided progress and freedom. Just the opposite.

From what we now observe with our very own eyes here in 2024, the results have been catastrophic. A Gallup poll from just last year found that Americans’ levels of depression have reached an all-time high. Furthermore, the rich and the poor have become more segregated than ever. And charity has turned transactional rather than transformational. In fact, since the 1964 introduction of the “war on poverty,” the needle has barely moved!

Now, what we have is a system that seeks to address the symptoms of poverty while ignoring the root causes. Our neighbors in poverty are now left trying to survive rather than thrive. This is not equitable or just. Things are not as they ought to be.

The solution is to repent and return once again to the tried-and-true approach of Biblical charity. Biblical charity sees humans as being made in the image of God. The entire rationale for human transformation and human flourishing stem from the concept of Imago Dei, which is Latin for “image of God.”

The Bible teaches that each human person is uniquely made in God’s image, meaning distinctive, with abilities, talents, and interests. As human beings, we bear God’s unique characteristics as a mark of our Creator. We have emotions, a moral duty, and a God given impulse to be productive.

One author said this: “True philanthropy must take into account spiritual as well as physical needs.”

Deploying Biblical charity empowers individuals to escape poverty and improve their lives in many proven, powerful ways. Here are just a few:

  • Improved health: 

In a groundbreaking research study, the ISRN Psychiatry Journal found a positive correlation between active faith and happiness, meaning, purpose, and a sense of control. The study also found that no active faith correlates more with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Additionally, the Barna Group found a significant positive correlation between the frequency of Bible reading and self-reported feelings of hope.

Regarding physical health, the ISRN Psychiatry Journal found a positive correlation between active faith and a decline in substance abuse, smoking, and risky sexual activity. The study also found that no active faith correlates more with stress-related illnesses such as heart disease and hypertension. Additionally, there is a decreased longevity of life.

Improved health is a vital factor in climbing out of poverty and is integral for obtaining and keeping a job.

  • Work:

The Bible describes work as something that is good!

Genesis 2:15 says this: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

Even in paradise work existed! There is certainly a creative aspect to mankind that mirrors our Creator, where he or she utilizes what faculties God has provided to “cultivate and keep.” It is not work that creates value, but the recognition of inherent value that inspires work.

Proverbs 14:23 says: “…hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

Proverbs 6:10-11 says: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest (meaning idleness), and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.”

  • Stable marriages:

Genesis 2:24: “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Matthew 19:4-6: “… so they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Children living in single-parent homes are 50% more likely to experience poverty as adults compared to children from intact married homes. This intergenerational poverty effect persists even after adjusting for the original differences in family income and poverty during childhood.

  • Justice:

The Bible makes it clear that God cares about true justice for the poor and oppressed. In Isaiah 58 we read this: “… loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke…”

In 1 John 3:16-18: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God in in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

Disastrously, charity continues to become more nationalized and less localized. While the government is good at transactions, it is unequipped to provide transformation, which is the essence of true charity. This is where faith based non-profit organizations come in as much needed specialists. The impact of faith-based non-profits are undeniable in American and world history, and cannot be replicated, copied, or duplicated.

A 3-year, eleven city study by Baylor University revealed that 60% of emergency shelter beds were provided through faith-based non-profits. Additionally, $119 million dollars were saved in the eleven cities through faith based residential recovery and job readiness programs.

The Philanthropy Round Table Review reported a study that showed, out of those who gave to the poor in the past 7 days, 65% of Americans identified as attending church weekly and praying daily, while 41% percent did not. Also, on average, faith based annual charitable donations were double than that of non-faith based charitable donations.

The main point in terms of charity is this: Facts and history show that active faith closely correlates with emotional and physical health, increased self-worth, stable marriages, and justice to name a few. These factors are all significant when it comes to successfully fighting poverty.

At CVCCS, as a Bible believing, faith-based non-profit organization, our hope is to foster self-sufficiency and sustainability in the Name of Jesus in our community and county. We believe true compassion & charity offers those in need the opportunity to thrive through relationships and accountability.

In closing, there is an old proverb that says: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.” While this cliché does not fully acknowledge the complexities of poverty, it does acknowledge the inherent limits of perpetual relief. We believe that people are much more than just mouths to feed and bodies to clothe. They are human beings with inherent dignity, worth, and capacity.

Whether we are providing food, clothing, mentoring, financial assistance, financial counseling, or kids programming, every ministry and program we offer centers around Christ-centered, individualized, holistic, and transformational charity.

YOU have the incredible opportunity to join us by furthering our mission as we address needs and change lives together, right here in Lancaster County!

For True Charity,

Rev. Jon Barrett

Executive Director of CVCCS

CVCCS is a proud member and ambassador of the True Charity Network.

Bibliography: True Charity Foundations, 2020, Dr. James Whitford.