In a discussion of a passage from 1 Timothy 5, an online correspondent and I came to loggerheads over how an outreach ministry of the church should be conducted.

Essentially, my colleague asserted that Matthew 25 is the sole guiding principle of such ministry. Since Jesus gave no restrictions on which hungry people to feed, which naked people to clothe, which sick to minister to, or which prisoners to visit, the church should minister to anyone and everyone, without qualification.

His comments made me wonder about my church's food pantry (an auxiliary I volunteer my time to help). In the rare instances where it has come to our attention that recipients resold what they received from the pantry rather than consumed it themselves, we have warned the recipients that such behavior could remove their names from the list. The food pantry--partially for the sake of our philanthropy partners--is heavily regulated. Participants must meet an income-based means test, they must register yearly with accurate address information, they have rules to which they must comply (like the one that forbids reselling what they receive).

What do the listers here think? Is it inconsistent to place restrictions on the access to a food pantry (or to otherwise regulate our charitable giving)?

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All sincere believers on Jesus, having consecrated our lives to him, and allow the Holy Spirit to conform us "to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ," long to replicate the compassionate example of Jesus set for us. We don't aspire to be mere do-gooders. We don't want a form of godliness, that denies its power. But we yearn to show our love of Christ by our willingness to shelter, and feed, and heal, and visit the downtrodden in this society.

Nonetheless, brethren with a common mission can disagree at times about methods in ministry. We can plainly see differences in approaches to outreach ministry. And different groups of believers may have diametrically opposed answers to the following questions: Is it too intrusive to clients' privacy if the philanthropy partners (grocery store chains, government agencies) require names of clients on a roll to verify the people the ministry is serving? Should there be any concern that the ministry actually serve the neediest people, and if so how does one determine that without inquiring about household income? Should there be any concern over whether clients are reselling the food they receive, and if so how should the ministry team express that concern?
The hospitality arm of our church has, for example, actually helped people in tight fixes with their utilities bills or rent. But there's a stipulation that the recipient of such aid give us the bill so we can send a check directly to the creditor. We never dole out cash, as many petitioners initially ask.

We have a foundation that raises a yearly award for college-bound high school students, but there's a stipulation that the candidates have maintained good grades through high school. We have a nursery that provides pre-school day care at minimal rates, but there is a means test that must be met for admission.

Many of our ministries are regulated in some way. Aren't such regulations a valid means of insuring that we are really feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc? Or should a Christian ministry take the stance that there will be no qualifications to receive what is given?
I agree that there should be some stipulations or requirements. Where as we want to give freely and help all that we can, we also have to protect the program from those who want to take advantage and misuse the services. It is a fact that some people are greedy and will get food or what ever because it it available not because of need and those who take out of greed depletes the supplies from those who do need.

We of course can't judge who does or does not need but we can hold people accountable to be honest and to be compassionate for those who really do need the services. I believe that if the person who is self sufficient continues to get the items and misuse them in any way, that person is held accountable to God and not to the church. We can teach the word of God but we can't make anyone accept his word and live by it. God will judge and convict.
Our church also has a yearly community-wide dinner to which everyone is invited. It's an open-door event... we don't check ID to be certain you live in the neighborhood, we don't require that you be impoverished to share the meal, we don't even take down names of our guests. But the food pantry--partially for the sake of our philanthropy partners--is heavily regulated. Participants must meet an income-based means test, they must register yearly with accurate address information, they have rules to which they must comply (like the one that forbids reselling what they receive).

This is different from what we know of how Jesus and the disciples conducted their food-distribution. So I do wonder, Sis. Bailey, if Jesus would wholly approve of our ministry. Of course while we have Jesus and his disciples' own example of distributing to the poor and feeding the hungry masses that came to them, we also see that Jesus was wary of the motives of people (see John 6:26,27), whether they followed him for the teaching or for the free lunches. It doesn't explicitly say that he stopped distributing food to those who had the wrong motives, but I think it does present the principle that we should use discernment about who is partaking of our ministries and why.
Amen, I am all ways happy to see when churches do offers such ministries as your church does. I am a member of a fairly large church and shamefully we do not have any such out reach ministries. I believe if we did it would be a great resource for the surrounding communities. It would also help to feed the members spiritually, I don't think our congregation has a servants heart and this is something that is very important for God's children to have. Don't' get me wrong I am not bashing my church, this is just a mere observation and something I wish we had.
Give to any that are in need but ESPECIALLY to those of the HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH.
If you dont take care of your own 'household' you are worse than an unbeliever.
Give to the Body of Christ but dont ignore giving to anyone thats in need.


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