A Guide to the Perplexed
Many years ago, a friend and I set up a new fund for our giving to ministries. While both of us had our favorites, we wanted to do something other than simply write checks to those select few. We started looking for a way to create categories for our giving, thinking that would give us some guidance and diversity. After a search, we landed on Matthew 25 and the parable of the sheep and the goats. It looked like there were six acts of showing mercy (hunger, water, strangers, clothing, sickness, prison) that made the eternal difference and, wanting to be on the right side, we chose to name the fund “Sheep Fund.” We then divided our giving equally among the six by finding ministries focused on those issues. While a bit arbitrary and clearly not addressing all the complexity in the world, it was helpful in getting us started.
I’ve seen others do something similar. It’s not as easy to find a focus as it might seem so we search for a name or phrase that we hope expresses to ourselves and others what we choose to guide our giving. Good examples of this would be “Find Us Faithful”; “Grace and Mercy”; Mustard Seed; and First Fruit.
Of course, it is easy to have too narrow a focus. Some have taken the quote from James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” to mean those are the only priorities for Christian giving. It’s not quite that simple, is it?
Scripture is full of categories and lists that are useful for giving as long as we don’t take them to be the only ones that are pleasing to God. Just focusing on areas found in those lists can be looking for magic or making it appear they are God’s only priorities. Still, they are helpful guides – especially when there are so many good causes and people to support.
Psalm 146:7-9 lists some of what God is doing in this broken world. In reading it this week I decided to take each one and ask Gathering participants for suggestions that I could pass along to others. I didn’t want large ministries and organizations that are highly visible or already heavily supported. Rather, I was looking for a few under the radar (at least mine) that are doing good work. Here is a sample of what people sent me:
He upholds the cause of those cheated by fraud: Faith for Just Lending is a coalition of Christians that unites conservative churches with liberal ones to oppose predatory lending.
He gives food to the hungry: Ontario Christian Gleaners. This volunteer-driven Canadian ministry provides more than 30,000 servings of soup each day by collecting, processing, and making available surplus agricultural produce.
“He sets captives free: The Human Trafficking Institute. Led by Victor Boutros and John Richmond, HTI exists to decimate slavery at its source by empowering police and prosecutors to stop traffickers.
He gives sight to the blind: Peek. Andrew Bastawrous is a Kenya-based ophthalmologist who co-founded PEEK, a low-cost smartphone ophthalmic tool built to deliver eye care in some of the world’s most challenging places, to those who need it most.
He lifts up those who are discouraged: To Write Love on Her Arms. Jamie Tworkowski set out to help a friend struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury and suicidal thoughts. Today, it is a movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with those same issues.
He watches over the stranger: Friends of Refugees. Led by Brian Bollinger it is located in Clarkston, Georgia, the home of more than 150 different ethnic groups and 60,000 refugees. It has been called “the most diverse square mile in America.” FOR serves more than 4,000 refugees across 7 program areas.
He sustains the fatherless: The Mentoring Project. In the United States, there are 25 million youth growing up fatherless. Founded by Dr. John Sowers and author Donald Miller, The Mentoring Project trains men and women to become mentors to “rewrite the fatherless story.”
He sustains the widow: New Commandment Men’s Ministries. Founded by Herb Reese, NCCM helps hundreds of churches across America and around the world develop their own ministries to widows so that their church can say, “There is not a needy person among us.”
If you have other suggestions for ministries or categories you have found to guide your giving, I would like to hear from you. Don’t be shy. Be sheepish.