June 7, 2022 | by: Gordon Judd | 0 comments
As a deacon, I am periodically asked “what is the Benevolent Fund and what is it used for?”
For those who have been at GBC for some time, they have probably heard the explanation as part of a prayer for the Benevolent Fund offering that used to come routinely on the 4th Sunday of the month in the long-ago days before COVID when we used to actually pass the offering basket (gasp!). While some may remember excerpts from those Benevolent Offering prayers, it may be worthwhile to talk about what Scripture actually says about benevolence.
It is tempting to take the quick path to an answer and point out that Scripture does not use the term benevolence in our modern translation nor does it specifically direct that each body maintain a Benevolent Fund. In fact, you can find many evangelical churches today that do not collect or maintain a Benevolent Fund at all, so why do we? Is it part of spiritual one-upmanship with respect to other churches in our community or is there more to it?
While the term benevolence may be missing from Scripture, the concept is spread throughout. In Acts 4:32-37 we see the early church selling possessions and sharing the proceeds with others so that no one was in need. In this context, there were many people who had traveled to Jerusalem and the local believers were using their resources to meet others’ needs. This was not by command of the apostles but rather the stewardship and generosity resulting from gospel transformed lives.
Believers recognized that everything they had was God’s and that they were just stewards of it. This is a challenge to us today as to how we view everything that God has blessed us with; including material wealth, time, skills and abilities and that we need to continuously evaluate how we will steward that which God has given us.
In Ephesians 4 Paul talks about the unity of the body and our transformed life in Christ. In verse 28, he states “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need”. To steal no more was not a new command as it was one of the original ten given to Moses. Paul is giving a practical means for gospel transformation to be lived out in the thief to stop stealing other’s possessions, to provide for his own needs and to work in honest labor so that he can provide for other’s needs.
Implicit in this is that the thief needs to trust God to supply his needs. The gospel similarly transforms us in that we are to think of the needs of others as much as we think of ourselves.
Paul even takes this concept a step further in Philippians 2:3-4 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others”. We do not possess this ability within ourselves to truly put other’s needs and interests ahead of our own.
A life transformed by the gospel and what God has done for us through the sacrifice of his son, however, can so transform our hearts that we actually are able to consider others more significant than ourselves.
Circling back to the original question of “What is the Benevolent Fund and what is it used for”? The real answer is the Benevolent Fund is a gift that God has given us as a body whereby we can collectively experience the gospel transformed life by sharing what God has blessed us with to meet other’s needs.
Individually, we don’t need the Benevolent Fund to experience that and, in fact, should be experiencing that daily in our own lives as we see opportunities to exercise our gospel transformed heart in meeting other's needs. Make it a discipline in your life to regularly look for benevolence opportunities that God puts before you and reap the joy of living out a gospel transformed life.
Gordon Judd is a Deacon at Grace Bible Church
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