Force for Good: Charitable and Humanitarian Works
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Over the years, many of you have developed charitable and humanitarian projects and programs that have served to highlight your works as a force for good in your community or country. Your projects influence many lives, provide opportunities for the betterment of the disadvantaged, and serve as a rallying point for like-minded people who would like to be a part of charitable endeavors. It has opened doors for many of you to reach people whom you wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to reach. It has made it possible for you to interact with local citizens who have helped make a difference in their country, and have collaborated with you or facilitated your work or presence in the country in some way. There have been many good fruits and much progress as a result of the charitable works many of you have been engaged in.
Of course, the salvation of souls and helping people to form a personal relationship with God and to grow in their faith continues to be TFI’s mission-critical focus. Charitable works on their own won’t necessarily fulfill that goal. However, they can be a wonderful way to put our faith into action, serving as a tangible example of God’s love in ways that can also improve the quality of life, both spiritual and practical, of those in need.
Charitable works and kind deeds have often served as a springboard to bring Christianity to the world throughout history.
If we have real love, we can’t face a needy situation without doing something about it. We can’t just pass by the poor man on the road to Jericho. We must take action like the Samaritan did.1 … Compassion must be put into action. That’s the difference between pity and compassion: Pity just feels sorry; compassion does something about it.
We must demonstrate our faith by our works, and love can seldom be proven without tangible manifestation in action. To say you love someone and yet not try to help them physically in whatever way they may need—food, clothing, shelter, and so on—this is not love. True, the need for real love is a spiritual need, but it must be manifested physically in works—“faith which worketh by love.”2
We feel that the greatest manifestation of our love is not the mere sharing of our material things and personal possessions, but the sharing of ourselves and our personal services for others, which is our faith, and which results in our works and the sharing of our material possessions. Jesus Himself had nothing material to share with His disciples, only His love and His life, which He gave for them and for us, that we too might have life and love forever.
For “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”3 So we consider that the sharing of ourselves, our love and our life with others, is the greatest of all sharing and our ultimate goal, as well as our present means to that end.4
While TFI’s core purpose defines the sharing of the Gospel and teaching and training others in their discipleship as our primary responsibility and mission, we also believe that God’s love will move us to actions and kind deeds that will benefit others. This aspect of the Great Commission is expressed in our statement of faith as follows: “Jesus set an example for His followers of not only teaching spiritual truths, but also reaching out with compassion to people in need, including the poor and disadvantaged of His day. We believe that Christians should likewise strive to comfort, aid, and minister to those in need.”
Many people in today’s world are skeptical of religion and of those who claim to have a corner on the truth. There are many types of religion that people encounter, whether they’re the New Age religions, self-help types such as Scientology, or Buddhism, Hinduism, not to mention those with more in common with the Christian faith, the monotheistic religions such as Judaism and Islam. With modern technology, people are bombarded with various approaches and explanations of the universe, man’s origins, the reason for existence, and faith in a higher being. To many who have grown skeptical, Christianity is just one more religion, and they tend to want to see tangible proof of how it makes a difference.
In some cases, what turns people’s key is the concept of helping others, of bettering people’s lives, and of making it possible for people to reach their potential. These are some of the concepts that underpin charitable works and that can help people to understand what Christianity is all about. As the passage in James spells it out, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” or as another translation of the Bible puts it, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”5
For some people, the visible manifestation of our faith through our works is what will draw them to the Gospel. In some regions of the world, this is one of the only ways to transmit our faith. In countries where witnessing is not permitted, good works can help people to understand Christianity and eventually accept our faith.
Some time ago, I read an article about the growth of the home church movement in Cuba. Since Cuba has not been very open to proselytizing in the past, the more personal approach of building small churches in the home has apparently had tremendous results. There was an interesting commentary on the importance of the good works the Christians did in the community that serves as a good example of the role such works can play in fostering goodwill and enabling the message to be shared on non-Christian fields:
At one highway checkpoint in the Cuban heartland, an evangelical leader received an unexpectedly positive reaction when the questioning officer discovered he was a pastor. The officer shared his appreciation for a group of pastors who delivered aid recently to the area heavily damaged by last fall’s hurricanes.
It was another indication of how public perception of Christians has changed. “They saw we remained steadfast to our faith through those hard years,” said an Eastern Baptist leader. “Now we are seen as good people that contribute to society.”6
Charitable or charity work is broadly referred to as “a charitable purpose designed to benefit, ameliorate, or uplift mankind mentally, morally, or physically. The relief of poverty, the improvement of government, and the advancement of religion, education, and health are some examples of charitable purposes.”7 Humanitarian aid or relief projects are generally understood to refer to “activities and the human and material resources for the provision of goods and services of an exclusively humanitarian character, indispensable for the survival and the fulfillment of the essential needs of the victims of disasters.”8
TFI members worldwide engage in many charitable and humanitarian works, such as emergency relief efforts, volunteer training, capacity building for the underprivileged, education initiatives and schools for the disadvantaged, sustainable development programs, computer literacy programs for the underprivileged, medical relief and health assistance, economic empowerment and micro financing (assistance in starting small businesses to help the underprivileged become economically independent), large-scale food and aid distribution, prison reform programs, HIV and drug awareness, support, and prevention, and others.
There is a great interest on the part of governments, nonprofit foundations, and donors in charitable or humanitarian programs that have long-term goals and continue to meet a need or aim to bring about lasting progress and improvement. It’s a bit like the concept behind the ancient Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” While immediate emergency aid and one-time projects continue to be important and have their place, ongoing programs can be helpful in building a lasting work and presence in a country.
Charitable works are a calling, and for those who have been called to build these works, it can be a very rewarding experience, as well as provide an opportunity to meet many people, to further your witness, and to be a living example of your faith.
The end goal: Sharing God’s love
Charitable works should serve as a tangible example of God’s love and your sincere concern for the people of your country. These works should reflect genuine care and be a living example of your faith and values that speaks to people in terms that they can understand and relate to.
Charitable work is part of giving to the community and bridging cultures. Ultimately, becoming known as a force for good can be translated as being a contributor to the community and people who are an asset because of the valuable services they provide to those in need. Charitable or humanitarian endeavors are one more avenue that the Lord can use to promote the mission and to enable you to put your faith into action.
If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.9
When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.10
A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.11
Blessed is he who is kind to the needy.12
He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done.13
Originally published December 2010. Adapted and republished June 2013.
Read by Simon Peterson.
1 See Luke 10:25–37.
2 Galatians 5:6.
3 John 15:13.
4 Originally published in October 1977.
5 James 2:17 NKJV, NIV.
6 Jeremy Weber, “Cuba for Christ—Ahora!” Christianity Today, July 9, 2009.
7 West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. (Note: The definition of charitable purposes is derived from an old English Law, the Statute of Charitable Uses.)
8 UN International Law Commission, Sixtieth Session, Protection of persons in the event of disasters (2008) – Glossary
9 Isaiah 58:10 NIV.
10 Luke 14:13–14 NIV.
11 Proverbs 22:9 NIV.
12 Proverbs 14:21 NIV.
13 Proverbs 19:17 NIV.