When Agabus prophesied to the church in Antioch that a famine was coming to Jerusalem, this young church immediately took an offering and sent it to Jerusalem (Acts 11:27- 30). Later, Paul organized a fund to raise money from several churches outside Israel to help meet the needs of the Jerusalem church (2 Cor. 8–9). Giving to the needy is an important aspect of Christianity (Dt. 15:7-11; Mt. 5:42; 19:21; Lk. 12:33; Gal. 2:10; 1 Tim. 6:18; Heb. 13:16).
During times of calamity, the people of God must give of their possessions to help those who have suffered. Paul said that we have a special responsibility toward those of “the household of faith,” toward the members of our spiritual family (Gal. 6:10). So our first responsibility is to our brothers and sisters in Christ. But our giving must go beyond that to others who are needy. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves, a command that appears seven times in the New Testament (Mt. 19:19; 22:39; Mk. 12:31; Lk. 10:27; Rom 13:9; Gal. 5:14; Jas. 2:8).
As large sums of money and supplies are coming from government and relief organizations, we might mistakenly conclude that we ourselves do not need to give because our gifts will be small in comparison. But we must remember that the power of a gift does not depend on the amount of money given. Jesus’ story of the widow’s mite teaches this. Although the widow gave only a small amount of money to the temple offering, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury” (Mk. 12:43).
Christian leaders need to encourage their congregations to give, teaching them that even their small gifts could have great power when God works through them. We need to give specific instructions on how, where, and when people can give.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he took considerable space appealing to them to give to the Jerusalem fund (2 Cor. 8–9). He also presented some clear plans about how the offerings could be made and how the fund was going to be administered (1 Cor. 16:1-4).