Benevolence- by Ndumiso Dlamini
There will, however, be no one in need among you, because the Lord is sure to bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession to occupy, if only you will obey the Lord your God by diligently observing this entire commandment that I command you today. When the Lord your God has blessed you, as he promised you, you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you. If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. (NRSV)
Benevolence is the desire to be kind, helpful, generous, or an inclination to do good or act of kindness towards others.
The Bible talks about benevolence throughout. The reason God requires us to be benevolent is because we live in a world where some people amongst us are poor. It is important to note that poverty has always existed and this is not what God had intended when he created the universe because everything he created is good (cf. Gen. 1:25). Moreover, when God created the world, he intended it to ensure that all people will have everything they need (cf. Gen. 1:29-30).
The reason some people are suffering from poverty because of the fall in Genesis 3, but that doesn’t mean that it is a sin to be poor. Solomon Andria says it is rather that “sin that lies behind all the economic, social, political, environmental and psychological factors that result in poverty.”
The problem of poverty doesn’t mean you should try to combat it. In all these, you should learn that God is concerned about the well-being of all people. Therefore, in this passage of scripture God is telling Israel to be generous to those who are needy amongst them. Moreover, Andria says God instructs Israel to help those in their camp so as to “protect Israel from being exploited by people who had no ties to the community. God reassures those who are worried about the financial implications of this arrangement that it will not be burdensome, for if they obey his law there will be very few people requiring help.”
When you do anything in God’s name, it should not be for fame, but you should do it in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). As the church today in Africa, we need to encourage the strong African traditions of hospitality by helping the hungry and the destitute. It is important that you always remember that benevolence is not giving out to the poor the things you would not like someone to give you (cf. Isaiah 58:6-7).
As Jesus emphasised, you have to treat others as you would like to be treated (Matt. 7:12). You might be wondering if benevolence is all about giving out money to the poor. No! You can share you food with the poor (Prov. 22:9), you can sacrifice time to help people learn new ways of making a living. Sometimes we have a tendency of withholding our help to those who are needy; therefore, why do you say “come back tomorrow and I will give you it to you – when you already have it (Prov. 3:27-28).
In Acts 2:42-45, we notice the believers carrying and sharing what they had. However, “this doesn’t mean that early believers simply pooled their resources together. It appears everyone maintained ownership of their possession, but they were more than willing to share or sell what they had so those in need would be cared for. The mind-set was this: All we are, everything that we own, belongs to God. He is the owner; we are merely the managers, the stewards." – Randy Frazee.
What attitude accompanies your giving?
So how should you respond? Benevolence should be part of your priorities, for the kingdom of God should be a distribution centre that never runs dry. Moreover, the church plays the ambassadorial role of the kingdom of God which needs a strategy of helping the needy.
The church should also encourage people to work with their own hands so that they too will help the poor (Eph. 4:28). Before you can help the orphans and widows (James 1: 27), you should first help your own family (Gal. 6:10).
Benevolence is as important today as it was back then, even more. It is also a tool that you can use to look for opportunities to show kindness to others, and remember that it is not about you or your gift, but the motives that lies behind your heart.
What are you going to do to make a difference in someone's life this week.