February 04, 2010

Benevolence Distributed Directly to Recipient

Question:

A church encourages attenders to contribute to its benevolent fund to help needy individuals. Is it acceptable to make benevolent fund disbursements directly to individuals instead of, for example, issuing checks to health providers to help with extraordinary medical bills?

Answer:

First, let me encourage readers to type "benevolence" in the above search window. You'll get a number of hits for past blog postings, including important clarifications that I'll not repeat here.

It's okay to issue monetary assistance directly to a recipient who can then, for example, go to a grocery to buy food for his or her family. However, it is extremely rare for "experienced" churches and Christian ministries to do this. They wish to avoid any confusion as to how the gift should be spent. More than 20 years ago, as a deacon of my church I was part of an unfortunate experience. A family was in need. The church issued a check to the dad. The check was cashed (endorsed) at a tavern! The family's needs were not met.

Occasionally, benevolence is offered in the following manner -- "We will gladly buy you some groceries. What specifically can we purchase for your family?" -- only to have the offer rejected.

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