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Priorities and Accountability in Times of Crisis

Over at OneTrueGodBlog, Hugh Hewitt asked for principles that would help guide Christians in making decisions about how to respond to human needs with financial support and disaster relief. The awful earthquake in Pakistan comes quick on the heels of Hurricane Katrina, and many needs remain in the aftermath of the giant Indian Ocean tsunami of last year.

Here’s how I answered his question:

Hugh asks a good question about making Christian decisions in the face of tragedy and disaster. The Christian obligation to assist those in need is made clear by Christ, who identified love of neighbor as second in Christian priority only to love of God. Generous support for worthy aid and relief programs is a Christian duty. And yet, global needs defy the ability of any single Christian, family, or church to respond. To twist the title made famous by Francis Schaeffer — How shall we then give?

A few principles offered for consideration:

1. Give where the need for your gift is greatest and the impact of your gift will be clearest. The right donation at the right time given in the right way will make the greatest difference.

2. Give through organizations you can trust to distribute funds honestly, strategically, equitably, and with the lowest overhead expenses. Expertise “on the ground” in strategic areas of need is invaluable.

3. Give through organizations that are fully accountable to the Christian church. I prefer to give through denominational agencies that are directly accountable to their churches. I do contribute occasionally to Christian organizations that are not part of established denominations, but have an excellent track-record for faithfulness and effectiveness. [See the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability for further information on financial integrity.]

4. Give where your heart is directed through prayer and informed awareness. There are countless needs and endless possibilities for worthy giving. Where does God direct your heart as you pray? What needs come most readily to your awareness?

5. Give where the Great Commission impact is a priority. Jesus blesssed those who give a cup of cold water “in the name of a disciple.” [Matthew 10:42]. I give where I can be most assured that others will receive this gift and aid in the name of Christ and for the cause of the Gospel.

6. Use this decision-making process as a way to teach your children to give. Explain what you as a family will do without so that others may be helped. Explain how you made the decision to give to this cause in this way. Help them to share the joy of giving.

I hope these principles help you and your family sort through these issues. Visit the discussions at OneTrueGodBlog.