Why I usually say, ‘No’

Published 10:20 pm Friday, June 20, 2014

By Chris Surber

I get a lot of calls from strangers asking for help with their utility bills, rent and other financial needs. Most of the calls are from perfect strangers who came across my phone number as they called through the church section of the phone book.

When I first became a pastor, I never said, “No.” Now, that’s what I usually say. Here’s why.

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On a theological level, you aren’t in a right relationship with God if you aren’t rightly connected to His Body, the church. The first question I ask every person who randomly calls me is this: “What church do you belong to?” Most often they don’t belong to any church. They’ve been thinking about going to church. They used to go church but left.

The truth is that most of these phone calls come from people who have no interest in the things of God except in a time of crisis.

That sounds harsh, I know. Maybe it sounds unloving and unbiblical, but it’s not.

“If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion — how can God’s love be in that person?” (1 John 3:17 NLT) In this context, “a brother or sister” refers to fellow followers of Jesus. I would cut out a kidney and sell it to help a brother or sister in Christ.

On a realistic level, you aren’t fooling anybody when I offer you food and you smirk or sarcastically chuckle to me or say, “I don’t need food. I need money.”

When that’s your response, I’m not giving you the funds I have raised from generous people so that you can spend them on drugs or alcohol or cigarettes or whatever, while your children are ill cared-for. “Kind-hearted” and “fool” are not synonyms.

On a practical level it is a waste of resources to buy you one more night in a hotel. It only prolongs your problem. Through her knowledge of social welfare programs, my wife and I have helped more women and children get into long-term housing they could afford than we ever could have by purchasing hotel rooms one night at a time.

If you love God and His church only because you think the church is a well that can be pumped for a few dollars when you need some money, you have a very wrong view of what the church is. If you think I or any other pastor is interested in funding your drug habit, think again.

If you are authentically just in over your head, sick or in some other legitimately difficult situation, then we need to get you pointed in the right direction for assistance from our social safety net through Christian, state and nonprofit agencies to get you back on your feet.

To get pointed in the right direction, contact the folks over at The Coalition Against Poverty in Suffolk by going to their website at www.capsuffolk.com or head to their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CAPSuffolk.

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at www.chrissurber.com.