ďMISPLACED CHARITYĒ

First Timothy 5.8, 16

 

EXPOSITION: 

1.   Last week I was reading Matthew Henry, that wonderful Puritan commentator, when my eyes fell upon a phrase I think I have never before seen.  At least the phrase has never before struck me the way it did last week, immediately impressing upon me the need to preach on the subject to you this evening. 

2.   I think that professing Christians of this modern era are greatly troubled by many things, not the least of which is great confusion that substitutes sentiment for love, feelings for obligation and duty, and emotions for responsibility. 

3.   And I grow very weary of the tendency of people to minimize and discount the role a pastor is supposed to play in their lives, effectively abandoning a means of grace for living.  So I suppose I am guilty myself of what I am going to preach against this evening, which is misplaced charity. 

4.   Brian Spicerís sister in law, Caroline, found herself a widow with two small and rambunctious boys to raise when Brianís brother suddenly died.  Carolineís mother, and the grandmother of those two boys, did something one day that completely surprised me.  She asked me for my counsel. 

5.   ďPastor, what do you think I should do?  I have a daughter and two grandsons here in California who need me, and I have a mother back on the Atlantic coast who needs me.  What should I do?Ē  I replied, ďThe Bible says ďHonor thy mother,í it does not say honor thy daughter and grandsons.Ē  She said, ďOh,Ē and then flew back home to take care of her aged mother, like God intended. 

6.   Had she stayed here to look after her daughter, now a widow, and her grandsons, she would have been guilty of misplaced charity, as I so often have been guilty, such as when I try to fill a leadership void in someoneís life who doesnít want it, and when I try to encourage a certain direction in someoneís life who is directionless and wants to simply drift.  But misplaced charity is wrong.  It is not good.  It is an evil.  

7.   Turn in your Bible to First Timothy 5, where we will read a passage and then settle on two verses to comprise our text: 

3       Honour widows that are widows indeed.

4       But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.

5       Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.

6       But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.

7       And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.

8       But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

9       Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man,

10     Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saintsí feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

11     But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;

12     Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.

13     And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.

14     I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

15     For some are already turned aside after Satan.

16     If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed. 

8.   It is very clear in this passage that the word ďhonourĒ refers to far more than the display of respect that is due an aged widow.  Especially when the word is tied in with its use in the rest of the 5th chapter, it is easy to see that no distinction is properly made between honoring someone by your attitude toward them and honoring someone by giving money to them. 

9.   The Christ child was not honored by the wise men taking valuable gifts from Him, but by giving valuable gifts to Him.  So with the king, so with the pastor, First Timothy 5.17-18, so with an aged widow, and so with God:  ďHonour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase,Ē Proverbs 3.9 

10. My text for this evening are verses 8 and 16, which will be my jumping off point for a sermon that is strong on application, titled ďMisplaced Charity.Ē  Letís read those two verses again: 

8       But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

16     If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed. 

11. Please notice verse 8.  In this verse Paul declares to Timothy that if a man does not provide for his own relatives, particularly those of his own house, he denies the faith and is worse than an infidel, which is to say he is worse than unsaved.  Now, what does it mean to provide for your own house? 

12. There comes a point in time when folks get too old to take care of themselves.  Now, these days there can be finances saved up or a retirement annuity that pays for someone to attend to a person in his or her old age.  But if not, it is the responsibility of a son or a nephew to look after that aged one.  Thatís what is meant by providing for your own house. 

13. And if youíve spent your youth monkeying around so you canít provide for your own house when the time comes to do it then youíll be looking forward to facing up to God come judgment day.  So get yourself an education, get yourself a marketable skill, and get yourself ready for the time when youíll need to take care of your mom, or your dad, of your aunt Minnie. 

14. Please, now, notice verse 16, which is where the notion of misplaced charity comes in.  Misplaced charity is charity that should properly be directed elsewhere.  The son or the nephew should take care of the widowed mother in her old age, and the aunt as well, so the resources of the Church can more profitably be directed to those who are qualified but are left without family. 

15. Listen to what Matthew Henry wrote four centuries ago:  ďObserve, Charity misplaced is a great hindrance to true charity; there should be prudence in the choice of the objects of charity, that it may not be thrown away upon those who are not properly so, that there may be the more for those who are real objects of charity.Ē 

16. Now, brother Isenberger comes to lead us as we sing before the sermon. 

INTRODUCTION: 

1.   This will not be a sermon, really, but some thought provocations, tossed out in an attempt to stir the pot so people will think instead of emote, reason instead of sentimentalize, consider the proper responsibilities assigned to us by Godís Word instead of trying to play God in other peopleís lives, and so people might plan instead of procrastinate. 

2.   Here are some scenarios that I think I could successfully argue from Godís Word to the person who is neutral, to the person who is more concerned with trusting God than salving his own conscience, to the person who really hungers to deal with issues and responsibilities Godís way instead of manís way. 

3.   Remember, before I begin, that the relationships you have with other people should most often be seen as being established by God so you can meet that other personís need, not so that other person can meet your need.  

4.   So, it is wrong for a young woman, or some middle aged career woman with nothing else to do, to become a mother so she will feel more fulfilled.  Just as it is wrong for a young man to seek a wife so that his needs can be satisfied, rather than so he can satisfy the needs and longings of another. 

5.   God would have it the other way with love.  And so, as we consider misplaced charity we find that sometimes the motives that drive us are so often twisted around and need to be straightened out a bit. 

1A.   First, IT IS NOT PROPER FOR THE AGED TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR ADULT CHILDREN 

1B.    Why do the aged treat their grown children like children, continually giving to them what they should provide for themselves?  Do they give to make themselves feel better?  Because they are certainly not helping out their grown children by helping out their grown children.  I speak generally, now. 

2B.    Studies show that the more people help out their grown children the more they actually interfere with the development in their grown childrenís lives of character traits that are necessary for their grown children to develop the ability to provide for themselves. 

3B.    Of course, grandparents love being grandparents to their childrenís children.  And this is understandable.  And itís good.  But the food and shelter and clothing and necessities of life for grandchildren are supposed to be provided by their parents, not their grandparents.  

4B.    Grandparents are for the occasional toy, the occasional treat, the occasional time away from parents.  And if itís otherwise the aged parents can actually interfere with the lifeís struggles, and the prayers to God for the meeting of needs, that would be better for their grown children, than ready access to help from grand mom and granddad all the time.  Grandpa is not supposed to be the big man in his grandchildís life.  That little boyís daddy is supposed to be his hero.  And the big woman in his life should be his mommy, not his grandmother. 

5B.    Grandparents need also to remember who gets left out when they are overindulging their grown children, or their grand children.  Are they robbing from their own old age pension?  Are they misplacing their charity that would be better and more spiritually placed elsewhere?  Instead of over involvement in the life of grandchildren, who already have a full set of parents, whatís wrong with being a blessing to some kid who has no dad at all, or some kid who has no mom at all?  Misplaced charity?  Perhaps. 

6B.    Adulthood means taking care of yourself, with Godís help.  So it is generally inappropriate for grown children to be so coddled and so pampered by their own parents that they never discover what adult self-reliance is while their parents are still alive. 

7B.    And you widow ladies need to remember that God is honored when people give to Him, the king is honored when people give to the king, the pastor is honored when the Church gives to the pastor, so it is hardly likely that you will be honored by children who take from you.  No.  You need to insist, especially if you are not rolling in clover financially, that your children give to you, not you give to your children.  

8B.    You are not honored when you give to your children.  So, if your children are so corrupt that they do not know to honor you, then you should set on a course of action to instruct them to honor you in the time God has left for you.  And how do you do that?  Do not give them a regular stream of money!  They sin against God and they sin against you when they do not honor you in a Biblical manner. 

2A.   Next, YOUR FIRST DUTY IS TO YOUR CHILDREN, BEFORE YOUR GRANDCHILDREN 

1B.    You can be sure that God wants you to raise the children that are yours by the process of human reproduction.  But those children who are not yours by the process of human reproduction you canít be so sure about.  After all, God did give other peopleís kids to other people, did He not? 

2B.    Now, listen to me before you think I am being really hard.  My only concern is that God be glorified and that kids get the best shot at life possible.  My concern is not for the feelings of parents or grandparents.  So, rather than think in terms of the immediate situation at hand, I would like for you to think about a problem that stretches over several generations, and how misplaced charity worsens a problem rather than eliminating a problem. 

3B.    Say, your child has a child but cannot raise that child.  Not an unusual situation these days.  But what happens when your child has a child but cannot raise that child, so you raise that child?  Now, it may be Godís will for you to raise your grandchild, but you canít just raise that grandchild.  You have to raise that grandchild in such a way that you do not worsen the existing problem, but try to eliminate the existing problem, instead.  Doesnít that seem like the right approach to take? 

4B.    Consider what will happen if your child who cannot raise her child lives with you.  Are you subsidizing sin by doing that?  Are you paying for more wrongdoing?  Are you pulling a load that your child should pull herself by helping her instead of letting her sink or swim on her own?  Adults make it on their own.  Are you raising a grandchild who will think itís normal to have a child and not be able to tend to a child, thereby making likely yet a 4th generation with the same problem?  Whatís to stop this from becoming a 5th generation problem?  Have you given any thought to what problems are created by such misplaced charity? 

5B.    And here is another one:  What if your child who cannot raise a child simply leaves the child with you?  Does that not encourage your child who cannot raise a child to be irresponsible and have yet another child she cannot raise?  So, either the problem goes deep to generations, if you handle it one way, or it goes wide to many children born to one irresponsible mom, if you handle it the other way. 

6B.    And this is not even beginning to consider the fact that at a certain time in your life Godís plan is for you to live and function differently than you did before.  There is a childhood phase of life, a parenting phase of life, and a grand parenting phase of life, during which phases God gives you grace to live and serve Him differently than you did before, unless you risk it all with misplaced charity. 

7B.    Who is to say that your efforts to save your grandchildren are not sometimes examples of misplaced charity?  What might your life have been like in service to God if different choices had been made?  Does the mothering handbook say anywhere that you are obligated to raise your childís children if your child doesnít want to or canít?  ďBut if I donít help then . . . .Ē  Then you might be stopping a problem from getting worse.  Sometimes helping actually hurts instead of making things better. 

8B.    And how is this further complicated by the fact that some moms havenít finished raising their kids before they take on grand kids?  Do you even have a right to attempt the rearing of grandchildren while you yet have children living at home?  Is it right to take away from the youngest child his youngest childhood and make him the oldest, or make him older than others in the home? 

9B.    I am not answering these questions.  I am only asking them.  And if things are done incorrectly as a result of making bad choices, will there not be misplaced charity that will end up doing no one any good?  Probably.  ďHow, then, do I avoid misplaced charity?Ē  If you are really interested in finding out how to avoid misplaced charity you will know what to do next. 

3A.   Third, SOME GENERAL PRINCIPLES RELATED TO MISPLACED CHARITY 

1B.    Misplaced charity occurs when you involve yourself in something that will make it likely that you or someone else will abandon a God-given responsibility, duty, or obligation, and will instead take upon himself a duty, obligation or responsibility that is either not given to you by God at all, or that will not be faithfully and properly discharged by the person it is given to. 

2B.    For example:  If your child has a child and cannot raise that child, do you help your child function as an adult, do you help your child function as a parent, do you enhance the likelihood of your grandchild getting a real mom by involving yourself in the problem?  Or do your good intentions, unaided by careful thought and consideration, merely make a bad situation worse, end up interfering with your service to God, and mess up the likelihood that God could ever work in the lives of a number of people?  All because you got between God and someone He was trying to deal with by making their life harder than you were willing to allow. 

3B.    Or how about the mother or father of a grown child?  How does your child honor you by you giving money to him, when every example of honoring someone that is found in the Bible shows the money moving in the other direction?  God commands your adult child to honor you.  God demands that your adult child honor you.  You should have trained him to honor you.  You should still encourage him to honor you.  And you work at cross purposes with God when you participate in activity that is contrary to him honoring you.  Please love God enough and love your children enough to not interfere with them honoring you as God has commanded. 

4B.    I love my mom.  She lives in Lancaster, as many of you know.  And my mother is an incredibly generous woman.  She absolutely loves to give presents.  But it would be wrong for me to allow her to give more to me than I give to her, since she is my mother and God wants me to honor her.  Now, do I stop her from giving to Pam and Sarah and me?  No.  But I bought the sofa, and the recliner, and the glass top kitchen table.  I offered to buy her a car, but she said ďNo.Ē  She is my mother, and a son is supposed to honor his mother. . . by obedience and respect while he is living at home, and by giving to provide for her and by showing respect toward her after he has reached adulthood. 

4A.   Fourth, MISPLACED CHARITY AT WORK 

1B.    You are working with a fellow who just canít seem to get his own work done.  Itís not that he is a new hire who is learning, and you are helping him develop expertise.  No, this guy just canít do the work.  Either he isnít smart enough, fast enough, alert enough, educated enough, or whatever. 

2B.    Should you help this guy out?  I would suggest that you not help him.  I do not say this to be cruel, but because helping him would be misplaced charity.  If you pull this guyís load for him your own boss may misjudge your work capacity, will certainly misjudge your coworkerís work capacity, and you will end up creating more problems than you are solving. 

3B.    As well, how is this fellow going to learn where his niche in life is in the work world if he doesnít know what his own capabilities are, or if he is constantly leaning on other people?  So, you may actually be doing the guy more long term harm by trying to help him, by giving him inappropriate encouragement to continue in a line of work he is no good at, or by keeping from him his insurmountable shortcomings. 

5A.   Fifth, MISPLACED CHARITY AS A MINISTRY VOLUNTEER 

1B.    Sometimes a young person wants to serve as a volunteer to benefit a ministry.  I am hoping that our younger men will get a good education and marry well, so their wives can serve as ministry volunteers in our Church and school.  I am hoping our young ladies will marry well enough that they can serve as ministry volunteers once their kids are old enough to attend our school.  Serving as a volunteer after retirement from the brutal grind of earning a living is always a welcome opportunity for a Church.  I donít know why more Churches donít encourage that type of volunteerism? 

2B.    But there are times that even serving as a volunteer in a ministry can be misplaced charity.  Serving for a year after graduating from high school and before taking on college seems okay to me, providing itís acceptable to the young personís parents.  But volunteering for something other than Church ministry seems to me to be misplaced charity, since parachurch ministries or activities other than Church ministry isnít really to my way of thinking charity.  As well, volunteering in a ministry may be misplaced charity if you would spend your time better by getting an education and employment, from which place in life you can serve as an even more effective volunteer while supporting yourself, rather than being supported by your parents. 

3B.    In short, there are volunteer options that are not pursued by people that I think ought to be pursued, while there are also volunteer options that are being pursued by some that serve no useful function in the ministry, bringing people to Christ, or helping out a Churchís ministry.  Being a Red Cross volunteer, to me, is misplaced charity.  Working in a homeless shelter, to me, is misplaced charity.  Doing civilian patrol for the police department is another example of misplaced charity.  But volunteering in our Church or in our Christian school is a wonderful way to serve God. 

6A.   Finally, MISPLACED CHARITY & EQUAL DIVISION OF THE FAMILY INHERITANCE 

1B.    I have addressed this problem on several occasions before, but have never labeled the problem as one of misplaced charity before.  The refusal of parents to draw up a will, thereby leaving their inheritance to be fought over by their children after they are gone, is quite simply ridiculous.  But to draw up a will that divides the family inheritance equally among godly and ungodly children is cowardly. 

2B.    If there is no will then the familyís inheritance will be fought over, and the survivor who is most vicious in court will prevail.  That means, if you have a godly kid and an ungodly kid the ungodly kids will end up with everything.  So, why donít you just leave everything to the unconverted kid and save your converted kid the grief of being taken advantage of and ruining his relationship with his unconverted sibling? 

3B.    But what if there is a will and you divide the assets up equally between the converted and the unconverted?  Your unconverted heir may still end up with it all, since the unconverted person is by definition willing to do things for money that the converted person will not do?  As well, by what reasoning and logic does a man leave as much of his inheritance to the child who dishonors him as he has to the child who honors him? 

4B.    This is misplaced charity.  A man or a woman who leaves an inheritance behind is obligated by God to make proper use of that inheritance.  Some of that inheritance should go to advance Godís work.  And some of that inheritance should be left to the child who will use it to serve and glorify God.  But what justification is there for leaving an inheritance to an unconverted child?  For what reason would a genuinely converted father or mother leave to an ungodly child money that will be used, not to glorify God and advance His kingdom, but to serve selfish interests and feed the fleshly appetites of the wicked?  This is misplaced charity. 

CONCLUSION: 

1.   I told you at the beginning that I have frequently been a guilty party when it comes to misplaced charity.  But itís something I have addressed more conscientiously over the past year or two of my life.  And I think I know the reason that lies back of this type of problem, at least in my own life, and I think in the lives of others likewise affected, as well. 

2.   Itís a lack of faith in God.  Itís an unwillingness to commit to Godís care and safekeeping those who would be far better off if God intervened in answer to prayer than just tossing money at a problem or jumping in to solve a problem by being someoneís hero and feeling godlike. 

3.   Perhaps people would be better served by admitting that not all problems have a solution and leaving them to Godís good graces.  And who knows?  If you did this you might end up doing almost what you are doing now, but with far different results than we are seeing now. 

4.   I am reaching the place in my life where I recognize that some people want to be pastored, and some think they donít need a pastor, except to clean up the mess left by doing what they thought was best.  Some people want to use me to their own ends, while others want to be used of God and have a deeply humble spirit that is teachable, willing to take direction, and servant like.  So, you can see that I, too, am growing and maturing. 

5.   I hope I will not be the kind of grandfather who allows himself to usurp Godís role in my daughter and son in lawís life.  And I hope when I am an old, old man (and I hope to live to be an old, old man), that I will be wise enough to let those younger than me give to me, instead of making myself feel good by insisting that I give to them. 

6.   I think a great deal of charity is misplaced charity.  And I wonder what our Churchís ministry would be like if we were more careful where we placed our charity, and if we were careful not to yield to the tug of sentiment when the Bible is decidedly clear about what we ought to be doing with our time, with our talents, and with our resources. 

7.   So, go home and examine your actions, your decisions, your plans.  Consider and ponder whether or not your charity is well placed or if it is misplaced charity.  I know that I have been considering and pondering this very thing, and my own plans for the future, since I first read godly Matthew Henryís comment. 

8.   Perhaps your charity is well placed.  If so, great!  Perhaps your charity is misplaced.  If it is it isnít doing anyone any good.  It may make you feel better, but it isnít really helping anyone.  Properly placed charity is whatís needed, in your life and mine, and in the lives of those we love.

 Home   Who Is God?   God's Word   Sermons   Tracts   Q & A   Feedback  

Order this sermon on tape:  or Mail/Phone