What does it mean to be a philanthropist? Do you have to be rich and give hundreds of thousands of dollars away each year? Absolutely not. Philanthropy is defined simply as goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially, active effort to promote human welfare.
In today’s world, most of us view philanthropists as those rich individuals who dip into their vast amounts of wealth to help save the whales or keep the polar bears from getting warm. But with the Greek word anthrop contained within the word, philanthropy literally means “love of mankind,” something at which Christians should “top the charts.”
Philanthropy is simply giving money for a purpose or cause that benefits people you don’t know personally. Many people separate their tithe from an act of philanthropy, but when considering this definition, that is exactly what tithing is meant to do. I would argue it is something else as well. It is more than simply giving money. Even secular philanthropists don’t simply give money to causes or organizations. They give to causes about which they are passionate and long to help.
Christians are much more geared to the love of mankind than the secular world (although to look at some struggling church budgets it might be a stretch to prove).
While you may not be as rich as Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, all of us who love mankind can be philanthropists. We don’t simply give with our money in serving the Lord, but with everything we are. Money is simply a bi-product of the way Christians are to live. The Lord has blessed us with our current situation and expects us to use those resources to provide for others. Not only in material goods, but in their spiritual needs. Being a philanthropist requires you to have a vested interest in the causes you support through time and finances.
So, how do we, the church, become better philanthropists? It starts with a simple commitment to your local congregation. Every member of the local congregation is a philanthropist to the community in which it is located. The purpose of the church is to reach out into the community and share the gospel. This requires time and resources. Everything from Sunday morning services to community theater nights offers something to the community and demonstrates a love for mankind to the world. Volunteering to help at high school games or feeding the homeless are wonderful ways to benefit the community in which you live.
Next, philanthropy extends to causes beyond the local congregation. As Christians, this often comes by way of missionaries, but it doesn’t need to stop there. We are surrounded by needs on all sides in this world. If the Lord has given you a passion for a cause, and you feel you should get involved, then do more research and go for it! Earlier, I joked about saving whales and polar bears, but God has given us dominion over creation, and we are responsible for its stewardship.
Christians have a biblical call on our lives to give. As far back as Adam and Eve, the Lord built it into our human nature to give. Scientific research has confirmed we are all hardwired to give, and the act of giving provides us with great joy. Providing money to fund a cause or need is good, but is only a small part of what God has called Christians to do. We are to give all of ourselves in the service of the Kingdom. Money is just a small part if we are to be real church philanthropists.
**Adapted from ONE Magazine