“But when the benevolence and philanthropy of God our Savior appeared,”
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave his only begotten son so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
What is benevolence? What is philanthropy? Sadly, today these words have come to mean simply throwing money in someone’s direction. We have benevolence ministries in churches that make sure that the poor are provided for. We call people in society, “Philanthropists,” when they give lots of money to a worthy cause. But is this how the Bible uses these terms?
Paul gives us an excellent example here that the Bible has a different view of benevolence and philanthropy than our culture does. When is it that the “benevolence and philanthropy of God our Savior appeared”? It was on the cross. You see, benevolence and philanthropy is not about money or even about those who are financially poor. It is about those who are spiritually bankrupt — lost and with no place to turn. And thus, God demonstrated his benevolence to the world not with health, wealth, or prosperity, but by suffering and dying for believers on the cross. He demonstrated his philanthropy (literally: love for mankind) by sending his Son so that whosoever believes in Him (Jesus) should not perish (in eternal judgment and condemnation) but have eternal life (blessedness in the presence of God). How shallow our monetary gifts are when compared with this.
That does not mean that monetary gifts are not important nor does it mean that they do not have their place in the life of the church as part of the work of mercy ministry — doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Yet, we must never forget that the most important benevolence we can offer is to share the Gospel with those to whom we minister…don’t just give them money, but engage your life with theirs and introduce them to the hope you have in Jesus Christ. This is why government welfare programs never work…they have no ability to point those whom they are helping to something greater than themselves — to something eternal. The church must never fall into that trap, but is called to show true benevolence and philanthropy as is presented here by Paul.