Should Christians Only Help Other Christians?

Should Christians help the poor? The immediate response for most of us is, “of course.” But we’ve heard from people who believe Christians should only help other Christians. Their rationale is based on the stories of the early church that involve believers helping one another – not the poor in general.

While the Bible certainly encourages believers to help one another, such as in Acts 2:45, doesn’t it also command us to love others, help others and give generously, without regard to a person’s beliefs?

This opinion was a bit surprising, especially for those of us who believe so strongly in feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and healing the sick. We serve those in greatest need, regardless of race, gender or religion. We take joy in serving others, expecting nothing in return.

Helping a woman in Somalia
A World Concern staff member listens to the needs of an elderly muslim widow in Somalia.

Jesus certainly helped many people who were not necessarily believers. When he fed the 5,000, he didn’t require his disciples who were distributing the fish and loaves to verify each person’s beliefs.

Prior to telling the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus referred an expert in the law to what he must do to inherit eternal life. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The man asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus then told the parable, in which a priest ignores a man who had been beaten by robbers, but a Samaritan helps him. Jesus then instructs his listener to “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus certainly did not require conversion before ministering to people. His healing touch or words were often what opened someone’s heart to receive his love and forgiveness. We find that same principle at work in our service to the poor every day.

A Sri Lankan man who had lost everything in the war, told us, “Our suffering and hardship caused us to question whether there is a God. But through the continued support and love shown towards us by the World Concern staff, we believe that there is a God and we now have hope in life.”

What if we hadn’t helped this man because he was not a Christian? He would have given up on God. Our help was the tangible expression of God’s love he needed in order to believe.

A pastor who supports World Concern says, “Jesus came with a message and a mission. Sometimes churches are all about the message and forget about the mission.”

Like this pastor, we believe it’s important to share Christ’s love in word and deed. In situations where appropriate, we offer an opportunity to hear the gospel. But what about the places where we can’t? Should those people be left to starve or die of thirst? In contexts hostile to Christianity, our witness is simply reflected through the work we do.

In the verse above, we are commanded to love our neighbor. That’s why we do what we do. Just like in the Good Samaritan story, our “neighbor” is often someone with whom we have nothing in common.

I have a friend who went to church pregnant and unmarried. The love and support she received led her to recommit her life to Christ. Today, 20 years later, she’s happily married, a mother of three, and a committed Christian. She admits, had she been hit with the gospel the minute she walked in the door of that church, she would have never returned.

If we were to plunk ourselves into a drought or disaster stricken community and start preaching the gospel, with no offer to help, very few people would be receptive. Practical help often opens the door to be able to share why we do what we do.

 

Published by

Cathy Herholdt

Cathy Herholdt is World Concern's Senior Communications Director. With a background in journalism, Cathy honed her writing skills as a newspaper editor and now enjoys sharing the inspiring stories of those World Concern serves. She has served with World Concern since 2010.

19 thoughts on “Should Christians Only Help Other Christians?”

    1. I have not heard anyone say that Christians should only help Christians here in Australia. I find the idea rather foolish and not Scriptural.

      I do think that Scripture does declare that Christians are to be a higher priority though:

      Galatians 6:10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone–especially to those in the family of faith.

      This verse shows that we are to be helping non-christians clearly, but especially to the family of faith.

    2. Perhaps you misstated the question. I have personally never heard someone say “Christians should only help Christians” and such would be entirely unbiblical.

      What the Bible DOES teach is that “Christians should help other Christians in need, first.” Do not neglect our brothers and sisters.

      Galatians 6:10 “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

    3. Great to all. Thank you Lord Jesus for the opportunity to say these Godly Words. Love and forgive! We are not to be selective. What does it matter whom we help does it not prosper for Gods glory? Who are we to scobble over who needs help whom doesnt? Dosent the Father forgive and love all? Why then do we believe but have little faith that only God knows their heart and we follow God. So if we follow God then do not Question or worries who’s first and who’s last. I say to you fellow Brothers and sisters that do God will no matter whom it is. For father knows their heart and yours and you have done father proud. Glory to God!

  1. here i would like to say not just good virtues, but would like to state situations of contemporary society. i would start by questioning, if western believers really help believers of east or say helped in past, would believers be suffering today? Philemon 1:16, Paul here didnt tell the master to free the slave or treat him well, he said the slave is no more a slave and a brother to you in Christ? does this proves that believers are more important to each other than being just a fellow human? galatians 6:2 – carry each others burden? this way you will fulfill law in Christ? here too check if no other way fulfills the law, but only sharing other believers burden does? why believer so willingly say be good to others, and not be good to all? just a thought 🙂 God bless

  2. just a thought, if western believers loved believers of other areas as their brothers and sisters in Christ ,they would have helped raise the economic status of believers of non west areas , so that eastern believers wont suffer….i dont think its a big deal for them….but the question is do they love each other or love only western christian?

  3. Jesus came to save the world,not condem it, while we were yet sinners Jesus DIED for us, why on earth would we not be compassionate and help others Christian and non Christian alike

  4. Why do people mis-interpret the story of the “Good Samaritan?” The Samaritan was a despised religious minority (Jewish half breeds). The man who was beaten by robbers was a JEW. It was a JEWISH priest and a pharisee that did not help THEIR OWN, the Jewish man. Jesus shames the Jews for not helping their own, by having a despised religious minority help the Jew. People often say “the Samaritan was a minority” and that this proves we should help non-Christians. However, the Samaritan was NOT THE ONE who was in need of help. It was a Jew in need of help. The Samaritan was the “foil” in the story, used to shame the Jews for not helping their own. The one who does not help his own kind, and especially those of his family is worse than an infidel. Look it up. I Tim 5:8. Yes the Bible says this. It also says we must care first for the household of faith, our own family, the body of Christ.
    Should we refuse a person who is not a Christian? No, but we should not pursue major efforts at helping non Christians (as in major aid ministries to non Christians) UNTIL we have FIRST helped our own. Otherwise, we are worse than infidels. If you see a hurt person, or there is a natural disaster, sure, go ahead you should help. But to primarily focus on big operations that do not specifically target helping Christians first is anti-scriptural.

    1. Thank you. It’s interesting that your reply was the first one to use actual scripture instead of just saying “it’s unscriptural to not care for everyone”.

      This is a topic I’m trying to come to terms with, and your interpretation is most in line with where I’m at.

      Of course we render assistance in a temporary, immediate disaster, but our focus, our programs, and the vast majority of our funds should be given to the care of other Christians.

      People confuse tradition and scripture too many times. There are secular organizations that offer food and financial assistance. We have to be separate from the world.

      The scariest thing in this article was “if she had been ‘hit’ with the gospel first thing, she never would’ve returned. Wow. The Gospel is sufficient. The great commission was not to go care for the poor. It was to share the Gospel. We are not required to pretty it up, why are so many Christians so ashamed of the gospel.

      I often wonder if the church gets in the way of people hitting rock bottom where they can actually recognize their need for God?

      Just rambling and trying to work through this subject.

      1. The Great Commission does not negate any other order God has given us in scripture. The whole of your Christian duty to God is not simply to preach the gospel. You are required to die to self and obey God in everything he commands of you, which includes loving and SERVING your enemies, people who hate you and despitefully use you. You are not to sit in judgement of unbelievers, you are to help God save them by demonstrating his merciful, gracious character towards sinners, and by preaching the good news of forgiveness and salvation. That is, if you are free to do so. You might not be. In which case, I would ask God to give you his Holy Spirit.

    2. Not only that verse, but also Galatians 6:9-10 and Romans 12:13 demonstrate we need to help the brethren FIRST before outsiders. Today, we only help outsiders….I never here of a story of a church helping their congregants pay for food or electrical bills when they are in need (which there is a believer always in need), but I will endlessly “let’s feed the homeless”! Where you have people motivated by their stomachs, addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, there to eat….it’s a rare occasion that one is truly converted, which is a great thing, but then maybe that money could have been spent on a believer’s needs. Church is for the edification of the saints first and foremost, not ministering to the homeless…..or whomever….this is secondary. However, often times this ‘edification’ is a message intended for seeker-sensitive types who don’t want to hear about sin, so the believers are then there for no edification. Today’s modern church-feel good about ourselves but not adhere to biblical teaching.

      1. Your lack of concern for the scum of society does not reflect the heart of Jesus Christ, who shared meals with these people. I wonder if you would ever do the same, share the gospel with them, and bring them into your church. That is the Great Comission: preach the gospel and make disciples. Randomly blurting out the gospel to total strangers or passing out tracts is not what Jesus was about. And it has zero effect anyway, it’s a waste of time, money and paper. Unless you are willing to know the scum of society, your words are useless because they don’t match your behavior. Unbelievers are not stupid. Your church will continue to be filled with buttoned-down conservative Republicans who share your affinity for Christian morals without the Christian spirit.

        Repent of your wickedness, go and preach to sinners and make disciples of them.

    3. That is not true. There are many proverbs that say we are to help the poor, to open our hands wide to them, and that God is offended at those who don’t help them in their afflictions. We will be absolutely be judged on how we treated them. “The poor” is ALWAYS unqualified. We should help all those who cross our paths in need, and we should also defend the rights of the poor, of which the wicked know nothing about. Anytime a brother in Christ has needed financial help, I’ve been VERY quick to offer it, generously, and I’ve learned that people quickly learn they can hit you up for money anytime instead of going to their own family or to the church elders. That’s the order. That’s why church elders should be the ones to distribute money to needy church members, and Christians must work so they can help others – in case of need, they should first go their own family members, Christian or not.

      I will continue to help needy persons outside the church, and I will do that until the day I die. You have no power to make me disobey God and do what displeases him. Your cunning arguments distort scripture and do not come from God.

  5. I go to a prayer group at my church. I live alone. Last year, I had several operations. My recuperation , at home, took months.

    Now then…I belong to a prayer group. There is a woman in the prayer group who lives a block away from me. I asked her to drive me to the hospital. She said it was too far away. For the next several months, my neighbor never called me once, never asked if I needed help. She has her family and did not want to be bothered. Yet, she listens, daily to a Christian radio program and tells me I also should listen to it, as well. In our prayer group, she prays for others, etc.

    I hope, as long as I live, to never be like her. I hope I will NEVER think only of myself and talk Christianity. I hope I will see the needs of my neighbors and respond to them, whether those in need are Christian or not.

    This woman is repugnant to me. I don’t even feel like praying with her.

  6. I am both ashamed and alarmed that my country, Canada which was an ostensibly Christian nation has turned its back on Christians, especially white Christians. Billions are made available to Islamic countries but zero help or shelter is offered to Middle East Christians or to South African whites now being harassed and threatened with land seizures. Our Immigration Minister who is making a name for himself by accepting Islamic border jumpers was himself a (Somalian?) refugee!

    What the gummerment is doing is bad enough but what galls me the most is that Christian churches have nothing to say about it. Even my efforts to talk to various local churches have fallen on deaf or even hostile ears.

    To anyone with half a brain, the opportunity to find converts in the teeming refugee camps must be compelling but to my knowledge is being completely ignored.

    Reasons for this sad state of Christianity must be identified and rectified.

  7. This is an interesting interpretation to say the story is encouraging only Christian loyalty and generosity. But the man who was helped isn’t the Samaritan it’s “the traveler”. As far as I know this isn’t a specifically religious person, but a generic word for a person on the road.

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