The word benevolent comes from the Old French word bene, meaning well, and volens, meaning to wish. In
other words, it means to wish well. Today it means more than just the wish, but also the very act of helping
someone get along well. We usually think of benevolence as involving material things.
Benevolence is referred to in the Bible usually in regard to widows and orphans, for they had no way of
supporting themselves; and often today they do not either. The handicapped in Bible times had no source of
income except alms. The aged had no source of income. All had to depend on relatives or friends - if indeed they
had any. They certainly had no government welfare programs.
It seems that the poor then were treated much like the poor of today, for truly human nature throughout the
ages never changes. Leviticus 25:35-37 refers to the abomination of loaning money to the poor for high interest
(usury). If the poor spoke out against his oppression, or even spoke out for any cause, Ecclesiastes 9:13 says that
he was either forgotten or unnoticed in the first place. Proverbs 14:20 states that the poor are resented and looked
down on. Even in the new Christian era James admonished the saints for leaving the poor standing in the back of
their assemblies and bringing the rich to the forefront (James 2:2-4), and this is still done today.
Webster defines affliction as distress, calamity, misfortune. Job 34:28 says that these afflicted ones cry out
due to their misfortunes. Oppression is defined in the dictionary as a heavy weight on the mind, a burden, being
trampled on, being kept down by cruel or unjust use of power.
Job 20:19 contends that the oppressed are forsaken, for their houses are taken from them. Psalm 12:5 refers
to the oppressed as sighing, and Psalm 74:2 states that they are shameful. Therefore, society brings the poor
down to a low estate (Psalm 109:39), and judgment and justice toward them is perverted in favor of the rich and
powerful (Ecclesiastes 5:9).
Because of all this, the poor usually have a very poor fame of mind, poor attitudes. Isaiah 14:3 explains that
the poor are full of fear and sorrow. Proverbs 1:27 relates that the poor are full of fear, distress, and anguish. But
often these same poor try to cover up their fears, and it all comes out as anger (Psalm 90:11) and fighting (Song of
If they have been in such a state for very many years, they will be in a mental attitude of, "What's the use of
trying? Society has done this to me, so why shouldn't I get as much back from society as I can any way I can?
Besides, I'll never been any different; society will make sure of that too. Just why should I even try any more?"
Now society may not have created the first cause of this poverty, but society often could do something to help
them out of their calamity. If this help (applied properly) does not come swiftly after the calamity, a feeling of
hopelessness enters the mind of the poor and could remain there until death.
The Bible does tell us how to help the poor overcome this fear within themselves, which is the first step toward
getting out of this way of life. 1 John 4:18 tells us to love them. Luke 6:36,38 tells us to have mercy, not to judge
them, not to condemn them, and to give to them their necessities. Romans 12:16 commands us to condescend to
men of low estate. And 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns us to take heed lest we too fall.
There are several ways we can help the poor overcome the outside forces of society that seem to gang up on
them and keep them in a state of helplessness and a feeling of selflessness. Psalm 12:51 tells us we can rescue
them from the puffed up, those who degrade the poor. Psalm 82:3-5 tells us we can defend them and make sure
they receive justice. And Psalm 22:23,24 says we should not give in to society's demands that we abhor the poor.
However, in the process of helping the poor in these ways, we should be most careful to not fall into the trap of
the "Rescue Triangle." This triangle consists of two people ~ a rescuer, a victim, and later on a switching of roles to
that of persecutor/rejector.
The RESCUER is a person who feels the need to do things for others. They glean their sense of
worthwhileness from relationships with people who they view as powerless. They assume responsibility for other
people, deal with other people's problems for them, and make decisions for them. Sometimes people become
so-called rescuers unintentionally when a victim manipulates them by acting more helpless than they really are and
making the rescuer not want to hurt their feelings.
The VICTIM is a person who feels helpless to have any control over what makes them happy or any other part
of their life. They blame others for their problems and have a ton of reasons/excuses for why they are not happy.
They not only blame others, but they also expect others to solve their problems for them; they claim no
responsibility for what has happened to them or for dealing with it after it happens.
The PERSECUTOR is a person who is angry, hurt and frustrated and unleashes these feelings on other
people, usually by means of severe criticism. They see these feelings as being other people's fault and so they
persecute in revenge. Both rescuer and victim can switch to the persecutor role at any time.
How is the game played?
The victim does not use all their power to overcome their problems. The rescuer does not encourage them to
do so, but rather takes all the responsibility and makes all the decisions. The rescuer sees herself as a powerful
person in comparison to the victim and feels "holier than thou." The rescuer/victim relationship continues as long
as both sides cooperate, the victim refusing to take responsibility and the rescuer willing to take it all. Until....
The victim doesn't seem to get any better. Usually the victim does not follow through or live up to some
decision the rescuer made for them. So the rescuer gets angry. They have done all this hard work and there is no
pay-off. Both sides become tired, angry and upset. The victim responds to the persecution, often by switching
roles to become persecutor. In the final scene, both people feel worse and blame each other for their failure.
No one enjoys feeling inferior to other people or helpless or miserable. And the feeling is made even worse by
people who agree with one's powerlessness by a so-called rescue. No matter how weak we feel, it is good to hear
that we are not completely powerless and energizing to be asked or expected to take our own power and do our
own part by someone who is willing to help.
Most of us have worked enthusiastically in behalf of people who eventually proved to have been not only
disinterested in our help, but actually disdainful of it. Most of us have, after working hard with a person and having
no success,gotten angry and subtly or overtly persecuted the person. There are four things to keep in mind to
avoid the "Rescue Triangle:"
 For true help to take place, the person needing help must be seen as a complete human being capable of
having power over their own life.  Both the helper and the helped need to understand themselves and be clear
on what to expect from each other.  Each must consider what they are willing to do and then agree together on
whatever action will be taken.  All the power that is available to the person being helped must be used.
Whenever efforts are unequal, the relationship is unequal. There must be a balance and equality. In such a
relationship you will be a true helper.
Of course we should never help others for the reward of people. If people reward us, God will not (Matthew
6:2), and that's a fact! On the other hand, our rewards from God for helping those in some kind of need are many.
Deuteronomy 15:7-11 says that if you will open wide your hand toward the poor, you will be blessed by God in all
your works and in all you put your hand to do. Daniel 4:27 says that if you show mercy to the poor, your tranquility
will be lengthened. And finally, Matthew 25:44-46 says that if you do these things, you will have life eternal.
Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you
something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When
did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for
one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:37-40).
Let us first consider the hungry. We do not have as many hungry in America as we used to. During the
Depression, people went from door to door asking if someone would give them a meal to eat on the back porch.
We have government programs now, and "soup kitchens" and food stamps, Meals on Wheels, etc. But there are
some people out there with much pride and they refuse to accept what they consider "handouts." These are very
often older people who feel a great need to keep their dignity. Even if you go to their home with cans of food, they
are likely to tell you they are getting along fine without any help.
If such is the case, perhaps your best bet would be to invite them to your home for a hot and highly nutritious
meal as often as possible - perhaps once a week. Or, perhaps there is something that these people have they no
longer use which you could request to buy or trade for some groceries. Another way you may be able to do it is to
leave a little money at their grocery store anonymously if they are known by the clerk or manager.
Also, you could help their grocery fund by providing transportation to the store and doctor so they did not have
to spend their limited funds on taxis and bus. You could also have potluck dinners for them to come to where they
bring one inexpensive dish such as gelitan, but have access to more expensive and nutritious food brought by
Families are burned out more often than we sometimes realize. Be ready for these families when it happens.
Collect cans of food and other imperishable foods, save several sizes of clothing and shoes as well as linens, and
keep in mind the furniture and dishes you have that you could lend or share in time of such need. Be ready for the
calamity before it happens, for fires destroy everything immediately and the need is immediate. At such times there
is little time to go around collecting.
Another catastrophe that hits some around us which we often do not even think to check out is inconceivably
high medical bills. Sometimes even if someone has medical insurance, the bills go far beyond what is payable by
the insurance company or medicaid either one. In order to meet these expenses, the family often has to mortgage
the home or refinance it, sell their car, cut down on food and clothing, get extra jobs, and borrow from banks at high
interest. Yet many families will never say a word about this to anyone.
Do go to them as a friend and try to get them to level with you if you are close to them. If they need help but do
not want to accept it, explain to them that It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35) if that will help any.
Then tell them that someday, after they are out of this difficulty, they will no doubt run across someone else who
needs the same kind of help and they can best repay you by passing the gesture on to them.
As with food, most people are not without clothing. However, there are those who do need help with this. If you
do not know of anyone, you may contact a nursing home, a state hospital, a veterans hospital, or home for severely
handicapped children. Some of the people in such institutions have no family to come see them, and very low
income with which to buy clothing. It is surprising how few clothes some of them have. You or a group with which
you are affiliated may wish to "adopt" a man and woman, or boy and girl. Send them a little something each spring
and fall. They wouldn't wear out their clothes very fast so wouldn't need much; but they do need some. Make or
purchase for them new clothes if possible.
You may wish to have a special clothes closet and notify the public schools in your area that they are available
for any children needing clothes. If there are sales on tennis shoes or boots occasionally in the stores for a fraction
of the regular cost, buy several and keep them on hand. School children seem always to be needing shoes and
Your congregation's clothes closet may be used by new people who wish to attend Bible classes but are
embarrassed by their clothes. Of course we know they would be accepted no matter what they wore,but people do
want to wear the best possible when they go to worship their King, so be prepared to help them.
For this purpose, have some suits on hand that are in good condition, some shirts, some ties, some pretty
dresses. Put sizes on them and hang them up neatly with hangers on a rack (no cardboard boxes, please!). Make
the room the clothes are in, regardless of size, have a little dignity to it. If large enough, make it look more like a
shop than an attic. Let the people who obtain clothing in this way keep a little of their self-respect. Hang a mirror
on the door, put a little rug on the floor, and if there's room, put a picture or two on the wall.
What can you do for the sick? They may be only down with a cold or be lying down on the sofa watching
television. But still they are not feeling well and probably have more miseries (blowing, coughing, sniffling, etc.)
than some with more serious illnesses. So, regardless of their ailment and the duration of it, they need a little help.
When you arrive, wander into the kitchen for a drink of water. You'll probably find dishes sitting in the sink.
Roll up your sleeves and tell the person you'll put their dishes in some soapy water or dishwasher or wash them up
for them, depending on the habit of the person you are helping. If they protest, tell them you will be ill some day,
and then they can come over and you'd be most happy for them to do your dishes for them! (Say it with a big smile
Then go into the bathroom, and on your way see if the beds are made. If they're not, quietly make them, or at
least throw the bedspread up over the pillows (again, whatever that person ordinarily does). If the person protests
to this, just say that it just took a few minutes and wasn't any trouble for such a special friend. Then sit down with
them for a short conversation, mixed with a little humor. Remember Proverbs 17:22, A merry heart is good
medicine. Before you leave, have a short prayer for them, naming them by name. And on your way out the door,
ask if there's anything they need at the drug store.
If the person who is sick has an illness that is going to last longer than a few days, tell them you would like to
come in a couple times a week to tidy up for them. And if such is the case, remind them of all the times they have
helped other people, and this is God's way of repaying that help. Once a week you may wish to take home a
bundle of laundry or throw it in their washer and dryer.
Whenever you return, bring a casserole for the family to eat, especially if the wife is the one who is ill or busy
taking care of the sick one. You might include a card with the recipe as a way of saying, "I know you could have
cooked this if you'd had a chance." Or you might say you just discovered a new recipe and would like their opinion
on it (if that's the case). Anything to help them see you're not seeing them as a "t;charity case." Be sure to return
for the empty dish so they won't have the responsibility of remembering who it belongs to and then carrying it
around in the car until they see you. Better yet, put your food in disposable dishes.
Another thing you can do for someone who is ill for any length of time is to write letters for them. Also, you
could read to them from the Bible or a devotional book. Help them get their bills paid by mailing them or delivering
them yourself, whichever is most convenient for you. Tape each Sunday's sermons and lend the tape to them each
week. Of course, send them cards now and then. If their illness will keep them in bed for perhaps years, several
people could go together to buy them the New Testament on tapes.
If you know of anyone in the hospital who needs blood, please do help them in this way if you can. Blood costs
over $100 per pint. Even if you do not have the same blood type, you can donate in that person's name and your
blood will be put in the blood bank in place of that which is used in the patient's type. What a noble gift -the gift of
You may wish to contact a local hospital to see if you can make favors to go on the trays every Sunday
morning. The dietitian is usually the one to talk to, as her staff would be the ones putting the favors on the trays.
You could choose four different types of favors and repeat them each month since most people are not in the
hospital any longer than that. Be sure to include Bible verses on all your favors. Never miss an opportunity to
encourage. Offer a Bible correspondence course to do during their convalescing days. Your little tray gifts will be
wonderful visitors for them on the Lord's day.
Remember Jesus went about healing people. This is what he did to prove God's love for them, and to prove he
was the Son of God. Once he did this, they were anxious to learn more about him, anxious to be with him and to be
like him. By helping the sick, you can attract people to Jesus' love the same way, and then they will want to learn
more about the One who inspired you to be so loving. They will know more of what it means that God is Love
through you. Through you ~ also God's child ~ they will be able to know his love for them.
Now let us consider what we can do for those in prison. This is a little more difficult. People in prison are often
bitter, either over what they did or for getting caught. Those bitter for getting caught are nearly impossible to help.
Those bitter over what they did and are sorry for it are easier to help, but can be hard to convince when you do
want to help them. The atmosphere in prisons is not the best, as it is usually filled with resentment, for naturally no
one wants to be there.
There are some in prison who do wish someone really cared about what happens to them, and whether or not
they live or die. You could write to the chaplain or warden of a prison and ask if you could send him some letters
for him to pass on to anyone who does not have correspondents on the "outside." You may receive only one
person's name. That is enough for a beginning. If you really become a help to them and a boost to their morale,
they will pass the word on.
Tell them a little about yourself. If you ever had anyone in your family or among your acquaintances who was
ever in prison, tell them so, and they will feel that you might understand them a little better. Ask them how long they
are to serve and if they have in mind any certain type of occupation when they get out. Ask if they are in any
vocational or other educational programs in the prison, including college. Ask about their family - where they live,
how they are getting along. Offer to write to the family too, if you can have their address.
Just remember that all your mail will be read before given to the prisoner, and that the prisoner's mail will be
read by a prison official before being mailed to you. Also, there are only certain days they can send out mail, and
only certain people they are permitted to write. One very important thing you will want to do is ask them if they
would like to study the Bible with you by mail. You might be surprised at their eagerness to do so. Remember, the
thing they have the most of is time ~ time to kill or time to come alive.
A classic example of a "hardened criminal" eventually being helped to see Christ's love for him is Clyde V.
Thompson, at one time the "meanest man in Texas prisons." His book, Clyde Thompason EX 83, Tells about his
having killed four men, led prison riots, wounded prison guards, and being sentenced to be executed. Then
someone came to visit him in prison. This changed his whole life. He finally had some meaning in it. He turned to
his loving Savior and was baptized into Christ.
He began excitedly teaching his fellow inmates and baptizing them at an average rate of one a day. He also
wrote, The Best Way Out is Up published by Star Publishing Company in Fort Worth, Texas, and numerous tracts
including I was Sentenced to Death in the Electric Chair, and What is Freedom? also published by Star. These
tracts were written for prisoners. The chaplain of a prison could tell you if there is a prison ministry you could
become a part of. They could certainly give you further advice on how to handle various situations with anyone you
are communicating with. Do keep in mind that you must obey all prison rules; don't ever try to go around them.
If the prisoner you write to has a family living near you, go see them and become their friend. Doubtless they
have few true friends at this time if it is known about their prisoner relative. Encourage them and help them. Help
them make the best of now and use now to prepare for a good future. Help them keep up their hopes. Teach them
the same things you are teaching the prisoner so that their faith can grow together.
And if your prisoner is going to be paroled in the near future, someone on the outside will be needed to help
line up a job, for they cannot be paroled without a job arranged for ahead of time. Be a spokesman in the
community. Whatever that person does well, find a company that deals in that and make some phone calls.
Consult the phone book as well as want ads. Contact the state employment office, or go over there to the office
yourself and go through their microfiche of jobs available. Level with the people you talk to and tell them he is
coming out of prison soon and wants to do this type work. Tell them he has a family ~ if indeed he has one.
Answer any questions as truthfully as you know how. You will find surprisingly many people willing to give him a
break toward a new and better life.
If the family does not plan to live in the same location after release, help them find a place to live. Moving to
another area helps break ties with old so-called friends who also get into trouble with the law. One of the most
important necessities of living a "clean life" is to stay away from old friends and influences, and make new friends
with good influences. Psalm 1:1, Proverbs 13:20 and 1 Corinthians 15:33 tell about this. Keep in mind, however,
that they probably feel very uncomfortable with "good people" as they probably think "good people" do not think of
them as "good."
Be sure to keep in mind while working with prisoners the "Rescue Triangle" discussed earlier. This type of
activity is a way of life with most of them. They feel victimized by society, persecute society, then society punishes
them. Thus they feel victimized again. It is the victim stage that they are in while in prison. Extreme care must be
taken to build them up and tell them they are a worthwhile individual capable of having a fulfilling and peaceful life
as a result of their own efforts.
Those who return to prison are those who get frustrated after their release because society seemingly hasn't
made their life any better. So they return to their old ways, and persecuting society and are punished again (return
to the victim stage). Only feeling the love of God can change them, and being convinced, "I can do everything
through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13). You cannot change a prisoner's attitude and destiny ~ only
God can do that.
Yes, there is much you could do to help prisoners and ex-convicts get a new start. Indeed, you could make the
difference in whether or not someone makes it for good or turns right around and ends up in prison again. Just
remember, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Another way you could show benevolence is to take a foster child into your home. Usually such a child has a
family with many problems, more than they can cope with. As a result, they cannot communicate with their children
in a warm and understanding way. In some instances the foster child has both parents in the hospital at the same
time, or some similar situation. But usually a child needs a home because of emotional problems among the family
members or with the parents, such as alcoholism, unemployment, etc.
Regardless of the reason, these children need to know they are wanted and loved and even needed. Touch a
child's life with yours. It may be for only a few days during a brief family crisis. Or it may be for many months. But
the blessing will last forever.
You may wish to help an unmarried girl who is pregnant and needs somewhere to live away from her home
town in order to avert the shame she might ordinarily feel among her friends. These girls are frightened and
disillusioned. Things did not turn out for them as they had expected. What is life all about anyway? They sought
love and ended up hating themselves even more. Show them people do care for them and love them in a very
special way, regardless of the direction their life has turned. Show them that they can get back up after they
stumble, and they can continue their walk through life with confidence from above and from within.
In keeping foster children or unwed expectant mothers, apply to the social service agency dealing with
adoptions and foster homes to become licensed. This is not as complicated as it may seem, but is a necessity.
There are several Christian agencies scattered among the larger cities of our nation. You will need room enough
to care for these people, which will involve a home visit for verification. Also the home visit will give the officials
some ideas of your home life. You will need to give several references and a general personal background. In
some states you need not be married to help with these people temporarily without a home. You will likely receive a
little monetary assistance from the agency to help support the child, but not much.
Probably the most long-standing way you can help someone in need is to adopt a baby or a child. Getting
approval to adopt is similar to getting a license as a foster parent. Probably the main difference is that in most
states you must prove you cannot have children yourself. However, this is not a law in all states any more. The
other difference is that you must pay a lawyer's fee and, if a baby is involved, the hospital bill.
If you feel the wait is too long, you could consider adopting a baby from a country having economic problems
such as Eastern Europe or South America. In that case, you should go to the country you are interested in, locate
where the orphanages are, and contact a local attorney. Once you have done that, you need to contact the U.S.
Department of Naturalization and Immigration and an American attorney. You will have to satisfy the laws of two
countries. Do be sure to thoroughly check the health of the child you wish to adopt.
If you cannot adopt a child but do live near a children's home, "adopt" a child or two or three on weekends.
Give them a chance to live in a "normal" house with a few brothers and sisters and a pet if you have one. Give
them a chance to have individual attention, rather than feel lost in a small crowd. They probably receive as much
love and attention in their place of residence as possible, considering there are usually a much larger number of
"brothers and sisters" per house parent than in private homes. But they could always use more love and more
attention from you, their second parents. Take them somewhere special on their birthday and other holidays.
Send them to camp.
We also have the homeless. It seems that, as the divorce rate rose, so did the homeless rate. Of course it is
always bad during high unemployment times too. We'd had the problem during the Depression, but thought it was
overcome now. Maybe we chose not to acknowledge it at all after it became better. There are soup kitchens and
there are temporary overnight shelters. But these people need permanent homes. Some would not keep a job and
you cannot help them with a house yet - that is too premature for their other problems. But, if you would like to help
a homeless family, you can contact lending organizations, the Department of Housing and Urban Renewal, and the
Veterans Administration to get a list of housing that has been repossessed. Sometimes such properties can be
purchased for as little as $1,000. You can get a group of people together to go in and fix the house up. Then, if
you do not personally know a homeless family, you can notify your state's Department of Social Services or even
Habitat for Humanity to see if there is a reliable homeless family who needs the house.
There is a lot in this one chapter to choose from. Any one could keep you busy indefinitely. God guide you as
you make your selection.