Objectively Evaluate Emergency Aid Requests

How do you objectively evaluate candidates who come to the church requesting aid?

When people come to the bank asking for money in the form of a loan to, say, buy a house, the bank representatives do not simply listen to the person’s tale of woe or success. They ask for objective data to substantiate the person’s claims.

Banks operate as private for-profit businesses, so they are subject to the free market economic sanctions of profit and loss. If they lend money to people who are irresponsible with money, then the bank is going to lose money. It will not get back the money it is owed, plus interest. 

This is why banks require the potential borrower to fill out a personal financial statement. To get an idea of what information one of the major banks in the United States requires you to divulge to them for evaluation, click this link:

Personal Financial Statement

This particular statement is required for anyone seeking a business real estate loan. Once you look at it, if you haven’t seen one before, then you will likely wonder to yourself, Why shouldn’t the church, who is acting as a responsible steward of God’s personal resources, also examine this data for those who come to her asking for money?

The church is not a for-profit institution. It is not subject to the free market economic sanctions of profit and loss. But because this is a fallen world, it is subject to cursed scarcity, so it still has to contend with supply and demand.

People, from both within and without the church, come to the church for help. They ask for money for various reasons. Usually they are expecting a grant, meaning they do not expect to have to repay this generous contribution. 

What a great blessing such a thing is! But to whom should the church dispense its limited resources? It is not okay for the church to turn a blind eye in its evaluations and irresponsibly hand out money, especially if by doing so it would subsidize evil.

Should a church donate money to the local branch of Planned Parenthood? Why or why not? 

This is an ethical dilemma. And when people turn to the church as a means of seeking aid for their money problems, this, too, is an ethical dilemma. 

If the person is a Biblical sluggard, then handouts are not the proper way to minister to their needs. On the other hand, if someone has been a responsible steward of God’s resources, and they have fallen into trouble through no fault of their own, then their case warrants close consideration for financial relief.

But how do you determine what form of aid to administer? How can you hope to properly address a person’s or household’s issues if you can’t correctly diagnose the heart of their problems?

Are they honoring God with their labors by paying him His tithe? (Matthew 23:23)

Are they worshipping money? (1 Timothy 6:10)

Are they caring for their family? (1 Timothy 5:8)

Do they budget and responsibly monitor their income and expenses? (Proverbs 27:23)

Are they heavily present-oriented and slaves to consumer debt? (Proverbs 22:7)

Are they planning for the future by saving up an inheritance for their children, or their grandchildren? (Proverbs 13:22)

Personal financial statements are one universally accepted tool that helps give clear answers to these questions. The statement doesn’t tell the entire story, but it cannot be overlooked or neglected, either. 

Jesus understood this. He wants us to understand this. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). He emphasized the temptation of money in our lives: “You cannot serve God and money” (vs. 24).

Consider developing a standard personal financial statement form based on the one linked in this email, or others you find online, to include as part of the standard application process for those who come requesting aid.

For smaller requests, maybe you decide it isn’t necessary, and other criteria take precedent. But for those who ask for help at or beyond the internal max your mercy committee has established for individual cases, consider requesting that the applicant fill out the personal financial statement form.

If they refuse, then you will quickly learn a great deal.

If they comply, and they are honest, then you may have identified someone with a teachable heart. This is fertile ground for the Gospel.