Joel Belz: Checking the facts on charities

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Wednesday, September 25th. Good morning to you. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. When you donate to charity, you should do some soul checking. Here’s WORLD Founder Joel Belz.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: Nobody’s ever confused me with “Dear Abby.” In the 33 years of writing a WORLD Magazine column, nobody’s ever asked me for advice about marriage issues, or an intrusive mother-in-law.

But it’s a rare week that I don’t hear appeals of a different kind. What do I think about ABC College? Would I recommend DEF Seminary? Is the GHI Relief Agency careful in its use of funds? 

What’s behind all these queries, of course, is the hurricane of fundraising appeals we all get. Countless non-profit entities implore us for help. 

But before writing a check, we want to know: Is that organization dependable? Have they stuck to their mission statement? Are they slipping? 

They’re fair questions—and necessary for any conscientious donor. The historical record is all too clear. The tendency seems overwhelmingly tilted from right to left, from faithful to unfaithful, from confidence to skepticism. Once-faithful organizations have left their first love and chased after other gods.

That said, it’s important to stress that WORLD has never tried to be a rating agency of Christian organizations. Yes, we report on financial issues, theological faithfulness, cultural matters, or personnel changes. 

But we don’t intend our reports to prove some final profile of that institution. Our goal is to give you tools for building your own profile. 

But as you do that, let me suggest a pretty basic question that should be settled before you write out your first check: Is the ultimate decision-making process at the institution or organization regularly and self-consciously rooted in the Bible as God’s only infallible rule for our faith and practice?

Three phrases in that question deserve amplification:

First: Ultimate decision-making process. Don’t fall into the trap of equating the organization itself with some bit player who gives it a bad name. Focus instead on the chief players, the official mouthpieces, the administrative anchors, and the boards of directors. 

Second: Regularly and self-consciously. Another trap is to focus on the unusual occurrence rather than the typical pattern. What is the regular practice? Is that practice followed with self-imposed discipline? 

And third: Only infallible rule of faith and practice. Can you call decision-makers back to the principles of the Bible and find them dealing with familiar territory? You want the Bible to determine both what people believe and how they behave in organizations you support. It’s a vital standard-setter demonstrably affecting the minds, hearts, hands, and feet of everyone involved. When other standards come into conflict, the Bible wins.

And one more thing: when you send a check to one of your favorite non-profit charities, periodically ask them to send you an example of a hard choice they’ve made because of their commitment to a Biblical principle. Do that and soon you won’t need to be asking us at WORLD who deserves your support!

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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