Charity: More Joy in Serving the Few or the Masses?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“The best fruit is not shaken from the tree, but picked by hand, one by one.” –Jerry McAuley (1839-1884), reformed thief and prisoner, founder, The McAuley Water Street Mission in New York City

I know the donation pleas are loading up your email inboxes and mailboxes, all for good causes. In this high season of giving or charity, the aforementioned quote by Jerry McAuley has given me pause.

Hands down, it’s wonderful that many of us give our dollars, resources and time to various organizations to help others in need. Praise God for you and the organizations who are helping to bridge the gaps. May we continue to serve…so long as we’re not placing our joy in and idolizing the numbers (ex: millions served). I’ve become dazzled by the numbers, at times.

As Mr. McAuley’s quote infers, imagine the positive impact you can have on one or a few because you’re able to spend quality time with them.  Your time and presence shows love that will last and very likely assist in shaping their character. McAuley knew full well the power of love’s one-on-one ability to transform. He was a riotous drunkard and vicious robber who was repeatedly in and out of prison, spending seven years in Sing Sing. He later heard the Gospel delivered by a volunteer missionary and was transformed by Christ’s love. Shortly after, the Lord led him to launch the McAuley Mission in New York City in 1872, where men who were drunkards, robbers and the like, came to hear the Gospel and were transformed by Christ’s love.

“Charity” as originally described in this King James Bible version of 1 Corinthians 13:13 means “love”:

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (love).

When we love others


Charity also means to extend benevolence, goodwill or love toward another who is suffering or in need. With time, the word “charity” has taken on the form of campaigns and operations to reach the masses with pleas for donations in order to serve the global masses. Some of these efforts have been subcontracted out to cold edifices like the government as opposed to our one-on-one help that requires time and sometimes uncomfortable conversations. Government may provide (barely) for people’s physical needs, but true philanthropy also provides for one’s spiritual needs.

By expecting the government to fill the gaps (even in broken families—an article for another day), we’ve become far more removed and far too impressed with the fallacy of mass progress. Surely if millions of people are being provided clothing and a meal, all is well, right?

An excerpt from The Tragedy of American Compassion by Marvin Olasky (1992, pg. 129) depicts the problem with this thinking:

‘The National Conference of Charities and Correction (which in 1917 changed its name to the National Conference of Social Work) began to include lectures on how poor housing caused crime and how governmental housing projects would help. The trend was clear: Any time the charitable emphasis moved from the person to the mass and from the souls to stones, government became the popular engine of progress.’

heart-in-handsYes, it’s impressive in marketing materials to say, “We served 10 million people last year and intend to serve an additional 5 million this year.” No one will turn down the help or berate you for being able to serve so many. Although, for those of us in Christ Jesus, as His Ambassadors, may we not idolize the numbers or the operation. May we truly be the hands, feet and heart of Jesus Christ if it is one or two He places in our care to serve for a time. May we find even more joy in caring for the spiritual needs of the hand-picked fruit (if this is His will for you) rather than striving to shake the entire tree.


Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s