The church doesn't have as much responsibility in the field of benevolence as some think. Benevolent work of the church is limited to saints. Now, before you turn me off, pick up your new testament and begin with Acts 2, right where the church began read through to the close and see if you can find an example of church supported benevolence except among saints. There is a reason for this which we shall discuss later. But read:
(1) Acts 2:44-45 "All that believed were together . . . sold their goods ... parted them ... as every man had need."
(2) Acts 4:32-34 "The multitude of them that believed ... had all things common ... having lands and houses sold them . . . distribution made . . ."
(3) Acts 6 -- "When the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem . . ." This tells of the needy widows in the Jerusalem church, and how the church cared for them.
(4) Acts 11:27-30 ". . . then the d1scipks ... determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea . . ."
(5) 1 Cor. 16:1-2 "Now concerning the collection for the saints . . ."
(6) 2 Cor. 8:1-4 " ministering to the saints . . . "
(7) 2 Cor. 9:1 -- "For as touching the ministering to the saints . . ."
(8) Rom. 15:25-26 -- "But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints, for it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem."
(9) 1 Timothy 5:16 "If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them and let not the church be charged, that it may relieve them that are widows indeed." Here the apostle strictly forbids the church to assume the care of widows who have children or grandchildren, who are able to care for them; If the apostle forbids the church to supply the needs of a widow who is a Christian, what about aliens? It could hardly be accidental that the benevolent work of the church is always said to be among saints.
Some think that Gal. 6: 10 and James 1: 27 are exceptions, but these refer to individual action. In the first 8 verses of Galatians 6, you will find the words "man," "him," and "such an one" ten times. This "man," this "one," this "him," is the one who is to "do good unto all, men." Jas. 1: 27 make as much room for church support of widows as for orphans. And we have shown from I Tim. 5 that church support of widows is limited to widows who are saints and who have no one to care for them. Of course obligation to a needy saint would include, those who are the legitimate dependents of that saint, and this would often include children and, widows. But I know of no scripture that authorizes the church to engage in a work of' general benevolence. This is a shocking statement to some, and has brought no end of ridicule upon those who so teach; But until someone finds that scripture I shall try to absorb the abuse without losing my naturally sweet disposition.
If we Christians would do what benevolent work rightfully falls our duty to do, there would be very little left for the church to do. It is very convenient, and less expensive, to let the church do it. But in reality, the very nature of benevolent work makes most of it individual. Children need a home and family. Old people, after they have served their children until they have worn themselves out, deserve a better lot than to be stuck off in an "Old Folks Home." I have heard how happy they are, there with a lot of other old people. But I have visited them too many times, to buy that. They would ' like to be with the children, to whom they have given the best years of their lives. That is, if their children wanted them. They don't complain much. But they have pride and feelings too, you know, even if they are old.
Jesus healed the sick and fed the hungry, but that was incidental to His mission. He did not come to do that. He came to save men's souls. His church has the same mission -- or it is not His church.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 22, pp. 8-9