Caring For The Needy
What is this Benevolent Society that is causing much trouble in the church? Is it merely a home for the needy? Is it simply a method of doing God's work ? Is it just an expedient in obeying God's law? It is authorized in the Bible?
It is NOT a home, a method or expedient but a body politic a Corporation with a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and Director. This Society uses its own methods, means and expedients in providing a home and care for the needy, administering the contributions received from churches through its appointed workers and supervisors, and is no more authorized in the Bible than the Missionary Society which helped to split the church a generation ago.
It is against this organization, this Benevolent Society (not the home itself) that objections are offered by brethren who contend that Jesus built in all-sufficient church capable of doing every good work it is authorized to do without sending contributions to another organization to oversee and do its work. These brethren correctly argue that the Lord's church in the New Testament successfully preached the gospel and cared for its needy without the existence of a Missionary Society and that the church has not lost its ability to do its work today. If God had needed a Missionary or Benevolent Society he would have revealed it.
"But the church is not its own home" argue the defenders of the Society. Neither is the Society its own home, but it provides the home. It is ridiculous to argue that the Society can provide a home but the church cannot. Certainly the church is not a home but I affirm that it can provide a home. The church is not a building but it can provide one without sending contributions to a building corporation. The church is not a hospital but it can provide for its sick without sending contributions to a Hospital Association. The church is not a supermarket but it can provide food for the hungry without contributing to a food Distribution Society to enable it to build and operate grocery stores. The church is not a clothing factory but it can "clothe the naked" without contributing to a Clothing Organization. The church is just as capable of purchasing items and services as the Society. It can certainly provide food, shelter, clothing, medicine and money for a needy family without forming any kind of Society as an administering organization.
God's word furnishes us unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). In the field of benevolence we are given clear instructions and examples. Following is God's revealed will in caring for the needy.
1. RELATIVES are obligated to care for their own (I Tim. 5:4, 8, 16). If there are no relatives or they will not do their duty, what then?
2. INDIVIDUALS have an obligation. (James 1:27 ; Gal. 6:9, 10; Matt. 25:34-36; et cetera.) If further assistance is required, what then?
3. THE CHURCH (CONGREGATION) can help (Acts 6:1-7-Note that no separate society was organized.) But suppose the local congregation is unable to supply the needs?
4. CHURCHES can send contributions to enable it to do its work. ( I Cor. 16:1-3 ; 2 Cor. 8:1-15; 9:1-15.) Contributions were sent directly to the needy, not a Society (Acts 11:27-30).
No one contends for any one of these ways to the exclusion of the others mentioned. But we do contend for this Bible teaching to the exclusion of a Benevolent Society. There can be no doubt but what this Bible teaching will work today as it did in the early days. If there is any failure to care for those in need it is not a failure in God's plan but in man. God's plan will work if man will work it. Any attempt by man to improve on perfection results in imperfection. Man's wisdom is not greater than God's.
Let us all labor to do the work that God wants us to do but let us not go beyond what is written in forming Corporations through which to work. The Bible way is a safe way which cannot be wrong. It is the wav to unity and peace among brethren. To this way we are firmly dedicated.
Truth Magazine III:3, pp. 3, 10