By J. Wiley Adams
“What doth is profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled: notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doeth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”
The above passage is in a context of individual responsibilities. It depicts a situation wherein a brother or sister in Christ is in need of assistance. It also relates the case of one who, though aware of the need does not do anything about it. It also speaks of the cold indifference that some-times is true when love and mercy are called for.
Once there was a gospel preacher many years ago who was in a real bind financially. Desperately he sought to avoid asking the church for benevolence. He called first one relative and another. The stiff, cold answer was “sorry, I cannot help you.” An in-law was called who said to go to Western Union and wait. It will be there in an hour and a half. It was later learned that he borrowed the $100 needed so badly and sent it at once. He knew the person who asked him was honest so he asked no questions. “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). Another friend said this one time: “Friendship is the inexpressable comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words.”
There is another realm in which the “be ye warmed and filled” concept sometimes prevails. This is in the matter of preacher support. Brethren in the churches may declare they are “self-supporting.” What they mean by this is that, with respect to securing a “full-time” preacher, “that is all you are going to get” whether it is enough or not because, you see, this church is “self-supporting.” Are they? They want a full-time preacher on part-time pay because they have issued their proclamation that they are “self-supporting.”
Evangelistic support is sometimes equated with benevolence. In the Woods-Cogdill debate in Birmingham late in the ’50’s brother Woods made the mistake of saying this to Roy Cogdill to which he vehemently replied that “gospel preachers are not the object of charity.”
Let me add that there are some congregations which are not able to fully support the preacher and other churches and individuals assist. This is proper. Paul said to the Corinthians, “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service” (2 Cor. 11:8). The Philippians sent “once and again” to Paul’s necessity at Thessalonica (Phil. 4:16). He also said in 1 Corinthians 9:14 “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”
Brethren, it is easy when an individual in need or a gospel preacher needs support in preaching the gospel to say, in fact, “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled” and do nothing to help bring it to pass. It is so easy to turn down an appeal for support by faithful gospel preachers by the “be ye warmed and filled” concept. Brethren, if you can help and do not, it is not enough to say we’ll pray for you, or just have faith and the Lord will take care of you, or it is going to turn out all right, or as soon as we finish some “growth” projects, check with us again. Mercy, mercy, mercy, brethren! We can do much better about this than we often do. However, many others do well in these matters and we commend them. This article is not for them.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 20, p. 5
October 20, 1994