By Keith Pruitt
From reading the May 25, 1978 edition of Gospel Advocate, it would appear that some brethren (R. Maurice Hood, M.D., was the author of an article entitled “Should We Minister to the Sick?”) are now advocating church supported institutional care in the area of medicine.
First, let it be clearly stated that I am not opposed to hospitals functioning to help the sick. Nor am I opposed to individual Christians operating hospitals, clinics, etc., or being doctors or nurses. I am, however, opposed to any move to get the church into the hospital business. The battle of institutionalism has been fought so many times in the past. During these sometimes bitter debates, the statement has been made that the gate is open; expect the flood. Institutionalism has gone from orphan’s homes to wilder areas of liberalism. We know of “brethren” that accept the instrument, and of others that use bribes to entice children to come to services. The Bible has not only been kicked out of the schools and society in general, but it has also been discarded among some “churches of Christ.”
Just a few short weeks ago, Vultee Church of Christ in Nashville announced plans to build an old-age apartment building. What right does the church have to go into the apartment business, Now Brother Hood suggests indirectly that we get into hospital care if we wish to be “followers of Jesus.”
In the next few pages, I wish to review several statements made by Hood and see if they stack up well beside the Bible. There are no hard feelings between Brother Hood and myself, nor is any attempt in these articles being made to discredit the medical profession nor members of the church that have the ability to help medically with the sick.
Through the years, brethren have emphasized the importance of a “thus saith the Lord” for everything done religiously. The thought of divine approval is found in Paul’s statement, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus . . .” (Col. 3:17). Authority for religious practice is found in Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:22-23). The attitude of Christians will be the attitude Mary expressed in John 2:5 whets she said, “And whatsoever he saith unto thee, do it.”
Have we in the Lord’s body become of such an age that we, as rebellious children, no longer seek the approval of those in the position of authority? Very pointedly friends, the truth is simple! For one to do something without divine approval is to forfeit eternal life! Too many times in the old and new covenants, God made it plain that His people must act within the limits He established. John writes along this thought in 2 John 9. There John writes, “whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.” It is a terrible thing to be without God.
These articles then shall be based upon divine revelation, not the opinions of men. Paul told Timothy that the scriptures furnish a man “unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). In society, we have standards by which we make judgments, viz. yard sticks, liquid measurements, laws. Since God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 55:8-9), and since we are trying to serve the Creator (Acts 5:29), shall we not search His divine ways and do that which He has commanded?
In American society, the acceptance of a national welfare system has for several years been a way of life. I stand firmly opposed to many of these systems for but one reason. Social welfare tends to shift the responsibility of caring for the needy from the God-given role of husbands and children to society. It is my opinion that such a shifting of responsibility has been one factor in the growth of the social gospel among “churches of Christ.” I wish to look at the realm of authority and responsibility in the care of the needy.
Christ told the disciples that all authority was in His control (Matt. 28:18). Paul tells us, “And hath put all things under his feet, and given him to be head over all things to the church . . .” (Eph. 1:22). If we do anything, we must do as His will directs (Col. 3:17). To do otherwise is to disobey the Father (Matt. 7:21; Heb. 5:8-9).
Therefore, in the matter before us, we should ask, “Where is the scriptural authority for the church supported hospitals?” If institutional care incorporated into the church treasury is a “good work,” then it is a work for which scriptural authority must be found (2 Tim. 3:16-17, verse seventeen says “every good work”).
Dr. Hood suggests that since Christ healed the sick, we should then build hospitals for them. He realizes that has not been the case in the past because he opens the article by saying, “The church of Christ has yet to accept the medical missionary.” Let us again point out that we are not discussing the right of an individual. In fact, in a moment we shall show that the care of some needy is the individual’s responsibility. But Dr. Hood is talking about church action.
Let us respond by asking, “Why hasn’t the church of Christ accepted the medical missionary?” If we have been all of these years without accepting something that is a part of the Bible (and if a part of the Bible, then a command of God), then woe be to the children of Israel. But I just have a feeling that the reason Dr. Hood’s hospitals are not towering the skyline of our cities is two-fold. One, the churches plainly cannot afford to build and maintain them, and secondly, to do so would be to violate the Holy word of God! As many brethren have pleaded throughout the last century, so plead I again, where is the scripture? Please, I beg you for just one!
Dr. Hood says the authority is found in the example of Christ. But I remind one that such rationalization can only prove folly. Christ fed the five thousand (Matt. 14). Shall we then build “church of Christ” hamburger joints? Christ raised the dead. Well, then let us build a mortuary and grave year! We want to be Christ-like, don’t we?
Yes friend, it is but folly to follow into this entanglement of ignorance. There is a clear distinction between an individual action and a church (group) action. It is high time that the liberals awaken to the reality that I am not the. church! Christ was not / is not the church, and I am not Christ! I cannot perform his miracles, and He was not acting as example to the church (group action) but to principles of Christian living.
But Who Shall Do The Work?
As has already been stated, the “welfare organization” centered society in which we live has caused many to neglect their duties. Husbands (the head of the home) have the responsibility to take care of their households. Paul told Timothy, “But if any provide not for his own and specially for those of his own house (kindred-those under one’s roof) he has denied the faith, and is worse than an. infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8). Now, I tell you friends, I do not want to be, I have absolutely no desire to be, do not even offer me, to be an infidel! But to be worse than an infidel is to be pretty bad off. If husbands took care of the families (when physically possible), a large amount of welfare (in government and in congregations) would be cut down. Mismanagement and the assigning of roles to the wrong people have contributed greatly to the fall of the home. In some areas of society and in some congregations, it has now become popular to pay women benefits and provide homes for women that become pregnant out of wedlock. Is there any such thing as sin and shame anymore?
In 1 Timothy 5:3-4, Paul told Timothy, “Honor widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.” Continuing in verse 16, Paul says, “If any man or women 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 Paul deals with widows (those that have lost the provider of the home) that have children, and he says the church is not to care for these! But brethren today say not so. If not, when did the change come? Can we now take care of those that Paul said we could not care for then?
“But James said . . . .” Over and over brethren show their ignorance of the scriptures by using such verses as James 1:27; Galatians 6:10 and others to try to show a responsibility of the church that Paul gave to the individual. Brethren, I am tired of such deception and downright ignorance. The only way we can “speak where the Bible speaks” is to study its content and then rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Let brethren study up or shut up! Hosea said it right when he said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).
Dr. Hood continues in his article with this statement on page 327, “This study of the miracles of Christ should establish two principles: (1) that Christ had compassion for the poor, the sick, the maimed and the spiritually sick,” this being something all of us as individuals can likewise do in following Christ, “(2) that the love He had caused Him to minister to them by miracles, by forgiveness of sins and by teaching the eternal truths which would save their souls.” The last statement (2) is suppose to be proof positive that the churches of Christ must recognize the medical ministry. But the only thing it does is tell us of the reaction Christ had to these people. But notice, however, that when Christ gave the “great commission” (which is the spiritual aspect of the commission originally given, and this being the only part that applies to the church today . . . . 1 Cor. 13) that He told them to go and preach the gospel (Matt. 28:18; Mk. 16:16; Lk. 24:47). The apostles said in their actions and writings that the only matter the church had benevolent duty was in saints of their number and in help to the saints in desperate situations elsewhere. (I ask you to read the book of Acts and First Corinthians and find even one exception.)
Dear friend, when the church operates in the manner described in this article, and when the individual realizes his duty and does it, a change will sweep over the church and the nation.
Truth Magazine XXII: 39, pp. 629-631
October 5, 1978