By Larry R. DeVore
While a youth, more years ago than I care to enumerate, I was traveling with my parents, returning from a visit to my grandparents. While traveling, I became ill and lost consciousness. My parents rushed me to the hospital, disregarding the speed limit. I soon recovered from the illness.
I am using this story to illustrate the point that a law, in this case the speed limit, was set aside for the emergency. My parents felt justified in ignoring the speed limit to get me to the hospital as quickly as possible. No doubt, if they had encountered a police officer, he would have escorted us to the hospital. I think we recognize that these are manmade laws (and designed for our good) that can be temporarily set aside because of emergencies.
The concept that I would like us to consider is whether this has application to spiritual matters. Can we set aside scriptural principles and ways of doing things if an emergency, or something we consider an emergency arises in the church?
For example, in the story at the beginning of the article, suppose my parents had been en route to worship services. The emergency would have been just as real and immediate. I Timothy 5:8 requires that a Christian “provide for his own” which would include medical care. So the admonition in Hebrews 10:25 would have to be temporarily set aside to meet the emergency.
But sometimes situations arise in the church that brethren treat as emergencies that do not fit the definition. The dictionary defines an emergency as “an unexpected situation or sudden occurrence of a serious and urgent nature that demands immediate action.”
Informed brethren are aware that our institutional brethren have been going “Full Speed Ahead” for many years, ignoring God’s laws and Bible principles both in matters pertaining to the local congregation and brotherhood wide. This has been shown to be too obviously true to need more documentation at this point.
But conservative brethren need to heed biblical principles. We are not immune to the “emergency” syndrome. I heard of a church that had planned and arranged a gospel meeting two years ahead of time, and when the meeting was underway, decided the church was short of funds to pay the preacher. Now there are several ways such a situation could be handled, such as borrowing money from a bank, or arranging to pay the preacher later. But in this case, it was handled by taking up a collection in the middle of the week. No, the baskets were not passed to the assembled congregation. Instead, the word was passed around, and brethren were expected to dig into their pockets then and there to come up with the funds to pay the preacher.
Perhaps this was not a true collection in the formal sense as we usually consider it, but I Corinthians 16:1-2 was set aside. It was definitely not on the first day of the week. Also, not every member was informed, so that “every one” could lay by in store. The point is, there is no way the mid-week collection could be made scriptural. Does a gospel meeting scheduled two years ahead of time constitute an “emergency”? I hardly think so. One preacher told me that the church could receive funds any day of the week (i.e., interest posted to a savings account), but could only take up a collection on the first day of the week. The case described above doesn’t seem to fit either way.
The above story could be altered and multiplied. Can we claim an “emergency” and collect funds in a different way or time than the New Testament teaches? Can we withdraw from a brother who is a false teacher without following the scriptural steps because it is an “emergency”? Can we set aside God’s laws on benevolence because an “emergency” exists somewhere in the brotherhood? Could our poor singing constitute an “emergency” and so could we bring in an organ to help us until we can sing better?
Brethren, we need to study and think before we go “Full Speed Ahead” (Col. 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 4:11).
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 20, p. 623
October 17, 1985