By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: I do not believe that it is scriptural for benevolent institutions to be supported out of the church’s treasury. As an individual, is it right for me to help such a home?
Reply: The Scriptures do not authorize churches to build and maintain any human institution, whether it be a school, a hospital or a benevolent home. This issue, along with others, has resulted in division among the Lord’s people. Faithful brethren oppose this practice because the New Testament does not authorize it. They oppose it on the same ground that they oppose instrumental music in worship. There is no scriptural authority for it. The issue of churches contributing funds out of their treasuries to human institutions has been discussed on the polemic platform several times, and as yet, the Scripture has not been produced that will authorize the practice. We do not question the sincerity of brethren who favor this practice nor those who are involved in it. Their motive is not the issue. The issue is: do the Scriptures authorize it? If all brethren would be guided by the Scriptures instead of human reasoning and sentiment, we would not have division over it.
There are some organizations which cannot even be scripturally supported by individuals. Even though they do much good, they nevertheless donate to unscriptural religious bodies such as the Roman Catholic Church; and for that reason alone, brethren with conviction will not contribute their money to them.
The last part of our question is: “As an individual is it right for me to help such a home?” The reference, of course, is to benevolent institutions as referred to in the first part of the question. If our querist means is it right to donate money to such a home in order to support and maintain it, the answer is “no”; for the reason that it is being financially supported by churches out of their treasuries, as well as by individuals. However, if our querist has in mind buying services from the home, the answer is “yes.” Churches and individuals may buy services from a utility company or purchase books and supplies from a Baptist bookstore. Such institutions have services to sell, and there is a vast difference in buying their services and in donating money to their support. No effort is made here to establish a parallel between the structures of benevolent homes and utility companies, etc. The point involved is the difference between making contributions to them and buying their services.
Churches in the New Testament did benevolent work by caring for the needs of saints for whom they were responsible (1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8,9; Rom. 15:26; etc.). They did not build and support benevolent institutions through which to do the work that God authorized them to do. When we all submit ourselves to the authority of the Scriptures, a “thus saith the Lord” in all matters of faith and practice, we shall have the unity for which our precious Lord Jesus Christ prayed (Jn. 17:20, 21).
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 9, p. 261
May 7, 1987