Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is Benevolence Also Subject to Authority?

One of the most emotionally driven arguments that throws authority out the window deals with benevolence and the role of the church. I recently concluded our authority class and the study finished with authority, benevolence and the role of the church versus the individual. Ironically, that very day prior to our class, I received an email from a local congregation asking for monetary support to help expand their kitchen and dining facility that they use to feed those in need and use to “convert people.”

I feel that I am a benevolent man. I could do much more and try to help those in need. As a matter of background, let me explain. I have adopted two children in addition to our three biological ones (don’t ask me which because I often forget). I am a leader and participant in the Boys Scouts of America and my wife is a Girl Scout leader. We have led and organized many benevolent activities through these organizations, our schools and as individuals. However, in our studies of the Scriptures, we find that the role of the church is limited in providing church funds in benevolence, evangelism and edification.

When examining the Scriptures on this subject, we approach it the same way in which we do anything else. We look for direct commands, approved examples, or necessary implication. When discussing this subject with more liberal minded brethren, I have only heard harsh name calling such as ‘orphan haters’ or ‘antis.’ People will use passages such as Galatians 6:10 and James 1:27 to justify their actions in provided food, money, and supplies from the church treasury to non-believers.

Gal 6:10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Jas 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

These two verses are excellent verses in giving us the proper attitude and commands for what we are to do but when we examine the chapters in whole, we find that the writers are speaking to individual actions and our individual responsibilities as Christians. This in no way authorizes nor burdens the churches with this action to non-believers. The church is, however, commanded to provide benevolence to its members. Let’s look at a list of verses that outline the church’s responsibility in this area.

1. All that believed… Acts 2:44-45
2. Them that believed…Acts 4:32-35
3. The disciples…Acts 6:1
4. Relief unto the brethren…Acts 11:29
5. Unto the saints…Rom 15:26
6. For the poor saints…Rom 15:26
7. Accepted of the saints…Rom 15:31
8. Collection for the saints…1 Cor 16:1
9. Ministering to the saints…2 Cor 8:4
10. The ministering to the saints…2 Cor 9:1
11. Supplieth the need of the saints…2 Cor 9:12
12. Relieve them are widows indeed…1 Tim 5:16

Everyone of these passages speak to the church’s role in benevolence and use of its funds. As we can see, every time this support is to fellow brethren and not to the unbeliever. This shows the wisdom of God and his perfect church. If we began to provide food, clothing, shelter, etc. as a work of the church, the church would never have the time to concentrate on the primary mission to teach and preach the Gospel. As we see in this other Williamsburg congregation’s need to grow a kitchen and dining hall, God’s authority and His message is no longer a spiritual one but a physical one. I ask you this--if the food was cut off, how many of these new converts would simply leave? Were they converted to the word of God or to the filling of their bellies? This may seem uncaring but God gave us the responsibility as individuals to help those in need throughout the world. Putting a $25 or $50 check into the collection basket to help feed the community is not God’s idea of benevolence and helping those in need. We must be active in our daily lives in helping others. This proactive lifestyle is much more demanding than putting this unauthorized burden on the church.

I challenge anyone to show me through the Scriptures that any congregation of God’s church provided relief or benevolence to those that were not members of His church. To go beyond God’s word is to condemn oneself.

Revelation 22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.


Venango Volunteer Fire Dept. said...

I guess from the lack of a response to your challenge..woohoo, you win! No more helping the poor unless they belong to "His church". I wish people would quit reading more into Matt 25. Especially the last two verses. That verse surely doesn't speak to helping people outside of His church. Thank you for being such an authority, I look forward to putting a stop to our church helping people in need! Such wasteful use of Gods resources!

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

wow, the ramifications are eternal.. we better get it right!

Cary said...

Thank you for your comment...sarcasm and all. If you read my blog, you will see that the harder, more disciplined, proactive method that God has outlined is for the individual to help those in need. Matthew 25 addresses this also.

If you are to apply verse 45 to the work and responsibility of the church then you must apply verse 46...thus concluding that an entire congregation is subject to eternal punishment or eternal life. This would directly contradict Romans 14:10-12.

God's resources are to be used to teach the Gospel, educated the world on His word, and help those of His family. His message is one of a spiritual one...not a physical one.

I hope you approach Bible study with a more serious attitude and realize the importance of getting it right.

Katherine said...

This also makes me sad. I call it "adventures in missing the point". I think one of the biggest misunderstandings is that we, as Christians/disciples of Christ ARE the Church, and we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the World-NOT just to believers in need. Yes, we are to take care of our own, but to deny someone else their basic needs because they are not in Christ is ludicrous. That IS showing them Christ and that we care-it is an open door into their lives because we are helping them at their basic level. I do agree that we must be active in our daily lives helping others as you stated-and not just placing money in a basket and leaving it to someone else-but to limit our help as a Body to only believers does not seem Biblical at all.

You say: "If we began to provide food, clothing, shelter, etc. as a work of the church, the church would never have the time to concentrate on the primary mission to teach and preach the Gospel. As we see in this other Williamsburg congregation’s need to grow a kitchen and dining hall, God’s authority and His message is no longer a spiritual one but a physical one." I have to completely disagree-I have been part of plenty of churches who have done both. After all, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care!

Then you ask "if the food was cut off, how many of these new converts would simply leave?" I ask you: If the food was never offered to this people, how many would have actually ever stepped foot inside the building or had that opportunity to know Christ? We do what Christ has called us to, and let Him do the rest! :)

Also, CENI has become more of a doctrine than the Bible does, and making commands out of inferences using our own "authority" does not equal God's commands or authorities. God's commands are understandable, and we should follow them-the problem comes in when we take it upon ourself to make commands out of examples and inferences-bind them on people, and then judge them accordingly if they do not follow. Not even God has done that-who are we to take it upon ourselves? CENI is a man made system which has hurt and divided too many people. Yes, we can come to logical conclusions on things, yes we have been given examples to learn from, but when we make our authority equal the same level of God's and choose to speak out of His silence on a subject-it is just not right!

By the way-not that we are to add to the Word of God, because we are not...but the passage in Revelations that you quoted specifically refers to the book of Revelations itself. First, he says "the words of prophecy in THIS book"...and at the time Revelations was written the Bible as we know it today was not even placed together as a whole...even though now we see it at the end, when John wrote this on the isle of Patmos he was referring to the book of Revelation alone. Therefore, it is simply out of context in this example and you are not alone in this misunderstanding or misuse. Just thought I would throw that in.

Anyway, these are my 2 cents.

I, too am a member of the Church of Christ, but I see too many things like this where we continue to miss the point, and it is discouraging for me to watch. It is NOT about "getting it right"-if we had to get it ALL right, then Jesus would not have had to come down to earth and die on a cruel cross to save us. Yes, we choose to follow Him, to obey the commands He has given-but His commands are NOT burdensome..His yoke is easy and His burden is light...no, it is not an easy road to follow and we are asked to take up our crosses daily to follow Him-but not to bind things on others which God Himself has not, and that is what I see too many in our heritage have done. I just can't sit by and watch it happen, though I know God has to be the one to change hearts and open eyes to what is going on.

Ok, I have probably rambled enough now. Thanks for letting me stop by, and blessings on your journey~

Cary said...
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Cary said...

Katherine--Thank you for your response. I would like to address a couple of things. Your arguments are very similar in what I see when discussing this issue.

Firstly, you don't use one Biblical scripture to justify your point. This is one of the major problems with churches today is that they just do whatever they want with no regard or effort to see if God would approve of it. In a nutshell, it is no respect for authority.

You state: "It is NOT about "getting it right"-if we had to get it ALL right, then Jesus would not have had to come down to earth and die on a cruel cross to save us." Are you implying that we should try to do what is right? That we shouldn't respect God's authority since we can't be perfect like Christ?

If you don't approach the scriptures in an organized way to determining what Christ (as the head of the church) would have us to do, how does your congregation determine what is right? Is anything and everything authorized as long as people hear the word of God?

Do you worship God with instrumental music, bands, volleyball teams, bowling leagues, female or homosexual preachers, etc.? Where do you draw the line if you don't believe in obeying God's commands?

Per your comment on Revelation (no 's"'), yes...this is at the conclusion of that book but God understood it to be the last of His new covenant. It applies to Revelation and I think God's Spirit was wise enough to conclude the New Testament with it on purpose. Of course, we have many other passages that reinforce this statement.

Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

Gal 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

I pray that you study this subject and look to God's commands and don't do things just because it "seems" right. We will all be held accountable just as Cain, Uza, Uzaih, Noah, Nadab and Abihu, and Paul, to name a few, that show us lessons in authority and how serious God is in demanding complete obedience.

Mt 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.