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.