Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 2, 1960
NUMBER 42, PAGE 9a-10a

Browsing Through Old Papers

Dudley R. Spears, Owensboro, Ky.

Following the steps of Wm. E. Wallace to Owensboro has meant following him through the column "Browsing". In both cases, I find the steps sure and sound in the direction they lead. Therefore, I humbly accept the work of "Browsing through old papers".

1931 was a "depression" year. Many people were looking for "hand-outs" while others were looking for homes. It came to the attention of some brethren that the church had a duty toward the poor. Brother Hall was asked to write an article in the Gospel Advocate and below is what he wrote.

The Missionary And Benevolent Work Of The Church By S H Hall

Having been requested to write an article dealing with the duty of the church toward the poor, orphaned, and aged and Scriptural methods of doing such work, and believing that a study of this question is timely, I submit this article to the thoughtful consideration of those who are studying the question.

The Primary Duty Of The Church

That the primary duty of the church is to preach the gospel to every creature cannot be questioned. Christ always placed the needs of the soul and its welfare above that of the body. "Be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul" (Matt. 10:28), suggests the relative value of body and soul. When Jesus said to the one who wanted him to make his brother divide the inheritance, "Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?" (Luke 12:23), he certainly suggested that he had a more important work than that to do. When the murmuring about the Grecian widows being neglected in the daily ministration arose, the apostles said: "It is not fit that we should forsake the word of God, and serve tables." (Acts 6:2). They here definitely place the preaching of the word and saving souls above taking care of the needs of the body. Multiplied quotations could be cited, but these will suffice. Christ came to seek and save lost souls, and the church he established certainly had been taught that this is its primary duty.

Taking Care Of The Dependent Must Not Be Placed On The Church Except When Absolutely Necessary

"If any woman that believeth hath widows, let her relieve them, and let not the church be burdened; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed." (1 Tim 5:16.) Read all of this chapter. "But if any widow hath children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show piety toward their own family, and to requite their parents: for this is acceptable in the sight of God." (Verse 4.) And then we are told that those members of the church who push their aged off on the church to support are worse than infidels. "But if any provideth not for his own, and specially his own household, he hath denied the faith. and is worse than an unbeliever." (Verse 8.) The church would have no right to fellowship those members who have dependent aged and refuse to take care of them if they are able. This applies to all aged people who need help as well as widows.

This is enough to settle this question. God wants the poor cared for. "Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep one's self unspotted from the world." (James 1:27.) The church must do this when there are no relatives able to do so. And I think it safe to say that it is the church's duty to demand that the relatives do so. That church cannot be faithful that will let sin go unrebuked. In 1 Cor. 5 we are certainly taught that the church at Corinth was sinning in allowing a fornicator, a man who had his father's wife, to remain in the fellowship of the church. This is true of any other sin.

Let Each Congregation Care For Its Own

God's way is always best. Man's ways are wrong. "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps," we are told in Jer. 10:23. But how prone we are to let God's way go unused and to substitute our own thoughts for God's!

If each local congregation would see to it that its members take care of those who are related to them in the flesh, and the congregation neglect not to take care of all the rest, where would there be any neglected in the church of our Lord? This is God's will. Why not bend all of our energies in prayers and sermons to get God's people to so do, instead of trying to work out another plan for the "dependent aged?" Wherever you find a congregation of the church of Christ, right there you find a home for the dependent aged. And if each congregation will care for its own, where is the need of anything else? And is this not the most sensible and economical way to go about it? Besides, it is, without any kind of a doubt, Scriptural.

The Chapel Avenue Church in Nashville is an example of sponsoring a home for a group of churches in one section. The Russell Street Church kept an aged sister there until recently, when we buried her. We saw her every week, looked after her needs, and did our part in keeping her happy.

The Twelfth Avenue congregation, Nashville, is another example. They have purchased land on which to build a home for aged men. The churches in this immediate section helped to pay for it, and the Twelfth Avenue Church, with their cooperation, can complete this project and have a home that will meet every demand, and all the while each church will be in touch with its own aged.

The Home for Girls operated by the Central Church in Nashville is conducted on the same principle.

We commend all such examples of Scriptural work and rejoice in the good that is being accomplished. Let other churches follow these examples and carry on such work in their own sections, and there will be no need of anything larger than can be economically and scripturally defended.

As to how the local church is to go about this all-important work is left entirely with the common sense of the leaders. At Santa Ana, Calif., the brethren have their church house almost surrounded with little, three-room homes for widows and old couples who need a home. It is a lovely scene. The Charlotte Avenue church of Christ in Nashville recently built several small homes on property not far from their church building. In them widows and their children are given homes, and they are prepared to take care of an old preacher and his wife if such should fall to their lot.

To build a home sufficiently large to take care of all the dependent aged in a State or a number of States is not only unscriptural, but shifts the responsibilities of local congregations upon such an institution. The same is true of the individual. God's way is right and cannot be wrong. His way is for each individual, who is able, to take care of his own dependents. It is his way that each congregation do the same.

When we count all the aged dependents who have relatives or some local church whose duty it is to take care of them, how many do we have left? Most certainly not many. But some one might say that their relatives and churches are not doing their duty toward them. Very well, then, let us all get busy and teach them to do their duty. Is this not better than working out an unscriptural way Did not Israel cry for a king and a nation like the ones about them on the pretext that Samuel's sons were not doing their duty?

A Great Principal Involved.

Paul says: "For each man shall bear his own burden." (Gal.6:5.) This certainly means that each individual has certain duties God is expecting him to perform. It cannot be done by proxy. And to set in motion any movement that would naturally assume the responsibilities of others would be a violation of this principle.

If there is anything that God loves, it is for one to measure up to his conception of a man. That great statement in Jer. 5:1 teaches this: "Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that doeth justly, that seeketh truth: and I will pardon her." God is looking for character. Take the simple teaching of our Lord as to how individuals should conduct themselves toward their dependent aged, and also the local congregation. and about all other matters, and I challenge the wise of the earth to present teaching which, if followed, could possibly produce character better than his plan so plainly revealed. But man cannot suggest any other plan which, if followed, would not, in a measure, offset God's plan and leave many characters undeveloped and souls doubtless lost because of man's ways.