Some who favor the present kind of orphan home organization ask what they seem to think are unanswerable questions to justify them. One question is somewhat like this: "Have the churches in______ been harmed by the_________ Home?" We forget sometimes, that what we think is progress and success may be in God's sight, an abomination. "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." (John 7:24) "According to the appearance," Israel seemed to get along better after they had a king. At least, until the idols of Solomon, they seemed more nearly free from idolatry. But did the king system harm them? Quite likely in man's eyes, the church of the Laodiceans was a great success; but in God's sight they were lost, unless they repented and turned back to Christ.
Many of us, like Naaman, would be, and are, willing to work in God's kingdom, if we may do "some great thing." God's way looks crude, ineffective, slow, and sometimes uncomplimentary to those who love the limelight; so we don't even try it. One thing is perfectly clear in the gospel: Christ has no other organization for His work but the congregation. We know that churches cooperated in benevolent work in apostolic times Acts 11:27-30; II Cor. 8 .and 9. This cooperation should be left up to each congregation. If Zion desires to work with Mt. Carmel in feeding the hungry, or preaching the gospel, that is solely the business of those two congregations and their right under Christ. But if they desire to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free, they had better keep their congregational independence, without any extra, separate organization which has a separate treasury, president, and board of directors. Such bodies are so completely a separate organization that they can legally do business on their own. Do these homes belong to the churches? What authority does each, or any, congregation have in their affairs? Who has authority to select and dismiss the officials of such organizations? Whatever they may be, they are church-institutions in the minds of most Christians.
Another question: "Do you know of any church that has a home to care for orphans?" No. But I know of several homes, like the one God started in Eden, that care for orphans. The foregoing question tries to infer that the church is not adequate to do this work. Well, generally speaking, the gospel teaching about the care of widows, fatherless, and other needy people, is that this is personal, rather than congregational. However, in some instances, such as that mentioned in I Timothy 5, certain ones became the charge of the congregation. This argument seems to be this: "The churches are not doing this work; therefore, it cannot be done through the church."
This is about the same reply I received when I declined to join a pastors union, because I believe that the church is God's only religious organization. One man replied somewhat like this: "We grant you that theoretically you are right; but where is the church that is accepting this responsibility?" I knew of none. But did that prove that it is acceptable to organize, or join, something else? This was the argument of the Israelites, when they desired a king, instead of God's Government-By-Judges. "The Judges are immoral, unjust, and have been a dismal and inglorious failure; so make us a king!" We see the same distorted thinking in the political world today: the officials are corrupt ("they say"); business men under free enterprise are greedy and oppressive; the courts are too slow in dealing out justice (and many times fail altogether); this capitalistic system doesn't work perfectly; so let's turn to a modified (or radical) form of socialism or communism! Whose fault was it that God's system of governing Israel did not work perfectly?
Your congregation doesn't care for the orphans and needy in your vicinity; Whose fault is it? A few like Dorcas, Phoebe, and Barnabas in any congregation would take care of this problem. "But what of the places where there are no congregations?" Answer: IF THOSE WE HAVE—EVEN ONE THIRD OF THEM—WERE FULFILLING THEIR GOD ORDAINED MISSION, THERE WOULD SOON BE ONE IN EVERY COMMUNITY.
"How many orphans," some write to me, "have you cared for in your home?" All members have not the same office, brethren. It takes all my wife can earn, all I get, to keep me preaching and teaching almost seven days each week in the year. If somebody will supply the supplement of my wife's wages (she works), we will take two NOW. (None of this preaching and teaching is done in large churches; nor is this a plea for help!)
As I see things, one of our diseases today is that we are too brotherhood conscious. Many, seem to think of "The Brotherhood" in about the same way as the Methodist thinks of the Conference, or the Baptist thinks of the Association. God's way is congregational and there are no other working, or responsible, units in the kingdom of God. Is it possible that Jesus did not foresee the difficult and complex conditions of our modern time? Did He fail to have the wisdom to provide us with the essential "machinery" to meet the needs of our time?
I think that we will all agree that we have failed as signally in carrying out the great commission as we have in caring for the widows, the fatherless, and others. These two works are definitely and completely the work of the church, individually and congregationally. Since we have failed somewhat in both, shall we organize a plan that will tie all, or several, congregations together for both efforts? Suppose we organize a group in different districts, for mission work, exactly with the same officials that some have selected and appointed for the orphan homework? We could select them from different churches. This would eliminate overlapping of efforts, and insure all of the missionaries of support. Don't forget: I am talking about an organization EXACTLY like some of those for orphanages. All in favor let it be made known by saying "aye!" The opposed say anything they want to say!
There were failures and inequities in apostolic times, too. Only the church at Philippi supported Paul and his group at times. How they needed to organize a group of brethren composed of men from different churches to look after this matter! Since Philippi could not adequately support Paul by herself, this well organized group would tie all the churches together in a way that would assure his sufficient support in preaching the gospel in "the regions beyond." Would not the purpose be good? Doesn't it look efficient and wise to human minds? Is this not the wisdom and the method of brilliant men everywhere? Have they not nearly completely "clubbed" and organized the people of this earth into almost total inaction? "But we have the mind of Christ!" Or do we?
In my human mind (if I were to forget Christ's power and promises), Paul and Silas look mighty helpless, and hopelessly handicapped, as they sit at midnight, with their hands and feet held fast in the stocks in the Philippian jail! But they, like Moses, endured as seeing him who is invisible. They sang and prayed. God worked with them, and the very thing that seemed a hindrance became a stepping-stone to the strong Philippian Church —a truly missionary and benevolent church!
If I had been sending Paul to Rome to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, I would have sent him in honor, in a comfortable ship, in a comfortable, private cabin in which he could have time for rest and study. But Christ sent him in chains, in the role of an indicted, alleged traitor to his government! I would also have seen to it that he was not shipwrecked and made to suffer so many things on the weary voyage! Oh, if I had been planning these things, it would have pleased many men (I think), but Daniel's prophecy that the kingdom would stand forever would have proved a crushing disappointment. If we take the pattern supplied in Jerusalem's sending Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 11) and Antioch's sending Paul and Barnabas, et al, into all the earth to preach the gospel, why can't we understand that the same history book gives us good examples in benevolent work, too? Of course, the examples therein do not provide for those who love the limelight, nor do they give comfort for the stingy, self-seeking; but to converted, informed, people, it should be sufficient—it IS sufficient!
Long ago I forever decided that I would take Christ's way, as far as I have sense enough to see it, regardless of how wise or foolish, how adequate or insufficient, how powerful or impotent it might seem to my human mind, or to the wise of earth. I do not charge those with whom I disagree with dishonesty. I think they are as honest and many of them, far better than I. But, there is a way that seemeth right unto a man—! Another thing we should all remember: No one does know, has known, or ever will in this life know any thing as he ought to know it: I Cor. 8:2. So I try to mix in some of that forbearance and longsuffering in love of which Paul wrote in Ephesians 4. I think that perfect unity of conviction and knowledge is an ideal, just as the Example of His Life is an ideal— toward which we shall press as long as we dwell on earth—without ever reaching either in our practice.
I suppose David must have been carried away with the very rational and logical argument about the insufficiency and ineffectiveness of God's old-fashioned way. Besides, did not the Philistines have pretty good success with hauling the ark on a cart? Did it harm them to do that? In fact, were they not blessed with the surcease of their plagues by sending the ark away on a cart?
. Really, now, isn't a good ox-cart a better means of transportation for a heavy, gold covered ark than the shoulders of the Kohathites? (Numbers 4:1-15) And David seemed to make pretty good progress with his ox-cart, too—until he came to a rough place. (I Chron. 13) David later reconsidered, and decided that the reason for failure was that they had not carried the ark "as Moses commanded according to the word of God." (I Chron. 15:15) Christ's way may seem inadequate, it may seem ineffective, the brethren may not have faith enough to follow it, and some whose responsibility it is to oversee its operation may be untrue, even corrupt. But when we come to the rough places, when we walk through the valley of the shadows, Christ will be with us, if we but take Him at His Word.
But the best argument against man's ways and wisdom is to faithfully work God's way. I write this "to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God. Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen." "To the work! To the work! We are servants of God!"