Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 30, 1954

"Helping Orphans"

R. Ervin Driskill, Birmingham, Alabama

Many of us know that much has and is being written on the subject of caring for orphans. Some make themselves clear on the subject; others, to me, do not.

In the Advocate, July 22, 1954 issue, there is a reprint of an article by Brother Cleon Lyles on "Helping Orphans." In paragraph 3, he says, "God lays on us the obligation of helping others, among whom are orphan children. We cannot fail to recognize the duty."

Brother Lyles, says us but he does not say whether that is the church or the individual Christian; maybe he means both. But again, he does not make it clear just who the others are — whether saint or sinner — nor, does he tell us what orphans. Brother Lyles, do you mean the church (I take it that you do for, in your last paragraph you say, "This church is contributing monthly to the support of orphan children . . . "), can contribute to the support of just any person who may be in need, (Whether saint or sinner) or to any orphan? If so, where is the passage that teaches it? Do not cite Galatians 6:10; James 1:27 for the context shows that is talking about the individual and not the church. Acts 11:29; 1 Corinthians 16:1,2; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Romans 15:24-33 refers to the church helping the saints. There were needy people in Jerusalem and Judea (during the famine) but churches relieved the needs of saints. The silence of the scriptures must be respected and the Bible is silent on the church helping others.

Now, I want the command for the church to help just any orphan; the example where the church cared for just any orphan; and the necessary inference where the church cared for just any orphan.

The only teaching (so far as I know in the Bible) of the church helping and caring for anyone, who was not a saint, would be a necessary inference included in the care of helping the saints. If there were children (not old enough to be a saint or a Christian) belonging to the needy saints they would naturally share in the aid given by the church. But, this does not mean that because these children shared in the aid given their saintly parents by the church that this is an example of the church caring for orphans. It must be remembered that this is not a case of the church caring for orphans; in this case they are not orphans. But should these children become orphans who should care for them? This question might have two or three answers: (1) The principle found in 1 Timothy 5:4, 8, 16 would apply; (2) James 1:27; Galatians 6:10 — which has to do with what the individual Christian is to do and, (3) by inference the church could continue to provide, until such emergency could be removed, for if they as helpless children of living saints could be helped by the church, they could as helpless children of dead saints be helped by the church.

  1. We then have the command and example for the church to help the saints.
  2. We have the command, James 1:27; Galatians 6:10 (and I believe the principle in the example of the Samaritan) for the individual Christian to help orphans or anyone in need — saint or sinner.
  3. We have an implied authority for the church helping the orphan whose dead parents were saints.

In none of these do you have the church sending money occasionally or, including in her budget, an institution headed by a board of men from one or many churches. If such institution existed it does seem strange that something isn't said about "Saint Peter's Orphanage" or the "Church of Christ Orphanage" in Jerusalem et cetera.

The Jerusalem Church had not established a home for the homeless whereby the homeless children everywhere could be sent and cared for. At least the scriptures do not hint at such, but on the contrary it was a case of the churches in Judea or Jerusalem, as the case may be, helping the individual and not an institution. Is it necessary for the church to form an institution to help the orphan? Evidently not and those who would have the church caring for orphans in an institution today are under obligation to produce the passage that parallels such today. Where is the verse that even sounds like an institution?? The few orphans that might become the charge of the church would never necessitate an institution. Let the individual church today do as the Jerusalem Church; care for the individual, that is her responsibility, and quit supporting institutions.

I cannot understand preachers and elders, who should know what God's word teaches, saying, "God has not told us how" and offering their own plan. God has told us how. The Jerusalem Church cared for the need of the individual and it is foolishness to say they threw them in an institution and operated such. Those who really became the charge of the local church (and as pointed out previously, that would only be the children of dead saints) will be so few, when God's word is followed that there would be no need for the local church to form an institution to say nothing of an institution owned by the church universal.

The Belview Heights Church is not contributing to the support of an orphan home. It wasn't when I moved to the city and I'm glad it is not doing it. Such would be a violation of the scripture. The Lord said do this work. He has told us how. So, we cannot use our own judgment in the matter. There's only one thing I would like to see done in the matter. I would like to see preachers and elders everywhere following God's word.