Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 7, 1954

Expediency And The Care Of Orphans

Paul Williams, The Dalles, Oregon

James 1:27 tells us that we have an obligation to care for orphans. How we care for them is left up to expediency. But to be expedient a thing must be lawful. (1 Cor. 10:25.)

Bible classes on Sunday morning are a good example of this principle of expediency. Some contend that since we have no concrete example or command for classes we cannot have them. But classes are an expedient — a way of carrying out the command to teach. As long as classes violate no laws of the Bible, they can be used as an expedient. But if the classes were to be carried on in a way violating scriptural principles, they could not be expedient because they would not be lawful. For instance, if a woman were to teach a man's class, it would be wrong. (1 Tim. 2:12.) Or, if the classes became organized into a separate organization from the church, electing their own officers, etc., they would be unscriptural because they would be violating the organization of the church. Or, if they were to organize into an inter-congregational organization, as most denominational Sunday schools are, they would become unscriptural in organization. Bible classes are scriptural only as long as they violate no principle of scripture. As soon as they violate God's law, they can no longer be expedient because they are no longer lawful.

The same is true in caring for orphans. We are not told exactly how to do it; but there are certain laws which we must not violate.

(1) The church must not be put into the possible position of making money. The way money is to be raised for the church is for Christians to give. (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 9:6-7.) Our example is to sell our land and give the proceeds — not to give the land and then have the church to farm it for profit. (Acts 4:34-37.)

(2) The organization of the church must not be violated. One reason that the missionary society is wrong is that it is an organization outside of the church supported by churches to do their own work. Any method of caring for orphans which creates a church-supported institution separate from the church is wrong. The church itself is to do its evangelizing; the church itself is to care for its orphans. God gave us the organization of the church — congregations separate and independent under the oversight of elders. (Acts 14:23; Phil. 1:1.) Any other organization within or without the church is wrong.

(3) Another way to violate the organization of the church is for one church to set itself up as a sort of "brotherhood" or "regional" headquarters for caring for orphans, while at the same time expecting the brotherhood to support it in this undertaking. The only organization for carrying out of the work of the church is the local congregation. Each congregation is to shoulder its own responsibility in preaching the gospel, edifying the saints, and caring for the poor (which includes orphans). When one congregation assumes the responsibility of caring for the orphans of a number of congregations while at the same time begging these congregations for donations, it is assuming the responsibilities of these churches. And the supporting churches are refusing to shoulder their own responsibility and have chosen to let another congregation oversee their work.

The missionary society violates the organization of the church by having a great number of churches do their missionary work through it. It would not make the society right to put it under an eldership, for it would still be doing the same thing. An orphan home supported by a number of churches is wrong whether under elders or not. Elders are to be the overseers of the flock which is among them (1 Peter 5:2), not the work of a number of flocks.

We are left free, however, to use any methods which do not violate any scriptural principles. Thus, the Christian foster home would be scriptural. Or an orphan home completely under the oversight and supported by one congregation to do its own work would be a way the church could take care of its orphans. Or the church could buy the services of a private orphan home, just as the church can buy the services of a mason or a hospital. None of these things violates any scriptural principle if it is handled correctly.

The whole problem of caring for orphans revolves around the law of expediency. (1 Cor. 10:23.) All things expedient must first be lawful.