The Best Way To Do It
The Bible way is the best way to do evangelistic and benevolent work. The New Testament reveals clearly the way these two kinds of work were done in apostolic times.
1. Evangelistic Work.
a. Individual Christians "went about preaching the word. And Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed unto them the Christ." (Acts 8:4-5.) They were taught to "communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. (Gal. 6:6); that is, they were taught to continue steadfastly in the "fellowship" (Acts 2:42) for the support of gospel preachers. (1 Cor. 9:6-14.)
b. Churches as such "sounded forth the word of the Lord" in every place (1 Thess. 1:8) in two ways: (1) by their own chosen carriers the churches sent funds directly to preachers in distant places (Phil. 4:14-18; 2 Cor. 11:8; and other passages); (2) they sent preachers into distant places to preach to other churches and to the world. (Acts 11:22; Acts 13:2-3; and other passages.)
The Bible does not say that no church sent a contribution to another church for evangelistic work; then how do we know that none did it with divine approval? The Bible does not say that no church sent a donation to a missionary society for evangelistic work; then how do we know that none did it with divine approval? We know it by the same way that we know that no church used mechanical music in worship with divine approval; we know it by God's law of exclusion. (See Chapter VI.) How do we know that the way the New Testament churches did evangelistic work is "a better way to do it" than the sponsoring church or missionary society way? We know it because we know that the revealed wisdom of God is better than the wisdom of men.
2. Benevolent Work.
In the work of benevolence many complicated situations and difficult problems confront the churches. But the word of God completely furnishes the people of God unto every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17.) To deny that it does this is to deny the all-sufficiency of the scriptures. Every problem and every practical question pertaining to this work are reduced to the very essence of simplicity unto all who fully believe and diligently search the scriptures. Those who doubt the wisdom of God and the practicality of his ways will never come to a knowledge of the truth. It was not given unto that type to know the truth. (See Matt. 13:11-15; 2 Thess. 2:11-12.)
a. According to the New Testament, how should a church provide for its worthy indigent, when it is able to do so without outside help?
The church at Jerusalem presents a clear and complete answer to this question, because the scriptures reveal (1) how that church obtained funds for this work, and (2) how it used or disposed of its funds.
To supply the needs of the poor in this church, the members gave; they continued steadfastly in the "fellowship." (Acts 2:42.) Some were so generous that they sold their "lands," or "houses," or "possessions," or "goods" and "brought the prices of the things sold and laid them at the apostles feet"; that is, they placed these funds in the treasury of the church and at the disposal of those who had the oversight of this work. (Acts 2:45; Acts 4:34-37.)
Now, that is the way that a church whose members are able to supply the money should obtain funds for its work. Not one cent was obtained through the church's operation of any secular business. Neither Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37) nor any other Christian (Acts 4:34-36) deeded or willed any land or any other possession to the church with a stipulation that would require the church's operation of a secular business. They "sold" their possessions and gave the "prices" as the need required. Any church that allows itself to become involved in the operation of a secular business to obtain funds with which to do its work goes beyond the teaching of Christ and shows a lack of respect for the authority of Christ and a lack of faith in the wisdom of God. Elders who know what the Lord said and did to those who made the Old Testament Temple a "house of merchandise," ought to know what to expect from him, if they permit his spiritual house to become a "house of merchandise." The Christ has legislated regarding the way a church may obtain funds for its work, and that legislation must be respected.
b. How was this money for the poor used, or disposed of, by those under whose oversight and at whose disposal it had been placed?
The Jerusalem church distributed these funds to its own poor right there under the oversight of its own members at whose disposal the funds had been placed. The contributors laid the money "at the apostles feet: and distribution was made unto each, according as any one had need." (Acts 4:35.) Does any gospel preacher have an imagination wild enough to cause him to guess that the apostles or elders surrendered the administration of those funds to a human benevolent society such as Boles Home or the Red Cross or Child Haven?
c. When the number of poor disciples in that first congregation increased to such an extent that the men who had the oversight could no longer personally distribute to the needy and perform their other duties, what course did they pursue as the best "way to do it"?
Every one who can read plain English should be able to understand the Bible answer to this question. There is no "better way to do it" than this: "Now in these days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a murmuring of the Grecian Jews against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. And the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not fit that we should forsake the word of God, and serve tables. Look ye out therefore, brethren, from among you seven men of good report, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will continue steadfastly in prayer, and the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose" seven men "whom they set before the apostles." (Acts 6:1-6.)
The disciples were called together, and they selected qualified men from among themselves to serve the church in the daily ministration to the poor. The inspired apostles of Christ commanded the church to do It in this way; therefore, this is Cod's way. Nowhere in all the New Testament does the Lord express his approval of a church's ministering to its own indigent in some other way. This shows beyond reasonable doubt that God wants every church, through its own qualified and chosen deacons, under the oversight of its own bishops, to administer its own resources in providing food, clothing, shelter and other necessities to its own indigent members. In this way, a church can do this work of ministration more efficiently than any man-made benevolent society can do it. To lose faith in the way the apostles commanded the church to do it is to lose faith in the wisdom of God.
d. How long should a church continue to supply the needs of a worthy member?
"Distribution was made unto each, according as any one had need." (Acts 4:35; also see Acts 2:45.) Therefore, this must continue as long as any worthy member is in "need" of this benevolence.
An indigent Christian may have children, or parents, or others who are not members of the church, but who are rightfully dependent upon that Christian for support. A Christian's "need" or "want" is not supplied until the "need" of those also who have a right to look to him for support is supplied.
One for whom the church is responsible may cease to be an object of charity because of marriage, or adoption, or inheritance, or government pension, or gainful employment. Since no "distribution" was made," except as "any one had need" (Acts 4:35), all church donations for any one who ceases to be an object of charity must stop right there.
e. When churches are unable to provide for their own worthy poor, what is the scriptural solution to the problem?
This is a practical question, and the Bible presents a clear and complete answer; otherwise, it would not furnish the people of God "completely unto every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16-17.)
Here is the Bible solution to that problem, and there is no "better way to do it": "Now in these days there came down prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be a great famine over all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius. And the disciples every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judea: which also they did, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul." (Acts 11:27-30.)
Here the answer is given to every question pertaining to this Judean charity work. Who were reduced to poverty by a famine? Answer: the "brethren that dwelt in Judea." From where did relief come? Answer: from disciples in the church at Antioch. By whom did the Antioch disciples send the relief to the brethren in Judea? Answer: by Barnabas and Saul. To whom did Barnabas and Saul deliver the funds? Answer: to the elders in the stricken area. How did the overseers in the Judean churches administer this relief? Answer: the answer is not in this passage. Why isn't the answer in this passage? Answer: because the Holy Spirit in Acts 6:1-6 already had revealed the will of God through a divine command as to how a church should administer its funds for its poor members, and a church that will not heed a command of God in Acts 6 would not obey it, if the Lordhad repeated it in Acts 11. Why didn't the disciples of the Antioch church place this "relief" under the administration of a sponsoring church or man-made benevolent society? Answer: because inspired men knew "a better way to do it." Why do some today think that placing the oversight of suck relief under a sponsoring church or a human benevolent organization is "a better way to do it" than the way revealed in Acts 6:1-6 and Acts 11:27-30? Answer: because of their unbelief in the wisdom of God, as shown in Chapter VIII of this study.
f. If help for a poverty stricken church must come from the treasuries of several contributing churches, what is the best "way to do it"?
During a long famine the church in Jerusalem received help from several other churches in order to provide for her own poor. Inspiration clearly reveals every step that was taken by the cooperating churches from the beginning to the end of that work. The Lord's devoting so much Bible space to the way that work was done could have only one purpose: namely, to serve as a pattern for churches for all time to come.
By a careful study of 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, and 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, every one should be able to understand clearly how New Testament churches cooperated in supplying the "need" of a church that was too poor to provide adequate care for its own. Here is the way that they did it, and no man ever has found "a better way to do it."
(1) Churches that were able to do more than care for their own poor were informed of the poverty among the saints in Jerusalem, and were taught to send relief to that church. (2 Cor. 8:6-7; 2 Cor. 9:3-5 ;Rom. 15:25-27.)
(2) Churches were taught to raise this money through liberal Lord's day contributions by their members to their treasuries. (1 Cor. 16:1-2.) From the beginning of the church, the disciples had been contributing on the first day of the week as a divinely prescribed act of Lord's day worship (Acts 2:42); but now the poverty of the saints in Jerusalem required even greater liberality in these Lord's day contributions. (2 Cor. 8:1-11.)
(3) The contributing churches used the best means available at that time in transporting these funds to Jerusalem. They did not have the convenience and security of present day postal and express services; therefore, every church chose its carriers of this bounty to Jerusalem. (1 Cor. 16:3; 2 Cor. 8:32.) They did not give "all this money to Paul to be put in one bag" and carried by him to Jerusalem, as some claim. That is the very thing that Paul said he would not permit. (1 Cor. 16:3-4; 2 Cor. 8:18-21.) The inspired account of this journey with this money to Jerusalem shows clearly that the men approved by the contributing churches were traveling in that company with that money. (Acts 20:1-38; Acts 21:1-17.) Occasionally they would separate and meet later at an appointed place (Acts 20:13-14); but from Caesarea they all traveled on together to Jerusalem where the brethren received them. (Acts 21:15-17.)
(4) When these funds reached the overseers of the Jerusalem church, they already had the best and the only kind of divinely appointed organization ever given for efficient administration of relief for a church's destitute members, as shown clearly in the answer to questions "c" and "e" in this chapter. Please read them again.
The will of God demands by divinely approved example that every church provide shelter, food, clothing and other necessities for its own poor, through its own deacons and under the oversight of its own bishops; and nothing is more clearly revealed in the Bible. (Acts 6:14.) If a church is not financially able to obtain these necessities, then other churches that are able do do more than care for their poor must supply the poor church with funds that she herself may do this work. How can any man who knows anything at all about the organization and work of the New Testament church conclude that it is God's will for the overseers of a local church to surrender the oversight of funds for its own destitute members to some other organization?
g. May a church scripturally contribute funds to another church, or to a family, or to any other institution that operates a predetermined campaign of soliciting the control of funds with which to supply the needs of poor people to whom the soliciting institution sustained no peculiar responsibility before the project was planned?
Certainly Not, Is The Answer To This Question.
At the risk of being repetitious, let it be said that a church may contribute funds to another church that is unable to provide adequately for its own poor, and many passages of scripture have been presented in this study to prove it; but no church has a scriptural right to contribute one cent to a church that has concocted a plan of obtaining control of money from other church treasuries with which to supply the needs of poor people to whom the receiving church sustains no peculiar responsibility. If it is God's will for one church to gather up the poor from everywhere, and then beg other churches for money with which to support them, then it is God's will for every church to do the same thing. Is it God's will for all the churches to start campaigns of begging one another for funds?
If a brother is financially unable to provide adequately for his own household, then the church must supply his "want"; but no church has a right to contribute one cent to a man, whether he be the head of a family or superintendent of Boles Home or Child Haven, who has gathered up the fatherless and widows from everywhere with a predetermined plan to obtain possession of church resources with which to buy land, live stock, printing presses, automobiles, farming equipment, trucks and buses to use in hauling the fatherless and widows all over the nation, in order to get more money with which to buy more land and build more houses.