Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 19, 1967
NUMBER 24, PAGE 11-12a

Our Concern About Orphans

Colly Caldwell

No man can be a Christian and be unconcerned about the welfare of orphans. The Spirit said, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27). Surely every child of God would sacrifice needed food from his own mouth in favor of the lonely, parentless child who stood with tearstained cheeks wanting what the Christian could supply. Our concern about orphans is not the result of God's law demanding that we care, though we recognize that law. It is the result of a swelling empathy toward those less fortunate. It is the result of our love for God and for our fellows.

God, too, is concerned about orphans. In fact, God is concerned about all needy. Therefore, in His Book he ordained that his people should care for the indigent and provide for them to the extent of their ability. It is only right that it should be thus.

In order to facilitate this benevolent care, He gave a plan whereby the work might be done. God's will consists of a plan which, when studied, reveals that He expects the church (the collectivity of saints as a group) to take from its treasury funds enough to care for a certain part of these needy. The plan reveals further that He expects Christians (saints as individuals) to take from their own pockets funds enough to care for the needy who look to them for help.

Two questions often arise: (1) Should not the church care for all the needy from the treasury of the collectivity? (2) If not, whom should the church support, and whom should individual saints care for financially.

The first of these questions is answered very simply by Paul when he says of certain widows that the church is not to "be charged" in their financial support (I Tim. 5:16). The point, which some attempt to make very complex, is simply that the church is not designed as a benevolent institution to care for all the needy and to relieve individuals of responsibility to support those whom God has ordained they should support.

Then whom should the church support? The Bible is plain on this point also. Every passage which addresses itself to this question specifies in its context that the church is to care for needy saints (I Cor. 16: 1-4; II Cor. 8,9; et. al.) And whom should the saints as individuals care for? The answer: "all men," "as we have therefore opportunity!" (Ga. 6:10).

Now when God's way (which is the best way and the only scriptural way) is followed, all the needy are provided for...the saints by the church as a group, the others by the church members individually. Someone says, "Oh, but there is no difference between the church and the individual members." My friend, you know better! You know there is a difference between your pocketbook and the treasury of the church of which you are a part. On this point your case rests. If there is no difference between you and the church, turn your pocketbook over to the elders (who oversee these matters which pertain to the church) and let them do with it as they see fit.

I have before me a booklet entitled, "Our Concern About Orphans. " It contains a speech made by brother Jimmy Allen at the ground-breaking ceremonies for a new orphanage in Ohio. He goes to a good deal of trouble trying to establish that the church is to be charged with all needy because of the "principle of love." The command, "Love thy neighbor as thyself, ," he says, applies to the church and therefore demands that we assist financially those who are not Christians from the church treasury. Brother Allen's "inevitable conclusion" proves too much, therefore nothing at all. If the command, "Love thy neighbor," is talking about financial support required of the church, then the church "has a responsibility" (his own words) to lend financial aid to Roman Catholic orphanages, Methodist hospitals, Baptist old folks' homes, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, state and local mental health clinics, and federal veteran hospitals. These are our neighbors, are they not? Our neighbors are not just the non-members we care for in the "Church of Christ" institutions. The fact is that none of the passages brother Allen cites touch top, side, bottom on the subject of church support financially of anyone.

Brother Allen says that we, who believe that the support of those who are not Christians falls upon our shoulders and not upon the church as a collectivity, ought to put up a sign in the front yard saying, "This congregation will assist only its own." He says that if we did we would die and that we ought to die. We suggest that he and his brethren put up a sign. It should say, "We will help just anyone or any group which is in need and asks for it." We respectfully ask, "How long will they live?"

My friend, the Bible says, "Charity (love)... rejoiceth in the truth" (I Cor. 13:6). Jesus said. "Thy word IS truth" (John 17:17). Our love for our neighbors (whether saint or sinner) takes its delight and fulfills its sacrifices according to God's way as stated in His word.

When God's way is followed, orphans (in most instances) are our own individual responsibility. They fall into the group that we are to support from our own pockets. We suggest that if we fail to support them "as we have opportunity," we will be damned to an eternal hell. Brother Allen intimates throughout his speech that those who will not send contributions (either congregationally or individually) to the orphan "homes" are just not as concerned about orphans as they should be. My brethren do not need an institutionalized, "Church of Christ" orphanage to care for needy children. Love for these children and their souls does not demand that we send off a token contribution each month and transfer our orphan charges and thus our responsibility to the care and oversight of others. In fact it demands the opposite. It demands that we care for these poor children (if we can in our own homes and out of our own pockets). Why brother Allen and others want to shift the responsibility from their own pocketbooks and homes to the church treasury and an institutionalized orphanage is beyond my understanding of the New Testament "principle of love."

My friend, no one is "anti-orphan." No one is "anti-orphan-home." Many of us are ANTI church asylums on scriptural, moral, humane, and practical grounds. We believe in caring for orphans. But we believe in doing it God's way. We do not believe in shifting it to another area of responsibility far removed from ourselves. And brethren, we have no reason to bow our heads in shame for that belief. Our concern about orphans is real and good; and what is more, it is true to the Book of God and shows respect for the divine authority of Jesus Christ.

---Rt. 6, Columbia, Tennessee 38401