Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 2, 1968

"Let Not The Church Be Burdened

John W. Hedge

The divine prohibition, "Let not the church be burdened," is found in Paul's teaching which concerns the church's responsibility in supplying the physical needs of those whom he designates as "widows indeed" as opposed to those who are not "widows indeed." Paul is careful to point out that a "widow indeed" is one without relatives — children or even nephews — hence, "desolate, and trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day." Only those who are "widows indeed" may be "enrolled" by the church and supported by the church. The younger widows are to be refused the church's help as well as other widows regardless of age. Paul places the responsibility of helping all widows, save those who are "widows indeed," on the shoulders of the relatives of such. Herein we can, if we will, see the difference in the church's responsibility and action and the responsibility and action of individuals. If church responsibility and action is equal to the responsibility and action of individuals in the care of widows along with other dependents, why would the apostle put forth this kind of teaching?

Again, if James 1:27 teaches "church action," as some have affirmed, and the church has the responsibility of being burdened with the care of all widows and fatherless children — even those who have relatives — where I ask is the harmony between what Paul taught in I Tim. 5th chapter and James 1:27? Let the advocates of "general benevolence of the church" tell us. But if it be said that the widows of James 1:27 is limited to those who are "widows indeed" — those who have no blood kin to care for them — what about the "fatherless" children who have relatives to care for them? What about the church being burdened with the care of the elderly men and women who have relatives to care for them? Let Paul be heard again on this very point: "But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel." If an infidel will be condemned because of his infidelity, and one who will not care for his relatives — those of his own family — is worse than an infidel, I wonder how he could be saved.

Today the church is being burdened with the care of many people and institutions and projects. The call comes to the church for helping many people who have relatives to help. The call comes from many caring institutions such as "orphan homes," "old folks homes," "clinics," etc., for "helping the needy," and usually the pleas are made in touching appeals. Could a careful check be made of the inmates within the walls of these caring institution. I think many could be found who have even fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, or other relatives, whose responsibility it is to care for them. Instead of assuming the responsibility of helping such individuals from church treasuries it would be proper for some strong scriptural teaching against this practice to be done. Any church which will fall victim to such appeals and respond needs to know that they are encouraging some people to be worse than an infidel. I leave it to the reader to decide if it is right to burden the church with supporting "Christian Colleges," recreational activities of the young people, or those who have relatives, from' the church treasury. Instead of encouraging the churches to be burdened with supporting such people and institutions, we should rather discourage it. I do not mean by what I have here written to discourage general benevolent work on the part of individuals whose duty it is to "do good unto all men, especially those of the household of faith." I am glad that I can see the difference in the responsibility and action of the church and that of the individual.

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