Vol.XX No.II Pg.7
April 1983

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

We are agreed that the church must help needy saints, and we want to do this. Our problem is determining genuine need — "scriptural" recipients.


"Need" or the condition of "want" must be determined from a "norm" of sufficiency — enough. But enough for what? Paul answers this question by citing Ex. 16:18 (2 Cor. 8:14-15) where "according to his eating" is a norm. When clothing, shelter, etc., are all considered, it appears enough to meet the necessities of life is the rule by which "want" or "abundance" is measured. This may be subject to some variation of judgment, but we will not go far wrong by this standard. It is not the business of the church to sustain "the standard of living to which they have become accustomed," although assistance too long delayed may create further problems of need.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing" (1 Thes. 4:11-12). In 2 Thes. this is expanded: "— that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread" (3:11-12).

It seems clear that deadbeats must be fed — straight teaching from God! There will be no free ride for those who will not work — who will not pay their bills or honestly face obligations to the extent of their ability. This includes those who make bills they know they cannot pay — who live above their means. The church should not subsidize some member's pride and worship of Mammon.

I am fully aware of difficult decisions — like the wife and children of a wastrel — emergency needs when proper investigation is difficult if not impossible — what appears to be a genuine "prodigal come home" but does not work out that way. Better to keep a tender heart, even though con artists count heavily on our doing so. We can guard against long-term abuse of charity by closer observation of recipients, including drop-in visits.

And since many "needy" cases get that way because they really do not know HOW to live within means, and use what they do have to greatest advantage; we can help those who really want to do better by practical suggestions regarding personal habits, show them our own use of simple foods and clothing, help them with budget plans for getting out of debt. I know, I know many do not want that kind of help! But if that is the real need, make it clear there will be no other kind of help without these truths. If you do not know HOW to give such help try talking with a home-economic advisor or teacher. You can't live others lives for them, against their will; but those who want to improve their conditions can be helped. These closing suggestions are for individual saints who would help a neighbor.