Friday, September 26, 2008

Giving, Financial Hardship, Hurricane Relief, Government Aid, and the Church

"The apostle wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, “Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent upon no one.” (1 Thess. 4:11-12 ESV). Thus the word of God desires that Christians shall act in such a way that they do not face situations in which they must seek the generosity of “those who are outside”. Hedinger remarks on the words, “That you be dependent upon no one”: “[Neither be dependent upon] the people themselves, or their possessions and assistance. Paul desires that they should work for themselves in blessing so that they need not look to the godless for a handout. That would be to their disgrace, an offence to their faith, and a misleading of their souls through the interaction.” But it is clear, if Christians want to work and eat of their own bread, but are not able, and it is necessary for them to rely upon the kindness of unbelievers, then they don’t bear the guilt for giving offense to the world, or the dishonor which thereby comes to the Gospel."

"The zeal of congregations against the secret societies(1) is completely pharisaic if it is not tied with sufficient concern for their poor and suffering. A Christian congregation can not simply claim that there are state funds for the poor and homes for them, which they also support. No Christian congregation should allow their poor to be cared for in this way. The state should much more see that it need not forcibly impose taxes for the poor in order to maintain poor Christians, but only for those who have been forsaken by all the world. Christian congregations should view it as a disgrace to see their poor cared for by the secular state. In the so-called state churches, in which a confusion of the church and the state existed, it was a different matter. There the state institutions for the poor were essentially those of the church. Here, where church and state are strictly separated, the church should not allow its sole care for its poor to be taken away. If God already called upon the church of the old covenant that: “There shall be no beggars among you!” (Dt. 15:4), how much more does this apply to the church of the New Testament! If it dishonors God, if Christians among Christians have to go about as beggars because they are not provided with the necessities of life, so that Christ in them must go begging, what an insult must it be to the name Christian, if Christians close their hearts to their brothers, and they are forced to go begging from the loveless world!"

-C.F.W. Walther, from The Pastor's Responsibility to Care for the Physical Needs of Members of His Congregation.

(1) Note: In Walther’s day, many people joined secret societies, such as the Masons, in order to establish relationships they could count on in times of need.


Thursday's Child said...

Good points. I'm all for helping the poor but the welfare system is outrageous. Instead of helping those who truly need it, it's overburdened caring for those who don't and the ones who do are hurting for it. Where did we get the stupid notion that people have a right not to work?

Mike Baker said...

Political issues aside for a moment, the Christian faith holds fast to a very strong work ethic through the doctrine of vocation.

Perhaps an even more stupid notion is the idea that caring for the poor who are among us is not the responsibility of each individual Christian as well as the corporate church.