The Scriptural View of Helping the Poor Outside the Church

In order to fully understand the subject, we must first of all review the office and calling of the deacon as instituted by Christ in the New Testament Church. This office was established when the apostles found it impossible to both perform the ministry of the Word and distribute to those in need. Therefore, they chose men full of faith and the Holy Spirit to perform the work of ministering to the needs of the widows. (Acts 6)

We find that many passages of Scripture point to our calling to care for the flock, both spiritually and temporally. Rom. 12:13 lists as a gift “of grace”, distributing to the necessity of the saints and I Cor. 12:28 speaks of “helps” which refers to the office of deacon. (See ordination form.) Indeed, Scripture is full of such terms as charity, love, bearing one another’s burdens, etc. It is important to note that all this should be done “with comfortable words from Scripture” and also “only on objects of mercy”. (See form)

Now the criticism is often raised that the office of deacon has become, in many of our churches, only an institution to take collections, budget envelopes, and pay bills. Certainly, this criticism is in many cases and in varying degrees valid. However, we must certainly realize that today we live in entirely different circumstances than that of the early church. Today we have Social Security, unemployment compensation, food stamps, A.D.C., life and accident insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and others. It certainly is not for me to treat in this article the right or wrong of using the available help outside the church for those in need. Let this suffice, that the church is fulfilling the calling to care for Her own. This is first.

But the criticism remains that in many cases the priestly office does not manifest the mercies of Christ in actual practice because there is no one in need in the local church.

That raises the question as to the calling of the Church toward those outside Her confines in respect to the mercies of Christ and again we must look to the Scriptures for the answer. First, it is of worthy note that in Luke 12:8 Jesus tells us “for the poor always ye have with you” and in Gal. 6:10 we are told “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Surely, the Church’s mandate does not end with Her membership.

Are we doing all we can outside our local church? Of course, this question can only be answered by each diaconate in each local church. But this we know, that our Churches responded generously to help those in Jamaica. Again, we raise the question, are we doing all we can? The answer is that we always fall far short. We could be investigating the need locally. We could investigate aiding the distressed in many distant places as Honduras, Australia, and many others, but this would have to be done thru other church agencies and only with great digression. We could even send our own deacons to distressed areas to distribute to the needy, but, remember in all these areas, we encounter great problems which must be handled carefully. This should not stop our deacons but spur them on in Christ’s work.

What is the calling of us, young people, parents, and all of God’s people? “Provide the deacons with good means to assist the indigent”. “Be charitable, ye rich, give liberally and contribute willingly”. (Form) Did not Christ commend the widow who gave in the temple out of her need for “she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had”- Luke 21:4.

Finally, we cannot conclude that our personal calling is only giving to the poor fund but this should be an extension of our personal relationship to our fellow man especially to the brother, for Christ says in Matt. 25:40 “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”. We must at all times remember that whether in riches or poverty, what we have, we have not as possessors but rather as stewards, that we may return all to Him, that His name may receive all the glory.