Losing Benevolence

Did we let the government take it?

I recently visited a “benevolent home” nearby.  The original structure is a grand old building constructed just after the turn of the 20th century.  The service club that supports it began just before the American Civil War, its’ original charter having been signed by Abraham Lincoln.  The meetings of the club were heavy on “pomp and circumstance” as so many of the clubs of that day were.

The original purpose of the home was the support of widows and orphans of the members of the the service club.  It served that purpose very well for a good number of years in the first third of the century.  Then, something major happened.  In 1940 Social Security began paying out monthly benefits to spouses, minor children and survivors of workers who died prematurely. 

Suddenly, the “service” that the home had been providing had been taken over by the Federal Government!  Wishing to remain open and still wanting to provide a benevolent service, the home changed its charter and began providing “temporary care of children in need.”  It still operates today, but it is slowly fading away with fewer and fewer children placed there.

But what of the loss of actually preforming “service” to the members of the club?  That is, the loss to those caregivers and those supporting the home financially… the “givers.”  A major societal change had been made!  Responsibilities had been transferred.  The Federal Government had become the main provider in “benevolence.”  This has had a profound effect on service organizations, churches and families. 

The government took over and local personal oversight of charitable assistance was lost.  The door was opened for all kinds of scheming, scamming and downright laziness.  Now, when a church or organization is approached by someone requesting help, they have no idea who they might be dealing with.  We’ve all seen cases where welfare scammers take in far more than an average salary in a given community.  This change killed the opportunity for individuals and groups to safely and effectively perform benevolence.  Without complete investigation, one might unknowingly aid criminals in scamming of the government.  Some even create fraudulent documents in order to become eligible for these benefits, stealing from citizens and taxpayers what is not legally theirs to have.

Since Social Security began, service organizations, churches, families and individuals have lost the motivation to help the needy in their community… “let the government do it,” has become the theme.  “After all, their pockets are much bigger!”  And… considering the litigious atmosphere today, it’s just a lot safer to not get involved.

But the concept, the responsibility, the longing to help our fellow man still is valid.  So, what are we to do?  Benevolence has long been summed up in this verse:

James 1:27
27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

There is a clue in this verse.  It is the word “oneself.”  How do we practice “pure religion?”  We return to individual responsibility!  We personally help those, that we personally know.

After all the years of conflict over how churches can provide for widows and orphans, maybe a governmental mandate has brought us back to simple biblical truths.  The bottom line is, that responsibility for benevolence falls on each individual Christian. 

If we do our part… God will be pleased.


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False? – Really?

Do we use the word biblically ?

We have a reputation among non-members of horrible infighting. This has not helped the cause of Christ.  One of the first problems that comes to mind about infighting, is the presumed necessity of labeling as “False Teacher” anyone who disagrees with our own position on doctrine. 

The “Restoration Movement” has long had a motto of “speak where the Bible speaks, be silent where the Bible is silent… call things by Bible names, and do things in Bible ways.”

We need to examine the practice of labeling, and to do that, we must examine the Bible use of the English word, false.  English dictionaries usually begin the definition with; “not genuine” or “intentionally untrue,” but they also allow the modern definition of “not true.” 

I suggest that the later definition, is not the way that false is used in the Bible.  Here is a list of usage to check out for yourself.  list of usage of false

Please go through the list and check out the 60+/- times it is used.  Check the definitions of the various Greek words.  I think you will come to the same understanding that I have:  The Bible uses false in reference to deceit or lies!  Here are some examples:

Galatians 2:4
4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage),

These false people were brought in secretly, by stealth!  Is that deliberate?  Did they knowingly conspire to “sneak” in, lying about their intentions?

Matthew 7:15 (NKJV)
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.

Any doubt here, that these people are intentionally misrepresenting their intentions? 

Matthew 26:59 (NKJV)
59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death,

They were looking for liars!

In Acts 18:24-25 we read about Apollos, teaching fervently , but having an incorrect or incomplete understanding of Christ’s teaching.  Did Aquila and Priscilla immediately label him as a false teacher?  No… what did they do?  “… they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”

How much grief and heartache could be saved, if we would follow this example?  How much fellowship of brethren could be saved, if we would not condemn one another of deceit and lying, by labeling as false!


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Self Examination

Considering decline in membership, decline in influence, and splits within the church of Christ, it is past time for self-examination. Why these losses? Is there something about our methodology that has alienated folks? What is it that causes so many splits and factions?

Can we now deeply examine what we have taught, our doctrines, our attitudes, our outreach? What if some doctrine that we have held is incorrect, or at least un-provable? Would that shake our faith, or make us realize that we are just fallible humans ever searching for the truth of God’s word?


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