I awakened this morning to the constant ring of my telephone. It stopped ringing before I got to it, and someone left a voice mail. Before I could hear the message the same number called again. “This is the Pastor – can I help you?” A woman I’ve never met nor ever talked to began to tell me her life story. After about five minutes she came to the point – one of the local Churches in town had been helping her pay her electric bill the last three months, and they no longer would help. Would I and my Church like to be her sponsor? By the way, her name is “Kim”.
I asked “Kim” what I always ask. “Where do you go to Church, Kim? Where do you worship Jesus every week?”. Well, I really don’t go to Church. When I do go, I go to ___, but no, I don;t do that. I proceed to tell Kim about the Lord Jesus Christ, to share the glorious Gospel with her. Kim doesn’t want to hear this, but begins to play “Let’s Make a Deal” with me. “Can you pay my electric bill”? I explain to Kim that I am a Pastor, and that we are a Church. I explain that the Lord gives us money not to pay electric bills, but to use it to lead others to know Him. “Can we get groceries?” Yes, Kim, I can get you up to fifty dollars in groceries – but I need to talk with your pastor – or at least get your commitment to come to Church with us. “What about gas for the car?” I can give you up to fifty dollars in gas for your car – and I’ll pump it – but again you must be in Church and under the Gospel. Kim ends by saying “Well, I’ll think about it and call you back”. I suspect I’ll never hear from Kim again. She’s on the line, dialing from her cell phone while watching cable TV, looking for another Church to carry her for three or four months.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind helping the poor. I have driven miles to carry food to widows who love the Lord. Five times I’ve been overseas in Central America on medical relief missions as a chaplain, carry groceries and the Gospel to people dying from lack of soap. My policy while on mission is the same policy I have in this great state of Tennessee – if you get help from our Church, you also commit to Christ and hear the Word preached. Preachers of the “Social Gospel” believe that Christianity is all about feeding the poor. That’s wrong, and I can prove it from the Scripture. Let me ask you this – How many times do you see Jesus feeding the “poor” in His ministry? Did Jesus go from person to person making sure everybody had a biscuit? Show me where He did that.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking care of the poor – but we must always share the Gospel and lift up Jesus as we do so. The Church is not a welfare agency, but a lighthouse, shiningly pointing to the Lord Jesus Christ! You will find no evidence in Scripture where Jesus ever fed the poor without first preaching the Gospel to them. In fact, when John the Baptist was in prison he sent his disciples to Jesus asking “Are You the Messiah, or should we seek Him still”? Jesus replied:
Matthew 11:4-5 (KJV) Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the GOSPEL preached to them.
Jesus didn’t say “we’re feeding sandwiches to the poor”. No! He said “the poor have the Gospel preached to them”. There’s nothing wrong with giving to the poor – but they must be GIVEN THE GOSPEL too. Jesus told the rich man “sell all you have and give it to the poor, and you’ll have treasure in Heaven” (Matthew 19:21), but He also said:
Luke 4:18-19 (KJV) The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon me, because he hath anointed me to PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
Poverty may be caused by riotous living, by making bad life decisions that had nothing to do with Jesus. In Luke chapter 15:11-21 Jesus told the story of a young wandering son who pursued sin and not God. What caused that young man to repent and return to God? POVERTY. The Bible says that:
Luke 15:16-19 (KJV) And he would have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
Thank God for the poverty that leads to Christ! I heard a preacher say once “If someone had given that boy a sandwich he would have never gone home”.
People make bad decisions and bring poverty many times on themselves. God may use that to break them – preach the Gospel to them. Fill their hearts with Christ before you pack their bellies with food. In John chapter 6 Jesus was preaching to a great multitude of people when He proposed that they be fed. The disciples produced five barley loaves and two small fishes (John 6:8) that was part of a young boy’s lunch. Our Lord prayed over and multiplied this food, feeding well above five thousand people with it. Following that great miracle He and His disciples headed toward Capernaum. When He got there Jesus found the same crowd that was at His last preaching session, all sitting there licking their lips, waiting to be fed once more. Notice what Jesus told them:
John 6:26-35 (KJV) Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. 27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. 28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. 30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
Jesus didn’t fill their bellies that day – there was no miracle of multiplied food. Jesus told them “Fill your bellies by BELIEVING ON ME. Except you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you have no life in you (John 6:53). Your love for Jesus must transcend your love for food. He must be first – not filling your belly. The Bible says
John 6:66 (KJV) From that [time] many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
Like “Kim” they couldn’t use Jesus nor the Church to gratify a welfare mentality. God takes care of His Children. I am convinced in my heart of hearts that no person who loves the Lord ever goes hungry. Jesus can make stones into bread if need be. In fact, it is part of the calling of the Church to feed the poor SAINTS.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 (KJV) Now concerning the COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
Collections were made for the SAINTS, Christians who loved the Lord. You do not see collections made for those who were without Christ. In the early Church we see that
Acts 2:44-45 (KJV) And ALL THAT BELIEVED WERE TOGETHER, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
No one suffered want as Christians – they took care of one another. Widows were fed at a common table (see Acts 6). But be aware that there were qualifications established as to who were widows and who were NOT. The Bible says:
1 Timothy 5:9-10 (KJV) Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, 10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.
A widow was allowed at the widow’s table if she was over 60 years old, and had been the wife of only one man. She had to have a reputation of doing good works, taking care of her children, showing hospitality, washing the saints feet , relieving others who suffered, doing good works. There were no “welfare widows” who hopped from husband to husband having babies, depending on state and Church to support them. And here’s another thing – to be considered a “widow” you had to have no living family. The Bible says:
1 Timothy 5:16 (KJV) If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.
Now I’m sure that many will argue with these things, but your argument is with God, not I. We have in America fostered two attitudes toward money. We have sought it and worshiped it until we have become spoiled idolaters. We have also offered so much welfare to those who could have gotten jobs that they have developed welfare mentalities. They call the Church wanting not Christ but cash. They call the Pastor not to receive direction to eternal life but temporal funds so they can abide in a baby-like state, allowed to vote but never working, sitting and soaking while watching Oprah, blaming government for their problems but never standing up to their responsibilities as adults.
And in many cases, the Social Gospel and the deceived who preach it aggravate the problem.
As God’s Church we are to be light, to point to Christ, to believe His Word and promote it with all our hearts. If we do not put the Gospel first we have no right to be considered Church nor Christian. Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life – no man comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6).
May God touch your hearts with His Word!