If the church isn’t a social organization, then how are the needy cared for?


"The church has no bowling league, no softball team, nor does it sponsor a Boy Scout troop. We have an air-conditioned building with several rooms for Bible classes, but there is no kitchen, no banquet hall, no gymnasium, or party room. Perhaps you are wondering what kind of church is this, or what does the church offer the community. Quite simply, we are a church that follows after the pattern of the New Testament. We are not a social club, nor a civic organization, nor a political forum, nor a welfare institution. While the influence of the church and its members are felt in all these areas, the church, itself, is none of these things. The church is a spiritual institution, which administers to the spiritual needs of its members and the community." (from La Vista Church of Christ's home page)

Now I am a Biblical literalist. The early church pooled their resources to meet all the needs of every member? As a matter of fact, Acts records that the first controversy in the church was over the Hebrew widows receiving more food than the Greek ones. And then you have James (if a person comes to you lacking food or clothes, do not tell him "be ye warm" or "be ye fed" but rather meet the needs of the body in addition to the spirit) and Jesus Christ said that those who did not feed the hungry or visit those in prison would be "goats." It might be mighty forward of me to ask such a thing since I am not a minister and not a member of your congregation, but are you keeping these things? And if so, how? Please do not take offense (I know, that is the equivalent of bashing someone on the thumb with a hammer and then saying "I hope that didn't hurt!"), but instead please know that my intent was honorable. Hopefully my telling you that the fact that I came across your website looking for the meaning of "firstborn of creation" that Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and similar point to in order to deny God's Tri-Unity, found what I was looking for, and will use it for my own website (which gets frequented by Mormons and Oneness Pentecostals attempting to defend their false beliefs) will convince you that my intent is not to mock, accuse, or claim to be superior to you. Thank you.


You are blending passages discussing the responsibilities of each individual Christian with those discussing the responsibilities of the church in a local. While both the Christian and the church may share overlapping duties, they are not the same. A passage illustrating this is the instructions given on who takes care of widows. "Honor widows who are really widows. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. ... But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. ... If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows" (I Timothy 5:3-4,8,16). The verses I skipped contain the details of what characteristics indicate that a widow should be the responsibility of the church. But notice in what I did quote that the primary responsibility for the care of widows is upon the widow's children. The church only handled widows who had no family to care for her and who had lived an exemplary life. The church was not a welfare organization to care for everyone who came along.

Did the church meet the needs of every member? Only if you see that the emphasis is on members of the church who had needs. The church made sure that no member went hungry. But every member was not in need, otherwise from where did the money come? "Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need" (Acts 4:34-35). Even in this help in times of need, the church's aid did not remove the individual's responsibility. "But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread" (II Thessalonians 3:6-12).

The church here teaches its members to fulfill their responsibilities to their fellow men and not to expect someone else or some organization to relieve them of their duty.

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