Benevolent Work in the Mission Field

Wayne Jackson
It is a wonderful thing when Christians rush to the assistance of others during times of disaster. But do we always think clearly about the way we implement these efforts? A word of caution surely is in order. One aspect of this issue is addressed in this week’s Penpoints column.

Most folks by now are aware of the carnage that was caused by the Indian Ocean earthquake of December 26th, and the devastating tsunamis that followed, killing more that 200,000 people, and leaving thousands of others homeless, orphaned, etc.It is a heartbreaking tragedy of enormous proportions.

Many Christians appear to be throwing themselves into the task of helping these poor victims — first with physical/material assistance, but ultimately, and most importantly, using these circumstances to save lost souls by means of the gospel of Christ.

I have read reports of wonderful efforts and developing opportunities for accomplishing good in this arena of disaster.Some are preparing to distribute literature in this environment of anxiety where people are having the most acute spiritual interests of their lives.Others are organizing counseling centers where they can offer biblical instruction about the eternal welfare of troubled souls.Efforts are being implemented to care for orphaned children with the goal of bringing them up in the nurture of the Lord. These efforts are wonderful indeed.

There is, however, a troubling aspect to some of the benevolent efforts being proposed by some well-intentioned souls.Some are indicating that funds received from the states will be turned over to, or channeled through, government agencies for the ultimate distribution of these resources.There is a distinct problem with this approach.

First of all, in such instances there almost always is government control.
Be that as it may, or may not be, equally serious is the fact that the church (hence Christ) does not get the “glory,” or at the very least, it is forced to share it with unbelievers.This, in my judgment, runs counter to Paul’s petition in Ephesians 3:20-21.“Now unto him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.” Again, the apostle wrote: ". . . let him do it as of the ability which God gives: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ. . . " (1 Peter 4:11).

Just as our churches here in the states have no business tapping into the President’s “faith-based” programs, thus seeking U.S. treasury funds to assist in doing our work, even so we do not need to seek government help in doing evangelism — which is what benevolence is ultimately.

Here is a question our foreign brothers ought to consider.Is there any reason why benevolent funds, contributed by generous Christians in the states, cannot be used by trustworthy brethren on their own, to accomplish good in the mission fields.Why is it necessary to invite civil authorities into the arrangement?

I have seen no reasonable explanation as to why the cooperative (ox-donkey) connection is a necessity.What about 2 Corinthians 6:14, "Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers. . . "?Does that passage have any meaning?If so, what is it?Does it have any application to the current situation?As I see it, it does.

The New Testament mentions several disasters that afflicted the Mediterranean region during the apostolic age, e.g., famines (Acts 11:27-30; Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:1ff).In helping to remedy these emergencies, there is no hint of soliciting the assistance of the Jewish or Roman authorities to facilitate Christian benevolence.Would not that have at least potentially relieved the “persecution” situation?But there is absolutely no evidence that such was done.

Christians are entirely capable of doing a variety of compassionate works without the assistance of the civil governments.We will never be able to do as much as governments, because we do not have billions of dollars at our disposal. But God only expects us to do what we can.And he doesn’t suggest that we ask the world for help.