Welfare and the Bible (7)

A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, only the rebellious dwell in a parched land (Ps.68:5-6).

Christians have almost limitless opportunities to do good, and everyone should be making every effort to find their place within the Body of Christ where they can do the most good, and be a blessing to people. This has innumerable manifestations, all of which are exciting and full of potential.

The Bible in this text singles out two groups of people for our care. He cares for them, and so should we. In other places, He speaks of the poor and the aliens as also being special objects of His care.

North comments,

The family is designated by God as the chief agency of human welfare. It is the agency that is most effective in solving the problems of poverty, sickness, and crisis. It is the only agency which knows its limitations and strengths. The head of every household counts the costs of every project undertaken by the family. No other human agency links mutual self-interest, mutual understanding, mutual obligations, and mutual support in the way that a family can. Members are close. They know each other’s weaknesses and strengths. The family is also an extended institution, with bloodline contacts that can spread out widely. It can call upon related families for help in a crisis.[1]

My father had a sister who never married, called Maisie. The last to die of her generation, she lived alone in a NSW country town. I’d painted her roof in 1978, and in 1999, she told me she wanted it painted again, and had gotten quotes to do it. These seemed exorbitant to me and I couldn’t do it, but I knew a Christian painter only a couple of hours away from her. I contacted him, and he did it for about 60% of the prices she’d been quoted. One phone call saved her hundreds of dollars.

I have a friend who lives in an Australian city of 130,000. He seems to have fingers in innumerable pies, with lots of business connections. As anyone knows, having business connections can be a great help. For over 40 years he’s been an industrious man, with a great capacity to help people get jobs done cheaply, saving themselves a lot of money. Sometimes he’s done it himself. How?

He has specialised knowledge in many seemingly unrelated fields, such as dealing in cars, mechanical work, printing, concreting, cleaning, shifting house, transport, property management and a host of other things. Recently he persuaded a friend (a man riddled with cancer, who was hoping and praying that God would heal him), to consult a solicitor and wisely complete his will, only weeks before he died.

The man took some serious persuading, and his solicitor’s visit took 5 hours. Would his widow and children have appreciated that? My friend’s a deacon; a great asset who has helped me in the past, and every church ideally should have numbers of people like that.

When a church is well lead by its elders and deacons, it has a parallel, harmonising role with the family, and can do an enormous amount of good; firstly for its own people, and secondly, for the broader community.

Why?  Firstly, because the Bible speaks of this:

Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful (Tit. 3:14).

…I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds (Tit. 3:8).

…I want women to adorn themselves … by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness (I Tim.2:9-10).

Secondly, because they can save you time, money and heartache, and every person’s time and abilities are limited. Only God has total knowledge, but we all should be seeking the right information about projects we need to undertake, so they can be accomplished effectively and cheaply. There is a cheap and there is an expensive way for doing everything, and only governments don’t seem to care about always choosing the most expensive option. Christians should never be so foolish.

The Bible tells us,

Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed (Prov.15:22).

Deacons can go in to bat for widows and the fatherless, as they did in Acts 6. They can assist them in relation to asset management, and innumerable other responsibilities to get the best deals. And widows and others need protection from predators who are out to take them down.

In Ruth’s day, the elders of Bethlehem saw themselves as being subject to Biblical law. When Ruth came with Naomi to Bethlehem, (both of them widowed and impoverished, and thus in financial crisis), the elders in this godly city determined (after Ruth’s request to Boaz) who would marry Ruth and thus be responsible to raise up an inheritance for Elimelech, her first husband. One could argue that this establishes a scriptural precedent: the church, (under the supervision of the elders) must be available to function as a godly safety net, if Christian families (through sin or incapacity) are unable to cope in their circumstances.

Thus the Old Testament welfare system was a comprehensive and complete way of ministering to the needy in the community.

The eldest son is entitled to a double portion of the family’s estate (Deut. 21:17). This means that if a man has four children who are legally responsible for him, then he must divide the estate into five equal shares, with the eldest son receiving two-fifths.  Why? Because it is the eldest son who has the primary responsibility for caring for aged parents. The child who is willing to bear this responsibility is treated as the eldest son, such as Isaac’s position of favour before Abraham, not Ishmael, the firstborn, or Jacob’s position before Isaac because of God’s choosing of Jacob over Esau, the elder twin.

There is a mutuality of service and blessings. Costs and benefits are more closely linked. Family disputes among the children are minimized.[2]

Conclusion:

We Christians want to do things according to the scriptures. No other way works. And as the scriptural way gains commonality, the way of God will begin to be seen in the earth.

Isn’t that what Jesus spoke of, when He commanded us to “…make disciples of all the nations….teaching them to observe all that I commanded you?” (Mat.28:19-20).

Wouldn’t that be a great thing?

 

 

 

          [1] Gary North, “Unconditional Surrender,” 1994, p.184-5.

[2] Gary North, “Unconditional Surrender,” 1994, p.186-87.

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