Mixed Up Values
There is much evidence that people are mixed up in their values today. It is seen in misplaced emphasis even in the work of the Lord. Some two years ago I talked to some friends of mine in Ontario, Canada, faithful members of the Lord's church who had determined to use the material blessings God had given them for the advancement of his Cause while they lived. This is altogether commendable and much more praise worthy than a disposition to hold on to it as long as one lives and leave it to the Lord's use only when one can use it no longer himself. They were pondering the question of how best to spend their money in the Lord's service. They had entertained the idea of establishing an Old Folk's Home. I suggested to them to spend it preaching the Gospel instead. I suggested that providing for the aged is a good work but in many instances their money in such work would be used to take care of some aged people that should rightly be taken care of by their own families. In any event, the contribution made toward saving souls and extending the borders of the church of our Lord would be very limited in such work.
When such work as caring for the widows and orphans or the aged, or other dependents is our obligation, either individually or congregationally, we cannot excuse ourselves from it by rendering some other service even in the name of the Lord. But when a choice as to where we will put in our efforts and spend our substance is ours to make we should put the emphasis where it belongs and use all the wisdom we have to make it count for the most.
These friends of mine were persuaded to use their money to preach the Gospel and try to save the souls of men. Inasmuch as the soul of man is more valuable than his body, the preaching of the Gospel is of far greater importance than any work of benevolence any one can do. They have been directly responsible in the last year for the establishment of two congregations in cities in their country where the Gospel had never been preached and the church of the Lord was unknown. In addition another small work just begun was put upon its feet and more firmly established. A good number were baptized, some restored, churches were aroused and strengthened, and many heard the Gospel preached. What do you think of their decision?
In a recent issue of the Gospel Advocate Brother Norvel Young gave publicity to the fact that two Christian couples have made out wills to the Elders of the Broadway Church in Lubbock for the benefit of the "Orphan's Home" which they have established for the churches. These two wills aggregate something in value over $400,000. That is a sizeable sum and capable of doing great good. How could it best be spent to the glory of God and in the interest of accomplishing real and lasting good for eternity? Surely no one would question the fact that such a sum, when there a choice to be made, could accomplish so much more good if it were used in preaching the Gospel to the lost souls of men and women than it can possibly do in any benevolent work on earth. How many preachers would it support? How many churches would that sum plant in the next ten years? There is no way of estimating how many souls could be saved were it invested directly in the "ministry of the word."
How many times do you remember in the last twenty five years that some huge sum has been made available through gift or devise by some Christian for the building of some school or in some work of benevolence? Millions of dollars have gone into the building of institutions while the preaching of the Gospel has gone begging. Multiplied thousands of dollars have gone into building some dormitory or building to be used mostly in secular work and left as a monument to some individual's name that would have saved multiplied hundreds and thousands had it been spent in teaching and preaching the Gospel. Millions have gone into church buildings, human institutions, educational and benevolent in their nature and thousands of souls that could have been reached through the Gospel of God's Son have gone into eternity lost while we have been "waiting on tables" instead of "giving ourselves to the ministry of the word."
This is sectarian influence upon us and a desire to be like the nations around us and "get us glory." A warped sense of values is thus evidenced. Would I dare to assert that had the money that has poured into institutional channels been spent in an effort to preach the Gospel through the church of our Lord, we would have saved many more souls and come a great deal nearer carrying the Gospel into all the world in our generation? "Having swerved" we have "missed the mark." If not, then God's ways are not best. We need to be more interested in saving souls rather than in building ecclesiastical institutions and organizations.
There is so much sentiment and emotional appeal to our "Orphan Home" work that many are willing to respond to their "need." The result is that their coffers stay so full that they do not dare render a financial statement even to those who are contributing to them. In the days of their infancy before wills were written and great sums left, these benevolent societies among us considered printing a statement of their financial condition in their newspapers an advantage, but as they grew financially they ceased to do that lest the contributions might drop or criticism might be aroused. I am informed that some of "Our Benevolent Societies" have money laid up in government bonds. One that I know of had $40,000 which it didn't need, for the time at least, to lend to a congregation to help finance a great church edifice. Such would not be so reprehensible if they would let it be known that they enjoy such abundance instead of constantly crying for more and bigger contributions to "feed and clothe hungry children who are homeless." These institutions are never satisfied. They plan and execute appeal after appeal. They have high salaried men, most of them, who spend their time "getting money." They go after it. They persuade aged people to leave vast sums to them by will and when they come into the possession of these estates thus devised, you never know anything about it. It does not show up in their list of contributions received. Chances are that when the Elders of Broadway receive the huge estates recently willed to their benevolent society in Lubbock and reported by Brother Young, they will not report them then and their cries for more and bigger contributions will not be checked for even one moment. Chances are, too, that if the financial conditions of the various such "projects" among us were looked into and were it ascertained that in many instances they are actually running a boarding home for deserted children whose parents are willing to partially support them but who either can't or don't want to be burdened with their care, much of the sentiment for "poor homeless orphans" would be lost in connection with such work. The fact that the need for such homes does not exist is evidenced every day by the welfare agencies of the states closing down tax supported institutions that have existed and placing the children in private homes instead.
Where is the end of this "Institutional" racket among us? As these benevolent institutions grow bigger, wax fatter in their abundance, lend more money to churches, and exercise more control over them what will be the end? Already they exert such influence that preachers who are ambitious to be "big" preachers in the "brotherhood" and safeguard their "usefulness" (professional popularity) dare not oppose them. Churches cannot afford to not support them if they are going to borrow money from them; and if they have a preacher on their schedule who is on the benevolent Societies blacklist because he opposes them and who will embarrass the church by his opposition, they will have to find some dishonest excuse to cancel the plans to use him in a meeting. Such is going on now and there isn't any telling what the end will be.