Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 11, 1951
NUMBER 23, PAGE 6,12b

Has God Said "How?"

Robert C. Welch, Florence, Alabama

A conflicting course of statements can be noticed these days with reference to the manner of caring for orphans and other needy. Some are saying that God has not said how to do it, while others say that He has told us in specific and no uncertain terms the manner in which it is to be done. If the New Testament does not tell how to care for orphans, what made these people think it does? Something must have been said about it for them to think so. If it tells how the work is to be done, then why could not the others see that it so teaches? Or maybe we should all be like brother G. K. Wallace. In his article of August 30, 1951 entitled, More On Orphan Homes, he says in the first paragraph that God has not said how, then in the second he sets out to prove how God has said do it. In fact, he almost contradicts himself in the last two sentences of the first paragraph. He says, "The Way widows are cared for is the way orphans are to be cared for. God bound the care, and he loosed the how." If he loosed the how, then how does brother Wallace know that it is to be done in the same way as the widows? If God loosed the how than it might be done in the same way as for the widows, but no necessity of doing it that way. Besides, if it is to be done in the, same way as for the widows, then God has bound that it be done that way, and the how is not loosed. But granting that it is to be done in the same way as for the widow, let us notice his next paragraph where some more about the how is given. He says, "The care of the destitute widow is the responsibility of the church." Thus according to him the how of caring for orphans is by the church, yet he says that God has "loosed the how." There are some details which God has not given concerning their care, but according to his own article brother Wallace got too general when he said that God "loosed the how."

Is each congregation to do this work, or can one congregation do it for several contributing churches? Brother Wallace did not answer that question when he said that it is the "responsibility of the church." Does he refer to the church "local" or "general?" Or maybe he means that this makes no difference, that this is the thing which God has loosed. Granting that orphans are to be taken care of in the same way that destitute widows are cared for by the church, there is an example for their care given in the Bible, thus we have more about the how of doing it. A group of churches did not go together and form an outside organization for caring for the Grecian widows. No group of churches sent their widows to one congregation to be cared for while all the others contributed to it, thus it is not to be done in the case of orphans. In the Jerusalem church the widows within that church were administered to by members of that church, selected for the task by the church, the funds also contributed by that church. (Acts 6:1-6) Is the example to be overlooked? If so, you can as easily take the Lord's supper on Friday, for we are taught when to take it by example only. If the premise be correct that orphans are to be cared for by the same way as are the widows; those within each congregation are to be cared for within that church, administered to by members of that congregation, who have been selected by the church, the funds for their care contributed by that church. This article does not deny the right and duty of individuals in this work. It concerns the church's work.

Some may object to the statement that widows and orphans are to be cared for in the same way. They may say that it is not specifically said how they are cared for, whether like the widows or otherwise. For their benefit a statement should be made relative to specific and general terms. There are three clams of indigent or needy named in the New Testament. The general term, then, is needy. The three specific terms or classes of needy are: widows; fatherless; famine stricken. (Acts 6:1-6; Acts 11:27-30; James 1:27) The widows were cared for within the local congregation as shown in the preceding paragraph. Those destitute by famine were also administered to within each congregation. In this case relief was sent to them from disciples in other congregations; "And the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judea: which also they did, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul." (Acts 11:29, 30) It is not specifically said in the New Testament that the fatherless must be cared for in the same way. But are we to disregard the examples for the care of these other needy when the church attempts to care for orphans, when it is possible for each church to care for them in the same way. If they could not be cared for in the same way, churches might be justified in using some organization other than the local congregation for their care. But no one will deny that it can be done by each congregation. Sometimes they say that it can be done better by one congregation taking the orphans of several congregations or by some independent organization taking them. Every example of work done by the church in the New Testament; whether caring for the needy, or worship, or evangelizing; shows that the work was done by individual independent congregations without any organic connection or organization between them; it was done within and by the congregations without any outside organization through which the work was done. Is it possible that men have little enough respect for this general principle concerning the church and its work, that they can disregard it in the care of orphans? It is being disregarded, in the operation of these independent orphanages who claim support from the churches, and by some of the church operated homes who attempt to do the work of several congregations from whom orphans and contributions are sent. This in no way denies the right and duty of one congregation to send relief to another when its members are in want and cannot be relieved by its own contributions.

Is it proper for a congregation who has orphans to send them to another congregation to be cared for? There are two kinds of work to be done in the caring for orphans. They must have provisions, and they must have supervision and personal attention. If one congregation can delegate this personal attention to another congregation, could it not as easily let the other congregation do the contributing also? If one congregation can do a part of the work of another congregation, it has just as much right and obligation to do the other. If a church can supervise the orphans of another congregation it can also contribute for the other congregation. If it can oversee the orphans for another congregation, what is wrong with its elders overseeing the members of the other congregation. If a congregation has the obligation to contribute to orphans it also has the obligation to personally care for them. The obligations of a congregation cannot be delegated to another. Note this parallel: the church has these two kinds of work; care of orphans, and teaching its members; the church sends its orphans to another congregation for training, the church also sends its members to the other congregation for teaching. Does someone object to that procedure, declaring that it will destroy the church who sends out its members for other churches to teach? If it can be done in one kind of work, why is it wrong in another? The church has as much right to send its members to another church for teaching as it does to send its orphans for training. Let each congregation perform its own duty in both phases of work and in all other work which the Lord has taught.

This writer recognizes the fact that the New Testament does not tell some things involved in the How of caring for orphans and widows. But that fact surely does not give us license to do anything we want to, even to the point of violating approved examples and principles which are included by the New Testament in all phases of the work of the church. Its examples and precepts deny the right of any kind of independent organization for doing the work of the churches; whether it be a missionary society, edification society, or benevolent society. Its precepts and examples deny the necessity of any kind of diocesan arrangement of churches for their work; whether it be that of a diocesan mission, sponsored mission program, or cooperative church orphanage. We do have the examples and precepts for each church doing its own teaching work, its own charity work. No one will say that this practice is wrong. All will agree that it is right to do it this way. All are not agreed on some other of these practices, thus there is difference and confusion. Let us be united by doing what all agree to be right and safe.