Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 7, 1951

More On Orphan Homes

A. M. Plyler, Jasper, Alabama

In a former article we pointed out, that the Bible is no authority for the present day method of building and maintaining orphan homes, with their human, and self-organized, and self-appointed boards. Furthermore we have challenged the scripturalness of a local eldership being set over anything that is bigger than the congregation over which they have been appointed as elders. By God's authority a board of elders are over nothing except the local congregation of which they must be members. They are to oversee, plan, and supervise its work; and beyond that they have no divine authority. An organization that gathers its support from many counties and states (and the subjects that it deals with, and seeks to help, are from anywhere and everywhere) cannot be a local church, and over such an organization, Christ is not the head; and God's elders are not its directors.

We have also contended that the church is God's divine institution, and through it only as an organization, are we to do his work; and that no human organization has a God given right to claim support from the treasure of the church of the Lord church is not primarily designed as a community chest, out of whose treasure everything that comes along can claim support. The primary purpose of the church is to SAVE SOULS, and secondarily, to care for the poor and needy of the community. The bounds and limitations of its work are outlined in the Bible; and are complete. (Col. 2; 10 and 2 Tim. 3, 16-17)

We have heard those who advocate these human organized institutions say that James 1:26-27 is our authority for this work; then this same passage would demand also that we build and maintain a widowage, to care for the widow the same as the fatherless. But this passage is no more authority to create another institution to care for the poor, than the Great Commission of Jesus is to create another organization to preach the gospel.

In New Testament times, without human authorized institutions, the church of our Lord carried the gospel to all the world in less than forty years. (Col. 1:6, 23) At the same time it did its part well and acceptable to him who doeth all things well, in caring for the poor and needy, (and this would include orphans) of the community.

In the 6th chapter of Acts, we read how they took care of a distressing emergency, with no assistance of anything except the church itself. In the 11th chapter of Acts, we read of how one local congregation sent relief to a given area in distress, and sent the contribution to the elders of the church. No one with even a magnifying glass can find any organization other than the church in these passages. In 1 Cor. 16:1-5, we learn that certain churches had been charged to prepare and contribute to the famine stricken brethren in Judea. In 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9, this contribution is discussed at length. In Rom. 15:26-27, this is mentioned again, and Paul says that it was their duty to make this contribution. We refer to these passages to show that the work of caring for the poor is of divine authority; which we suppose no one denies, but these passages do not authorize a human originated and human designed organization to do the work Therefore, let us leave off the organization that is unauthorized, and do the work through the church.

When we thus contend for divine authority in doing, this kind of work, those who are given to human institutions will often raise a burlesque and say "how many orphans is he helping to care for?' My brother, that is beside the issue; we are not discussing what or how much we have done in this work. Let us stay with the issue; what we want to know is has God spoken and if so what has he said? We have given the above passages to show what he has said. God's word must be our guide for by it we will be judged in the final day.

But should some one want to know, or be personal as to what this writer has and is doing, we can say: this writer has been a member of the church about a third of a century, and for more than thirty years a consistent proclaimer of the ancient gospel. A great portion of this time and work has been in destitute places, where other preachers could not preach because of the lack of support. As to the care of the poor, we have always followed the plan set forth in 1 Cor. 16:1-2. While we realize that our regular contribution to the Lord's work has not been great, we do believe that it is in harmony with the above scripture. In addition to this we have contributed in a personal way, to those in need as we have had opportunity and ability. If the Lord requires more than this we have not so learned it. While we do admit that on the final book of accounts there is and will no doubt be one entry against us (for having on one occasion contributed through a human organization to do the work that the Lord requires of the church) we have promised him if for that he will forgive that, we will never be guilty again.

The work of caring for the poor is just as plain and simple as the plan of salvation; but in spite of this fact, some will ask, "If we cannot do the work through an institution, how then can it be done?" We have given the above scriptures to show how it was done; and that is the way it must be done today. For example, James 1:26-27, Suppose there is a widow with fatherless children in the community who is afflicted and in need. The church with its elders and deacons can ascertain these needs, and contribute to the relief thereof. If there is sickness, distress, or need, the church can contribute to this need. (Acts 4:34-35) Or, if there is famine or distress in another congregation in another community, the local church can contribute to this need. (Acts 11:27-30)

But suppose there are orphan children in the community who have neither father or mother living? Paul's instructions to Timothy (1 Tim. 5:5-8) will apply in this case. If there are brothers or sisters, uncles or aunts, it becomes their duty to show special interest in such cases. If to them it becomes too heavy a financial burden to take care of such orphans, then let individual Christians, or the church, assist them in a material way to bear this burden. But suppose that this orphan or orphans have no kindred at all to care for them; what then must be done? Let some member of the church make provisions in his own home for their stay; the church then and individual Christians can assist him in their care. Such a plan is simple, is in harmony with this chapter and all the rest of the Bible. This is the work of the Lord. No human institution is involved; no scripture is violated. With a work of that kind the Lord is pleased.

My brethren, if one man or group of men can start an organization and call on the church to support it, then I and my group can start another, and call on the church to support it; and every other fellow with his group can do the same thing until the land is filled with such organizations, and the church is begged, drummed, and sucked to death by such parasites.

Let no one misunderstand neither this writer nor any one else is opposing the care of orphans, the poor, or needy. We are only contending that it be done in the light of and in harmony with the divine record. When done in that way, we commend, endorse, and plead for it; but beyond that we dare not go. We do not wish to be ugly or uncharitable; we are contending for the truth, and it alone, for guidance in this divine, and God authorized work. And again "No man can be a Christian while he lives and go to heaven when he dies, and refuse to hear the cries of the poor, as he has opportunity and ability."