Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 7, 1955

Let Us Assume Our Own Responsibilities

Robert L. (Bob) Craig, Lometa, Texas

I am fully persuaded of this: if we, as individuals, and as churches, would accept and relieve our own obligations, we would almost completely solve our difficulties and differences in relation to the orphan home question. I believe that many today, individuals and churches, are falling short, and I hope in this very small, insignificant manner, to try to open the eyes of just a few toward this. It has been suggested that all we do is to criticize and never offer anything better or a solution to the problem. I know of no better solution than to try to harmonize our practices to the teachings of divine writ and if we really want to help matters, surely the scriptures must be that medium of enlightenment. Every thinking person among us must agree that these differences need to be put from among us. Let's study the matter with the good of the cause upper-most in our minds and forget the prejudices that may have found lodging there because of the inconsistencies or even the faults of men. Let's try to please the God of heaven instead of our own whims, fancies, and vanities.

First, let's try to arrive at an answer to the question; "Do we have an obligation toward orphans?" There can be absolutely no doubt in the minds of any who will accept the New Testament as authoritative, that we do have an obligation, as individuals, toward orphans. James 1:27 will teach us that in unmistakable language. (And I have no disposition to engage in quibbles concerning the church, as such, being made up of individuals. I know that, but I recognize the fact that the N. T. makes a definite distinction between the work of an individual, as such, and the church as a collective body of disciples; a local congregation. 1 Tim. 5:16) I am aware of the fact that it would be much harder, in fact, impossible, to find a passage that teaches, in plain statements of fact, that the church has a like obligation. I believe it safe to assume though, that the Lord's money (money laid up in a common treasury) was used to alleviate the suffering, not only of widows in Jerusalem and Judea, but of any others who might come under the heading of "poor saints." To exclude those as being among the ones helped who were too young to be members of the church, is to stretch the imagination completely out of shape. Also, the fatherless and widows are spoken of throughout the entire Bible, old and new alike, as common objects of true charity. But since the N. T. definitely limits the care of widows by the church (1 Tim. 5:16) through the proper placing of responsibility, surely SOME discretion or bounds of limitation must be recognized in connection with orphans. So let's look at this idea of responsibility in connection with the care of orphans.

First of all, the responsibility for the care of children lies directly upon the father and mother. We need to be much more careful in this respect than we now are. When I say we, I refer to all the congregations who send money to some home to use as they see fit. In many instances we are providing fathers and mothers with a convenient means of shirking their own responsibility. But, you may inquire, what if a mother is dead? Just because a mother is dead doesn't necessarily make her child or children an object of charity and an obligation of the church. Remember, that's the issue. Not whether the church has any obligation toward orphans, but, what obligation does it have and how shall it meet that obligation? Back to the case of the dead mother. If the father could provide for those children before the death of a wife, he ought to be able to do so after her death. But, you say, they need a home. All right, let the father assume his responsibility and send them to a competent child care home, run by a Christian, if possible and if that seems the only course left him for the rearing of his children, but, let him continue to pay for their board and keep and not make them the obligation of the church. They are in no way the obligation of the church.

But, another question comes. What if the father is dead? The mother living? Why, the simplest, most reasonable, and even cheapest thing to do, if that's what you are looking for, would be for the church, if this happens to be the church's responsibility after due investigation, to help that mother maintain her own home. Our orphan home friends cry, "Keep the family intact." So do I. Help that mother to maintain her home, if she needs help. Then you elders could actually see and oversee, and others could see, the work you are supposed to be doing. Now I know it would be easier to bundle all destitute children off to an institution, out of our sight, and then send a small pittance each month to soothe our conscience, as so many are doing right now; but we're not discussing what's the easiest thing to do.

Suppose said children have grandparents, uncles, aunts, or even older and married brothers and sisters; then these children would be their responsibility. Read if you will I Tim. 5:8. If these people will not assume their own responsibility, let the elders admonish them, discipline them, and if they still refuse, withdraw fellowship from them, for surely we can have no fellowship with those who have denied the faith and are worse than infidels. Look at many or I believe we can say most who are being supported today and you'll find this to be true. Now wait a minute! I agree that if these people just will not assume that responsibility after having it pointed out to them, then evidently, we must. But surely when we find that sort of person, not only should he be withdrawn from, but he should be made to sign papers relinquishing that child for adoption. So many children are actually being held in escrow today, waiting for a convenient time for their parents to reestablish a home.

All right, the first who has a responsibility toward orphans or children is their parents, aunts, uncles, etc. Secondly, we, as individuals have a responsibility toward orphans. Read James 1:27 again. There are very few homes that could not care for a homeless child. We may not want to and we may try in every way possible to excuse ourselves, but when it comes right down to it, if a child actually becomes my responsibility, I cannot put that responsibility off on someone else and still be pleasing in God's sight. My orphaned brother or sister is MY responsibility, no one else's. My uncle's child or my aunt's child, my grandson or granddaughter, or any other that I could care for is my responsibility. Let the church be extremely careful before they become the agency through which others may shirk their own responsibility. And let us, as individuals, be careful to assume our full responsibility, that the church may not be charged.

Now, suppose a certain child or children becomes the responsibility of some church. How shall that church relieve its obligation? Certainly there are many ways, but whatever method is chosen, let us remember, that that responsibility belongs entirely to the local congregation where that child is. In its scope? Why the children we come in contact with and know about are in our scope. But the one you know about is in your scope. (So much for scope) That church might help to keep a family intact in its own home; supply the necessities that are lacking. They might rent or buy a house and put those children who are their responsibility in that house with perhaps a widow to look after them. Remember the issue: we're talking about those who are our responsibility, not the responsibility of other people and other churches. We're not talking about building a home for the churches throughout the brotherhood to shirk their responsibility in. Look at it again. They (the local church) may rent or buy a house and put those children who are their responsibility in that house with perhaps a widow to look after them. They might finally see the wisdom of sending that child to a child care home. (a home that sells services not a brotherhood institution) But if they do, that child is still their responsibility, if it ever was. They can't send that child to a home and just say "Corban" and be done with it, like so many are doing today, or just send a small contribution each month to salve their conscience. If a church has a responsibility toward a child, they must assume that responsibility; not put it off as an obligation of the universal church working through a central agency.

In the beginning I said that the assumption of responsibility by those to whom it belongs would solve most our difficulties and surely it will. I am suggesting that the reason orphan homes are continually calling for contributions is simply because some have fallen down on their duty. I have the financial reports and some facts concerning children that have been sent to these places. I believe (I could be wrong) that every child sent to these homes must be sent by a local congregation. Surely the congregations who send these children must, in some way, recognize the fact that that child is their responsibility or they would not send him in the first place. Congregations all over the country are sending these children and then sending a small contribution to care for them, thus shirking their duty and making this child care an obligation of the universal church. And anyone who knows anything at all about the N. T. knows that the universal church has no obligation and if it does then it has no organization through which it may work and relieve that obligation. If it does work, it must be by man's arrangement, for God has made no such arrangement.

I have before me several bulletins from an orphan's home. They tell of five children being sent by the church in a certain community. A church well able to support five or even more children. I then checked on the support sent for those children by that church. $82 was sent from that particular city to care for their five orphans in a period of four months. That is about one-twelfth of their obligation. Now what do you suppose happened? Why, they sent those children to a place where they could become the obligation of the churches of Christ, thus almost completely shirking their own responsibility and evidently the orphans home, or we should say, the other local congregation, to which they were sent, readily accepted these children to be cared for by the universal church through them. This example could be multiplied. This is not an exception but the rule. This is not a hypothetical case. There are very few churches among us who are nearing the support for even one child a month.

Now very candidly and very truthfully, brethren; do you think this is pleasing the Lord? Do you think it would help solve the situation if these churches would take care of their own obligations and not beg other churches, through a central medium, to help them shirk their duty? Why, you know that it would.

But, one final question and thought. Can we cooperate with others in the care of orphan children? I believe that we not only can, but in certain circumstances, must. When there is a congregation of "poor saints" who need our help, then we have an obligation toward them. But our obligation is to that congregation of "poor saints" who are unable to care for their own, and I believe that we have the scriptural principle for that in the case of the famine at Jerusalem and in Judea. Certainly, help that congregation that really needs help, but see that you help the congregation and not some central organization set up for the purpose of tending to the business of the universal church. You have no obligation toward any such thing. You do toward a destitute group of the saints of God. Not to help them shirk their own responsibility, not to help a certain congregation who has assumed the responsibilities of other congregations, but to help them when they are unable to help themselves.

In conclusion I believe that the principle suggested in 1 Tim. 5:8 will hold true, not only to the individual but to a congregation of God's people as well. "If any care not for his own — (their own obligations) — he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel." Brethren, let's take care of our own obligations and when we do that we will also take care of a whole lot of the controversy among us.