Vol.V No.XII Pg.4
February 1969

Limited Benevolence

Robert F. Turner

Bro. H. Leo Boles, long-time writer for the Gospel Advocate, frequent speaker at David-Lipscomb College as well as at other schools operated by brethren, and beloved by brethren throughout his life-time, wrote.

"To sum up the matter of giving and receiving, it seems that we can say that Christians are to do good as opportunity is offered them. We have examples in the New Testament of (1) Churches helping other churches (ACT.11:27-30), (2). Churches helping individuals (PHI.4:15-16), (3) Individual Christians helping Christians in need (1JO.3:17), (4) Churches helping their own members (ACT.4:34-35; 1TI.5:3-12), (5) Christians helping those who are not Christians (GAL.6:10). Christians are to do good to all, and helping those in distress is a good work. We do not find any example of a church that has sent help to those not Christians". Gospel Advocate, Jan. 29,1942)

The once-great Foy E. Wallace, Jr. in his own paper, Torch (Vol. 1, No. 2 Aug. 1950) wrote: "The institutional idea is not in the language of James. The fact that Paul puts an age restriction on the widows, that none under sixty could be enrolled as permanent charges of the church, and that the New Testament specifies these benevolent interdictions, makes it evident that it is not the will of God for the church to be encumbered with the permanent programs of material benefactions, as are now being promoted with such assiduity, which undoubtedly diminish the temporal means to the spiritual ends of preaching the gospel. The duty of the church in alms-giving is therefore limited to relief emergencies. There is no passage in the New Testament that incorporates the institutional idea as an obligation of the church."

Did these men teach "limited benevolence"? I suppose that would depend upon what one meant by the expression; but it is clear they did not teach the general welfare, social-gospel concept so common and popular now. In reality, "benevolence" (well-wishing and concern) is not "limited" — but the scriptures make a distinction in what the individual and the church are to do in this field.

What bros. Boles and Wallace said prove nothing "scriptural"; but note these quotes from the first century:

"If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed" (1TI.5:16).

"For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat" (see 2TH.3:8-12).

Did Paul not love the lazy busybody? To ask is to answer. Was the church to have no concern, no sympathy for the widow under sixty? None should so conclude. Yet, there were "limitations" placed upon the obligation and function of the church, as opposed to individual action. Rules regulate benevolence, wholly in keeping with God's and our love for all.