We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth (I Jn.3:16-18).
I know there is some welfare within the church, which is a good thing. But ask Christian leaders today about the levels of socialism and government control within the community, and whether they’d like to see it reduced. Frequently, they are the ones asking for more of it.
Why do they want more of it? Because they have no understanding of the Biblical requirements of welfare, or that it is an individual, family and church responsibility. Welfare is not a task for the State.
To say this will require massive change in the Christian community is an understatement. Why should there be change?
Because you can’t replace something with nothing. Yes, the social and political manifestations of humanism are evil, but they are only present with us today, because of the patent inactivity of the church; its refusal to do what God has commanded it to do.
If we want this to change, don’t wait for the government to improve. Governments only ever get worse, when the church is failing in its mandate. The Bible warns us of this (see Matt.5:13), and history shows it to be true. We are the ones supposed to be the salt and light in the community, so we must do what the Bible commands.
Right from the start, there was welfare in the church, initially for widows (see Acts 6:1-6). This was because there was welfare for widows in the Old Testament, and the church took its marching orders from the Old Testament, something the modern church has forgotten to do.
When there is welfare in the church, it is making a statement. “We don’t just talk about our faith. We live it, too. We’re willing to work, put cash on the table, get food and serve it.” That means that long-term, the church has the potential to become a powerful social institution- the very thing God always planned.
I recently came across an article by Gary North, called “Diaconates and the Welfare State,” which I will quote from below.
When those of us who reject the idea of the welfare state make our case against state-funded wealth-redistribution, someone will say: “What are you doing to help the poor?”
It’s a legitimate question, even if asked rhetorically? Why? Because you can’t beat something with nothing.
There will come a day when the welfare state will go belly-up. The USSR did in 1991. China did in 1979. Venezuela is going through it today. Even North Korea will at some point. Welfare states run out of other people’s money. Then they collapse.
The unfunded liabilities of the Western welfare states will eventually produce the Great Default. That is the day that people will be serious about finding alternatives.
The church has to be there when the welfare state collapses. Ideally, it has prepared for it, firstly in principle and understanding, just as Joseph’s warnings prepared Egypt for a famine (Gen.41:14-40). This means, we have to start talking about this in church; what we must do to please God in a society in crisis, and how we can go about it. What should we do about it?
Secondly, it has to spend time and money getting ready. This means storage facilities, fridges, getting connected to supermarket chains that discard large amounts of goods, because of Use-by Date issues. It means preparing people for responsibilities, and finding the best ways to transport foodstuffs. When people are starving, an official Use By Date on a packet of spaghetti means little to them, and day old bread is still edible.
There is no training for deacons. There should be denominational guidelines: manuals, YouTube presentations, regional seminars, and other training materials. There aren’t any. This is why we can be sure that denominations do not take deacons seriously.
This is because they do not take economic crises seriously: in families, businesses, and economies.
When recessions hit, desperate families go to deacons for financial help. This is done as a last resort. These families are facing eviction or something comparable. They don’t want others to know.
The deacons don’t know what to recommend. They are not trained. They may be having problems in their personal situations.
Taking a congregation from nearly zero to being fully active in welfare doesn’t happen overnight, unless there is a sudden crisis. It needs some Steady Performers who keep plugging away, making the church aware of the issues, warning and encouraging, trying to prepare for the crisis. Doing this may be a thankless task, but it still needs to be done, if the church is to prepare.
There may be churches that have programs for helping people who are in a financial jam. Maybe they are online. If they aren’t, they should be.
If your congregation has something like this, encourage the deacons to post the details online. They should develop a workbook. They should not hide their lights under a basket. Never forget:
We can’t beat something with nothing.
Something is better than nothing.
What if there was another Great Depression? What if churches needed to have a daily soup kitchen at church, with 2-3 people there to man it, do the cooking/serving and cleaning up afterwards? That would mean lifestyle changes for those people, and it would mean others paying for it, getting it, and much more.
These are all things to consider. But firstly, the Biblical issues; the theology of welfare, and our Biblical obligations.
If something cannot continue, it will stop. There will be an economic crisis soon, and it could be long-lasting, presenting a massive strain to the community. Will Christians and the church be willing to be salt and light in the community, see it coming and prepare for it?
It could be a glorious opportunity for the Gospel throughout the world.