Christian Universe ™
Who Is My Neighbor?
May 30, 2010
The Church of Christ teaches that individual Christians may assist the needy who are non-Church of Christ people, but can only use the collection for needy "saints", citing 1 Corinthians 16:2. Yet, these same people champion the use of this same collection to build, supply, maintain, and repair church buildings. They say that we cannot use "the church treasury" to help non-saints, because there is no command or example in the New Testament. By the same token, there is no scripture for using it to fund a building! Who is my neighbor? Will God destroy us for helping too many people?
Who Is My Neighbor?
By Bernie Parsons
Presented to Globe church of Christ on 05-30-2010
Presented to Load church of Christ on 06-06-2010
In our series on freedom that we enjoy in Christ, we saw that it all comes down to using that freedom to serve one another, as God has illustrated for us in His love for us, in that He sent Christ to die for us while we were sinners. God has always told His people to love their neighbors as themselves. This love denotes action, not just emotion or sentiment.
Some raise objections to practicing this godly attitude. Two of the principles set forth by God that are often strenuously objected to in the Churches of Christ are (1) we must not use the church collection – also referred to as the church Treasury, or the “Lay By In Store” – to help anyone outside the Church of Christ religious body, and, (2) we must not use it to support local preachers or elders.
What these people will often, but not always, consent to is that the money can be used to import preachers to conduct what they call Gospel Meetings – or revivals – and it can be used to build church assembly buildings, and to furnish, supply, and maintain and repair them. Some will, after much controversy, reluctantly agree to help fellow Church of Christ members, if they appear to meet certain criteria. They usually insist upon an examination of the person’s lifestyle, their past financial management, their recent purchases, and whether or not they are a “worthy” person! If they can squeak past all of this probing and prying, they might – or might not – receive some small amount of assistance. If they need help later, many often refer to the first help as reason to not help them ever again! It reminds me of those Pharisees who declared that a person could make a contribution to their parents and never have to be concerned about their welfare again!
Let’s examine the “scriptural” objections that they raise in opposition to assisting others. First, they point to:
1 Corinthians 16:1 "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye."
They point to phrase “the collection for the saints”, insisting that the collection must only be used to assist the saints, and not unbelievers, which they call everyone who is not a member of the Church of Christ, whether that person claims a belief in Jesus as Savior, or not. The apostle Paul said in his follow-up letter that it was not a commandment.
2 Corinthians 8:8 "I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love."
These people are hypocrites, because they will turn around and use “the collection for the saints” to build, furnish, maintain, and repair “church buildings” – which, by the way, we don’t even read about in the Bible – and to import preachers to hold “gospel meetings” – another thing that we don’t read about in the scriptures!
Furthermore, it was a one-time collection, not an on-going process! It was to take place over the course of one year, and the collection was taken to Jerusalem to help the needy saints there.
1 Corinthians 16:2 "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
3 And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.
4 And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me."
2 Corinthians 8:10 "And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago."
2 Corinthians 9:1 "For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you:
2 For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many."
With this in mind, we do not see an ongoing collection, but a period of one-year in which resources were collected to be taken to Jerusalem as a ministry to needy saints there.
Yet, when we read verse 13, we see that the saints at Corinth were willing to help, not only the needy saints at Jerusalem, but to liberally distribute to “all” men.
2 Corinthians 9:12 "For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;
13 Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;"
This leads me to the second objection often raised against helping the needy outside of the ekklesia, with money collected by the ekklesia – the called-out assembly, or the church.
Galatians 6:7 "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."
Verse 10 is invoked, out of context, and perverted, in the phrase “especially unto them who are of the household of faith”. I have heard several members, and a few preachers, render this incorrectly as “only to the household of faith”! I am astounded every time that I hear this, because they clearly change the wording, and ignore the rest of that sentence, which includes this: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."
In the context, the apostle Paul speaks of sowing and reaping. We studied that in the last sermon.
2 Corinthians 9:6 "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."
In both cases, Paul is writing about helping others! In this letter, he speaks of doing good unto all men, but especially – not only -- to the saints! Now, consider the following:
Matthew 5:40 "And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
to love even our enemies
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
Romans 12:19 "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
Love your neighbor as yourself. Charity! Who is your neighbor? Anyone who needs your help! We studied this in the last lesson, from Luke 10:25-37.
Luke10:29 “But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?”
Luke 10:36 “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise."
Let us go and do likewise! Our neighbor is whoever needs us! Believer or non-believer! Here we had a non-believer assisting a believer. Should a believer help an unbeliever, as well?
Matthew 7:12 "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."
The “collection for the saints” was a one-time, year-long collection gathered from the Galatian, Macedonian, and Achaian Gentile Christian churches, and sent for the relief of the needy Jewish saints at Jerusalem. Paul said it was not a commandment, that it was his advice, and that it was an experiment. We can use it as an example, but not a commandment!
The truth is that God has always told his people to take care of anyone in need, believer or not. We have the example of the Israelites meeting the needs of the strangers among them from the stored collection of tithes, as well as crops in the fields, olive yards, and vineyards. Christ said to love our enemies and do good to them. Paul said to give food and drink to our enemies. He said to do good to all. Our first concern should be for our Christian brothers and sisters, but then we need to be concerned about those who are not in our small circle of close friends and church family. Love your neighbor as yourself! Who is my neighbor? Anyone who needs me!
That is the eternal law of God!
Some try to distinguish between personal resources and the collected resources of the ekklesia. God owns it all, and we are mere stewards of the grace of God. How will we use it?
1 Corinthians 10:26 "For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof."
1 Timothy 6:17 "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;"
Some say that we can only help unbelievers out of personal resources, and only believers out of the “church collection”. There is no scripture that says this, and several that teach otherwise, as indicated above. In Acts chapters 2 and 4, we see Christians distributing to other Christians. In 1 Timothy 6:17, we see individuals taught to distribute and share. Christians as individuals are to share, and Christians as a collective body are to share. There is no scripture that says that we cannot or must not take up a collection among the believers to meet a need of a non-believer in situations where that an individual Christian does not have the personal resources to meet that need. Do we allow an unbeliever to suffer because of this? Or, do we love our neighbor as ourselves, and assist all?
When we stand before God in judgment, will He condemn us for helping too many people?
In our freedom in Christ, we must not make up rules that Jesus and the apostles did not give us!