America today is enjoying overwhelming prosperity.
Year after year our national income increases staggeringly. Our tables groan each day under the weight of rich foods. Our clothes are cut according to the latest patterns. Our homes are more sumptuously furnished than king’s palaces of old. We ride in cars of the newest models. We take expensive vacations. We store up wealth in bank accounts, pension plans and insurance policies for a possible rainy day. From the cradle to the grave most of us are surrounded with material security.
Such prosperity is no unmixed blessing for the church of Christ.
Too long we have indulged ourselves and forgotten the needs of others. Reports are frequently broadcast that the “offerings for the Lord’s poor” no longer form an integral part of our Sabbath worship. And when weak protests are lodged from time to time, the immediate response is offered, “Our poor funds are bulging with funds; why collect more? Times have changed; there aren’t any poor in the churches.”
It need hardly be said that such and similar statements are flat contradictions of the teachings of our Lord who insisted, “The poor ye have always with you.” The trouble with us is that too long we have limited the horizons of our Christian charity provincially to the needs of the local congregation. And even there we haven’t been as diligent in bearing one another’s burdens as we should.
Naturally, this situation may not be ignored by the minister. He who represents the prophetic office of our Lord must preach in season and out of season on Christian love which manifests itself in stretching out a loving hand to others. He must point out the spiritual hazards of self-centered having which puts only left-overs in the offering plate for the Lord.
Likewise, this is a matter which concerns the elders. Theirs is the responsibility at least of helping to regulate the offerings received at public worship. The need for beautiful church edifices and new furnishings may not blind their eyes to the pressing need for connections for the poor.
But foremost this is a problem for the deacons. When they fail to insist on regular giving for the needy, they are denying the unique nature of their office. They are bartering away the holy calling wherewith Christ has called them for the menial task of being financial agents for the congregation.
Have we, then, any poor? Indeed! There are more poor today than ever before.
In our own congregations we can be of Christian service by helping to bear the excessive loads laid on some by expensive operations and unexpected deaths. We can provide the means for Christian psychiatric treatment for adults and children, whose families are unable to pay full cost. We can cheer the aged and infirm, some of whom barely eke out an existence in dark and lonely rooms.
But let us lift our eyes to the vision of a world in need. Today there are famishing multitudes in India, Africa and Mexico who have never experienced the pleasant satisfaction of a full stomach. There are yet thousands of refugees in Europe, displaced during and after the last war, whose daily life is devoid of the sunshine of hope. Multitudes of underprivileged children in this and other lands have no homes, no parents, no educational opportunities, no food except thai which they are able to steal. The blind, the maimed, the halt and those tainted with leprosy lift faces etched deeply with the lines of suffering to the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Churches throughout the world, in Korea, India and Africa, cannot afford to maintain their preachers and teachers or to buy Bibles, tracts and hymnals necessary for the work of evangelism. The news of each day hammers home the awful truth that we have more door today than ever before. But likely because we have heard these clamoring cries so long, our hearts are now insensitive and hard.
Here is one of the chief areas for continual reformation in our Reformed churches.
Let consistory members learn to take also this aspect of their divine mission seriously. Only then will our congregations understand the profound truth of our Communion liturgy: “so shall we all who by true faith are incorporated in Christ be all together one body, through brotherly love. for Christ our dear Savior’s sake, who before has so exceedingly loved us, and show this towards one another, not only in words but also in deeds.” – Peter Y. De Jong