“Rice Christians” Are No Christians
“RICE Christians” have disappeared from mainland China. At least so stated Dr. Tracey K. Jones, Jr., at a recent meeting of the Methodist Board of Missions, according to The Christian Century, February 20, 1960.
What is a “rice Christian”? One who was won over to profess one of the religions of Christendom by being furnished rice or other food. Since feeding the stomach does not of itself make for strong convictions, it is not surprising that Communist pressure in China should cause these “rice Christians” to forsake their so-called Christianity.
While communism may have put an end to “rice Christians” on the China mainland, such will keep on thriving elsewhere so long as religious organizations use the same tactics. Thus the above-quoted religious weekly in an earlier issue said: “New Roman Catholic churches which were built in places [in Formosa] where there was no Catholic population were equipped for storage and distribution of relief supplies. . . . Priests used the U.S. surplus commodities that came to them so cheaply as come-ons for converts and stay-ons for the come-ons.”
Most pertinent therefore was question No. 5 in a series of eleven questions sent out by the World Council of Churches to its members. It asked: “Can we agree to disown any Church action by which material or social advantages are offered to influence individuals’ Church affiliation, or undue pressures are brought to bear on persons in times of helplessness or stress?”
Not that “rice Christians” are limited to the rice countries of Asia. Not at all. All Christendom is infected by this selfish virus of professing to worship God yet doing so out of ulterior motives. Because of this we find a great increase in certain lands in church membership, in observance of religious holidays, in sale of religious articles and in construction of new church buildings. That all this increased activity does not represent sincere Christianity is apparent from the fact that in these same countries there are increased crime, delinquency and immorality.
Concerning such “rice Christians,” the apostle Paul said that they were “men corrupted in mind and despoiled of the truth, thinking that godly devotion is a means of gain.” And in foretelling “that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here,” Paul goes on to describe the various kinds of delinquency found in the world today, and then states that men would be “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away.”—1 Tim. 6:5; 2 Tim. 3:1-5.
Strictly speaking, there can be no such persons as rice Christians. There can be rice Methodists, rice Presbyterians and rice Catholics, but not rice Christians, for Jesus Christ set no such precedent. He emphasized the spiritual above the physical, saying: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.” He called those happy who “are conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. Happy are those who are hungering and thirsting [not for rice and wine but] for righteousness, since they will be filled.”—Matt. 4:4; 5:3, 6.
True, when crowds had continued with him for days and ran out of food, rather than see them drop famished by the way, Jesus miraculously supplied them with material food, causing a few loaves and fishes to feed many thousands on at least two occasions. But when some followed him simply because of having been thus fed, he rebuked them, saying: “Most truly I say to you, You are looking for me, not because you saw signs [proofs that he was a prophet of God], but because you ate from the loaves and were satisfied. Work, not for the food that perishes, but for the food that remains for life everlasting, which the Son of man will give you, for upon this one the Father, even God, has put his seal of approval.”—John 6:25-27.
True Christianity is not a matter of selfishness but of unselfishness or love: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength,” and, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus also said that “the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” By his course of action Jesus showed that he appreciated that “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Mark 12:30, 31; Matt. 20:28; Acts 20:35.
Can Jesus’ teachings be taken literally in our day? With so much selfishness on every hand, is it possible to apply these Christian principles? Yes, it is; and the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses gives ample proof therefor. The great majority of them have come out of the popular religions of the world, of pagandom and of Christendom. What has been the inducing cause for these to become Christian witnesses of Jehovah? Not anything of a material nature. It has been the love of truth, the love of God, the love of one’s fellow man. What has attracted many has also been the high principles and the zeal of those bringing them this message, and, in particular, the glorious hope of God’s kingdom and the blessings it will bring in a new world of righteousness.
How practical has all this been? That without the help of any “rice” at all the number of ministers preaching regularly each month has increased nearly three and a half times in ten years, from 230,532 in 1949 to 803,482 in 1959. And these have cast aside all racial, political, national and cultural prejudices and work as a harmonious whole in 176 lands and islands of the sea. Truly, real Christianity does not need “rice” to produce Christians!