How the True Church Helps
TRUE Christianity has survived in a “minority of personal witnesses,” a true Christian congregation that has kept in mind what its commission of work means. Thereby it has been able to make true disciples of Christ out of people instead of merely making them “rice Christians” or Christians in name only.
The true Christian congregation is not a “rich Church.” And since its members, each and every one, are witnesses who serve personally by going directly to the people in their homes, as Jesus and his apostles did, they are able to reach people’s hearts with their message, even those who are afflicted with hunger and poverty.
The Christian witnesses usually share the circumstances of the people among whom they serve. Yet they expend their very limited funds to bring God’s Word to the common people. The popular claim: “One cannot preach to a hungry man; he wants bread, not words,” is not universally true. Jesus Christ himself declared: “Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.”—John 18:37.
In any emergency situation, of course, the Christian witness will help if he is personally able to do so, as Jesus taught in the parable of the neighborly Samaritan. (Luke 10:29-37) But the true Christian will not forget that he has a commission to preach God’s kingdom.
THE REAL SOLUTION
So, then, what should you do if you want to follow the example of God’s Son? You must be merciful and compassionate, true. But how can you best show that mercy and compassion? Would you, for example, throw a matchstick to a man drowning in the middle of a stormy sea? Hardly. Yet the efforts of churchmen to solve the problems of the world of mankind by concentrating on material giving are very much like that. They only scratch the surface as to bringing true relief. For, as long as selfishness and greed continue, poverty and hunger will follow.
Yes, an entire world system needs to be changed. But how? Political action may change governmental structures. But can it change the hearts of men? Is that not where the problem lies?
Churchmen who urge their parishioners to join in political activity and reform movements are simply trying to sew patches on an old worn-out garment. But Jesus showed that true Christianity is not a case of patching up an old garment. (Matt. 9:16, 17) And, instead of patching up this present world system with all its injustices, its inequalities, its greed and oppression, God is going to discard it as no good, worthy to be destroyed. In its place he will bring in a new system, founded on righteousness and justice. Of his Son, who will head that righteous rule over earth, the prophecy says: “And with righteousness he must judge the lowly ones, and with uprightness he must give reproof in behalf of the meek ones of the earth. . . . and with the spirit of his lips he will put the wicked one to death.” Then and then only will poverty and hunger disappear from the earth.—Isa. 11:4, 5; 2 Pet. 3:13.
SPIRITUAL AND MATERIAL ASSISTANCE
The help that the Christian is able to give, then, is not just of a temporary nature, but is of more lasting value, since it is true that “man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.”—Matt. 4:4.
The one who receives the word of life brought to him by a Christian witness will gain something to live for. He gets a hope. He sees meaning in life. He understands that he himself can be of some value and that he can be used to help others. This gives him the desire to live a decent life. He gains self-respect. Before hopelessness may have made him apathetic, made him neglect his family, disregard his duties or perhaps even caused him to give himself up to self-destroying vices—a situation that material help alone cannot remedy—but he now gets a purpose in life.
He may still be poor, but he will not be miserable. He has started a completely new life where spiritual values are the most important thing and ‘the seeking of God’s kingdom and of his righteousness’ comes first. (Matt. 6:33) He will associate with the Christian congregation and he will get friends there. He will learn the importance of industriousness and cleanliness. He will learn moderation, and instead of wasting his money, he will learn to do good with it.
If he should find himself in real need, the congregation will help. (Jas. 2:15, 16) Yes, even if their brothers in a whole country come into need the Christian witnesses in other lands will do all they can to help them. In this way the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia in the first century helped the needy Christians in Judea, where there was a famine. (Acts 11:28, 29; Rom. 15:26) And after the same pattern Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, for example, in the United States in 1945 sent large quantities of clothes and food to their fellow believers in Germany who had been freed from the concentration camps.
In like manner, on numerous occasions the Christian witnesses of Jehovah have given physical and humane help when catastrophes and disasters have struck, as when they supplied aid for their Christian brothers in Peru after the earthquake in May 1970.
Giving such material help, however, is not the main commission of the congregation. The main commission of the congregation is to be a light to the world of mankind, by the lives they live and by preaching God’s kingdom and helping those who seek that kingdom to become true Christians.
CORRECT VIEW OF DISTRESS IN WORLD
The true Christian congregation thus keeps clearly in mind its main commission and maintains the right view of the distress in the world. It does not close its eyes to the misery and does not act deaf toward the cry for merciful help, but with confidence in God it gives the help that it is able and is commissioned to give.
Christians must serve lovingly in the world and help where they can. Trusting in God, they must, however, keep their commission clearly in mind. If they take on a task other than the one they have been given, they will fall short in two ways: In the first place, they will not be able to fulfill the task they have taken on themselves, since their work will not be blessed by Jehovah. (Ps. 127:1) And in the second place, they will neglect the work that they should have been doing and thereby prove to be false Christians. No, to be true Christians they must never lose from sight the fact that the good news about God’s kingdom is the most vital provision they can give the people.
True, they see much distress and misery that they are not able to do anything about. How can they stand the sight of all this? The same question was asked by the late news editor Niels Jørgensen, writing about Jehovah’s Christian witnesses whom he met in the German concentration camps. He said:
“Without losing courage and without compromising their conviction, these men had lived for years in German concentration camps. . . . The Bible Students who were generally respected in the concentration camps . . . submitted to their trials patiently and with a peculiar gladness of heart because they had been found worthy of walking in the footsteps of Christ and of bearing the same sufferings as their Lord and Master had once borne in a wicked world. There is only one thing about the attitude of these people that I cannot understand—and even less today than at the time when I first met them in deep respect for their mental strength. That is how they could bear to see others suffer so terribly without being weighed down to the ground with the burden of sympathy.”
The answer is: They have confidence that someday very soon now Jehovah will intervene and in a perfect way do away with all misery and distress. Millions who have died in our time and in years past, “both the righteous and the unrighteous,” will come to life again and get the opportunity during Christ’s thousand-year reign to show their attitude toward Christ and his Messianic kingdom.—Acts 24:15.
Now, if you are not convinced that God will and is able to intervene, your only trust will be man’s own groping efforts. Then everything will, indeed, look purposeless and hopeless. But that need not be the case. Avail yourself of the help God’s Christian witnesses give. Learn the truths of God’s Word, the Bible, and you will have a firm foundation for a strong faith.
God’s true church or congregation will remain a minority of personal witnesses. It does not have a passive laity. All are active, absorbed in serving others in a loving way. This congregation is keeping free of this world, in accordance with Jesus’ words: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:16) Its Christianity is not “of the world,” worldly or “secular.” Therefore, it will not take on political tasks. It will not allow itself to be sidetracked or employed with other tasks than the one with which it has been entrusted. It must all the time hold the true hope of God’s kingdom before people of the world.
The most important thing for you, for every individual—including the poor and afflicted—is to enter into a right relationship with God and Christ. To that end the Christian witnesses of Jehovah are sent into the world, not with material bread, which would be only a temporary help, but with spiritual food, the word of life. These words from God will open the way to peace with Him, and at the same time the way to eternal life in God’s new order, when there will be plenty for all.