Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4


Chapter 47—The Lord's Poor

I was shown that our people living out of Battle Creek do not appreciate the cares and burdens which come upon those at the heart of the work. They allow their church members who are not able to support themselves to come to Battle Creek, thinking that they can obtain work in our institutions. These do not first write and ascertain if there is an opening for them; but crowd themselves upon the church, and find, upon application, that there is already a surplus of hands employed, many of whom are as needy as themselves. They were taken in out of pity, and are still retained, not because they are of the most service to the institutions, but because they are so needy. 4T 508.2

There are families residing in Battle Creek who have seen these institutions grow up, and who need and are worthy of positions in them, but who are not able to obtain them because so many from abroad will suffer if not employed. This brings upon the church and these institutions burdens of perplexity to know how to treat all these cases with wisdom, offending none, and showing mercy to all. Our institutions have sustained loss by seeking to help these cases, for frequently the applicants are in poor health and therefore not to be relied upon. Could their places be supplied with able, efficient workers, it would save quite a sum to the cause of God. 4T 509.1

It is the duty of every church to feel an interest for its own poor. But many selfish ones have felt gratified to have their poor members move to Battle Creek; for then they would not be required to help support them. The Battle Creek church spend every year from one to five hundred dollars for the support of the poor and sick, whose families must suffer unless they are sustained by charity. God would not be pleased to have this church allow the poor among them to suffer for the necessaries of life; therefore there is a continual draft upon the funds of those at the heart of the work. 4T 509.2

Our brethren must retain their poor at home and take those already at Battle Creek off from the hands of the church. They could do very much more than they now do for the poor by furnishing them with work, thus helping them to help themselves. It would be much better to employ these persons in your temporal matters than to send them to the great heart of the work, and let the cause of God be burdened by this inefficient class of workers. Only men and women of culture and of physical and mental strength, caretakers, who have been accustomed to using their own brains rather than the brains of others, are needed at Battle Creek. Would you think it advisable, my brethren, to crowd into responsible positions persons who are incompetent to obtain a livelihood in the common business of life? 4T 509.3

There are youth, and men and women, who need to be taught how to employ their ability just where they are. This is no pleasant duty; but every church is responsible for its individual members, and it should not allow a class who cannot obtain a living where they are in the country, to move to Battle Creek. Brethren in the country have farms and can raise their own supplies. It is therefore much less expensive for the poor to be supported in the country, where provisions are cheap, than to have them come to Battle Creek, where, instead of helping the church and our institutions, means must be continually drawn from the treasury to help them. Those living in the city have to buy nearly all their provisions, and it costs something to take care of the poor. 4T 509.4

Brethren in smaller churches, if God has left a work for you to do in caring for His poor, in comforting the desponding, in visiting the sick, in dispensing to the needy, do not be so liberal as to want the Battle Creek church to have all the blessings of this work. You will be justified in coveting the blessings God has promised to those who will care for the poor and sympathize with the suffering. 4T 510.1

There must be a charity fund raised to meet the necessities of the poor who are permitted to come to Battle Creek. Each year the sanitarium gives thousands of dollars to charity patients, but who appreciates this great tax upon the institution? None whose names are on the church book should be left to suffer year after year from sickness, when a few months at the sanitarium would give them relief and a valuable experience how to take care of themselves and others when sick. Every church should feel it a Bible duty devolving upon them to care for their own worthy poor and sick. 4T 510.2

When a worthy child of God needs the benefit of the sanitarium and can pay but a small amount toward his expenses, let the church act a noble part and make up the sum. Some may not be able to pay anything themselves, but do not let them continue to suffer because of your selfishness. Send them to the sanitarium, and send your pledges and your money with them to pay their expenses. In doing this you will gain a precious blessing. It costs something to run such an institution, and it should not be required to treat the sick for nothing. Could the sum which that institution has expended for charity patients be refunded, it would go a long way toward relieving it of its present embarrassments. 4T 510.3

Brethren, do not leave the burden of your poor upon the people and institutions at Battle Creek, but come up nobly to the work and do your duty. Deny yourselves of some things in your houses or in your dress, and lay by in some safe place a sum for the needy poor. Let not your tithes and thank offerings to God be less, but let this be in addition. God does not propose to rain means from heaven with which to sustain the poor, but He has placed His goods in the hands of agents. They are to recognize Christ in the person of His saints. And what they do for His suffering children they do for Him, for He identifies His interest with that of suffering humanity. 4T 511.1

God calls upon the young to deny themselves of needless ornaments and articles of dress, even if they cost but a few dimes, and place the amount in the charity box. He also calls upon those of mature age to stop when they are examining a gold watch or chain, or some expensive article of furniture, and ask themselves the question: Would it be right to expend so large an amount for that which we could do without or when a cheaper article would serve our purpose just as well? By denying yourselves and lifting the cross for Jesus, who for your sakes became poor, you can do much toward relieving the suffering of the poor among us; and by thus imitating the example of your Lord and Master, you will receive His approval and blessing. 4T 511.2