Welfare Ministry


Chapter 21—The Poor in the Church

The Needy of the Household of Faith—Our love for God is to be expressed in doing good to the needy and suffering of the household of faith whose necessities come to our knowledge and require our care. Every soul is under special obligation to God to notice His worthy poor with particular compassion. Under no consideration are these to be passed by.—Testimonies for the Church 6:271. WM 178.1

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” WM 178.2

In a special sense Christ has laid upon His church the duty of caring for the needy among its own members. He suffers His poor to be in the borders of every church. They are always to be among us, and He places upon the members of the church a personal responsibility to care for them. WM 178.3

As the members of a true family care for one another, ministering to the sick, supporting the weak, teaching the ignorant, training the inexperienced, so is the “household of faith” to care for its needy and helpless ones.—The Ministry of Healing, 201. WM 178.4

Two Classes to Care For—There are two classes of poor whom we have always within our borders—those who ruin themselves by their own independent course of action and continue in their transgression, and those who for the truth's sake have been brought into straitened circumstances. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves, and then toward both these classes we shall do the right thing under the guidance and counsel of sound wisdom. WM 178.5

There is no question in regard to the Lord's poor. They are to be helped in every case where it will be for their benefit. God wants His people to reveal to a sinful world that He has not left them to perish. Special pains should be taken to help those who for the truth's sake are cast out from their homes and are obliged to suffer. More and more there will be need of large, open, generous hearts, those who will deny self and will take hold of the cases of these very ones whom the Lord loves. The poor among God's people must not be left without provision for their wants. Some way must be found whereby they may obtain a livelihood. Some will need to be taught to work. Others who work hard, and are taxed to the utmost of their ability to support their families, will need special assistance. We should take an interest in these cases and help them to secure employment. There should be a fund to aid such worthy poor families who love God and keep His commandments. WM 179.1

Care must be taken that the means needed for this work shall not be diverted into other channels. It makes a difference whether we help the poor who through keeping God's commandments are reduced to want and suffering, or whether we neglect these in order to help blasphemers who tread underfoot the commandments of God. And God regards the difference. Sabbathkeepers should not pass by the Lord's suffering, needy ones to take upon themselves the burden of supporting those who continue in transgression of God's law, those who are educated to look for help to anyone who will sustain them. This is not the right kind of missionary work. It is not in harmony with the Lord's plan. WM 179.2

Wherever a church is established its members are to do a faithful work for the needy believers. But they are not to stop here. They are also to aid others, irrespective of their faith. As the result of such effort some of these will receive the special truths for this time. WM 180.1

“If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” Deuteronomy 15:7-11. WM 180.2

Through circumstances some who love and obey God become poor. Some are not careful; they do not know how to manage. Others are poor through sickness and misfortune. Whatever the cause they are in need, and to help them is an important line of missionary work.—Testimonies for the Church 6:269-271. WM 180.3

Poverty May Result From Adverse Circumstance—It has not always been regarded as a mark of inefficiency when through adverse circumstances pinching want has made it necessity for a brother to incur debts or suffer for food and clothing even though he was unable to lift these debts, struggle as hard as he might. A helping hand has been reached out to such ones, to place them upon their feet, free from embarrassment, that they might do their work in the vineyard of the Lord and not be oppressed with the thought that a cloud of debt was hanging over them.—Manuscript 34, 1894. WM 180.4

The Responsibility of the Church or Churches—It is the duty of each church to make careful, judicious arrangements for the care of its poor and sick.—Letter 169, 1901. WM 181.1

God suffers His poor to be in the borders of every church. They are always to be among us, and the Lord places upon the members of every church a personal responsibility to care for them. We are not to lay our responsibility upon others. Toward those within our own borders we are to manifest the same love and sympathy that Christ would manifest were He in our place. Thus we are to be disciplined, that we may be prepared to work in Christ's lines. WM 181.2

The minister should educate the various families and strengthen the church to care for its own sick and poor. He should set at work the God-given faculties of the people, and if one church is overtaxed in this line, other churches should come to its assistance. Let the church members exercise tact and ingenuity in caring for these, the Lord's people. Let them deny themselves luxuries and needless ornaments, that they may make the suffering needy ones comfortable. In doing this they practice the instruction given in the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, and the blessing there pronounced will be theirs.—Testimonies for the Church 6:272. WM 181.3

Every Church Member to Do His Part—The Lord's people are to be as true as steel to principle. He has pointed out the work devolving on every church member. He declares that the church members are faithfully to do their duty to those within their own borders. They are generously to support their own poor. They are to engage in systematic missionary work, teaching their children to keep the way of the Lord and to do judgment and justice. WM 182.1

But the light which for years has been before the churches has been disregarded. The work that ought to have been done for suffering humanity in every church has not been done. Church members have failed to heed the word of the Lord, and this has deprived them of an experience they should have gained in gospel work.—The Review and Herald, March 4, 1902. WM 182.2

The poor and the needy are to be cared for. These must not be neglected, at whatever cost or sacrifice to ourselves.—The Youth's Instructor, August 26, 1897. WM 182.3

The Church to Bear the Burden—The churches that have the poor among them should not neglect their stewardship and throw the burden of the poor and sick upon the sanitarium. All the members of the several churches are responsible before God for their afflicted ones. They should bear their own burdens. If they have sick persons among them, whom they wish to be benefited by treatment, they should, if able, send them to the sanitarium. In doing this they will not only be patronizing the institution which God has established but will be helping those who need help, caring for the poor as God requires us to do.—Testimonies for the Church 4:551. WM 182.4

When the Lord's Poor Are Neglected—When the Lord's poor are neglected and forgotten or greeted with cold looks and cruel words, let the guilty one bear in mind that he is neglecting Christ in the person of His saints. Our Saviour identifies His interest with that of suffering humanity. As the heart of the parent yearns with pitying tenderness over the suffering one of her little flock, so the heart of our Redeemer sympathizes with the poorest and lowliest of His earthly children. He has placed them among us to awaken in our hearts that love which He feels toward the suffering and oppressed, and He will let His judgments fall upon anyone who wrongs, slights, or abuses them.—Testimonies for the Church 4:620. WM 183.1

Search Out the Needs—Your good wishes we will thank you for, but the poor cannot keep comfortable on good wishes alone. They must have tangible proofs of your kindness in food and clothing. God does not mean that any of His followers should beg for bread. He has given you an abundance that you may supply those of their necessities which by industry and economy they are not able to supply. Do not wait for them to call your attention to their needs. Act as did Job. The thing that he knew not he searched out. Go on an inspecting tour and learn what is needed and how it can be best supplied.—Testimonies for the Church 5:151. WM 183.2

Do Not Wait for Them to Come to Us—Poverty and distress in families will come to our knowledge, and afflicted and suffering ones will have to be relieved.... Do not wait for them to come to you. Examine their wearing apparel and help them if they need help. We should invest means to help young men and young women to obtain an education in sending the gospel to the poor, in aiding those who have ventured by faith to take their position upon the platform of eternal truth, when by so doing they have placed themselves in an embarrassing situation. Where there are cases of special need the minister must be prepared to relieve those who are in poverty for the truth's sake.—Manuscript 25, 1894. WM 183.3

Help for New Converts out of Employment—In our benevolent work special help should be given to those who, through the presentation of the truth, are convicted and converted. We must have a care for those who have the moral courage to accept the truth, who lose their situations in consequence, and are refused work by which to support their families. Provision should be made to aid the worthy poor and to furnish employment for those who love God and keep His commandments. They should not be left without help, to feel that they are forced to work on the Sabbath or starve. Those who take their position on the Lord's side are to see in Seventh-day Adventists a warmhearted, self-denying, self-sacrificing people, who cheerfully and gladly minister to their brethren in need. It is of this class especially that the Lord speaks when He says: “Bring the poor that are cast out to thy house.” Isaiah 58:7.—Testimonies for the Church 6:85. WM 184.1

Provide Land for Poor Families—Where the school is established [in Australia] there must be land for orchards and gardens, that students may have physical exercise combined with mental taxation, and half and some wholly pay their way at school. Also ground must be purchased, that families that cannot obtain work in the cities because of the observance of the Sabbath may buy small farms and make their own living. This is a positive necessity in this country. Education must be given in regard to tilling the soil, and we must expect that the Lord will bless this effort.—Manuscript 23, 1894. WM 184.2

Our Duty to Poor Families—Inquiries are often made in regard to our duty to the poor who embrace the third message; and we ourselves have long been anxious to know how to manage with discretion the cases of poor families who embrace the Sabbath. But while at Roosevelt, New York, August 3, 1861, I was shown some things in regard to the poor. WM 185.1

God does not require our brethren to take charge of every poor family that shall embrace this message. If they should do this, the ministers must cease to enter new fields, for the funds would be exhausted. Many are poor from their own lack of diligence and economy; they know not how to use means aright. If they should be helped, it would hurt them. Some will always be poor. If they should have the very best advantages, their cases would not be helped. They have not good calculation, and would use all the means they could obtain, were it much or little. WM 185.2

Some know nothing of denying self and economizing to keep out of debt and to get a little ahead for a time of need. If the church should help such individuals instead of leaving them to rely upon their own resources, it would injure them in the end, for they look to the church and expect to receive help from them and do not practice self-denial and economy when they are well provided for. And if they do not receive help every time, Satan tempts them, and they become jealous and very conscientious for their brethren, fearing they will fail to do all their duty to them. The mistake is on their own part. They are deceived. They are not the Lord's poor. WM 185.3

The instructions given in the Word of God in regard to helping the poor do not touch such cases, but are for the unfortunate and afflicted. God in His providence has afflicted individuals to test and prove others. Widows and invalids are in the church to prove a blessing to the church. They are a part of the means which God has chosen to develop the true character of Christ's professed followers and to call into exercise the precious traits of character manifested by our compassionate Redeemer. WM 186.1

Many who can but barely live when they are single choose to marry and raise a family when they know they have nothing with which to support them. And worse than this, they have no family government. Their whole course in their family is marked with their loose, slack habits. They have but little control over themselves, and are passionate, impatient, and fretful. When such embrace the message they feel that they are entitled to assistance from their more wealthy brethren; and if their expectations are not met, they complain of the church and accuse them of not living out their faith? Who must be the sufferers in this case? Must the cause of God be sapped, and the treasury in different places exhausted, to take care of these large families of poor? No. The parents must be the sufferers. They will not, as a general thing, suffer any greater lack after they embrace the Sabbath than they did before. WM 186.2

There is an evil among some of the poor which will certainly prove their ruin unless they overcome it. They have embraced the truth with their coarse, rough, uncultivated habits, and it takes some time for them to see and realize their coarseness, and that it is not in accordance with the character of Christ. They look upon others who are more orderly and refined as being proud, and you may hear them say: “The truth brings us all down upon a level.” But it is an entire mistake to think that the truth brings the receiver down. It brings him up, refines his taste, sanctifies his judgment, and, if lived out, is continually fitting him for the society of holy angels in the city of God. The truth is designed to bring us all up upon a level. WM 186.3

The more able should ever act a noble, generous part in their deal with their poorer brethren, and should also give them good advice, and then leave them to fight life's battles through. But I was shown that a most solemn duty rests upon the church to have an especial care for the destitute widows, orphans, and invalids.—Testimonies for the Church 1:272-274. WM 187.1

Counsel Regarding a Balanced Work—Christ has not bidden us bestow all our labor and all our gifts upon the poor. We have a work to do in behalf of those who are fulfilling His commission, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” The increase of the ministry will require an increase of means.... WM 187.2

When you expend money consider, “Am I encouraging prodigality?” When you give to the poor and wretched consider, “Am I helping them, or hurting them?” ... WM 187.3

Think of the necessities of our mission fields throughout the world.... The present time is burdened with eternal interests. We are to unfurl the standard of truth before a world perishing in error. God calls for men to rally under Christ's blood-stained banner, give the Bible to the people, multiply camp meetings in different localities, warn the cities, and send the warning far and near in the highways and byways of the world.—Manuscript 4, 1899. WM 187.4