Is Homelessness the Church’s Problem?

If the Church (i.e., Christians) were consistently engaged in good works (Ephesians 2:10, 1 Timothy 6:18, 2 Timothy 3:17, Titus 2:7, 14, 3:8, 14, Hebrews 10:24, James 3:13, and 1 Peter 2:12), would the social problems, like homelessness, be plaguing our Nation as they are today?

Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. …Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.

This passage from Matthew 25 is part of a larger discussion related to “the end of things” that begins in Matthew 24, and it follows two parables in which some of the characters are rewarded wonderfully with eternal good and others are punished with eternal rejection and torment: the wise and foolish virgins (verses 1-13), and the servants and the talents (verses 14-30).  Verses 31-46 describe the final judgment, and may not really be a parable.

The first half of Christ’s description of the final judgement speaks of the credit given to those who cared for “these brothers of mine, even the least of them” {emphasis mine}.  Jesus says it was just as though the kindnesses had been shown to him personally.   “Brothers” connotes a familial relationship and is used of relatives by blood as well as “relatives” by faith, the “brethren” in the New Testament.  I’ve wondered, then, if it was Jesus’ intent to speak only of the care given by believers to other Christians.

On the other hand, the second half describes those who neglected to care for “the least of these”, omitting the word “brothers”.  But Jesus says the failure to show kindness to these is the same as shunning him personally.  If the inclusion and omission of the word “brothers” in these passages is intentional and significant, then it would seem that caring for “the least of these”, regardless of whether they are Christians or not, is an imperative.  That would be consistent with Galatians 6:9-10 which reads:

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

It is also consistent with the history of the good works of the Church throughout history.  Unfortunately, beginning early in the last century, Evangelicals, and especially those of the “fundamentalist” persuasion, began to fall behind mainstream denominations in “good works”, fearing that the so-called “Social Gospel” being adopted by liberal churches, was displacing the true Gospel of salvation of people’s souls with a “gospel” of meeting only people’s physical and emotional needs.  Indeed it did so in much of mainstream Christianity, but recently even conservative Evangelicals have realized the difficulty imposed by attempting to minister to someone’s soul while ignoring their physical and emotional needs.  More wholistic approaches are being adopted, while hopefully never losing site of the fact that it is the eternal disposition of one’s soul that ultimately matters, “for what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37)

In the absence of sufficient responses by the Church to social problems, Government has stepped in to fill the void, and in general, has failed miserably in doing so.  Government programs have, to a large extent, only succeeded in creating dependent classes of people in every realm in which Government has sought, ostensibly, to better their conditions.  “Ostensibly” because I’m afraid that political motivations make many of these “do good” programs suspect from their very roots, calculated to create dependable party voters rather than to lift people out of poverty and so on.  But that’s another subject.

Building In Youth is exploring ways to involve students in “tiny homes” style shelters for the homeless.  But without the ongoing involvement of churches and Christians with the inhabitants, there will be a significant hole in the wholistic approach.

Posted in: Building In Youth

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