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Assisting Jobless, Homeless Church Members|
Q. Where does the "gift of hospitality" and Christian ethics fit in with the following situation? I have a dear friend who has taken a member of her congregation into her home. This lady is divorced and the children visit her at my friend's home most weekends. Unfortunately, this lady is no longer contributing to the running costs of the home because she has no job and this is putting a huge financial strain on my friend, who is a pensioner. What should she be doing as a Christian? (R.N.)
That is a good question! Thank you for asking. I'm sure many people are facing similar situations and need some possible answers to your question.
He Who Refuses to Work Shouldn't Eat
We believe that 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 may apply to your friend's situation. Verse 10 is particularly applicable: ..."if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either..." The full passage points out that idle people tend to become gossips and busybodies. Therefore, ideally we should engage ourselves in productive work and not become a burden to others.
Benefits of Belonging To Active, Bible Believing Church
Here is where belonging to a conservative, active church community can really help. Has your friend contacted her church elders, deacons and pastor about this situation? Surely their advice should be sought immediately and their participation included in helping to support jobless or homeless church members.
Church Guidelines and Definitions
In the event that a church does not have biblical, organizational structures in place, the roles of elders and deacons in assisting poor church members may be studied in such bible passages as 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Romans 15:25 and Acts 11:29-30, etc. Or church leaders may read about the roles of elders and deacons in books such as Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem and A Survey of Bible Doctrine by Charles Ryrie.
Watching Out For Our Elderly
Clearly, no single church member should be burdened with caring for a jobless/homeless member of a church. In fact, the deacons and elders should be watching out for their "pensioners" and elderly members (see 1 Timothy chapter 5).
In addition, the elders and deacons should be fully involved in deciding where and how long needy church people can stay in another church member's home as well. If the elders, deacons or pastor refuse to get involved in these issues then I would suggest that a church member begin to consider looking for a more biblical church.
Benevolence Funds, Food Banks & Community Resources
Many churches have "benevolence funds" for people in financial difficulties. Certainly, your friend's jobless guest should be the one seeking out resources to help with her own support.
She can begin by looking into local rescue missions, food banks and other means of temporary assistance to help out the entire household. If she has no car or cannot walk then she could keep a list of those agencies she has called and their responses to her needs. If she is unwilling to do so then 2 Thessalonians 3:10 applies and she should be asked to leave.
Members of God's Household
Her participation as a contributing member of the household is vital. We recognize that she may not be able to get a job, but she can investigate and "glean" the resources available in her community in order to help out her host.
Only in this manner can the church function as a holistic solution to the needs of its members. As a church we must begin to behave like the family we are:
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household" (Eph. 2:19).
Valorie Emilio teaches and works with women at the Gospel Rescue Mission in Grants Pass, Oregon, where her husband, Ken, serves as Director.
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