Philanthropy or Theology: Do We Have to Choose Just One?

Not too long ago, as I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I came across a quote someone had posted that read: “Jesus doesn’t care how much scripture we know. He cares about how we treat people.” At first I didn’t pay much attention to the quote, as I continued scrolling through other people’s family photos and status updates, but something about those words just didn’t sit right with me, so I scrolled back up the page to find the quote once again: “Jesus doesn’t care how much scripture we know. He cares about how we treat people.” As I pondered those words I admitted to myself that on the surface this quote seemed encouraging and inspirational for believers, and while I certainly understood the point that was trying to be made, I had to completely disagree with that statement. In reality, Jesus does care that we know the Scriptures, and He also cares about how we treat people. So why should we try to separate these two acts? Couldn’t it be that they are simply two sides of the same coin?

In recent years, there has been a re-emergence of the Social Gospel, which was prominent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is a movement that emphasizes Christians’ involvement in social justice issues, such as abortion, poverty, and the environment, while minimizing the spread of the Gospel. While believers are called to do good to everyone (Galatians 6:10) and to care for the weak and the needy (Psalm 82:4), if we fail to give people the Gospel of Jesus Christ we are simply making them more comfortable as they continue to live in sin and rebellion towards God. God commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). We must go further than what the Social Gospel movement requires. There’s an old quote that’s been attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (although there is a lot of evidence proving that he never actually said these words) that goes something like this: “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” If necessary, use words?! I fear that we often try to make Christianity too easy. We will share a quote such as that one so that we can feel better about not actually sharing the Good News with anyone. Ligon Duncan, in response to that quote, said, “Saying ‘Preach the Gospel daily, use words if necessary’ is like saying, ‘Feed the hungry, use food if necessary.'” Sharing the Gospel requires using words! Is someone, just by simply looking at me, going to know that God is holy, man is sinful, Christ died for the sins of those who would believe in Him, and that He commands us all to repent and believe? No way! “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14).

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). And where is the Gospel found? In God’s Word, of course! May we not forget that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). When we know Christ, we will hunger to read and to know His Word, and, in turn, Scripture will pour forth from us when we lovingly interact with others in our day-to-day lives. We can and should memorize scripture. The Psalms tell us that God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (119:105). Jesus himself quoted Scripture when he was being tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4). If He knows Scripture, shouldn’t we know it too? When I am tried and tested, poked and prodded, I pray that I will bleed Scripture and that others will be drawn to God’s beauty and majesty through the living Word of God flowing from my lips.

While God’s grace is what saves us, we are saved unto good works (Ephesians 2:10) and holy living (1 Peter 1:15); therefore, may we all walk in Christ, “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith” (Colossians 2:7), and may that root produce fruit that springs forth from us, causing us to learn and grow in God’s Word while also caring for “the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, [and] the poor” (Zechariah 7:10). May we store up God’s Word in our hearts, that we might not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11), while also doing “good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). After all, those acts are two sides of the same coin; they are fruits that stem from the same root: Jesus Christ.


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