DOING GOOD TO THE HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH

By Stephen Green

First Published in Christian Voice Summer Recess 2013

Gal 6:10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

I was privileged in July not only to be able to be present at the inaugural network meeting of the West Midlands Christian Business Network but also to present a mini-teaching about why Christians should be active in business and why we should support one another in trade.

The word from Paul’s letter to the Galatians above is clear.  Do good to all, but especially your fellow believers.  Doing good must include placing your business with one another, and this seems to be what is the Apostle’s mind as he writes to the Romans:

Rom 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

Paul moves from encouraging us to prefer one another immediately to talk about business.  There appears to be some kind of mutual support in his mind.  It is often said that we are in the world but not of it.  We have a citizenship in heaven, and one of the things citizens do is trade with each other.

Eph 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

Now, we should hope that a fellow believer would go the extra mile in customer relations and we should hope that Christians in business would act with integrity.  Indeed, if anyone does not deal honestly with customers, workers and suppliers, giving the former ‘honest measures’ and paying the latter two what they are due on time, as the scripture mandates, he needn’t think of seeking the blessing of God for the favour with God and man upon which his business depends.  The masculine includes the feminine – there are many Christian women in business.

But for me, it is only incidental that I might get a better deal, or better service, from a brother in the Lord.  The main reason I want to trade with my brethren is to keep Kingdom money within the Kingdom.  After all, Proverbs 13:22 tells us that the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just, not the other way around.

 

And here is where the children of this world appear to be a lot wiser that the children of light.  People of other faiths and persuasions need no encouragement to prefer one another in business.  A Muslim or a Hindu would not think of trading with someone outside his community if someone inside can do the same job or provide the same service.  Even homosexuals would rather trade with their own kind, although of course their own kind know what products and services appeal to that market and it isn’t one any of us would want to be in.

When homosexuals trade outside their network, it can be to try to catch Christians out.  They have plenty of exclusively ‘gay’ establishments to choose from, but we have seen homosexual activists try to make bookings at Christian hotels in order to use equality laws to try to close them down.

It distresses me that Christians haven’t exactly been flocking to the hotels in question to do good and bless them with business.  We don’t appear to be able to get first principles right in our daily walk.  Perhaps we are afraid of forming a Christian ‘ghetto’.  I know accusations of ‘ghetto mentality’ are often levelled against Christian schools by secularists, but we should we feel intimidated by them?

It would be a good work to support our brethren, and one which has eternal benefits:

1Tim 6:18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

At the very least, we should be standing alongside other Christians who happen to be in business, seeing how we can benefit them by buying their wares and even by investing in them:

Gal 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

We are called to love one another, and that surely means during the week as well as on Sunday:

Gal 5:13b … by love serve one another.

1Pet 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

1Pet 3:8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

Throughout scripture, those who exercise hospitality or put themselves out for the saints are commended.  Paul congratulated Philemon for his good works:

Phm 1:5 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;

While John did the same to Gaius:

3Jn 1:5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; 6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:

 

There is nowhere in either the Old or the New Testament where supporting fellow believers or fellow citizens is seen as a bad thing.  Even if we get a slightly worse deal from a brother than from someone outside, we are laying up for the Kingdom and for something else intangible:

2Th 1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

As for being in business in the first place, that shouldn’t need defending, but at a time when wickedness appears to be waxing stronger and stronger, many are so convinced that these are the last days that they are tempted to give up.  What is the point of striving in business when the Antichrist will get it all?  Should we not be looking up for our redemption draweth nigh?  Should we even be bringing children into such a desperate world?

Well, to the extent that we feel increasingly like strangers in a foreign land, captives to an alien world-view and an ungodly economic and political system, perhaps the Prophet Jeremiah might have something to say to us in the letter he wrote to the Judeans in Babylon:

Jer 29:5 Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; 6 Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. 7 And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

He is telling them to get established, to do business, to have children, to seek to increase.  He also tells them, in words which find an echo in what Paul wrote to Timothy, to pray for the land (the city) and presumably for its leaders.

If that was not enough, there are the words of the Lord Jesus himself, given to his servants waiting for his return:

Luke 19:12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. 13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.

The Greek word translated ‘occupy’ is ‘pragmateuomai’, from which I imagine we have the word ‘pragmatic’.  It means ‘busy oneself’ and ‘trade’.  If not ‘occupy’ as in ‘take the ground’ it at least means ‘be occupied’.

But should we not follow our Lord’s advice to the rich young man and the example of the early church whose members sold what they had and held all things in common?

I believe the Lord’s advice to the young man was for him in his position of one who knew in his heart that he needed to do more than simply keep the commandments, good as that was, and is.  It is not a general injunction.

 

In connection with the early church, not long after they pooled their money, and indeed experienced great growth after the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, the Apostle Paul was telling the Christians in Rome of his travel plans:

Rom 15:25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. 26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.

The model of selling everything and living on the proceeds appears to have led to poverty.  It is perhaps not a model we ought to follow as the only way for Christians to live.  Certainly, one very prominent Christian didn’t follow it.  Some chapters after the accounts in Acts 4 and 5 we read of Peter being in prison.  Miraculously his chains fell off and he found himself outside the prison.  He made his way to the same house in which some months previously he had sat in awe at the Last Supper and where prayer was being made for him.

Acts 12:12 And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.

John Mark’s mother Mary hadn’t sold her house.  And this leads to a very good reason why Christians should be active in business, and that is to support Kingdom work.  Mary was able to provide a meeting place for the church in Jerusalem.  We read earlier that a significant number of wealthy women provided for the ministry of the Lord Jesus:

Luke 8:1 … the twelve were with him, 2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, 3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.

The ministry of the Lord needed financing.  The Lord even appointed a treasurer to look after the money.  Ministry still needs funding today, and it is the Lord’s people who give generously to Kingdom work from soup kitchens and drug rehabilitation centres, to missions overseas, and to prayer-and-lobby groups like Christian Voice.  Without Christians working hard, earning wealth, being in business, ministries like these simply would not be able to continue doing what they do.

So let us be as industrious as we can, while we can:

Eccl 9:10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

Col 3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

And let us support other Christians in business and do good to the household of faith, supporting and preferring one another for the Kingdom’s sake.

 

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