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Question and Answer

Missions and Humanitarian Aid


I have a question about missions. As we read in Matthew, God sends the sun and the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. What part does humanitarian aid play in our responsibility as Christians?


You ask a good question. Matthew 5:43-45 does indeed speak to the question you ask. What our Lord said requires that we love those whom God loves. There is a school of Calvinist Christians who say that God does not love those destined to everlasting condemnation, but those verses cannot mean that. If we are to imitate our Father in heaven in giving good things to both evil and good, and if that good from us is called love, how can we say that God does not love (in some respect) those reserved to everlasting damnation? (Compare Romans 2:4-6.) Also, in considering Matthew 5:43-45, we should not overlook Matthew 5:46-48.

From this perspective, "humanitarian aid in foreign missions" is in order. Paul says in Galatians 6:10, "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." That puts a higher priority on doing good to Christians (they are our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ), but that does not free us from general benevolence to unbelievers.

Now, since you mention foreign missionaries (though the same principle applies to those of us around here), deeds of kindness and mercy are to be administered to all people as means and opportunity permit. But what is the type of good to be given? In dire situations of starvation or life-threatening injury, we don't ask questions; we act in the belief that preserving life is our duty under the sixth commandment. That is the lesson of Jesus' parable of The Good Samaritan.

But if loving deeds to relieve human poverty and suffering are in order (because God commands such), what is the greatest need of needy people? Consider Mark 2:1-13. There the immediate need was physical healing for the paralytic, but our Lord pronounced forgiveness of his sins and indicated that physical healing was intended to show "that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins."

On the mission field, isn't that also the highest priority? And the foreign missionary does not possess the insight to know who God has chosen for salvation. So we minister to the needs of the needy in hope that our benevolence will lead to their salvation.

Thus it is a rule that when we minister relief to needy people, we minister it with the good news of the gospel. For example, our clinic in Karamoja, Uganda, turns no one away, but we give the gospel with the medicine—never medicine alone! In fact, whenever we share with a needy person at home, we ought to share Jesus too.

So, simply to give money to an alcoholic to assuage his "hunger" is not true love. As a pastor, I've been approached by hundreds who had a "good story," but most of them, I learned later, wanted my benevolence to spend it on their lusts. So, whenever possible, tie benevolence to Christ and man's need for Him. (That's the problem of government welfare. Worthiness is defined by law, and Christians can get into trouble when they think they are ministering Christ's love with their government-sponsored giving.)

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

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