There is a strong link between faith, the Christian faith in particular (in all of its various stripes), and doing good---including feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and providing shelter. It has been true in the past, and it is true in the present.
This is a mandate that comes from Jesus Himself, and the impact of Christian charity on civilization has been enormous and positive. What the church does, it will continue to do, and should do without any assistance from the government. In some cases, it does this despite resistance from the government.
Before Jesus, charity was virtually non-existent. The late Dr. D. James Kennedy once said, “The world before Christianity was like the Russian tundra---quite cold and inhospitable.”
The great historian Will Durant said this about charity in ancient Rome, the greatest of the civilizations of antiquity: “Charity found little scope in this frugal life. Hospitality survived as a mutual convenience at a time when inns were poor and far between; but the sympathetic Polybius reports that 'in Rome no one ever gives away anything to anyone if he can help it'---doubtless an exaggeration.”
Of course, the ancient Hebrews had the law from God to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus expanded on this point, and His disciples spread these transforming ideas around the world.
People today consider the label, “Samaritan,” as a good-doer. In Jesus’ day, a Samaritan was an outcast and looked down upon. When Christ told the parable of the Good Samaritan, He chose an alleged antagonist as the protagonist and imbued new meaning in the word “Samaritan.”
But there are those in our society who want to cut off charity from its ultimate source. A new piece of legislation was introduced last week by U. S. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana (D) to rectify what she sees as a wrong. She calls this the “Freedom to Pray Act.”
She sees a corrective needed to make sure God isn’t banished from charity. The other side sees this as a way the government would supposedly mandate religion. (Source: 7/12/13, AP).
Regardless of the specifics over this particular legislation, there are some important issues it raises. Are charities that receive any government assistance allowed to pray? Are they allowed to pray in the name of Jesus? Are they allowed to encourage (or force) church attendance?
I remember years ago at a business where I was working, there was a sign on the bulletin board seeking volunteers for a suicide-hotline. But the ad said that if you’re religious, you need not apply. As I recall, the very name of the outreach had the word Samaritan in it.
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