Many of the same progressive “Christians” who mock those who turn the Bible into a science book are themselves guilty of turning the Bible into an economics textbook. They believe that the main (and only) duty of Christians is to feed the poor. The thing is, Jesus’ last earthly command to his disciples was to preach the gospel. Of course, the sad irony is that progressive “Christians do not understand that the preaching of the gospel is the best way to care for the poor.
For many, the definition of the gospel can be a little murky. In short, the gospel defines what humanity’s biggest problem is and then provides a solution.
According to the Bible, humanity’s biggest problem is our estrangement from God. Since God created everything, He is owed worship. Right worship includes obedience to His commands. Tragically, humans choose to worship ourselves, and our lives are marked by sinful disobedience to our Creator. Since God is holy, He cannot have a relationship with sin and/or sinful humans. Making matters worse for humans, God is also perfectly just, meaning that He must punish sin. Because of our sin, all humans are born under God’s wrath which will one day result in His eternal and just judgment. Thankfully, God is also love and so He mercifully provided a way to solve the problem and restore the relationship between Himself and His children.
Becoming one of us, God himself, the second person of the Trinity came to earth in the weakness of human flesh. Throughout his life of faithful obedience to the Father, Jesus did what humans cannot do: He obeyed God’s law perfectly. In his death, Jesus did what humans cannot do — Jesus took the eternal punishment for the sins of God’s people on himself. In his resurrection from the dead, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus defeated sin, death, and Satan. One day Jesus is going to return. On that day, those who are repenting of their sins and placing their faith in him will be ushered into God’s presence, to enjoy God’s blessings forever. Those who refuse to submit to Jesus will be ushered into eternal punishment.
That’s the gospel of Jesus Christ. But what does any of that have to do with caring for the poor in the here and now?
Progressive “Christians” believe that the gospel has very little to do with caring for the poor. In fact, some progressive “Christians” believe that the gospel as taught in the Bible has nothing to do with caring for the poor. Taking their cues from the social gospel instead, progressive “Christians” misdiagnose humanity’s greatest problem. Hence, they also misdiagnose the solution.
The founder of the social gospel was a man named Walter Rauschenbusch, who did not believe in the divinity of Jesus. Nor did he believe in a doctrine of individual sin as taught by the Bible. In fact, he didn’t really believe that the Bible is God’s Word to begin with. In other words, the social gospel is a rank heresy leading people to hell. Sadly, the temporal solution to poverty offered by the social gospel is also ineffective. Welfare solutions proposed by progressive “Christians” are doomed to fail because humans are sinful.
The true gospel does provide a solution to human suffering and poverty, though. In fact, the true gospel provides the only solution.
When an individual repents of his sin and places his faith in Jesus, that individual is adopted into the family of God. On earth, the family of God is made manifest through the Church.
One of the most oft-quoted yet misunderstood statements of Jesus is found in John 13:35 when he told his disciples, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
That “one another” is often applied too broadly. Many people take it to mean all humans. However, Jesus is not speaking of the wider world; he’s speaking about the love Christians have for other Christians.
Within churches around this globe, Christians are loving and caring for other Christians. Mercy ministries and benevolence funds abound. Demonstrating that they are Jesus’ disciples, Christians are not allowing their brothers and sisters in Christ to go hungry, lack shelter, forgo medical care, or do without other basic needs.
While Christians should and do provide mercy ministries to non-Christians, resources are finite and the resources of Christians should primarily be used to alleviate the poverty and/or suffering of those who are members of the local church. Outside of the church, the main responsibility before Jesus that Christians have is to preach the gospel — to make more disciples, using the language of Matthew 28:19.
Doing so will not only result in eternal life for those who repent and believe, but it will also bring them into the fold of God’s family. A family that is commanded to care for its own.
If you claim to be a disciple of Jesus and you truly care about the poor, you’ll dedicate your life to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.