By Kevin Cauley

The mission and work of the church centers around the great mission that Christ proclaimed namely to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). The church as the bride of Christ has the responsibility of support the Christ in this great work (Ephesians 5:23, 24). As we have studied through the work of the church in our bulletin articles over the past several weeks, we have looked at the concept of evangelism and edification. Evangelism is primarily focused upon those who are outside of the church-the alien sinner. Edification is primarily focused upon those who are within the church-both saved and apostate. The work of benevolence, however, transects both spheres of work. Often the work of benevolence reaches out to the alien and edifies those who are saved or apostate. Many times benevolence encourages those who are wayward to repent and come back and shows the alien the great love that the church has for mankind and the result is conversion. No doubt, this is part of the design of benevolence. However, we should not think of

benevolence as merely a means to an end, but rather should think of it as an end in and of itself. Benevolence must be done from a pure motive in order to be effective. Benevolence should not necessarily include on our part the expectation of evangelism or edification (though it may be our ultimate desire we should not necessarily expect it out of the individual to whom we are doing good works) and this is the reason that often time it is discussed outside of the context of both evangelism and edification. James writes that pure religion is to support both the orphans and widows and to keep oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:27). The support of orphans and widows is a work of benevolence and it is set forth by James as pure religion: sufficient as a practice of the church in and of itself.

Definition of Benevolence

The word “benevolence” comes from the Latin word “benevolens” and means kind, well-meaning, benevolent.

It is composed of two words “bene” which means “good” or “well” and “volo” which means “to will” or “to intend.” Thus the compound idea is to intend to do well. We find the same meaning in the New Testament expressed in the thought, “good works.”

The concept is a scriptural one and the church must be involved in the activity of benevolence or doing good works. In 1 Timothy 6:18 we read where the rich were commanded to be involved in good works, “That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate.” This context is showing that the idea of “good works” involves the concept of benevolence. Having this in mind, we go on to look at Galatians 6:10, ‘so then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith? (ASV). More literally, the Greek says let us do good works toward all men. The churches of Galatia were to be involved in these good works and so should we.

Benevolence Neglected

Sadly, it seems that in many congregations benevolence does not get a large portion of the budget. Perhaps this is in part due to the deplorable practice of many in our society to want to get by with as little effort as possible. Regardless, the church needs to find ways to practice this most important work. We find considerable stress and emphasis upon this work within the New Testament. In fact, the work of benevolence (whether congregational or individual) is mentioned more within the scriptures than any other activity that involves church finances. It was a priority for the early church to be involved in benevolence. In Acts 4:32-35 we read,

“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul: and not one {of them} said that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles their witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. For neither was there among them any that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto each, according as anyone had need.”(ASV)


The Practice of the New Testament Church – Benevolence