“Charity begins at home.” These are the words I’ve heard from two different people in church about my blog post “My problem with church”. I had pointed out that church as a whole, not just that particular parish, has gotten off track and is more focused on being a social club than on social outreach. They’ve also said that we are a family, and we have to build up our own family first.
OK, that sounds good, but I don’t remember Jesus saying that. In fact, I remember Jesus telling Peter and Andrew to drop everything they were doing and leave their families to follow him. I remember Jesus telling a man to not bury his father if he wanted to follow him. I remember Jesus saying that only people who do the will of his Father are his brothers and sisters. I don’t recall him saying anything about taking care of your own needs first.
The argument from them is that there are a lot of broken people in church, that they are too broken to help others yet. They need support and healing from the church right now, and aren’t strong enough to help others. I think there is a lot of danger in thinking that way.
There is a lot of healing in being useful. I think it is dangerous to teach someone to be dependent. The more you let someone think they are helpless, the needier they get. They don’t learn to reach out and help others. Their attention remains inward-focused. The more your attention stays inward, the more selfish and dependent you will become.
Sure, church can be about baseball games and hanging out at the local pub (if your denomination is OK with drinking). But it has to be more about helping others. Otherwise, what is the point of being a church? Any group can get together to eat hot dogs and drink beer, but there is something different about a church. It, in theory, should be a group of people who believe in service to mankind. It should be people who agree with Teresa of Avila’s idea that we are the hands and feet of Christ. We are Jesus to people.
There is something healing in serving. There is something seemingly backwards in this. The more you help others, the more you help yourself. You get out of your own problems for a bit. You stop thinking about how miserable your own life seems to you and start realizing that someone else has it worse, and you are helping them to make it better. That act of helping transforms you. You realize that there is a way out.
I think church should be a place where like-minded people can join together to serve others. And when I say others, I mean everybody. We shouldn’t be serving just those people in the congregation. We should be serving people in the community who aren’t members of the church. We should be serving people in the city, the state, the country, the continent, the world. I don’t think it should be about making more Christians – I think it should be about us being Christians. We are called to serve people as Christ would, because we are now Christ in this world.
I know that I’ve angered people in my previous church with my words, and I know that there are some things that they do for outreach that are great and exactly what I’m talking about. But I feel that more of our time and money should be towards those things instead of “at home”.
I know that some of this feeling comes from my initial calling when I was 12 (I’ll write about that later.) So this is all part of that push, that draw. None of this is a surprise to me, really. I didn’t expect this part of this journey to be happening now, in this way, but I’m OK with it. I know that this is part of the plan.
People don’t like being told that what they are doing is wrong. There is a long precedent of prophets being ignored and worse. The prophet Jeremiah was even warned by God that he would be attacked for telling the people what God wanted them to hear. And there are others.
Hosea 9:7 “The days of punishment are coming, the days of reckoning are at hand. Let Israel know this. Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired person a maniac.”
Ezekial 2:1-7 “1 He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. 2 And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. 3 He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD.” 5 Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them. 6 And you, O mortal, do not be afraid of them, and do not be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns surround you and you live among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words, and do not be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7 You shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear; for they are a rebellious house.
Luke 4:24 “And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.”
I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m bipolar, anyway. Who would listen to me? But I don’t think I should be ignored just because I’m bipolar. I think I am on to something here. I think that everybody should read the Gospels for themselves and match up what is going on in the church today and see if what Jesus wanted us to do is being done.
The funny and sad part to me is that of the few people who have tried to convince me to stay, their reasons for staying are the very reasons I have to leave.
By the way, I just looked it up. “Charity begins at home” isn’t from the Bible. It is from Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682). Paul said in a letter to Timothy “But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.”(1 Timothy 5:4) As I’ve pointed out before, I’m a Christian, not a Paulian. Jesus didn’t say “Charity begins at home.”