Are We Still Leading The Fight Against Poverty?

by Tony K on October 15, 2008 · 4 comments

I am grateful for the strong tradition of social conscience among Southern Baptists. This is seen clearly in nearly every state Baptist convention, NAMB and globally in our World Hunger Fund.

It’s even written into our Baptist Faith & Message, in article XV The Christian and the Social Order:

All Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.

This statement wisely reminds us that the saving grace of Jesus Christ is the only permanent means to a better society. It also calls for broad cooperation with “all men of good will in any good cause.” As a Southern Baptist, I am proud to have this wise statement of belief as a guiding document – both of the SBC and my local church.

Even more encouraging, between 1975 and 2001, the SBC passed 11 resolutions that speak directly to the issue of hunger. Several of these were calls to support the World Hunger Fund. But they also make bold statements of our opposition to poverty. Consider the following quotes. They are marked by the convention year in which they were adopted.

WHEREAS, The problem of hunger is one of the most serious social issues of our time, affecting millions of adults and children all over the globe; (1975)

WHEREAS, The biblical mandate to feed the hungry is clear, (1978)

WHEREAS, One of the hallmarks of the ministry of Jesus Christ was His concern for and ministry to the needs of the poor and hungry (Matt. 14:14-21); (1994)

WHEREAS, The Scriptures enjoin followers of Christ to imitate Him and demonstrate love of neighbor (Luke 10:29-37); (1994)

WHEREAS, Hunger ministry opens countless doors for sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ; (1997)

WHEREAS, we are seeking spiritual awakening which must include the demonstrated lifestyle of Christ by the believer; (1997)

WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund is the only hunger ministry known to utilize 100 percent of all donations for hunger needs; (2001)

WHEREAS, In the Old Testament, an important method God utilized to provide for the needs of the hungry was agricultural gleaning, a means whereby one relinquished a portion of his abundance for the benefit of the poor (Leviticus 19:9-10); (2001)

WHEREAS, In the New Testament we are repeatedly warned against greed and covetousness (Luke 12:13-19; Romans 7:7) and are regularly encouraged to practice generosity for the sake of the poor (Acts 20:35; 2 Corinthians 9:6-13; Ephesians 4:28); (2001)

WHEREAS, The Bible warns against turning a deaf ear to those in need (Proverbs 21:13); (2001)

Therefore be it RESOLVED, That we the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention, gathered in Miami Beach, call on all Americans blessed with abundance to develop a lifestyle of sharing, (1975)

Be it further RESOLVED, That we urge Southern Baptists to critically evaluate their life-styles in light of the teachings of the Bible, to contribute generously and regularly through the Foreign Mission Board’s Hunger Relief Fund, and to exercise responsible and vigorous Christian citizenship on behalf of the hungry people of the world.(1978)

RESOLVED, That we encourage Southern Baptists to practice the discipline of gleaning on a regular basis with special emphasis being given on World Hunger Sunday, the second Sunday of October each year.(2001)

Does This Issues Still Matter?

While reviewing these statements, I noticed a trends toward an institutional response to hunger. The earlier statements appeal for action from all churches and even all Americans. However, the final few statements speak more directly only to our hunger program. While I agree that the World Hunger Fund is a wonderful program, I believe Southern Baptists can do more.

Is The SBC Leading The Fight Against Poverty?

With so much we have done right, we should not be afraid to ask if there is more that we can do. By virtue of our strength and traditions, we should be out front on this issue. As Baptist people, we should never waited around for the government to love our neighbor in our place. Among religious groups in America, only Southern Baptists are in the position (economically and theologically) to lead the way in a Gospel-driven response to poverty.

What Do You Think?

Have we closed our hearts toward suffering? Should we just stick with the Gospel? How is your church fighting hunger locally and across the globe?

At the end of each post on SBC Voices, we suggest related posts from other Southern Baptist websites and blogs. These will often include contrary points of view and should not be understood as endorsements.

What Other SBC Voices Are Saying

1 J. R. Miller October 15, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Very nice summary and thanks for the link to More Than Cake. I linked back to your post from mine because there is some good content here that folks should read. Blessings.

2 Barry Wallace October 18, 2008 at 2:30 pm

Tony,
Again, I’m grateful that you’ve attempted to draw the attention of Southern Baptists to this generally neglected but critically important issue.

Barry Wallaces last blog post..Mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning

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