Generosity, Church, and Justice
Christians believe that poverty relief has to be always voluntary, never “mandated” by the church, as we have seen, it was not an altruistic option but a mandatory obligation of the faithful by virtue of the gospel message and Christian identity. The works of charity alms giving, sharing, hospitality, care taking of the poor, the afflicted, and the helpless—were not supererogatory “add-ons” but the works of justice and equity grounded in koinonia of God’s creation and imago Dei. Without them Christians could not claim their spiritual security and maturity in Christ but could incur the eschatological judgment of God due to their failure to love their neighbors. Protestants would have some uneasiness about linking ultimate salvation with “doing good” in any way as though it would undermine “salvation by grace through faith alone.” Yet this dichotomous grid is no longer helpful or sound; grace is opposed to the attitude of earning, not the action of doing good. “Doing good” is always part and parcel of salvation, which is God’s gracious, unconditioned gift, and which we are to work out with fear and trembling willed and enabled by God and already living in but also looking forward to his kingdom (see Phil. 2:12). Again, there are different options among the specific kinds and ways of works of charity and justice that Christian communities may choose, but the ecclesial duty to engage in such works seems nonnegotiable.
Book: Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich
author: Helen Rhee