A series of articles exploring teachings from the Good News as reavealed by God in His Word to us.
Did Jesus teach a social welfare Gospel?
"Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto Me."
I remember singing that quote from the song "Whatsoever you do" many times when I was young. The song was based upon Mt25:34-40. Without exception, I believed that this song as well as these verses were urging us to look out for the physical needs of our fellow man. I'd assume that most people believe that is what these verses are speaking about. While I still believe that these verses may speak toward us looking out for our Christian brother's physical needs, I believe the far deeper meaning manifests itself when the verses are looked at spiritually. The verses are teaching us to look after far greater spiritual need of our fellow man.
Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in:
Matthew 25:36 Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came unto me.
Matthew 25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry, and fed you? or thirsty, and gave you drink?
Matthew 25:38 When did we see you a stranger, and take you in? or naked, and clothed you?
Matthew 25:39 Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and came unto you?
Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, truly I say unto you, In as much as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it unto me.
Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat:
All of the following verses do not speak of physically feeding someone with physical food. But rather, they speak of feeding a person with spiritual food... which is to feed them with the Gospel: or the Word of God:
Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. - I don't believe that Jesus is speaking of being filled with food, but rather righteousness.
Luke 1:53 He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he has sent empty away. - Jesus is speaking of filling those hungry for spiritual good things... not necessarily food.
<John 6:35 And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes on me shall never thirst. - Jesus is speaking of spiritual food here.
John 21:17 He said to him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, Do you love me? And he said to him, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. Jesus said unto him, Feed my sheep. - Did Jesus want Peter to feed His sheep with physical food? Peter did not have the physical resources to physically feed all of Jesus' sheep (people). Peter had the Gospel and fed people the Word of God.
Romans 12:20 Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head. - I believe that Paul is teaching here about feeding your enemy the Gospel and then if the enemy rejects the Gospel, he will suffer for it by ending up in Hell where his rejection will be as if heaps of coal were being heaped upon his head.
Acts 20:28 Therefore, take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood. - again, Paul is admonishing the elders at the church of Ephesus to feed the people the Gospel.
Amos 8:11 Behold, the day will come, says the Lord GOD, when I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
Amos 8:12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. - as can be seen in this passage, the Word of God is compared with food. Except, the Word of God is infinitely more important than food. Not that food is not important, but spiritual food is much more so as it is eternal; physical food only lasts for this lifetime.
Ezekiel 34:2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds; Woe to the shepherds of Israel that feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?
Ezekiel 34:3 You eat the fat, and you cloth yourselves with the wool, you kill them that are fed: but you do not feed the flock.
I believe that Jesus was speaking of feeding those who are spiritually hungry and not necessarily those who are physically hungry. How else would we be able to reconcile what God commanded in Thessalonians II 3:10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this, that if anyone would not work, neither should he eat.
It is seen plainly here that those who are lazy and don't work should not expect to eat. I have no problem feeding a brother who is in need, but if a brother is hungry as a result of his own laziness, based upon the above verse, he should not eat.
For those of us who call ourselves Christians, if we neglect to feed those who hunger for spiritual food (the Gospel), then we are in danger of ending up with the goats on the left hand according to:
Matthew 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Matthew 25:35b ... I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: ...
Just as the above verses spoke of a spiritual hunger, the following verses speak of a spiritual thirst and of water (spiritual water) that has a meaning other than physical water. I believe that in Mt25:35, Jesus is teaching that we are to give the Gospel to people who are spiritually thirsty:
John 4:13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinks of this water shall thirst again:
John 4:14 But whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
John 7:38 He that believes on me, as the scripture says, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
John 7:39 (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified.)
John 4:10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, Give me to drink; you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.
Corinthians I 3:6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
Ephesians 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
Ephesians 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Hebrews 10:22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
Peter II 2:17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. - these are people without the Holy Spirit or the true Gospel. These are not literally clouds or wells that don't have water. The language is parabolic in nature.
Jude 1:12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about by the winds; trees whose fruit withered, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
Revelation 21:6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely.
Revelation 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is thirsty come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
Psalms 63:1 A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, you are my God; early will I seek you: my soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;
Psalms 63:2 To see your power and your glory, so as I have seen you in the sanctuary.
Psalms 143:6 I stretch forth my hands unto you: my soul thirsts after you, as a thirsty land.
Isaiah 5:13 Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.
Isaiah 53:2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he has no form or majesty; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him - Jesus came from a spiritually dry nation at the time He came into the world.
Psalms 42:1 To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah. As the heart pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after you, O God.
Psalms 42:2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
Isaiah 12:3 Therefore with joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation.
Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon your children, and my blessing upon your offspring:
Jeremiah 2:13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
Ezekiel 16:9 Then washed I you with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away your blood from you, and I anointed you with oil.
Ezekiel 36:25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Matthew 25:36c I was in prison, and you came unto me.
Those who are in prison have usually done something to belong there. Perhaps many prisoners should be visited by us, perhaps many don't want to be. It seems to me that the prisoners that Jesus is speaking of here is more likely prisoners of sin. We are all prisoners of our own sin unless Jesus sets us free. And God works through His Gospel to bring us to Jesus. We are therefore called to bring the Gospel to prisoners of sin. The Scriptures have much to say about those who are imprisoned by sin:
Mark 2:1-12 Healing of the sins of the paralytic
The first half of Mark 2 is the story of 4 men removing a roof from a home that Jesus was at during that time and letting a paralytic down through the roof. Jesus had compassion on the paralytic and forgave him his sins. He did not immediately heal him physically, but first addressed his more critical need of spiritual healing.
Mar 2:5 And Jesus seeing their faith *said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
It was only after He healed him spiritually did He heal his physical need. And the text indicates that the reason that He healed him physically was because He was proving to the Jews that He had the power to forgive sins.
Mar 2:8 Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, *said to them, "Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?
Mar 2:9 "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven'; or to say, 'Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk'?
Mar 2:10 "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--He *said to the paralytic,
Mar 2:11 "I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home."
Mar 2:12 And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."
Our biggest need.
The first and most important need was for forgiveness of sins as that has eternal consequences, not just consequences in this life. Jesus easily had the power to heal all who were sick at the time He lived on earth but did not. In at least this case, He healed to demonstrate that He could provide a healing that is far more important. His physical healing of people was only a shadow of the real healing that only He can provide.