“St. Paul did not convert or attempt to convert people by working miracles upon them. He did not attract people to Christianity by offering them healing. He did not heal on condition that they attended to his teaching. In this he was illustrating a principle which guided the Christian Church in her administration of charity throughout the early centiries of her history. ‘We know,’ says Professor Harnack, ‘of no cases in which Christians desired to win, or actually did win adherents by means of the charities which they dispensed.
I cannot help thinking that this is a principle which we cannot be too careful to observe. There was a day in India when our missionaries paid a regular fee to scholars to attend our schools in order that they might receive Christian instruction. The result was not good, and that plan has been universally abandoned. But we still sometimes offer secular education, or medical treatment, as an inducement to people to submit themselves, or to place their children under our religious instruction or influence. This is, in principle, precisely the same thing as paying them, though in a far less vicious form. I cannot help thinking that the day is not far distant when we shall consider the offering of an material inducement as contrary to sound doctrine as we now consider the money payments of former days.”
Roland Allen was definitely ahead of his time and points out the problem of using money, miracles, or charity to “buy” people into becoming Christians. Many in recent years have pointed out problems in this area. Yet it still happens. Sadly, we appear to live in a sad time in Christianity where far too many consider Christian charity with one of two unhealthy motives:
1. Do not do Christian charity because the church’s job is to save souls not deal with physical, social, economic, or emotional problems.
2. Do acts of “charity” as quid pro quo for (outward) conversion to Christianity or denomination.
The idea that doing good is the natural outpouring of (Christlike) compassion the church has for a diseased world seems to be lacking. Yet it is our calling. Curious that it is also our best testimony of faith to the world.
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