The Family and Benevolence

Perhaps you have heard the saying, "Charity begins at home." It is a saying that emphasizes the need for helping one's family, those closest to you, along with others that you have the opportunity to do good (Galatians 6:10). Charity, kindness, and benevolence should be characteristics of those who are bound together as family, but in our society today, we often see otherwise. The needs of infants and children so often go without being filled, young ones neglected by parents and other family. It is also a tragedy to see the needs of the elderly being neglected by children and other family members. It seems throughout life, especially during the times of greatest vulnerability in life, a benevolent spirit is lacking.

What does Scripture teach about our responsibility to members of our family? After Cain had killed his brother Abel, and was questioned by God about him, he responded, "Am I my brother's keeper?" The resounding answer of the Bible is yes! Paul reminded the Corinthians, "Behold, this is the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be a burden to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children" (2 Corinthians 12:14). He emphasized this same principle again in writing to Timothy; "But if any provideth not for his own, and specially his own household, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8). This speaks not just of financial support for physical necessities, but of love and support as well. Should not a benevolent attitude evoke love and a heartfelt desire to provide for needs, physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Would not such a heart, cause an absentee father, absentee parents and grandparents, to take an active part in caring for such needs?

Such an attitude of heart should be shown not just to children, but to parents and those older as well. Paul also reminded Timothy, "But if any widow hath children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show piety towards their own family, and to requite their parents: for this is acceptable in the sight of God" (1 Timothy 5:4). Loneliness and a sense of neglect often overtake the elderly, thinking they've been abandoned by family and life in general. I know of a family who placed their father in a nursing home, and then neglected to visit, to love, to provide any need for him until his death, 20 years later! Such was not a benevolent spirit, an attitude of love and concern, of providing for needs, whatever those needs might have been. The words spoken at his funeral would have meant so much more if spoken while he was alive.

In today's society, emphasis is placed on oneself, of gratifying one's desires, of getting what one wants no matter who else is impacted. Such is not what God expects of us, especially as family. This is the legacy of living without God and Scripture, of ignoring spiritual values in life and living a selfish lifestyle. The idea that it is okay to treat others this way, but not to be treated this way, is wrong on so many levels. How can such ever change until we acknowledge God as a loving heavenly Father, and seek to reflect His will in our relationships with each other? His benevolence to us is constant and sure, as every good and perfect gift comes from Him to us (James 1:17). How much happier and better off would our families be if we all sought to be imitators of God? "Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell" (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Robert Johnson, Longview, TX