Can a Church Buy a First Aid Kit?

Questions of authority for congregational action are important. We must not simply dismiss them with a wave of the hand because we don’t want to think about them or we just can’t imagine why something is wrong. When someone asks if a church can do something, we should pause, reflect, and look to the Scriptures.

Usually, when we ask what the church can do, it comes down to what can the church spend money from its collection on. I’ve heard questions about buildings, song books, and a myriad of things. I’ve recently heard a new one. Can a church buy a first aid kit?

I’d like to share three scriptural principles I believe help answer this question.

1) The church is authorized to relieve and to be prepared to relieve the needs of the saints.

I Corinthians 16:1 says, “Now concerning the collection for the saints…” What is the collection for? It is for the saints. That is, it is primarily intended to help relieve needs among the saints. In Acts 4:32-37, the Christians were taking up a collection, pooling some funds in a treasury, and giving to each as any had need.

Notice what this means. First, it means the church is authorized to relieve the needs of the brethren as they arise. Second, they didn’t have to wait until a need arose to prepare for it. Can a congregation pay for medical needs? If a brother or sister needs medical help, can the church provide for that? Absolutely. Do they have to wait until the medical need actually arises instead of preparing ahead of time? No.

2) Jesus relieved the physical needs of those who followed Him.

In Matthew 15:32-38, Jesus saw the crowds that had followed Him. Jesus said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” He then proceeded to feed 4000 people.

Of course, we need to understand that Jesus did not use food to attract people to follow Him as so many want to use this passage. However, He did take care of the needs of those who were following Him. These 4000 had been with him for three days. They were in a desolate place and were in need. He took care of it. Certainly, we might all argue over how real was their need, couldn’t they have provided for themselves, couldn’t Jesus send them on their way and take care of them if they fainted? But Jesus didn’t argue for that. He saw a need among those who were assembled with Him and He met it.

Can the church provide for the needs that arise as folks assemble with us? Can the church help these followers when their needs arise? If Jesus can do it, we can.

3) Jesus healed on the Sabbath.

In Matthew 12:9-14, Jesus saw a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. He used this as a teaching tool. He looked around at the Jews and questioned one of their sacred cows. “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Of course, the Pharisees and scribes thought it absolutely wasn’t. After all, surely a doctor could not work on the Sabbath. But Jesus turned their ideas on their heads and essentially said, “If a sheep fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you lift it out?” Then he asked, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath?”

Here’s the point we need to see. The Pharisees were not allowing common sense about God’s will to govern their approach. I fear we can do the same thing on our question. This question is not about a church being a provider of social welfare to the community. This question is not about a church trying to become a medical clinic. This question is about whether or not a church can prepare to provide medical relief to those who are attending an assembly or class of the saints. This question is about whether or not a church can be prepared in the case of an emergency for someone in our assemblies and classes. Is this lawful? I believe the answer is yes, just as Jesus thought it was lawful to pull a sheep out of the pit and heal a man on the Sabbath.

No doubt, some fear that a church purchasing a first aid kit might pave the way for all kinds of unauthorized activities. Why not let the church provide a medical clinic? Why not let the church provide a wellness center? We must not do those things because they are not authorized, but relieving the needs that arise while in our assemblies is. Being prepared to relieve the needs of folks in our assemblies and classes in the event of an emergency is not the same as providing a medical clinic or a wellness center anymore than paying a medical bill for a saint in need is the same as providing a medical clinic or a wellness center. This is true in just the same way that Jesus’ feeding the 5000 and the 4000 is not the same as opening a soup kitchen. This is true in just the same way that providing food for a widow in need is not the same as opening a restaurant.

Some may suggest we are appealing to the physical desires of people in order to interest them in spiritual things. If we had medical supplies, like a first aid kit or a wheel chair, and were advertising to the community that they should come check out what we are doing because we’re ready for any medical emergencies or if we were inviting folks to a medical supply giveaway in order to get them to attend a class with us this could be a legitimate fear. However, if a church is not doing that but merely preparing for a potential need and emergency, then there is no need for the fear. A church being prepared to provide needed relief and benevolence ahead of time is not the same as appealing to physical desires to attract folks to spiritual teaching. This is true in just the same way that Jesus feeding the 5000 and the 4000 is not the same as using food to attract folks to hear His preaching.

Some begin to bicker over cost and expedience. Some churches may go farther with this than others, buying epinephrine in case of allergic reaction, insulin in case of diabetic shock, or defibrillators in case of a heart attack. Some may refuse to go to certain lengths. However, at this point we are not dealing with scriptural authority (that has already been established), we are looking at congregational judgment on expedience. Each congregation has to give consideration to issues such as cost, likelihood of need, what responsibility the individual has, how others may interpret what the church is doing, etc. Different congregations may have different judgment regarding what is expedient based on all these issues. However, that is a judgment each group has to autonomously make and no congregation is allowed to elevate their judgment on expedience to the level of scriptural mandate. Further, different Christians within a congregation may have different judgment regarding what is expedient. While shepherds should be willing to listen to the judgment of the flock they guide, the sheep should be willing submit to their shepherds on these kinds of judgments instead of elevating their personal judgment to the level of scriptural mandate.

Does a church have to buy a first aid kit? Of course not. Is a church scripturally authorized to buy a first aid kit? I believe the Scripture demonstrates we can.

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Accepting Healthy Help from Our Brethren

We have a tendency to live in extremes. We sometimes have a hard time walking down a middle path. For instance, some of us who have had trouble with our eating, have lived as if what we ate didn’t matter. We didn’t worry about any of the consequences. Then the New Year rolls around and we decide to drop a few pounds. We put ourselves on such a strict and controlling diet that we never get to enjoy anything. Usually, that doesn’t work and end up going right back to eating like it doesn’t matter. Some of us have spent money like it grows on trees, never balancing the checkbook, running up credit card debt, getting in to trouble. Then the New Year rolls around and we decide to get that money stuff under control. We opt for the plan Dave Ramsey ridicules deciding to hide in a cave collecting lint and only come out on coupon Thursdays. That usually doesn’t work out too well for us and we go back to spending money like water. We go back and forth from extremes that are unhealthy for us and have a hard time settling on that middle ground that is healthy and helpful.

One area where Christians have a tendency to walk in extremes is in the area of accepting help from brethren. Instead of walking down the middle road of accepting healthy help from brethren, most of us live in extremes. At one extreme, we act like we can’t take care of ourselves and the brethren owe us help for everything. We become shameless in our pleas for help. At the other extreme, we act like we never need help. We’ve always got everything under control. We become ashamed to ask for help. Both of these extremes are wrong. Neither is healthy.

Look at the balanced approach Paul presents in II Corinthians 8:13-15 as he talked about the Christians in Corinth helping out their brethren in Judea. “For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, ‘Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.’”

Needs arise for everyone at some time. They may be large needs involving lots of money. They may be small needs merely involving help with a meal or getting a ride somewhere. Needs arise for everyone. There is no shame in having needs. There is no shame in asking and receiving help.

Sometimes we’ll be the person needing some help. Sometimes we’ll be the person able to give the help. God set it up this way so that we could each be a blessing to each other in varying times. We should not think we are less than worthy because we’re the ones asking for help at this time. Neither should we puff up with arrogance because on this occasion we’re the ones able to offer help.

We should avoid the two extremes. Some have an entitlement mindset. If someone has something that they don’t, they are entitled to it. They become shameless in asking for help and never take personal responsibility for where they are and overcoming their own problems. They become a leech on the church and their brethren. That is wrong. Others, however, have an ashamed mindset. They are afraid to be an inconvenience to people. They are embarrassed to admit they need help or made a mistake. They feel like they just aren’t worthy to receive any help. So they never ask and they refuse help freely offered even when they could use it. If they are prevailed upon to receive help, they feel guilty and ashamed as if they’ve done something wrong by getting help. That is also wrong.

Let’s not walk in the extremes. Let’s walk in the balance that Paul talked about. We shouldn’t be leeches. At the same time, there is no shame in receiving help. Who knows but at another time we’ll be the ones giving someone a ride, fixing a meal, offering some money.

By the way, though I’ve talked about a financial need, these same principles apply in every walk of life—emotionally, physically, materially, mentally, and spiritually. Walk with a healthy balance. Avoid the extremes.

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