In the late 19th and early 20th century, there emerged a movement which would become known as "social gospel". The proponents of the social gospel movement initially sought to give aid to and improve the living and working conditions of the poor through a variety of programs as well as through legislation. Many of these programs were spearheaded by Christians both individually as well as collectively. In doing so, however, a subtle shift began to happen. Christians and indeed many churches began to focus more on the social issues than they did on the Gospel.
Though historically, the responsibility for caring for the poor and oppressed fell to families, friends and the Church, in recent times, the government has stepped in and it hasn't been pretty. We tend to forget that "the government" is us and one way or another we pay for it at a high cost. It is amazing how much more efficient private organizations and individuals are in comparison to the government.
On the other hand, with the emergence of federal and state funded/managed programs, the Church has often ignored the physical needs of the community and concentrated solely on their spiritual needs. We must not do this. Salvation of the soul is not going to quiet an empty stomach any more than a full stomach will save a soul. We need to, no, we must do both.
I was reminded of this today when I read a blog written by Joyce Bethy Ferguson (@Bethy) entitled Being Pro-Life. We speak out against atrocities and what we believe to be morally wrong. We walk picket lines, we make phone calls, and solicit funds so other people can be paid to work full time for the cause(s) we are doing volunteer work for. Where are we when a single mom can't pay for someone to care for her baby while she is at work? Where were we when she believed that this was the only way to get some one to love her only to discover they used her and abandoned her instead? Did we ever even bother to let her know about the One who loves her so very much and will never leave or forsake her? The list goes on and on.
While the spiritual is of the utmost important we must not neglect the other. Yes, we are called to share the news that Jesus came that we might be saved but we must not forget the other side of it. Jesus also healed the sick, comforted the broken-hearted, fed the hungry and loved the unloved. Jesus recognized and responded to the whole person and as His followers, so must we. At the same time, we must not become so intent on meeting the physical needs that we must not neglect the spiritual. Our Heavenly Father meets both our spiritual and physical needs and we must strive to do the same.