In a world ravaged by sin, the bitter fruits of greed, war, and ignorance are multiplying. Even in so called “affluent societies” the homelessness and the poor are growing populations. More than 10,000 people starve to death every day. Two billion more are malnourished, and thousands more go blind annually because of dietary deficiency. Approximately two-thirds of the world’s population remains caught in a cycle of hunger-sickness-death.
There are some who bear liability for their condition, but
the majority of these individuals and families are destituted
by political, economic, cultural, or social events largely beyond
Historically, those in such circumstances have found
succor and advocacy in the hearts of the followers of Jesus
Christ. Caring institutions are in many cases begun by the
church and later assumed by government agencies, or vice
versa. These agencies, aside from any ideological altruism,
reflect society’s recognition that it is in its own best interest
to deal compassionately with the less fortunate.
Social scientists tell us that a number of ills find fertile
ground in the conditions of poverty. Feelings of hopelessness,
alienation, envy and resentment often lead to antisocial
attitudes and behavior. Then society is left to pay for the after-effects of such ills through its courts, prisons, and welfare
systems. Poverty and misfortune as such do not cause
crime and provide no excuse for it. But when the claims of
compassion are denied, discouragement, and even resentment
are likely to follow.
The claims upon the Christian’s compassion are not illfounded.
They do not spring from any legal or even social
contract theory, but from the clear teaching of scripture: “He
has showed you, O man, what is good: and what does the
Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 7:8 RSV)
The fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah is precious to Seventhday
Adventists. We see our responsibility in this chapter as
those raised up to be “The repairer of the breach, the restorer
of paths to dwell in” (verse 12).
The call is to restore and “to loose the bands of wickedness
... to deal thy bread to the hungry ... bring the poor that
are cast out to thy house ... when thou seest the naked, that
thou cover him” (verses 6, 7). So as repairers of the breach,
we are to restore and care for the poor. If we carry out the
principles of the law of God in acts of mercy and love, we
will represent the character of God to the world.
In effecting Christ’s ministry today, we must do as He
did, and not only preach the gospel to the poor, but heal
the sick, feed the hungry, and raise the downcast (see Luke
4:18, 19; Matt. 14:14). But verse 16 explains that it was so
that “they need not go away.” Christ’s own example is determinative
for His followers.
In Christ’s response to Judas’ feigned concern for the
poor: “For you always have the poor with you, but you will
not always have me” (Matt.26:11 RSV), we are reminded
that it is the “Living Bread” that people most desperately
need. However, we also recognize the inseparables between
the physical and the spiritual. By supporting those church
and public policies that relieve suffering, and by individual
and united efforts of compassion, we augment that very
This public statement was released by the General Conference
president, Neal C. Wilson, after consultation with the 16 world vice
presidents of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, on July 5, 1990,
at the General Conference Session in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.