Is it the work of the church to provide secular education and give money for secular education?
The primary work of the church is to serve as Christ’s bride in the grand purpose of saving souls (Luke 19:10). Within this great purpose, there is a three-fold division of work to be done. First the church must be evangelistic and reach out to those who have never obeyed the gospel of Christ (Acts 13:26). Second, the church must exhort those who are faithful (Hebrews 3:13). Third, the church must help those who are in need both within and without the church (Galatians 6:10). If the church is to spend any money on any endeavor, it must fall within one of these three categories. It may directly fall into one of these categories, such as the support of a local evangelist would fall into both categories of preaching the gospel to the lost and exhorting the faithful. It may also indirectly fall into one of these categories. In order for the evangelist to preach the gospel he needs various devices to assist him such as pencils, paper, notebooks, copiers, etc. These are authorized indirectly as matters of expediency. So where in these three categories would secular education fall? Let us look at who has the primary responsibility for secular education and then see if it falls within any of these categories.
First, the Bible says, “be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). To get wise in secular things one must study secular ways and that implies secular education. It is, therefore, prudent for an individual to obtain some sort of secular education. Second, we note that secular education is necessary today to support one’s self and one’s family. While one may find work today without a secular education, the odds are increasingly against it. The Bible teaches that we ought to work to be able to support ourselves (2 Thessalonians 3:10, 12), our families (1 Timothy 5:8), and those in need (Ephesians 4:28). So, secular education is thus directly related to personal improvement and family support. This places the primary responsibility for secular education with the family. The question we must ask at this point is can the church provide financial support to families?
If the church can give money for food, clothing, shelter and other things to families who are in need, then the church may definitely provide for secular education to aid such families to provide for their own future. In fact, to perpetuate familial dependence upon the church by denying families the very things that they need to support themselves would be counterproductive to the work and mission of the church. Providing for secular education helps those members to become independent. Once independence is achieved the members will, in turn, provide for the needs of the church. In so doing, the perpetual cycle of interdependent care and support goes forward. Galatians 6:10 says, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Inasmuch as this passage authorizes us to help those individuals who need food or clothing, whether within or without the church, it also authorizes us to help individuals find ways to provide for themselves as well. Thus, providing for someone’s secular education is within the scope of our responsibility to do good to all men.
Let me state one word of caution in this regard. The primary responsibility of the church is to work toward the salvation of men’s souls. Helping individuals with their physical needs should motivate individuals to want to learn more about God’s word and therein is the connection between this particular work and the primary responsibility of the church. If the cause of providing for an individual’s needs becomes the primary responsibility of the church, whether it is providing food, clothing, shelter, money, education, or whatever, then the church has failed to fulfill the mission with which she is charged by Jesus. We need to be careful to do good works, yes, but to maintain the primary mission with which the church is charged. To a large degree, this is the responsibility of the eldership as they decide the works in which the church is to be involved.