Why is it that most, if not all Christians in the Lord’s church are selfish and greedy? You might say, “I am neither of those things”! Even so, why is it that some come to the assembly leaving expensive houses, driving fancy cars, and wearing fancy clothes and never consider those who have not? Yet, many sit beside the poor whose only good attire is the one they have on, having no automobile or a very broken down one to drive, and living in a dilapidated house. And yet, no one thinks to share their wealth with the less fortunate! Don’t we remember the warning of the beloved John who said: “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 Jn 3:17). What is the responsibility of Christians to fellow brethren, even to all men? Are we our brother’s keeper?
We Are Our Brother’s Keeper
Christians are responsible for the physical needs of fellow brethren who need our help. The parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates this point.
“And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37).
Were the Levite and priest right? If one is not his brother’s keeper, what was wrong with their conduct? They did not strip the man of his garments, wound him, and leave him half dead. They passed by without doing him harm. However, they were responsible to help him. Why? Because one should love his neighbor as he loves himself! “For no man ever yet hated his own self; but nourished and cherished, even as the Lord the church” (Eph 5:29).
As much as Christians are to do good to all men, they are especially to do good to fellow brethren. Paul said, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). Jesus added a new commandment that all Christians are bound to perform. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn 13:34). James made it clear that words are cheap when it comes to helping someone. Notice what he said: “ What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (Jam 2:14-17). It is not enough to ask how someone is doing or to bid them a good day. If we see that they have need, we are commanded to help them even as the Samaritan helped the man who was robbed and left half dead.
The watchman (a Christian) is also responsible to warn his brother when he has done wrong. The Lord spoke to the prophet Ezekiel saying,
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul” (Ezek. 3:17-19).
This is the sense in which Paul wrote, “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27). To the degree that one has the ability to warn his brethren of spiritual dangers to his soul, he is his brother’s keeper.
Fellow Christians are also responsible to restore his brother. Paul wrote, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:1-2). James added, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (Jam. 5:19-20).
The same truth is taught in the Parable of the Separation of the Sheep and Goats (Mt. 25:31-46). Those who received the invitation to heaven gave drink to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, and the Word of God to heal their soul. Yes, a faithful Christian is his brother’s keeper, in every respect!