At Baxter we do our monthly food pantry, which often stimulates a conversation about the gospel vs. social ministry. In my missions classes we often talk about the gospel and social ministries, particularly the sadness and strong emotions that come with seeing terrible third world poverty. It is so easy, when we see such awful suffering, day after day, to want to do something about that. Missionaries are big hearted people, and they cannot easily walk away from any need. That’s why they have built farms and schools and clinics and hospitals all over the world. That’s why Southern Baptists have reached out in such significant numbers and ways in eastern Kentucky, following the rains and floods.
Jesus notes that its a good thing to give a cup of water in his name (9:41). But he then moves quickly to teach about the most important matter of all. He talks about eternal matters and the kingdom of God. He says it is better to lose an eye or a foot, and to live life blind or maimed, than to miss the kingdom and to end up in hell. Yes, we meet this and that need, and we do so out of compassion and a desire that people live good and happy lives. But we also have the answer to the greatest need of all. We have the gospel!
We have no mission but to serve
In full obedience to our Lord,
To care for all without reserve,
And spread His liberating Word. -- Fred Pratt Green (1969)