Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

David Lipscomb on the Poor


David Lipscomb experienced poverty firsthand while living in the South following the Civil War. He believed it was the Christian’s duty to help the poor, sick, and suffering. For Lipscomb, caring for the poor and sick was not just the responsibility of the individual Christian, but it was a central part of the work of the church. The following is a list of quotes and examples of David Lipscomb’s beliefs concerning the Christian’s responsibility and duty to the poor.

Nashville experienced several Cholera outbreaks during Lipscomb’s lifetime. Robert Hooper in his biography on Lipscomb records how Lipscomb responded to the outbreak in 1873.

“In 1873 Lipscomb was living in Bell’s Bend, across the Cumberland River to the northwest. The editor could have forgotten his work in the city throughout the summer and remained on his farm during the worst of the scourge. However, Lipscomb chose to remain among the stricken for the duration of the plague. Even though he was not well, he went into the houses of the blacks and nursed them to health; he cleaned their homes and cooked their food; he took the lead among the young men of the Christian Church by going into areas where others feared to go. When Catholic sisters needed transportation when nursing the sick, it was Lipscomb who personally escorted them in his buggy into the poorest sections of Nashville. It must have been an unusual sight for those who knew Lipscomb’s religious convictions. But as a result of the experience, he remained an admirer of the work of these Catholic women.”

Concerning the epidemic Lipscomb wrote, “It is a time that should call out the full courage and energy of the church in looking after the needy. Every individual, white or black, that dies from neglect and want of proper food and nursing, is a reproach to the professors of the Christian religion in the vicinity of Nashville.”

See also John Mark Hicks’ post, David Lipscomb on the Cholera Epidemic in Nashville

The following are direct quotations from Lipscomb concerning the poor.

“the church is the special legacy of God to the poor of the earth. The poor then should, above all others, feel at home in the church.”

“As highly as we appreciate the Bible, and its necessity to the temporal and spiritual well-being of man, a loaf of bread today, in the name of Christ, would do more in opening the hearts of our Southern people…than any number of Bibles, tracts or preachers. Send bread now, brethren, and afterward the Bibles and preachers.”

“Jesus Christ personified himself in his poor brethren. He stands today personified in the gaunt and hollow face, sunken eye, and half-clad emaciated form of widowed mothers and of hungry, starving children.”

“Let us realize that every helpless, needy one of our brethren is the personification of Christ to us appealing for help. He is our Christ, to be kindly welcomed and generously treated. Shall we cast out our Christ from our doors and let him become a beggar from others? Let us be careful, ‘Verily I say unto you inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have have done it unto me.’ ‘Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these ye did it not to me.'”

“We must sacrifice our luxuries, our comforts, our wealth and pride, to relieve our brother’s distresses, just as Christ sacrificed his honors, glories, joys and possessions in heaven, to help poor helpless, fallen man on earth. This was the fellowship of God to man. I will give of my honors and joys to you, and take of your weaknesses, sufferings, and sorrows to myself, is the language of Jesus to man, in his mission to earth. Our fellowship for one another must be of this character. I’ll give of my plenty. and partake of your privations and self-denials, is the language of Christian fellowship.”

“The relieving of the physical ills that afflict humanity- feeding the poor, nursing the sick, caring for the orphan, visiting those that are in prison, and exhibiting a tender sympathy for the bodily ills, sorrows, misfortunes and afflictions of our fellow-creatures. This in the pure days of the Christian religion was the work of the ministry.”

“It is vain for any person to imagine that he loves Christ, if he does not love the brethren and is not liberal in relieving their needs.”

“The man that can spend money in extending his already broad acres, while his brother and his brother’s children cry for bread – the woman that can spend money in purchasing a stylish bonnet, an expensive cloak, or a fine dress, merely to appear fashionable, while her sister and her sister’s children are shivering with cold and scarce able to cover their nakedness, are no Christians – have not a promise of a single blessing from God; and not withstanding they have been baptized for the remission of sins, may be unremitted in their attendance upon the appointments of the Lord’s house, and constant and regular in their family devotions – yet they are on the broad road that leads to death.”

“The whole plan of a Preacher’s putting himself up to the highest bidder, shifting about from place to place, for the sake of a little higher salary, is at once a degradation to Christianity, demoralizing to the man and the worst of policies for his support. It makes merchandise of the Christian religion, supplying the preaching of the Gospel to the rich because they are rich, leaving the poor destitute because they are poor, thus thwarting the plan of salvation, for in it the Gospel is to be preached to the poor because they are poor. This system keeps the Preacher ever in an unsettled and harassed state of mind, which disqualifies him for usefulness. Makes him in all his preaching over anxious to please, which destroys his independence and true self-respect. When the brethren aid you, be thankful and preach the Gospel, when they neglect you, work, and toil and preach the Gospel. Don’t grumble or complain. Don’t seek the rich and honorable to preach to, but preach to the poor, the neglected, the degraded, and if you live poor, you will have the respect of the good and true, your own self-approval, and better than all, the approval of your Father in Heaven. You will be one of the world’s true heroes and Heaven’s crowned victors.”

“The crowning characteristic of the Christian religion in the esteem of its founder, is that the ‘poor have the gospel preached to them.’ the church that fails to exhibit that its first, most important work is to preach the gospel to the poor, has utterly failed to appreciate the true spirit of its mission, and the character of work it was established to perform. The thousands of the poor in the cities and in the country, must be sought out – preached to – must have congregations whose dress, style, manners, and associations will draw them to them, rather than repel them from them, and those congregations, so conforming themselves to the necessities of the poor, will alone constitute the Church of Christ.”

Most of the quotes from above are found in the Gospel Advocate, but many of them can also be found in the following books and articles.

Dunnavant, Anthony L. “David Lipscomb on the Church and the Poor.” Restoration Quarterly 33 (1991): 78.

Hicks, John Mark, and Valentine, Bobby. Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding. Abilene: Leafwood, 2006.

Hooper, Robert. Crying in the Wilderness: The Life & Influence of David Lipscomb. Nashville: Lipscomb University, 2011.

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