Francis Chan on Failure to Help the Poor Could Send You to Hell

Francis Chan on

Francis Chan on issues of today that matter in our church practices and relationship with God.

The other morning, I woke up to start writing, as I’ve been doing for the past few weeks, and I decided to do something different. I closed my laptop and just read through all of these passages on hell. I didn’t think about writing; I didn’t try to figure out all the nitty-gritty details of the text. I just let the New Testament speak in its power and simplicity, and here are some of the shocking things that God hit me with.

Francis Chan on: You Fool

Jesus threatens hell to those who curse their brother (Matt. 5:22). He’s not warning drinkers or smokers or murderers. Jesus preaches hellfire against those who have the audacity to attack a fellow human being with harsh words. It’s ironic—frightening, actually—that some people have written books, preached sermons or written blog posts about hell and missed this point completely. In fact, some people have slammed their Christian brothers and sisters in the process, simply because they have a different view of hell, missing the purpose of Matthew 5: Whoever calls his brother a fool may find himself guilty of hell.

Have you called your brother a fool lately? On a blog? On Facebook? Have you tweeted anything of the sort?

So often, these hell passages become fodder for debate, and people miss the point of the warning. Jesus didn’t speak of hell so that we could study, debate and write books about it. He gave us these passages so that we would live holy lives. Stop slandering one another, and live in peace and brotherly unity. Jesus evidently hates it when we tear into our brothers or sisters with demeaning words, words that fail to honor the people around us as the beautiful image-bearing creatures that they are.

Francis Chan on: Blessed Are the Poor

And what about the poor? Jesus is crystal clear about the necessity of reaching the poor. Yet many hellfire preachers are overfed and overpaid, living in luxury while doing nothing for the majority of Christians who live on less than two dollars a day. [2] Contrast that with Jesus, who in His longest sermon about judgment made helping the poor a vital criterion.

Put simply, failing to help the poor could damn you to hell.

I know, I know, everyone wants to qualify this. We want to add all sorts of footnotes to fix Jesus’ shaky theology in Matthew 25—justification is by faith, not by works; you don’t really have to help literal poor people, etc. [3]

On the flipside, some want to keep the stuff about helping the poor but take hell out of the picture. Sometimes, people even take Jesus out of the picture—fighting poverty, they believe, is an inherent virtue whether or not it’s rooted in the gospel.

Let’s keep the teeth of both truths. There’s a literal hell, and helping the poor is essential. Not only did Jesus teach both of these truths, He saw them as necessary and interrelated.

Francis Chan on: The Tongue of Fire

James doesn’t say much about hell in his short epistle. In fact, the word hell only occurs once. But this one instance is directed right at me, a teacher of the Bible. In the context of warning teachers that they will incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1), James says that the tongue is capable of burning up an entire forest (v. 5). “The tongue is a fire,” James says, and it is ignited by the fire of hell (v. 6). He doesn’t warn drunks, thieves or adulterers about going to hell. No doubt James agrees that sinners of all sorts will go to hell, but for some sobering reason, he saves his only explicit—and quite scathing—warning about hell for teachers of God’s Word.

The same goes for 2 Peter and Jude. These short letters are full of hellfire and emphasize that hell is a place for false teachers—those who claim to be speaking for God but are really only speaking for themselves. According to Peter and Jude, these teachers are among us, exploiting us with false words. They speak a lot about God, but the gods they really delight in are their own bellies and wallets. Peter and Jude say they are heading for hell.

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Francis Chan
Francis Chan is an author and church leader, formerly the pastor of Cornerstorne Church in Simi Valley, California. Chan has authored two books, Crazy Love & Forgotten God. He is also the founder of Eternity Bible College and sits on the board of directors of Children's Hunger Fund and World Impact. Francis lives in California with his wife, Lisa, and their four children.