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What’s Wrong with Fraternal Insurance?

Fraternal insurance is not provided by an insurance company, but rather by a fraternal benefit society.

Fraternals were developed in the 1800’s as a way for people to join with others who shared a common bond and purpose.

Individuals who are insured through fraternal benefit societies are members of a fraternity bonded together by what they have in common. Profits are returned to the fraternity’s members and to various causes which that membership supports.

The most familiar fraternal benefit societies in our circles are Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and its predecessors, Aid Association for Lutherans (Wisconsin) and Lutheran Brotherhood (Minnesota). When these Thrivent predecessors were formed, the fraternity was limited to confessional Lutherans who were members of the church bodies that made up the Lutheran Synodical Conference. The foreseen benefit was that like-minded confessional Lutherans could bond together in this fraternity, pay their dues, receive insurance coverage, and share funds that would be distributed to sister congregations for their ministries.

When the synods of the Lutheran Synodical Conference no longer universally followed the truth of Scripture, the fraternity of the benefit society continued even though the common ground of fellowship and unity in the confession and proclamation of Scripture were no longer present. As a result, members of the fraternal benefit society were supporting the work and ministry of churches and organizations which no longer taught or upheld God’s true Word.

Today, Thrivent has expanded the fraternity to include anyone who is a nominal Christian or associated with someone who is. This means that the fraternity now includes a vast array of confessions and varying degrees of faithfulness and unfaithfulness to Scripture. Given the nature of a fraternal benefit society, this means that the proclamation of all kinds of messages—some close to God’s Word, others far from it—is being mutually supported by the members of the fraternity. In addition, charitable donations are made to groups and programs that are distinctly not Christian and which pursue activities that are in conflict with God’s Word.

Whenever we as conscientious Christians consider becoming involved with organizations and groups in the world, we seek to follow the light of God’s Word and ask ourselves, “Would my membership in this organization hinder my proclamation of the Gospel? Would it glorify God? Would it obscure my Christian witness? Would it put me in the position of supporting and promoting false teaching?”

Jesus, our Savior, calls upon us to avoid any organization which unites us with or involves us with supporting the worship of a false god, a system of false spiritual beliefs, or anything else that is offensive to God. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. . . . Walk as children of
light . . . finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them
” (Ephesians 5:6-11).

The only way a fraternal benefit society can be God-pleasing is if the mutual benefits which its members produce do not support teachings or programs that are contrary to Scripture. A fraternity that is intended to support biblical ministries but is filled with differing beliefs concerning Scripture, or one that supports activities fitting the cultural norm instead of the clear Word of God—such fraternities cannot be pleasing to God.

Your pastor will be happy to discuss these matters further as we seek to mutually encourage one another in letting our light shine before men (Matthew 5:16) in these matters of earthly associations.

Wayne Eichstadt is pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Spokane Valley, Washington.