Friday, October 16, 2009

Government & Church - Biblical Welfare #2

I've read accusations that the Biblical position of individual people providing charity assistance to those in need only applies to Christians. In other words, Christians only help other Christians and everyone else can starve.

Anyone who thinks that is the Christian attitude have not paid attention to what happens during disasters. It is Christians who provide the major of the relief and aid. It does not matter where the disaster strikes... in a Christian community or a Muslim country. Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians are all helped equally and without distinguishing who belongs to which religion.

Yes, there are some cults that call themselves Christian that limit their assistance to those who are members of their church. Or they serve their church first and if anything is left over they'll help others. But that's not what you see from Christians.

What are some examples from the Bible?

Leviticus 19:9-10 says: "When you harvest your crops, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. It is the same with your grape crop--do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners who live among you, for I, the Lord, am your God."

At that time most people were farmers raising crops. They were commanded to leave some of their crops for the poor. They were to give some of what they received to help those who could not help themselves.

An important point to note is, God did not command them to harvest crops and then give the food to the poor. Those who were in need--you could say they were in need of a job--could come and harvest what was left. They had to work to get their food. Those who had a harvest were responsible for providing for them, but they still had to put in some work to get what was given to them.

Let's look in the New Testament. This is from Mark 2:23-24

"One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples began breaking off heads of wheat. But the Pharisees said to Jesus, 'They shouldn't be doing that! It's against the law to work by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.'"

Were they accused of stealing grain? No. Jesus did not accuse them of stealing. And what the Pharisees said they were doing wrong was working on the Sabbath. Leviticus 19 allows travelers to glean grain from the unharvested edges of the fields. Jesus' followers were applying this principle.

How do we applythis principle today?

1. We are to put aside some of what we earn to be used to help those in need.

2. We should provide it to those in need, and who can work, in a way that gives them dignity; that builds them up; that strengthens them; and helps them build the habits they need to take are of themselves. In other words we should not just give them the cash, they need to work.

This does not mean we should take advantage of others, forcing them to be our servants so they can buy the food they need. Those who gleaned from the fields did not plow, plant, weed, nor put in all the work needed to care for the fields. They did a lot less work than the farmer. Yet, they still had to do something to earn their food. We need to structure our support for those in need the same way.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Government & Church - Biblical Welfare

What does the Bible say about taking care of the poor? Who is supposed to met the needs of those who can not care for themselves?

First I'd like to point out that the Bible says there is no free ride. Only those who truly are in need, and can not help themselves, are deserving of assistance. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10 it says:

"...we gave you this rule" 'Whoever does not work should not eat."

Paul goes on to write in verse 11: "Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and wasting time meddling in other people's business. In the name of the Lord Jesus Chist, we appeal to such people--no, we command them: settle down and get to work. Earn your own living."

Paul is talking to people who could work, but "refuse to do so."

I have read criticisms of this passage saying that it is used to treat needy people badly. This is not a correct understanding of what Paul is saying. He is not telling the disabled, the elderly, or others who can not work that they should not receive charity. But those who are capable of working, need to work or they don't eat.

What if there are no jobs? First we need to look at a fundamental problem.

We are in a situation in which unemployment is above 9% and jobs are difficult to find. Who are we turning to to create jobs? The government. The government has taken over GM and Chrysler to save jobs. The government is spending vast sums of money as a stimulus to create jobs. Meanwhile the government pays people to do nothing while they wait for jobs to be created.

I can hear people saying that this is the loving and compassionate thing to do. Is that true? What does the Bible say we should do?

Can governments be loving and compassionate? No. It is people are can be loving and compassionate. We are to show that love and compassion by helping our neighbor when they need help. Here is a key reason why this is best... because we know our neighbor. We have a personal relationship with our neighbors. We know those who are in need, and those who are trying to get a free ride would quickly be revealed.

We have open our home to people in need. In one case the husband always had an excuse for not taking a job, even when I arranged one for him. He was capably of working, a job was available, he refused to work... he did not deserve to eat. Instead he found a way to live off free handouts from the government.

The point is, if those in need are help by their family and friends, those who need help will get it and freeloaders will have to learn how work and help others who are in need.

No, the Biblical command to work or you don't eat is not cruel. It is wise. It is truly loving and caring about other people.

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