LTAAT‎ > ‎RSS Feed‎ > ‎

Welfare or False Entitlement?

posted Oct 3, 2011, 7:22 PM by C G   [ updated Nov 7, 2011, 8:59 AM ]

Politics these days will ask you to side with the right or the left. Some will say that people should be more conservative and capitalists, while others want more liberties (liberals) and lean toward social government. The question that I am proposing an answer to is the argument of welfare. Living in the United States, I've seen so many recent debates regarding entitlements. So, what does the Bible really say about welfare? 

Consider this scenario for a moment... ...

You work hard for your money. You put food on the table for your family and anything extra might go toward your hobbies or entertainment. Lets say that your standard of living is $50,000. Life is pretty good, until a lazy person enters your life. This person is not family nor one of your friends, but you are required to pay for their lifestyle. To support this person, you must pay 16,000 a year out of your pocket. In return, this person does nothing for you, your family, or your community. If you do not pay, they get angry and make a scene. 
  • How does this scenario make you feel?
  • Is it fair?

In Thessalonians (2 Thes 3:10 ), Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica that a person who does not work should not eat. Stop and think about it for a moment. No work, no food. Lets put this in perspective. During this time, they had no established welfare. Their economy was set up so people with a trade could own a business or work under someone else to make a living. As a worker you were either making money, making a product, or both. If you had money, you earned it. If you didn't have money, you'd better have a good that you can sell to get money. The farmer was mostly self sufficient because they could produce their own food and sell the excess for profit. It was an agriculture-based society. 

Lets fast forward to the US's Great Depression. Over a quarter of the US found themselves unemployed. Franklin D. Roosevelt stepped in and social security was born. Along with social security came government handouts. Fast forward again to the modern day. We are in another depression. The unemployment rate is rising. Unlike previously, people are living longer and the government is supporting non-citizens. Is this even Biblical? 

Deuteronomy is the first place we'll go for public provision. During this time, the Hebrews were instructed to plant fields and not harvest everything. They would leave whatever falls to the ground after harvest for the poor. The poor were permitted to walk through a field and eat as they pass through it. Despite passing through it, they poor were not permitted to harvest grain or crops in baskets to collect more than they needed. Anything more was greed. Though, to encourage the giving to the poor, the farmers were instructed to not harvest all of their crops in Leviticus. They would leave edges or corners for the poor. This was in addition to the remnants that fell from a clean harvest. Biblically speaking, those who had were encouraged to give to the poor. 

Before you say your Gotcha.. it's Bible, consider first the scenario this provides. The poor would have to go into the field (often times, walking miles from their homes) and collect what they could carry. This meant that they were working to get their food. They couldn't sit on their bums and the food would come to them, but instead they were working for food. Our modern society only requires a person to show up at an office to start receiving financial support. After that, someone else delivers the check to the person's home or the money is dropped in their bank account electronically. In either case, the individual does not have to work for the money they receive. Looking back at Paul's statement to the Thessalonians, a person who does not work should not eat. Why are some of the fattest people I have met not working and on welfare? 

So, does that mean that the elderly, orphans, and the disabled should suffer? James said that the truest form of Christianity is to care for the fatherless and help widows (who are in need). At the time James wrote this, if you were a widow, it was up to your family to take care of you. If no one did, you had no means of conducting business nor getting what you needed. The result would often be a starving, old woman who died alone. The church helping such women would ensure both that they had a chance to hear the gospel and that their practical needs were met. This didn't mean that grandma would get to live in Florida or travel the world, bur rather that she'd never be without food and a roof over her head. 

What about the fatherless? In James' day, you could throw your child out. Just kick them out of the house, and they were no longer your problem. Infants could be placed on dung piles and left for dead. Anyone could disown a child. A disowned child was left to fend for themselves. Young girls would end up selling their bodies for a meal. Boys might become gladiators or slaves. Fornication, murder, and oppression are not the glamorous lifestyles Hollywood makes them out to be. As a result, a person or family could adopt one of the fatherless and take them in as their own. Some of my best friends were adopted, and looking at where their lives where headed, it's a good thing they were. Their lives were bettered by a stable household who loved and provided for them until they were old enough to leave. Even the Psalmist glories regarding God's care for the fatherless. 

Regarding the sick or injured, Jesus tells a parable (in Matthew) about a king that returns and those who ministered were rewarded. In this parable, He talks about the sick being taken care of as a form of ministering to the King. We should tend to the sick. Some people are sick their entire lives. One of my dear friends was born with cerebral palsy. His speech is difficult to understand, and he is mostly blind. How can such a man get a job and work? Physically, it is an improbability. Would the God of the Bible turn His back on such a person? He and I spent many hours together discussing God and theology. My friend is an on-fire-for-Jesus Christian. He has preached and ministered in churches, despite his disability. All of these opportunities would not have been feasible if not for a Biblical mandate to care for the sick. 

So, how does the Bible look at the average person who does not provide? What are they entitled to? We already mentioned that a person who doesn't work should not eat. Moreover, anyone who does not provide for their family is considered worse than an unbeliever. A person who doesn't work (or works poorly) deserves to be poor. Jesus tells a story about three men who were given money to invest. In the end, the one who did nothing with the money he was given had everything taken away from him. 

Given what the Bible says about welfare, what do you think it should look like?