Welfare or False Entitlement?

Post date: Oct 4, 2011 2:22:41 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?


2 Thes 3:10

For even when we were with you we gave you orders, saying, If any man does no work, let him not have food.

(Bible in Basic English)

Deu 24:19-22

19) When you get in the grain from your field, if some of the grain has been dropped by chance in the field, do not go back and get it, but let it be for the man from a strange land, the child without a father, and the widow: so that the blessing of the Lord your God may be on all the work of your hands.

20) When you are shaking the fruit from your olive-trees, do not go over the branches a second time: let some be for the man from a strange land, the child without a father, and the widow.

21) When you are pulling the grapes from your vines, do not take up those which have been dropped; let them be for the man from a strange land, the child without a father, and the widow.

22) Keep in mind that you were a servant in the land of Egypt: for this is why I give you orders to do this.

(Bible in Basic English)

Deu 23:24-25

24) When you go into your neighbour's vine-garden, you may take of his grapes at your pleasure, but you may not take them away in your vessel.

25) When you go into your neighbour's field, you may take the heads of grain with your hand; but you may not put your blade to his grain.

(Bible in Basic English)

Lev 23:22

And when you get in the grain from your land, do not let all the grain at the edges of the field be cut, and do not take up the grain which has been dropped in the field; let that be for the poor, and for the man from another country: I am the Lord your God.

(Bible in Basic English)

2 Thes 3:10-12

10) For even when we were with you we gave you orders, saying, If any man does no work, let him not have food.

11) For it has come to our ears that there are some among you whose behaviour is uncontrolled, who do no work at all, but are over-interested in the business of others.

12) Now to such we give orders and make request in the Lord Jesus, that, working quietly, they get their living.

(Bible in Basic English)

James 1:27 The religion which is holy and free from evil in the eyes of our God and Father is this: to take care of children who have no fathers and of widows who are in trouble, and to keep oneself untouched by the world.

(Bible in Basic English)

Psalms 68:5-6

5) A father to those who have no father, a judge of the widows, is God in his holy place.

6) Those who are without friends, God puts in families; he makes free those who are in chains; but those who are turned away from him are given a dry land.

(Bible in Basic English)

Matthew 25:34-45

34) Then will the King say to those on his right, Come, you who have the blessing of my Father, into the kingdom made ready for you before the world was:

35) For I was in need of food, and you gave it to me: I was in need of drink, and you gave it to me: I was wandering, and you took me in;

36) I had no clothing, and you gave it to me: when I was ill, or in prison, you came to me.

37) Then will the upright make answer to him, saying, Lord, when did we see you in need of food, and give it to you? or in need of drink, and give it to you?

38) And when did we see you wandering, and take you in? or without clothing, and give it to you?

39) And when did we see you ill, or in prison, and come to you?

40) And the King will make answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Because you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

41) Then will he say to those on the left, Go from me, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire which is ready for the Evil One and his angels:

42) For I was in need of food, and you gave it not to me; I was in need of drink, and you gave it not to me:

43) I was wandering, and you took me not in; without clothing, and you gave me no clothing; ill, and in prison, and you came not to me.

44) Then will they make answer, saying, Lord, when did we see you in need of food or drink, or wandering, or without clothing, or ill, or in prison, and did not take care of you?

45) Then will he make answer to them, saying, Truly I say to you, Because you did it not to the least of these, you did it not to me.

(Bible in Basic English)

1Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

(English Standard Version)

Proverbs 10:4 He who is slow in his work becomes poor, but the hand of the ready worker gets in wealth.

(Bible in Basic English)

Matthew 25:14-30

14) For it is as when a man, about to take a journey, got his servants together, and gave them his property.

15) And to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to everyone as he was able; and he went on his journey.

16) Straight away he who had been given the five talents went and did trade with them, and made five more.

17) In the same way he who had been given the two got two more.

18) But he who was given the one went away and put it in a hole in the earth, and kept his lord's money in a secret place.

19) Now after a long time the lord of those servants comes, and makes up his account with them.

20) And he who had the five talents came with his other five talents, saying, Lord, you gave into my care five talents: see, I have got five more.

21) His lord said to him, Well done, good and true servant: you have been true in a small thing, I will give you control over great things: take your part in the joy of your lord.

22) And he who had the two talents came and said, Lord, you gave into my care two talents: see, I have got two more.

23) His lord said to him, Well done, good and true servant: you have been true in a small thing, I will give you control over great things: take your part in the joy of your lord.

24) And he who had had the one talent came and said, Lord, I had knowledge that you are a hard man, getting in grain where you have not put seed, and making profits for which you have done no work:

25) And I was in fear, and went away, and put your talent in the earth: here is what is yours.

26) But his lord in answer said to him, You are a bad and unready servant; if you had knowledge that I get in grain where I did not put seed, and make profits for which I have done no work,

27) Why, then, did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I would have got back what is mine with interest?

28) Take away, then, his talent and give it to him who has the ten talents.

29) For to everyone who has will be given, and he will have more: but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

30) And put out the servant who is of no profit into the outer dark: there will be weeping and cries of sorrow.

(Bible in Basic English)