Welfare; November 24, 2018

2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

The whole matter of welfare assistance programs is very big in society today. Large sections of society feel entitled to a certain level of luxury – currently including cell phones – without their putting any effort into it at all. I’m sure many people were as disgusted as I was at the person in the “migrant caravan” in Mexico complaining about the food they were being given for free. Jesus, not to mention Deuteronomy, is very clear that the needs of those who are helpless are to be met by those who can do so. However, when so many try to “game the system,” it tends to turn off even the naturally generous. Paul is very clear here. The NIV puts it as “will not work,” and the Japanese expresses it as “doesn’t want to work.” It the next verse he uses the term, “idle.” Human beings were created to get things done, to make things and do things and help each other. In Ephesians Paul puts it like this: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) Saying, “I’m not going to work,” is defying God. That’s not at all to say that those who are unable to work for any of a number of reasons are in any way diminished in value. In a way, they provide great blessing to those who are involved in serving the poor and the weak. Right now, after the devastating fires in California, those who are being active in meeting the needs of those who have been burnt out are being blessed immeasurably. That is an entirely different situation from what Paul is talking about here. Where we need to be careful is with those who falsely claim disability, who are quite capable of contributing to society but choose not to, but leach off of it instead.

I think this is very personal for perhaps most people. We have all been in situations where we needed a hand up, and may have received hand outs. The problem comes when we accept that as normative, instead of exceptional. “Working” can take many forms, some of them not so obvious. I will always remember my aunt who, when in advanced age and physical disability, complained that God would not take her home, saying that she was fulfilling no useful function. (This was a woman who had served as a missionary and had written several books.) Talking with her, I learned that one of her grandsons had been in danger of divorce, but she had prayed earnestly for him and his wife, and the marriage had been saved. I was able to say to her, “See, you are being productive! God used your prayers to save that marriage, even though you are blind and bedridden.” She was working, and more than “earned her keep.” I am never to turn a jaundiced eye to the needs of others, but neither am I to let myself be scammed by those who just want to get something for nothing. Everything we have from God is grace, but part of His grace to us is in allowing us to participate in the flow of His grace, through applying the gifts and abilities He has supplied.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me be an accurate conduit of Your strong love, and not be deceived by the tricks of the enemy and those who are submitted to him. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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