The Bible is filled with references to helping those who are poor and in need of our charity. There is a caution for clarity here. The Apostle Paul was quite specific in his letter to the Thessalonians when he said:
(2 Thessalonians 3:10)1NIV New International Version Translations– “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’”
The verse above is set in the context of 2 Thessalonians 3:6–15. It warns believers against idleness and laziness. The focus of the command is against those who refuse to work rather than those who are unable to do so. The verses preceding the instruction to those unwilling to work gives a positive example:
(2 Thessalonians 3:7-9) – “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.”
Paul and his companions did not come to the people of Thessalonica to take their food, or money. They came to share Christ with them. They were willing to work a side job to provide for their own food. Paul points out the importance of sorting out those who can work from those who have a real need for help. If any Christian worker came to a church and refused to work, Paul says not to offer him food. This instruction also had application to people within society.
(2 Thessalonians 3:11–12) – “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.”
Believers are to be known for working hard, not for a lazy attitude. It is fair then to seek a clear understanding of poverty. The world defines poverty as those who do not have enough income. Our world also assigns additional conditions to poverty such as oppression, isolation, or injustice. Because economic poverty is often a catalyst of other forms of poverty, it is one of the nonnegotiable elements in our definition of poverty. Insufficient food, debt, or the inability to clothe or to have shelter are the results of poverty. Circumstances and causes associated with poverty are complex. Paul seems to be stating that in some instances, however, the state of poverty is self-inflicted. Poverty can also exist in a person whose moral/spiritual condition has degraded:
(Proverbs 23:21) – “for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.”
(Proverbs 28:19) – “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.”
The Apostle Paul is talking about idleness. Our world defines idleness as inactivity; slothfulness; uselessness; profitableness; worthlessness; foolishness. It is an aversion to exertion. Scriptures take this condition straight on.
(Proverbs 18:9) – “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.”
(Proverbs 19:15) – “Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry”
Solomon set the stage long before the Apostle Paul. He clearly linked not working to poor living conditions.
(Ecclesiastes 10:18) – “Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks.”
The Bible is consistent in its view of both poverty and the Christian attitude toward poverty. Those unwilling to work are not the “poor” that our Bible mentions. Jesus talks about the poor over 400 times. The poor are those who are unable to work. There is a difference. James 1:27 defines evidence of a true religion as “look[ing] after orphans and widows in their distress.” These are the needy children and widows, the disabled, those with special needs, the elderly, and others who, through no direct fault of their own, cannot earn a living. These are the people most deserving of help.
Work is a gift from God. Since the beginning of our world, work has been part of God’s plan for humanity. Remember, He created our world. God worked Himself as part of that creation process. That means you can view the act of working as a direct gift from God Himself!
(Genesis 2:15) – “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
(Colossians 3:23-24) – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
According to 2020 U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 11 million single parent families with children under the age of 18. Eighty percent are headed by single mothers.2https://singlemotherguide.com/single-mother-statistics/ Over one half of the mothers were never married. Approximately one third of them were divorced. One third of the 11 million households live in poverty. Government cannot fix this problem! The government created the problem. Government has taken God out of schools and homes. It is government that has weakened family relationships by substituting themselves through entitlements for what God had intended families to do.
(1 Timothy 5:8) – “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households. Would you still call us an advanced society? List any of your favorites: drugs, crime, child trafficking, or homelessness. We lead the world in most of them. Is it our own government that is removing the incentives to work? Who is the blame? Is it biased media, governmental educational systems, or growing entitlement programs? When is enough, enough? God calls us to live FOR Christ, OBEDIENT to God’s Word, as WITNESSES against the corruption in our world. Either our government is growing poverty or society is abandoning God. What do you think our God is calling us to do? It is time to make a choice!
- Does our society view parenting as a career?
- Ideas to Explore: Do you think that governmental policies are encouraging men to abandon their families? How are fathers held accountable to their children? Are our entitlements encouraging mothers to have children out of wedlock?
- Can government ever be the foundation that replaces God?
- Ideas to Explore: Where are the examples of Godly behavior within government? Is government growing more generous citizenry in our country?
- Are we individually responsible for the consequences of a sinful nation?
- Ideas to Explore: Is it the role of government to instill Godly behavior? Can government instill Godly behavior in society? What is society’s role in responding to the consequences of sin? Where does accountability begin and charity end?
- Is it possible for a nation to survive without the blessings of our Creator?
- Ideas to Explore: Can any type of “ism” be a replacement for a nation of Godly people?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations