A Strange Rule?
“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat!’ -2 Thessalonians 3:10
Would Paul and the Bible have been acceptable to modern day politically-correct pundits? After all, the welfare society has ruled out the necessity of work for many welfare recipients even though they are able-bodied. Some are not, but many others are. Why is this a biblical rule? Does God not agree with a primarily socialist policy? Even in countries which are not necessarily labeled as socialist but are prosperous in their capitalist environment, abundantly-provided welfare – even for those who do not need it – is king.
Those poor countries which could use it most do not, or they do not have the means to provide it. Is it possible to provide welfare (in most cases, coerced alms) for those most desperate for it and not for many others who could work but will not? How do you justly create such a demarcation between the genuine have-nots and those who do not really need assistance?
There are always those who protest vehemently to grant welfare to those who have no genuine argument to receive it. The Bible commands us to remember the poor, but determining who “the poor are is not an exact science, especially when you view the poor in some much less wealthy international countries versus the poor in prosperous western society. There is little comparison, which world travelers well know.
Panhandlers in countries like the United States largely make a very good income in their chosen profession of panhandling. It is difficult to separate the truly needy from the scammers on most street corners who end up restricting the alms from those who truly need it. There is no guilt on the part of such actors.
Perhaps there is truly an argument for more general welfare when unemployment is high and there are few jobs available; but when unemployment plummets because of worthy government policy, there ends up being more jobs available and not enough willing workers to take them, which is currently the situation in the United States. If habits proliferate from worse times to the good times, who would choose to work if they can do nothing and still eat? Not following Paul’s rule has deleterious consequences for both the people who take advantage of welfare in order to not work and still eat and also for the entire society in general.
One: Over-abundant forced welfare decreases the charitable help coming voluntarily from those more blessed to those less so. The “socialism falsely described in the New Testament Church (Acts 4:32) thoroughly misses the point that in the New Testament Church community, mutual help is totally voluntary out of love for God and for their neighbor in the church, and not from a mandated government tax-collection. Such impersonal government-coerced largess completely vitiates the grace, mercy, and love coming from the giver and the gratefulness and love reciprocally generated in the receiver.
Two: Removing voluntary compassion opportunities decreases the virtue of the whole society and results in a harsher and more selfish demeanor in the population at large. The moral erosion in the consequent society leads to a degenerative impact on the world. The result is a world which erodes into selfishness, resentment, and covetousness.
When Jesus commands us to “remember the poor, He is not commanding us to erect an impersonal, general, and coerced government program but to examine our own hearts and act out of voluntary compassion to help meet our neighbors’ needs. This is good for both the giver and the receiver. It generates within each what is encouraging and character-building for both. It is a redemptive salvation for the whole society. Satan seeks to destroy this opportunity. He is the suggester of many government welfare programs because he knows the evil it can and may produce.
While such a rule in 2 Thessalonians sounds cruel and vindictive to many, it is in reality redemptive medicine for the soul of both the giver and the receiver. Unfortunately, a fallen society driven to pursue its fallen nature does not see this God’s way. The believer must rise above unfortunate government policies and wisely “remember the poor out of the compassion of his own heart. “Blessed is he that wisely doth the poor man’s case consider; for when the time of trouble is, the Lord will him deliver. (Psalm 41:1, Scottish Metrical Psalms, 1650)
This Labor Day, be reminded once again that work is an essential element of human life. God created men and women along with their children to find pleasure and purpose in their work. Labor is a primary calling for God’s human creation and was before the Fall as well as after. Sin only introduced difficulty and frustration to work, not the natural calling to do it. Joy in the Lord will overcome the adversity sin brings in work. Nevertheless, the Bible declares that if man chooses not to work, neither should he eat. It is a good incentive to do what men and women and children were created by God to do.
“Give me a faithful heart, guided by Thee, that each departing day henceforth may see some work of love begun, some deed of kindness done, some wanderer sought and won, something for Thee.
(3rd verse of S. Dryden Phelps’ hymn, “Savior, Thy Dying Love Thou Gavest Me, 1862)
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