I grew up in a conservative home. We weren’t just republican, we were conservative. As I reached my teen years, I didn’t approve of Government hand outs for the general conservative reasons. Government shouldn’t be taking money from people who have worked hard to earn it in order to give it to someone who refuses to get a job. Thus, the entire program was condemned in my mind. I even thought that it would be wrong to take that money and that taking it demonstrated a lack of faith that God would care for you.
This mindset is the type of thing that I believe often happens, in some vein of practical life or theology, through the teen years into early adult-hood. We establish for ourselves staunch rules that we believe to be based on principles and never really reevaluate them until seriously challenged.
Recently I participated in a discussion that has caused me to look even more closely at why taking any help is so frowned upon by Christians. So, without further ado, I will address some of the common statements I have heard and comment on their virtues.
“People should work hard.” Amen! They should work hard. This is something that was determined pre-fall. Adam and Eve were told to work before the fall. Work is good, and we should do it. Laziness is sin. We all agree on that.
“If people don’t work, then neither should they eat.” Yes, the principle there is that if you aren’t working to supply when you can, you should not be cared for by others. Each individual is responsible to work to provide for himself and his family. The early church had members that had sold all their stuff and quit their jobs in anticipation of Christ’s return and they were then refusing to work, just waiting, and the church was caring for them. Paul’s command was that if they don’t work, then stop feeding them. This does not apply to those that can’t work, those that have retired, those that are still working hard and still struggling to make ends meet.
“A person who doesn’t provide for his own is worse than an infidel.” Again, this is true, with the same principle from above. We are talking about people fully capable of working who are not doing so. This is not talking about people struggling to live with all their might who are poor and needy. God speaks extensively about how they ARE to be cared for.
“Money shouldn’t be taken from those that work and given to those that don’t work.” This is derived from the above principles and from the fact that men are to enjoy the fruits of their labors as found throughout the Scriptures. Mon
“The church should give money to the poor. God gives that responsibility to the church.” This is often taken too out of context; no where does Scripture say that the church, as one of the three institutions of God, is to care for the poor. The church is to care for widows indeed, that is, widows in the church over a certain age who have no family to care for them. The local church is NOT charged with this task. Individual Christians are, and so the universal body of Christ is to care for the poor. Churches in Macedonia and Achaia ministered to the poor at Jerusalem, but we see that as an example, and not a command. As a local body of believers, we are not commanded to minister to social needs, but as individuals, we are to care for the poor and needy. There are many verses about doing so in both the OT and NT, but it is not a responsibility assigned to the church.
“Government doesn’t have the right to take the money that you earned and give it to a person who isn’t working. That is stealing.” Eh…no. Government has the right to tax. Scripture puts no limitations on what they can tax, or how, or how much. Scripture gives some responsibilities (you might even be able to say the primary responsibility – punishment) of Government, but doesn’t give limitations on Government. For instance, the Bible never says, “Government should not give money to the poor,” nor does it say that it should defend its borders, etc.
Now we are getting to the touchy subject. Government is never told not to tax to pay for a coliseum. Government is never told to not tax, or what to do with its money once it has it. Christians are never told to object either. Government has the right to take taxes (really, out of all things the Bible does say about Government this is one of the most clear!), and those taxes are not stealing, nor are they any longer the monies of the citizens. They are the Government’s, and the Government can do what they want with them: including killing Christian’s and/or giving it to lazy people. The Government has that right, be it moral or not. Should Government kill Christians? No. Should it give money to lazy people? No. Does it have the right? Yes.
“But Romans 13 doesn’t list all these specifics about Government.” Exactly! Romans 13 is not a dissertation on Government. It is Paul speaking to a church about how they are to respond to Government, and with that recognizing that Government’s authority is from God, and we are to submit to it. It is not a biblical constitution. The Bible doesn’t present a government outline, ever. In fact, central to the passage is the citizens’ response to pay tribute, dues, custom.
“Well, our government is based on the Constitution and that says these taxes are wrong.” Our government is based on the Constitution, but is the Constitutions the law of the land today? To answer this, we must find what is practiced and enforced in our land. That will reveal where the power truly resides. Every person who is familiar enough with the Constitution to make the argument that these things are against the law, are defeating themselves with the plethora of issues that are “illegal.” If all of these things are taking place, and they all are against the Constitution, and if people are not going to jail, and the enforcers of the Law are upholding them, then they have become the new law. The Old Law is no longer. To suppose that in order to replace the Constitution, it must be changed by the method described in the Constitution is nonsense. It is far easier to surpass it by taking power, which is what has been done. If these taxes were illegal, then they would not have taken place for as long as they have; instead they have been enforced by the Government.
“People shouldn’t take the money even if the Government is giving it; you need to work for what you get.” There is no verse to back this up. Nehemiah took money and troops from his Government. Jesus and his disciples took food they did not work for. Joseph as Governor of Egypt gave gold and silver to his brothers because he wanted to, gold and silver that belonged to the Egyptian Government. The Egyptians had to pay for food, but Joseph’s family had free food. Not only did they not pay for it on two separate occasions, but they moved to Government land, and lived off Government food for five years of famine. What type of Government handout is that?! A Government handout that saved much people alive. A God ordained Government handout; God sent Joseph to Egypt for that very purpose, so that the Government would save them.
Christ tells us to make friends with the mammon of unrighteousness. If you can get your hands on money legally and appropriately, do it. Someone wins the lottery and wants to donate to the church? Take it. Someone made a bet and wants to give you some, take it. The store is giving out free samples of food, try some. The company down the road is having hot dogs and ice cream for dinner for free, go eat. Take advantage of what you can. You, as a Holy Spirit filled child of God, are going to be a better wiser steward of it than anyone else would be. I fear many Christians will get to Heaven to be told, “Look at what more you could have done if you would have taken that extra money I was trying to give you.”
In conclusion, work hard, trust the Lord, don’t expect to be supplied in your laziness, but don’t prevent the Lord’s blessing with some self-righteous claim of real faith, and ignoring the provision He would happily give you from non-Christian/family sources.