Simply put, my political conservatism is rooted in my Christian worldview. There it is. Plain and simple. That an able-bodied person should work for a living is biblical. That a person’s wealth should not be confiscated and redistributed to another is biblical. That I should desire godly men and women in positions of leadership is biblical. That it should be left up to me to help the poor of my own volition, as opposed to being coerced to do so, is biblical. I could go on, but, hopefully, you get the point.
28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
“You say the government should not be the one to help the poor, but then who is the government – we are.”
Nonsense. Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized. Government is the means by which state policy is enforced, as well as the mechanism for determining the policy of the state. A form of government, or form of state governance, refers to the set of political institutions by which a government of a state is organized. The word “government” is derived from the Latin infinitive gubernare, meaning “to govern” or “to manage”.
As laypersons, our job is not to do the above. We are not the government. We elect officials to take government offices and positions and sometimes we have no control over how and where they spend the money they collect in taxes.
So we are right back to the fact that the church and private charities should help the poor, not the government.
“What does the Bible say about giving to the poor?”
In both the Old and New Testaments, we see God’s desire for His children to show compassion to the poor and needy. Jesus said that the poor would always be with us (Matthew 26:11; Mark 14:7). He also said that those who show mercy to the poor, the sick and the needy are in effect ministering to Him personally (Matthew 25:35-40) and will be rewarded accordingly.
There is no doubt that poverty’s reach is both widespread and devastating today. God’s people cannot be indifferent toward those in need, because His expectations for us in regard to taking care of His poor are woven throughout the entirety of Scripture. For example, look at the Lord’s words about the goodness of King Josiah in Jeremiah 22:16 “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me, declares the LORD?” And Moses instructed his people how to treat the poor and needy: “Give generously to
Conversely, there is another part to this verse: “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker.” Proverbs is in fact filled with Scripture clearly showing that God loves the poor and is offended when His children neglect them (Proverbs 11:4; 17:5; 19:17; 22:2, 9, 16, 22-23; 28:8; 29:7; 31:8-9). The consequences for ignoring the plight of the poor are also made clear in Proverbs: “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13). And note the strong language in Proverbs 28:27 “he who closes his eyes to [the poor] receives many curses.” Among the many sins of Sodom described in Genesis 19, her people were “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49).
The New Testament is equally clear as to how we are to take care of the poor. One verse that nicely summarizes our expected altruism is found in the first epistle of John: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18). Equally important is Matthew 25:31-46. Now, this judgment precedes Christ’s millennial reign and is often referred to as the “judgment of nations,” in which those assembled before Christ will be divided into two groups—the sheep on His right side and the goats on His left. Those on the left will be sent to the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (v. 41), whereas those on the right will receive their eternal inheritance (v.34). Noteworthy, however, is the language Christ used in addressing these separated groups. The sheep were basically commended for taking care of the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, and the vulnerable. The goats, on the other hand, were chastised for their lack of concern and action toward them. When the righteous asked Him when they did these things, Christ responded by saying “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Now, we are not to misconstrue this as meaning the good works of the sheep factored into their gaining salvation; rather, these good works were the “fruit” or evidence of their having been saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-10), further evidencing that a commitment to Christ will indeed be accompanied with undeniable evidence of a transformed life. Remember, we were created to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do, and the “good works” Christ spoke of in Matthew 25 included taking care of the poor and suffering.
Now, with all of these scriptural truths in mind, we are to obey them and act on them, because “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). As James stated “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). Similarly, John said “The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar and the truth is not in him…Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:4, 6). And the words of Christ Himself: “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).
Jesus commanded us to love one another (John 13:34-35). And what better way to demonstrate the love and kindness and compassion of Jesus Christ than by reaching out to the “least of these” among us?
“What does the Bible say about work?”
“No one should ever work. Work is the source of nearly all the misery in the world. Almost any evil you’d care to name comes from working or from living in a world designed for work. In order to stop suffering, we have to stop working.” These words comprise the beginning of an essay penned by Bob Black in 1985 entitled, “The Abolition of Work.” In a leisure-loving culture, many would whole-heartedly echo Black’s sentiment. Americans spend approximately 50% of their waking hours devoted to work. Is work a curse, or is it something that humans were uniquely designed to do? In stark contrast to the assertions of Bob Black, the significance and beneficial nature of work is a resounding theme in the Bible.
The origin of work is depicted in the book of Genesis. In the opening passage, God is the primary worker, busy with the creation of the world (Genesis 1:1-15). The Bible states that God worked for six days and rested on the seventh day. These passages reveal that God was the first to do work on the earth. Therefore, legitimate work reflects the activity of God. Because God is inherently good, work is also inherently good (Psalm 25:8; Ephesians 4:28). Furthermore, Genesis 1:31 declares that when God viewed the fruit of His labor, He called it “very good.” God examined and assessed the quality of His work, and when He determined that He had done a good job, He took pleasure in the outcome. By this example, it is apparent that work should be productive. Work should be conducted in a way that produces the highest quality outcome. The reward for work is the honor and satisfaction that comes from a job well done.
Psalm 19 says that God reveals Himself to the world by His work. Through natural revelation, God’s existence is made known to every person on earth. Thus, work reveals something about the one doing the work. It exposes underlying character, motivations, skills, abilities, and personality traits. Jesus echoed this principle in Matthew 7:15-20 when He declared that bad trees produce only bad fruit and good trees only good fruit. Isaiah 43:7 indicates that God created man for His own glory. In 1 Corinthians 10:31 we read that whatever we do should be to His glory. The term “glorify” means to give an accurate representation. Therefore, work done by Christians should give the world an accurate picture of God in righteousness, faithfulness, and excellence.
God created man in His image with characteristics like Him. (Genesis1:26-31). He created man to work with Him in the world. God planted a garden and put Adam in it to cultivate and maintain it (Genesis 2:8, 15). Additionally, Adam and Eve were to subdue and rule over the earth. What does this original work mandate mean? To cultivate means to foster growth and to improve. To maintain means to preserve from failure or decline. To subdue means to exercise control and discipline. Rule over means to administer, take responsibility for, and make decisions. This mandate applies to all vocations. The 15th-century Reformation leaders saw an occupation as a ministry before God. Therefore, when viewed as a ministry before God, jobs should be acknowledged as ministries, and workplaces should be considered as mission fields.
The Fall of Man depicted in Genesis 3 generated a change in the nature of work. In response to Adam’s sin, God pronounced several judgments in Genesis 3:17-19, the most severe of which is death. However, labor and the results of labor figure centrally in the rest of the judgments. God cursed the ground. Work became difficult. The word “toil” is used, implying challenge, difficulty, exhaustion, and struggle. Work itself was still good, but man must expect that it will be accomplished by “the sweat of his brow.” Also, the result will not always be positive. Although man will eat the plants of the field, the field will also produce thorns and thistles. Hard work and effort will not always be rewarded in the way the laborer expects or desires.
It is also noted that man would be eating from the produce of the field, not the garden. A garden is symbolic of an earthly paradise made by God as a safe enclosure. Gardens also symbolize purity and innocence. The earth or field, on the other hand, represents an unbounded, unprotected space and an emphasis on loss of inhibition and worldliness. Therefore, the work environment can be hostile, especially to Christians (Genesis 39:1-23; Exodus 1:8-22; Nehemiah 4).
It is said that man has three basic needs in life: love, purpose and significance. Many times, humans attempt to find purpose and significance in work itself. In Ecclesiastes 2:4-11, Solomon details his search for meaning in a variety of projects and works of all kinds. Even though the work brought some degree of satisfaction in accomplishment, his conclusion was: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
Other critical biblical principles regarding work are:
• Work is done not only to benefit the worker, but also for others (Exodus 23:10-11; Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Ephesians 4:28).
• Work is a gift from God and, for His people, will be blessed (Psalm 104:1-35; 127:1-5; Ecclesiastes 3:12-13; 5:18-20; Proverbs 14:23).
• God equips His people for their work (Exodus 31:2-11).
There has been much debate throughout 2009 and 2010 about societal responsibilities and obligations toward the unemployed, uninsured, and uneducated in our society. While many of those affected by economic downturns truly desire to work and can’t find employment, there are a number of U.S. citizens who have become generational welfare recipients, preferring to remain on the government dole. It is interesting to note that the biblical welfare system was a system of work (Leviticus 19:10; 23:22). The Bible is harsh in its condemnation of laziness (Proverbs 18:9). Paul makes the Christian work ethic abundantly clear: “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:28).
In addition, Paul’s instruction to another church regarding those who preferred not to work was to “keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” And he goes on to say, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’” Instead, Paul instructs those who had been idle: “Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:12).
Although God’s original design for work was perverted by sin, God will one day restore work without the burdens that sin introduced (Isaiah 65:17-25; Revelation 15:1-4; 22:1-11.) Until the day when the New Heavens and New Earth are set in place, the Christian attitude toward work should mirror that of Jesus: “My food, said Jesus, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). Work is of no value except when God is in it.