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OKG Newsletter

Letters to the Editor

Welfare recipients denied work ‘blessing’

K.A. Straughn August 31st, 2011

Brandon Wertz (Letters, “‘Christian’ nation ‘going to hell,’” July 27, Gazette) is right that government should not subsidize the wealthy. However, he is off base to use half of the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:41-46) to defend government welfare spending and claim, “If this is a ‘Christian’ nation, we’re surely going to hell” because of “those fighting to keep (government) services from the poor.”

Christians are to care for the poor, but Jesus here is condemning indifference toward his disciples, not indifference toward the poor. Jesus promises his followers that they will be hated, persecuted and killed (Matthew 24:9). Then in the full parable Wertz cites (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus tells the heaven-bound “sheep on his right” that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

We know from Matthew 12:49- 50 that Jesus refers to “his disciples” (“whoever does the will of my father in heaven”) as “brothers.” Hence, Jesus is promising great reward to those who care for his soon-to-be persecuted followers. Taken in context, when Jesus then tells the hell-bound “goats on his left” in verse 45 that “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me,” “the least of these” is shorthand for “the least of these brothers of mine” in verse 40.

If this were not the case, Jesus would be teaching that the reward for caring for his disciples would be foregone by not caring for the poor, which contradicts to the structure and point of the parable.

Yet even if Matthew 25:45 is about helping the poor, it does not support the welfare state. Biblical charity is voluntary and exercised within relationship. Poverty and famine relief in the New Testament was voluntary (Acts chapters 4, 5 and 11). The good Samaritan, who is often invoked to justify the welfare state, voluntarily used his own time, effort and money to help the victim in the road.

In contrast, Wertz seems to equate biblical charity with asking the government to coerce others into paying for aid administered by an impersonal bureaucracy that separates giver from recipient. Consequently, government-coerced “charity” fails to redeem the giver, who is denied the blessing of exerting himself on behalf of others within relationship.

One wonders how many support the welfare state to assuage their consciences, while avoiding the hardship of personally helping the poor. Finally, the Apostle Paul commanded the Church, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (II Thessalonians 3:10) To enable the able-bodied to remain idle, as government welfare so often does, is unjust not only to taxpayers, but to welfare recipients denied the blessing of working to support themselves and others.

— K. A. Straughn

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09.01.2011 at 12:49 Reply

Thank you for clarifying your position.  I respect and appreciate your civil response.  Frankly, the way the way the Gazette titled my comment lead me to believe that I would get much more impassioned responses.  My own wife told me someone was going to kill me, which I would consider ironic since anyone with the will to kill me for exercising my freedom of speech would no doubt profess to be a constitution loving American (and probably a good “Christian”) at the same time.  So consider me grateful that yours is a sane and logical response devoid childish artillery.

You’re right though.  The government shouldn’t legislate charity.  I’m not sure that’s what I was suggesting.  It was my intent to point out the overwhelming hypocrisy of those who profess to be good Christian’s while taking government handouts that they are in no way in need of.  Those funds could be better spent on things such as education, something Oklahoma is lacking in.

I totally agree with your statement that “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”  There should be no reward for laziness.  Perhaps then we should relegate welfare checks to those who earn it through state service.  That’s a thought.  I’m sure the Tea Party would really hate that.

I am a huge fan of Christ, but it behooves me to illustrate the disconnect that Christians have from their church persona and their real world persona.  What you imply is that in lieu of taxes which pay for social services, the good Christians will come out of the woodwork and help those in need.  You and I both know that if the government stopped collecting taxes to pay for social security, welfare, Medicare/Medicaid, and unemployment an equally substantial portion of monies from Christians intended to help the poor would not surface.  If I could implement that system, I would do it just to illustrate the surge in non-charitable purchases (i.e. cars, boats, iPods, new wardrobes, etc…). 

It is my belief that we are more likely to pick-up a stranded motorist and drive them to a gas station than to open our wallets and buy them the gas.  You can apply that analogy to any charitable situation where money changes hands.  People are more willing to give their time, than property, that is the nature of the problem.  Sharing is a collective good that Jesus promoted, but if someone down on their luck asks you to borrow your car, will you let them?  Of course not, you worked hard for that car.  But if they ask you for a ride, I have no doubt you’d do what you could to help them. 

Lamentably these programs are essentially legislated morality.  The government shouldn’t have to make people do the right thing.  But as I pointed out, people will always think of themselves first.  It’s human nature.  Let’s be honest for a moment, of all the Christian’s you’ve ever known how many do you know who actually gave the 10% that’s mentioned in the Bible?  Personally I’ve only ever known one person who did that.  This is the example of my point, if your God can tell you to give 10% of your income and assets, but we choose to ignore that mandate, than what makes you believe that removing taxes which cover social services will do anything more than pad the pockets of those who profess to be “Christian”?

In a nutshell, you’re telling me that Christians will pick up the slack if the government lays off taxes.  You can’t tell me you honestly believe that?

I’ve been steadily employed for almost 20 straight years.  I’ve never needed these programs, but I want them available to those who do need them, just as I want them available if one day I need them.