Welfare recipients denied work ‘blessing’ 

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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