In 1964 our country declared a “War on Poverty.” Trillions of dollars have been spent fighting this war over the last 52 years. More has been spent on this conflict than all the other “shooting wars” our country has fought since then combined. Benefits available to the poor now include EBT cards, rent assistance (section 8), free medical care, disability (if you can prove you have an injury that keeps you from work), and a myriad of other programs designed to lift people out of difficult circumstances.
What effect has all this had? Instead of eliminating poverty, it has created a class of people dependent on government subsidies. For some, their only ambition is to have children (out of wedlock), draw a check for them and find a way to get on disability instead of working. An entire “industry” has developed in our country whose purpose is to work the system and get as much as possible. The taxes of hard working people are used to support those who do not work.
It’s hard to blame them. Many make more on public assistance than they ever could at a minimum wage or low skill job. There is little incentive to work so many just don’t.
Compassion is a Godly attribute that the Church should practice. Jesus commanded many times that His people should take care of the poor.
Does that mean, however, that we should promote a lifestyle of dependence in the name of Godly compassion? Are we cold hearted for believing that people should work and support themselves rather than drawing on the taxes of those who are employed?
In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul gives this teaching: “Those who will not work will not eat.” It’s clear to me that the Bible demands responsibility from God’s people. Christians are supposed to be productive and self-reliant so they can be generous with those who are truly in need. This is not cold-hearted but is, in reality, more compassionate than promoting a life of dependence. Resources that could be used to help the aged and the truly handicapped are used, instead, to support those who could work but won’t.
Education isn’t the answer either. We spend trillions on education but still have millions on public assistance. I’m a supporter of education, but it isn’t enough.
We need a re-emphasis on the value of hard work and self-reliance. Our country was built by those with calloused hands who were willing to use their strength to provide for their families. We cannot win this “War on Poverty” until we return to a respect for and emphasis on hard work and independence.
Be compassionate with those who truly have needs. I do not, however, want to enable anyone to continue living off the productivity of others. That’s not compassion and it’s not biblical.
Rob Morton is minister of First Christian Church Middlesboro. Contact him at [email protected]