I can and will give you numerous biblical and constitutional references including the statements of our Founding Fathers and the Framers of our American Constitution on this matter. It is, in my view, essential and germane to the discussion and a requirement for refuting the fallacy that caring for the poor is the government’s job. We have reached a place in America where entitlements are considered rights and the responsibility of the federal government. That, in my view, is one of the mistakes we have made and has done incredible damage to our nation and our society. I will attempt to explain.
In Deuteronomy Chapter 15 we have an indication of God’s purpose for caring for the poor. It was exclusively the responsibility of individuals, not governments to minister to and care for those who were poor or impoverished at any given time. I believe that Jesus and the New Testament reveal that it is expanded to the Church as is seen in the Gospels and the Book of Acts. In Deuteronomy 24:19-21, “When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 ” When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 21 “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow.” That directive was first listed in Leviticus 19:9-10 and Leviticus 23:22. It is a biblical principle to Care for the Poor.
In the Bible, God’s instructions for caring for the poor, any farmer or keeper of the vineyards were to leave something for the poor. Leviticus 23:11 speaks of the seventh year’s rest of the land so that the needy and even the beast of the field could eat of what grew on its own. I insert an interesting fact that today’s welfare and entitlement process and mentality overlook, and objects to. The poor had to do the work for themselves! They had to gather the produce that was left for them. The farmer did not harvest it and bring it to them, they labored for it.
That is consistent with the directive of the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “…if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” Simply, if a person is too lazy to gather for himself or work for his sustenance, he is to be afforded no consideration. I did not say, ‘could not work’ but ‘would not work’ or ‘was not willing to work.’ There is a significant difference and the Bible addresses that as well. If you were truly physically incapable of working charity was provided for them.
The biblical policy of caring for the poor was initially accepted and adopted in America. The colonist and Americans after the Revolutionary War followed that mentality. The result was not the absence of any poor, but more who were poor felt the pinch of hunger and altered their attitude. Work was expected, and work was done! Today, there are too many who, for whatever reason, believe that we are to simply offer handouts to whoever claims to be poor. One clear objective is buying votes, and another seems to be putting a salve on the conscience for the personal neglect of caring for the poor. If we make it the government’s job, we are absolved of responsibility and relieved of guilt for our failure.
Benjamin Franklin’s response to an English practice of providing for the poor by taxing citizens. In part, he wrote, “I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves and of course became poorer. And on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves and became richer… I affirm that there is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle, dissolute, drunken, and insolent. The day you passed that act, you took away from before their eyes the greatest of all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety… In short, you offered a premium for the encouragement of idleness, and you should not now wonder that it has had its effect in the increase of poverty. “Six days shalt thou labor.” (Exodus 20:9), though one of the old commandments long treated as out of date, will again be looked on as a respectable precept; industry will increase (and with it plenty among the lower people); their circumstances will mend, and more will be done for their happiness by inuring [enabling] them to provide for themselves than could be done by dividing all your estates among them.” That is powerful!
Mr. Franklin listed several bad fruits that resulted when the biblical pattern was ignored. He could not foresee our current situation, but he was speaking directly to it. He cited the increase in poverty, ungratefulness, laziness, higher taxes with no resulting benefits. Those alone should move us immediately away from our current policy regarding entitlements and welfare, but it doesn’t.
Our Founding Fathers were very concerned, as am I, about caring for the poor and needy among us. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were both incredibly generous as was demonstrated through their personal charity. Both were leaders in organizing the community to care for the poor, but both argued adamantly that whatever the poor received could not and must not encourage laziness or idleness. They also argued, that it was not the responsibility of the government but the individual to care for the poor. James Madison said, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
When we allow the government to be responsible for caring for the poor and needy we neglect our personal duty and thereby create an entitlement mentality. A mentality that demands, I have a Right to what is yours. A mentality that argues, I do not have to work for what I get, you owe it to me because you have. NO, ten thousand times NO! What you have earned is yours and I have no right to it. What I have is mine and you have no right to it. If I choose to share it with you that is my right and your blessing, but the government is never to be involved.
God bless you and God bless America!