The Bible and Welfare (13)

The vast majority of Americans have no understanding of the meaning of the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare. Unlike the heroin addict and alcoholic, they are oblivious to the fact that the long-term economic consequences in their lives are unthinkable. So, we have an unsustainable deficit in Medicare and Medicaid, and it will lead to a politically unthinkable outcome. That is when most Americans will start thinking about it. It is when Congress will start experimenting in new ways to kick the can down the road and avoid both monetary inflation and rising interest rates on federal debt. Congress will pretend that there really are ways out. At that point, Congress will become the heroin addict or the alcoholic. Congress will know that the deficit is unsustainable, but members will do whatever they can to sustain it beyond the next election.[1]

It is of vital importance for Christians worldwide, to start thinking and planning ahead for such a crisis. Don’t expect our current leaders to do this for you, because it is completely out of their training, their area of expertise, and probably their limited and negative belief structures. We could easily have a crisis of Biblical proportions, requiring a truly Biblical solution from the church; from the grassroots.

Every society sows and reaps. When a pattern becomes “normal,” it becomes a routine to be followed by the next generation, which thinks, “This is what we’ve always done.” Well, that may or may not be true, but societies tend to think of their experience as being the important one, to be followed.

There is some level of charity in every country, but a Recession or Depression will test charities to the limit, especially if the public welfare system runs out of capacity to cope. This will bring a true crisis, for there are so many people today right throughout the West, who are dependent on welfare.

While the socialist governments always run out of resources, the love of Christ will not. Nothing can compete with voluntary, sacrificial, compassionate, relational love. We have no fear that this love will bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things…

The Biblical approach to helping the poor never endorses the Marxist model of forced redistribution of wealth. Biblical charity is local, voluntary and relational (Deut.14:28-29). Jesus commended the good Samaritan who reached for his own wallet to help the stranded and wounded traveller (Luke 15:25-370. James commended the personal visitation of the poor in James 1:27. And the Apostle Paul required the family to be the first to care for the widowed mother and grandmother, and for her to only resort to the church if the family was unable to provide the care. He made no mention of the state.[2]

Let’s think for a moment, of America. Let’s suppose there are 27 million single mothers there. What happens if the public welfare payments for these women and their children, stop? What will the U. S. church say, concerning 60 -70 million people who don’t have any food?

This will mean that America, along with every western nation will really need Nehemiahs in every place to lead the way with godly welfare, building up the structures, taking responsibility, being prepared to lead a team of willing, voluntary workers, dealing with the problems and opposition, both internally and externally.

Are you ready for such a job? Get ready to be used of God.

 

 

 

[1] Gary North (www.garynorth.com), “Powell’s Press Conference: What he Revealed, Early and Late,” 29/9/2018.

[2] Kevin Swanson, “Family Life,” 2016, p. 132-133.

The Bible and Welfare (11)

We Christians are always people with ideals which have to be translated to reality, and this can be painful for some of us. We cannot solve all the problems of the world, for after each generation has passed, there are still problems. But this does not render us powerless.

On the contrary, we ought to view ourselves as people to whom the promises of God have been given, and this means there really is enormous potential for good in every individual, family and church.

But potential is not enough by itself. We always have to be willing to move from ideals to facts, from theory to practice. And in relation to welfare, this really separates the men from the boys.

The Bible speaks of our priorities:

So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith (Gal.6:10).

All people need to eat, be clothed, and have somewhere to sleep. With this in mind, we begin with caring for our own people, the members of our local church. When the church starts doing this successfully, it is quite logical that there will suddenly be a lot of people who want to join the church, or at least take advantage of its generosity. They would like a free feed, or at least access to cheap food.

Immediately this creates a problem. Who gets a feed, and who doesn’t? For there are sharply defined limits in relation to what any church can do.

This is a good problem for the elders in every church to face. They had to find a way to deal with this problem in the early church (see Acts 6:1-8). It’s a problem that’s been with us, at least as far back as Ruth and Boaz, about 1,100 BC.

The fact is that power flows to those who take responsibility, and that’s a good thing. And with that responsibility also come lots of problems to face.

You thought it would be a good idea to get involved in works of charity in the community? Now get ready for all the problems that come with the package. As they say, it comes with the territory.

How we deal with the problems determines whether we succeed or fail in the task we’ve commenced. But the woman looking forward to motherhood had better face the fact that she’ll have labour pains. Apart from the Caesarian section option, no labour-no delivery.

The problems that come with involvement in welfare could swamp or divide an unprepared church. “All of a sudden, all these things to face!” It would be a lot easier to leave the issue of welfare alone, carrying on as we were. It would have been a lot easier for the Son of God to have stayed in heaven too, avoiding the painful matter of resolving the sinful problems of humanity. But He involved Himself personally; so must we.

Unity of leadership, rethinking church priorities, availability and reliability of helpers, human weakness under pressure, sourcing goods, refrigeration, storage systems, transport, rosters, deciding who gets what, and for how much, theft, rude and violent people and perseverance over years. These are some of the basic problems to face, and there will be more.

People do need to be encouraged and motivated to participate in welfare. They need Bible teaching. They also need to be prepared to see and deal with the ugly aspects of human nature. When there are tough times in the community, and the government money is drying up, people want resources. When the hand-outs are severely restricted, they will quickly resort to blame and guilt. Like this:

You call yourselves Christians, but when I ask you for a bag of those apples (and I’ve told you I‘ve got no money), you want me to pay. You’re just a bunch of sanctimonious, greedy, thieving hypocrites!

Well-meaning but unprepared Christian people can be easily manipulated by attempts to use guilt and pity, like the above accusation. It would leave many shocked, and in tears. These lies take some getting used to. Being prepared for people (from within or without the church) who attempt emotional manipulation is a major part of preparing to administer welfare.

And remember this:

The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger, but He will reject the craving of the wicked (Prov.10:3).

You might think, “Gee, my church really couldn’t do much. There aren’t a lot of us, and none of us are rich.”

But if that’s how we should operate, the boy with five loaves and two fishes should never have come to Jesus. We are always operating with the imperfect. It’s better to be willing though imperfect, than unwilling. The first category of people will actually get something done, and be net contributors in their community.

For a starving family, a box of apples each week and three loaves of bread is something. More would be better, but more may be impossible at the moment. What if there are 300 of those needy families in your area? Something is better than nothing, and some practical preparedness for a severe recession (and possibly Depression), is better than putting our heads in the sand and just hoping it would all go away. Finding paid work for family and church members is just as important.

Conclusion:

Power really does flow to those who take responsibility. There are lots of practical problems to consider when dealing with welfare in practice, but lots of potential results, too. When the church is really engaging successfully in welfare in the community, and is beginning to really carry the load, this can lead to important, long-term outcomes: think of growth in the church’s credibility, more people respecting the church’s work, being prepared to come to Christ, ultimately tax cuts and much, much more.

When Christian success in this field leads to a reduction in governmental welfare, that will be a tremendous milestone, and a most significant aspect of Biblical, social reconstruction. It will be a significant step that we should rejoice at, but there is still much more for us to succeed at. We will have only just begun.

Are you ready to begin? Remember this: there are still many enemies to place under His feet.

The Bible and Welfare (12)

We are entering into a period of uncharted waters economically and politically. The promises of national governments around the world are going to crash like waves against cliffs along the shoreline. This is going to create tremendous opportunities for education in certain segments of the population. I think churches are going to move to the right. Liberal churches are going to continue to disappear, and evangelical churches are going to grow. When times are tough, people look for ports in the storm. This is going to increase responsibilities on church diaconates.[1]

There aren’t many of us who look forward to a crisis. I most certainly don’t. But whether we look forward to one or not, we can be assured that a crisis of some kind will inevitably come.

If a crisis is going to come of an economic and social kind, it would be best of all if individuals, families and churches began to prepare for this. This means many things. It means we:

  1. a) Think about the security of our employment, and taking whatever steps we can to secure this.
  2. b) Consider how we could and should be making ourselves available to others in future, who may be in great need.
  3. c) Consider how we can work together with others in our church to team up for projects that demand a number of willing workers, over the long-term.
  4. d) It means we consider how we could assist our own people and others financially, through the use of the tithe.

Effort in assisting others requires a principled approach, time and planning. It also requires the coordination of effort or teamwork, so that many can contribute, ensuring that one person or family is not over-loaded.

And the Bible speaks of this:

A wise man is strong, and a man of knowledge increases power. For by wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory (Prov.24:5-6).

For much of our past, preachers have stressed our individual responsibilities before God. This is good, but this is not enough.

Why? Because God is a God of individuals, families, churches and nations, and the Bible tells us that “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14). It also warns us that “…the church must not be burdened” (I Tim.5:16). So Christian responsibilities must be accepted, but they must also be clearly defined, and shared.

This understanding of the condition of the poor and their care, is emphasised in scripture. Consider these three verses from Proverbs 28:

Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than he who is crooked though he be rich (v.6).

Then,

He who increases his wealth by interest and usury gathers it for him who is gracious to the poor (v.8).

And,

The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding sees through him (v.11).

It is not wrong to be poor, and to show concern for the poor and to act responsibly on that concern, is right. Does this mean that all poor people should be assisted? No, it does not. We must accept scriptural guidelines, so that personal, family and church resources are not wasted on people who don’t deserve it, and shouldn’t receive it. The sloths want something for nothing, forever.

The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger, but He will reject the craving of the wicked (Prov.10:3).

Every nation has its own opportunities for ministering to the poor, and I don’t think it is wise, or a good use of our time and the available resources, to feel as though we have to be doing everything alone. Australia has a private institution called Foodbank, which manages food stuffs and other household necessities that it gathers from retailers, food producers, and others, into warehouses. These are available for charitable institutions at low or no cost.

We don’t have to re-invent the wheel, and as good stewards of our resources, we have to consider how to get the most bang for our buck. Thus individuals, families and churches should be willing to consider accessing social institutions like Foodbank for ministering to their own needy people, along with people outside the church.

This can represent an excellent opportunity and outlet for Biblical charity. It’s time to get  ready.

 

[1] Gary North (www.garynorth.com), “Unemployment and the Millennials in the Next Recession,” 21/2/2018.

The Bible and Welfare (10)

He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered (Prov.21:13).

For you always have the poor with you… (Mat.26:11).

What we see today in relation to welfare (and a number of other things) in the West, is a consequence of church disobedience and inaction, going back over multiple generations. God has sent the locusts and hornets of socialism, to remind us that when His people are disobedient to Him, there are painful consequences.

We have ignored His commands given through Biblical law in relation to the poor, along with many other perennial issues of any society, and thus we find ourselves with effective taxation rates of 30-50%, and it is painful for us.

It is good that it is painful for us. Why?

Because the pain drives us to seek a solution. This is what the Psalmist said he had done:

Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep your Word (Ps.119:67).

What we have neglected is Biblical responsibility, so that is the very thing that must characterise our action from here on. That will mean taking the Biblical commands concerning the poor and Christian care of them, seriously. It will mean growth in responsibility in the church, especially with the use of the tithe, so that the truly needy in the church, along with the deserving poor in the community, are shown a measure of care.

It is foolish to think of overnight transformation, because that rarely happens. What can and should happen, is the steady change of attitude, so that we begin to think more Biblically, and we act out of those thoughts.

Take this verse:

A father to the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation (Ps.68:5).

Here, God identifies two groups in the community that He wants to protect. Implicitly, we are supposed to, too. God, “in His holy habitation” (the church) requires it. We take action to protect them, and we establish the terms. (This is what Paul commences in I Timothy 5:3-16.) Thus men in the community who father illegitimate children are supposed to pay for their maintenance. You father them-you feed them. We proceed from the theory to the practical: always a good idea.

Husbands who abandon their wives should be financially liable for this; the innocent parties should always be protected, because this is what Biblical law does. It upholds their rights before the law. Thus the church officers must work very hard for reconciliation of spouses when there are marriage disputes or separations, because the upholding of marriage and the protection of the innocent parties and victims’ rights (and the children are victims in divorce, too) is of great importance.

These are the things the elders will give account for (Heb.13:17), that they should be prepared to crawl over broken glass to achieve. They may very well be saving children and families from a hellish future. Furthermore, “…he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).

Does the Bible tells us to do this?  Absolutely.

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy (Prov.31:8-9).

If justice is important to God (and it most certainly is) it should be important to His people, too. For the scripture declares that

Marriage is to be held in honour among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge (Heb.13:4).

You didn’t think the church should get involved in this?

Well, if we don’t get involved, we abandon the institution of marriage, when the scripture plainly says, “it is to be held in honour among all.” This means we have to actively protect marriages from adulterers, fornicators, rapists, men who desert their families, and other abusers, and from every attempt to water down its importance, and this includes No Fault Divorce laws.

Countless studies have shown that children raised in a two-parent traditional family are less likely to be raised in poverty, less likely to do drugs, less likely to be criminals later in life, and more likely to graduate from and do well in school. The evidence is overwhelming, no culture can remain healthy with illegitimacy rates like these….it is impossible to overstate the socially catastrophic consequences of illegitimacy. The traditional family is still the best department of health, education and welfare ever invented.

The elders in the church cannot sit on their hands when there is a problem. They are responsible to do all they can to nip family problems in the bud, by firstly teaching on the family and the church. And in this, we should commence in Genesis, where we find the first husband and wife, and a husband who neglects his responsibilities before God.

Family teaching has been neglected in the church, so what happens?  The family declines. It loses its vision of what we are supposed to be doing, and so the rafters start to sag. Couples have their problems that don’t get resolved, and then you have a separation or divorce. Oh well.

We need to stop saying, “Oh well,” and begin to act preventatively. Elders need to be confident in their roles to step in when there is a problem. This will involve the elders and their wives involving themselves in helping individuals, but more importantly beginning to act from a basis of biblical teaching, giving the church members an ideological foundation for family and church life.

The Bible encourages us about the importance of action in a crisis:

Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, oh hold them back. If you say, “See, we did not know this,” does He not consider it who weighs the heart? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work? (Prov.10:11-12)

Women need help to be good wives, and they should be able to get this help from other, older women in the church.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behaviour, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonoured (Tit.2:3-5).

Conclusion:

The church is the institution that Jesus Christ died for. This means that we should take the care and protection of its members very seriously, and that includes financial protection. The innocent are to be protected under Biblical law from abusers and other criminals, some of whom may lurk within the church’s walls.

In fact, protecting the church from wolves and thieves is just as important as evangelism. What use is it bringing lambs into the fold, unless they come under the fold’s protection?

Leave your orphans behind, I will keep them alive; and let your widows trust in Me (Jer.49:11).

The Bible and Welfare (9)

A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, only the rebellious dwell in a parched land (Ps.68:5-6).

Christians have almost limitless opportunities to do good, and everyone should be making every effort to find their place within the Body of Christ where they can do the most good, and be a blessing to people. This has innumerable manifestations, all of which are exciting and full of potential.

The Bible in this text singles out two groups of people for our care. God cares for them, and so should we. In other places, God speaks of the poor and the aliens as also being special objects of His care.

North comments,

The family is designated by God as the chief agency of human welfare. It is the agency that is most effective in solving the problems of poverty, sickness, and crisis. It is the only agency which knows its limitations and strengths. The head of every household counts the costs of every project undertaken by the family. No other human agency links mutual self-interest, mutual understanding, mutual obligations, and mutual support in the way that a family can. Members are close. They know each other’s weaknesses and strengths. The family is also an extended institution, with bloodline contacts that can spread out widely. It can call upon related families for help in a crisis.[1]

My father had a sister who never married, called Maisie. The last to die of her generation, she lived alone in a NSW country town. I’d painted her roof in 1978, and in 1999, she told me she wanted it painted again, and had gotten quotes to do it. These seemed exorbitant to me, and I was living in Brisbane and couldn’t do it, but I knew a Christian painter only a couple of hours away from her. I contacted him, and he did it for about 60% of the prices she’d been quoted. One phone call saved her hundreds of dollars.

I have a great Christian friend who lives in an Australian city of 130,000. He seems to have fingers in innumerable pies, with lots of business connections. As anyone knows, having business connections can be a great help. For over 40 years he’s been an industrious man, with a great capacity to help poorer people get jobs done cheaply, saving themselves a lot of money. Often he’s done it himself.

How?

He has specialised knowledge in many seemingly unrelated fields, such as dealing in cars, mechanical work, printing, concreting, cleaning, shifting house, transport, property management and a host of other things. Recently he persuaded a friend (a man riddled with cancer, who was hoping and praying that God would heal him), to consult a solicitor and wisely complete his will, only weeks before he died.

The man took some serious persuading: he thought it was “faith” to not conclude a will, and his visit to the solicitor took 5 hours. Would his widow and children have appreciated that? My friend’s a deacon; a great asset who has helped me in the past, and every church ideally should have numbers of people like that.

A family I know was doing it tough financially, and needed to move house. One family member was working for a transport company owned by believers, with multiple semi-trailers. On moving day, a semi-trailer turned up for the family, for free. Now that’s how you move house!

When a church is well lead by its elders and deacons, it has a parallel, harmonising role with the family, and can do an enormous amount of good; firstly for its own people, and secondly, for the broader community.

Why? Firstly, because the Bible speaks of this:

Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful (Tit. 3:14).

…I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds (Tit. 3:8).

…I want women to adorn themselves … by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness (I Tim.2:9-10).

Secondly, because they can save you time, money and heartache, and every person’s time and abilities are limited. Only God has total knowledge, but we all should be seeking the right information about projects we need to undertake, so they can be accomplished effectively and cheaply. There is a cheap and there is an expensive way for doing everything, and only governments don’t seem to care about always choosing the most expensive option. Christians should never be so foolish.

The Bible tells us,

Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed (Prov.15:22).

Deacons can go in to bat for widows and the fatherless, as they did in Acts 6. They can assist them in relation to asset management, and innumerable other responsibilities to get the best deals. And widows and others need protection from predators who are out to take them down.

In Ruth’s day, the elders of Bethlehem saw themselves as being subject to Biblical law. When Ruth came with Naomi to Bethlehem, (both of them widowed and impoverished, and thus in financial crisis), the elders in this godly city determined (after Ruth’s request to Boaz) who would marry Ruth and thus be responsible to raise up an inheritance for Elimelech, her first husband. One could argue that this establishes a scriptural precedent: the church, (under the supervision of the elders) must be available to function as a godly safety net, if Christian families (through sin or incapacity) are unable to cope in their circumstances.

Thus the Old Testament welfare system was a comprehensive and complete way of ministering to the needy in the community.

The eldest son is entitled to a double portion of the family’s estate (Deut. 21:17). This means that if a man has four children who are legally responsible for him, then he must divide the estate into five equal shares, with the eldest son receiving two-fifths.  Why? Because it is the eldest son who has the primary responsibility for caring for aged parents. The child who is willing to bear this responsibility is treated as the eldest son, such as Isaac’s position of favour before Abraham, not Ishmael, the firstborn, or Jacob’s position before Isaac because of God’s choosing of Jacob over Esau, the elder twin.

There is a mutuality of service and blessings. Costs and benefits are more closely linked. Family disputes among the children are minimized.[2]

Conclusion:

We Christians want to help people, according to the scriptures. No other way works. And as the scriptural way gains commonality, the way of God will begin to be seen in the earth.

Isn’t that what Jesus spoke of, when He commanded us to “…make disciples of all the nations….teaching them to observe all that I commanded you?” (Mat.28:19-20). Wouldn’t that be a great thing?

 

 

[1] Gary North, “Unconditional Surrender,” 1994, p.184-5.

[2] Gary North, “Unconditional Surrender,” 1994, p.186-87.

The Bible and Welfare (8)

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour pout for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; now will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts. All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts (Mal. 3:10-12).

When an individual tithes a tenth of his income, he is saying, “This money doesn’t belong to me.” He is right. A tenth of our income belongs to God, and should be paid to the church we are a member of.

God doesn’t need our tithe. In fact, He doesn’t need anything, but He commands us to pay the tithe. This is His means of paying for ministers of the gospel, and much, much more.

When a church has more than 10 tithing members earning a full-time salary, it means there should probably be money for other needs. And within a church and any community, there are lots of these, and the Bible makes many references to our attitude towards them.

Paul encourages us,

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith (Gal.6:9-10).

Some of these will be the care of the church’s widows (when their family is unable or unwilling to support them, and they cannot work), and others who are poor. The goal of this is that the church should have the capacity to be essentially self-supporting, and not dependent on government welfare.

This requires a major shift in mentality for Christians, with major implications for the church and the nations in the long-term. It will mean the church becomes more influential in national affairs, and thus there will be less pressure on the tax-payer to fund all manner of dubious and expensive government schemes.

Less tax means more money left in the hands of individuals and families. Less tax means people have more disposable income beyond the tithe, to use at their discretion. They may decide that some of this will go towards the cause of the needy, which the Bible speaks much about.

What if the tithes paid to the church, and other private means, supported 2-3% of a nation? What if welfare shifted over time, away from being a government responsibility, with all its massive costs, inefficient bureaucracy, corruption and abuses, to an individual, family and church responsibility?

When the church is properly empowered by the tithe, over time this gives the church enormous social power. As the church grows numerically, this increases. And it is far better that the church has this power, than the State.

Why?

According to scripture, the State has the power of the sword. It can legitimately bring negative sanctions against people for criminal activity, but it is not empowered by God to bring positive ones, especially with money. Like Rome of old, this is the first step towards the blasphemous, confiscatory Saviour State, with bread and circuses and the chronic abuse of power.

The expansionist, authoritarian and atheistic State is always abusive, especially of God’s people. But when God’s people are obedient with their tithe, the poor find their security in God and His church, and are guarded against dangerous expansionism in government.

We have an example of how this can operate, in Geneva under Calvin. Rushdoony writes that

Calvin moved to a full ministry of human needs. Deacons were assigned to these duties: hospitals were an important area. A hospital then was housing for pilgrims, orphans, the elderly poor, the sick and others. Poor relief included those in and out of hospitals alike. Jobs were created for the healthy poor, who had to work to receive aid.[1]

Because of the level of stress arising through sectarian persecution in France, it is estimated that some 60,000 refugees passed through Geneva from 1550-1560. Calvin was especially interested in the welfare of these people, such that he left part of his inheritance for poor immigrants. His guiding principles for welfare, were:

*It was only for the truly disadvantaged.

*Moral prerequisites accompanied assistance.

*Private or religious charity was the vehicle for aid.

*Ordained officers managed and brought accountability.

*Theological underpinnings were normal.

*A productive work ethic was sought.

* Assistance was temporary.[2]

Conclusion:

Tithing is God’s way of providing for ministers of the Gospel, but it has lots of other legitimate uses too. When church members are faithfully paying their tithes, they are contributing to gaining and maintaining godly leadership of the church.

But more than that, they are taking a long-term view of the church’s role in the community. Not only are they saying, “We want to be well led,” they are also saying, “We want Christian views to be paramount in society.”

The tithe is a measure of individual Christian’s obedience. Do you want to be obedient to God?

 

 

[1] Rousas Rushdoony, “In His Service,” 2009, p.152.

[2] David Hall, “The Legacy of John Calvin,” 2008, p.17.

The Bible and Welfare (7)

If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks (Deut.15:7-8).

Lending is not giving. The poor man here may ask for a loan, but should he be granted it, he should be prepared to take all possible steps to ensure steady repayment, through setting aside monies from his pay. This is good for him, because it reminds him that money does not grow on trees, and he will be careful in future to studiously avoid the circumstances that have brought him undone, on this occasion.

And it is also good for the lender, who has his capital returned intact. On another occasion, he will be inclined to lend again, if his capital base was not eroded this time.

Having said this, the scripture also teaches that there are limitations on how demanding the lender can be in requiring payment.

When you make your neighbour a loan of any sort, you shall not enter his house to take his pledge. You shall remain outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. If he is a poor man, you shall not sleep with his pledge (Deut.24:10-12).

This thought of the godly man lending to the needy comes up again in scripture. Psalm 112 promises that

It is well with the man who is gracious and lends; he will maintain his cause in judgement (v.5).

And there is more:

How blessed is he who considers the helpless; the Lord will deliver him in a day of trouble. The Lord will protect him and keep him alive, and he shall be called blessed upon the earth (Ps.41:1-2).

He who despises his neighbour sins, but happy is he who is gracious to the poor (Prov.14:21).

He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honours Him (Prov.14:31).

One who is gracious to the poor man lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his good deed (Prov.19:17).

This doesn’t mean that everyone in church who asks for a loan should be given it, for some people (even in church) become proficient at milking the system, once they know how it works. Not only are there limits on how much money can be loaned, but there are (more importantly, from the perspective of prudence) limits on how much should be loaned.

Amongst poor people, there are the deserving and the undeserving. The Prodigal Son was undeserving, for he had known riches but lost them by his folly. He had to be hungry and humbled, before he “…came to his senses” (Luke 15:17). Depriving him of other people’s charity was the best thing that happened to him. Giving him unearned money would only encourage him to continue in his wasteful and indulgent lifestyle.

Poor people ideally, should get a job and keep it, not get a loan. People really do need to develop a reputation for integrity, faithfulness and reliability, before expecting (or even hoping) that monies will be made available to them by a wealthy church member. And if that means that they struggle and go without for a while, that should do them no harm. Sound and reliable people accept that is a requirement of life. Reputations are not developed overnight, but over years. The Bible does say,

Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects instruction, but he who regards reproof will be honoured (Prov.13:18).

The burden of Paul as he developed his arguments about just how widows were to be helped in the church, was to ensure that “…the church must not be burdened” (I Tim.5:16). He needed 14 verses to deal with that subject, so it is no mean issue for any church to get right.

And let’s face it: there are a lot of people who would be very happy to be a burden to the church. It’s no concern to them, if they are essentially amoral people. Thus the elders have to be particularly wary of these types, but let them do what the Bible commands: “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil.2:12).

Conclusion:

Lending money to truly needy people is a Christian opportunity to care for them. Having said that, prudent asset management amongst God’s people is just as important. Jesus did warn us of thieves and wolves, who would be (and have been) predators amongst God’s people. The elders of any church need to firmly protect God’s people from them, and some people need to be refused help.

Thus wise and godly lending to the needy is an aspect of the gospel. God commands that we engage in it, and the needy will appreciate it, especially when its provision is governed prudently, and not wasted on the indolent. And we will be pleasing the Lord.

The Bible and Welfare (6)

The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! A lion is in the open square!” As the door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is weary of bringing it to his mouth again. The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can give a discreet answer (Prov.26:13-16).

The Bible is very blunt about sin, so we should be. The sluggard is an unrepentant sinner. He has 101 excuses why he doesn’t need to work, especially today. In fact, even the onerous task of getting food from his plate to his mouth, can seem to be too much for him; could you do it for him? He’d like you to spoon-feed him, and we in the church have permitted this to happen now for generations. Who has opposed it?

The sluggard doesn’t deserve welfare, and shouldn’t get it. He needs to face the consequences of his actions, and that may include starvation, in the same way that the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15) had to face the consequences of his actions.

Sluggards are notoriously short-term thinkers. They’ll refuse to face the consequences of their actions if they can, when in fact facing the consequences of their sin is what would be the first step towards positive change for them.

As long as there is free money, present-oriented people will remain trapped. Only the threat of poverty and real suffering can persuade the lowest-class people to reach for a lifeline and not let go.[1]

But the socialist refuses to acknowledge there is such a thing as a sluggard. He hates God, so he pretends there is nothing the matter with human nature. Men’s problems you see, are caused by their external circumstances, their environment, or their lack of education. Original sin doesn’t exist for the socialist. Oh no, that couldn’t be the problem!

So, the socialist starts with a foundation that is atheistic, and moves from that base to lots of failed conclusions. His original assumptions or premises are wrong; is it any wonder that the rest of his assumptions continue in the same category?

Actually, the ideal solution for a person with socialist views is conversion to Christ. He has to throw out all the failed ideas that have plagued him, and then start with a clean slate that is based in scripture. And that’s a work of God.

We have to face up to what the Bible says about the poor:

You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute (Ex.23:2-3).

But the socialists have worked havoc in the West politically, and the church has largely been silent. Sometimes, we’ve had the temerity to encourage more of their behaviour. “Yeah, more  taxpayer’s money for the poor!”

This has been both unbiblical and terribly destructive, and has contributed to the millions of sluggards we have about us in the West, who have formed the opinion that it’s OK that they behave the way they do, and so they continue to do so.

This has meant that the sluggard and an unbiblical church have been quietly colluding. The sluggard seeks the continuation of his immoral welfare payments, and the church, avoiding the notion of Biblical responsibility, has implicitly supported this evil. “Let the government care for these people. Then we won’t have to bother with them. Who cares if they take our taxes?”

This has only perpetuated the continuation of theft by government, and our Christian testimony has disappeared. Is it any wonder we are ignored, laughed at and trodden underfoot by unbelievers? That’s God’s way of reproving His people (see Mat.5:13), and we deserve every ounce of it.

Those who prefer to be ruled by the laws of men rather than the laws of God shall be given their heart’s desire: tyranny and high taxes (I Sam. 8).[2]

Conclusion:

Christian growth only ever comes when God’s people face up to what the Bible says. It does not stem from the evasion of moral and Christian responsibility.

Rolling back the tide of evil, atheistic socialism in the world today, will begin with the church returning to scripture and obeying its laws, including its multiple requirements in relation to welfare, found initially in the law given to Moses at Mt Sinai.

Any other way of dealing with welfare in the church, will not result in the glory of God, but more rebuke for the church, being trodden under foot, and further judgements from God.

What’s it to be?

 

 

[1] Gary North (www.garynorth.com), “A Lifeline out of Ghetto Poverty,” 20/10/2016.

[2] Gary North, “Tools of Dominion,” 1990, Vol.3, p.672.

The Bible and Welfare (5)

“Do you become a king because you are competing in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He [Josiah] pled the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?” declares the Lord (Jer.22:15-16).

The Bible in no place legitimises the use of tax-payers’ money for charity or welfare. It is to be entirely a matter for individuals, families and churches, and church welfare is supposed to be based on the tithe. Concerning Josiah, it is impossible to legitimately claim that he was some kind of welfare king, using the resources of the community raised by taxation, to help poor people.

Socialism purports to be for helping the poor, but it has been nothing of the sort. It has robbed the middle class and the rich through high income tax rates, and frequently harmed the poor with such restrictive policies as minimum wage laws, which make getting work more difficult for people, if they are priced out of the market.

Minimum wage laws are an abuse of the job-seekers. While they purport to be ensuring a “fair wage,” they represent a foolish intervention in the free market economy that only make it difficult for employers to provide work for employees, when the minimum (and thus compulsory) wage is too high. It is not by accident that the Bible explains that “…the compassion of the wicked is cruel” (Prov.12:10).

North puts it well:

The state has substituted itself for the family. It provides old age pensions and old age medical services, just as sons have done for millennia. It also pays for the education of children, and it has made school attendance compulsory. To pay for all this, the state has drastically increased taxes. So, sons now pay the state rather than their own parents. The inheritance-disinheritance system has become impersonal and statist. This way, politicians get credit for helping people supposedly in need, bureaucrats receive high salaries for administering the program, and ethical considerations relating to family inheritance are abandoned.[1]

It is exactly the same with government “Make Work” schemes. Yes, they give some people work, but at what price? They are really a means of redistributing (stealing) money from one group within the electorate (taxpayers), to give to another (the poor), by means of some next to useless feel-good scheme that doesn’t last.

Before long, the redistributing finishes in that area, the work ends and the poor person is back where he started from: without work. What that person really needed, is work sourced from the free-market that he can compete for, without government intervention.

Josiah “…pled the cause of the poor and needy.” He was king of Judah, and thus had a measure of executive and possibly legislative power, which he seems to have used on behalf of the poor.

And the Bible speaks much of this:

If a king judges the poor with truth, his throne will be established forever (Prov.29:14).

And,

The king give stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it (Prov.29:4).

And,

The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, the wicked does not understand such concern (Prov.29:7).

Rich and powerful people in any community can also be abusive, especially of those who are vulnerable (such as widows and orphans), have little social influence, or lack an advocate in court. The Psalmist himself considered this frightful scenario, when he prayed about the actions of his enemies, who were saying of him,

God has forsaken him; pursue and seize him, for there is no one to deliver (Ps.71:11).

The maintenance of contracts is a legitimate concern for legislators, going back to the original Old Testament law, in Exodus.

For every breach of trust, whether it be for ox, for donkey, for sheep, for clothing, or for any lost thing about which one says, ‘This is it,” the case of both parties shall come before the judges; he whom the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbour (Ex.22:9).

In another passage in Deuteronomy, God specifically dealt with the timely payment of wages, as an aspect of justice:

You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry against you to the Lord and it become sin in you (Deut.24:14-15).

And in the New Testament, James speaks firmly against rich oppressors.

Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed the fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (James 5:4).

Conclusion:

The most important thing a poor person needs, is not handouts. It’s the opportunity to work and earn money. Socialists who claim that “we’re here to help the poor,” will generally do the opposite. They promote lies.

The free-market represents the best opportunity for the poor person to find work, and rather than complicate it with government schemes and regulations such as minimum wage laws, and wasteful schemes providing temporary work, governments do best when they drop these foolish ideas, so employers and employees can negotiate a solution and outcomes that work for both parties.

This is an aspect of what it means to “plead for the poor and needy,” and this is why the scripture applauds Josiah as a godly ruler in Judah. We need more like him, along with thousands of faithful Christians ready to do their bit. Thousands of little bits, making a big difference in every nation.

 

 

[1] Gary North, “Wisdom and Dominion,” 2012, p.227.

The Bible and Welfare (4)

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (I Jn.3:16-17).

The apostle John is very blunt. Caring for a “brother in need” is a vital aspect of the gospel. To neglect it is to be hypocritical.

Does this mean I should be caring for everyone in need? For anyone of us, this is impossible. There are limits. The text refers to a person who sees a brother in need. So, we are obligated to help a local believer in need. It is not any person, it is a brother; a member of Christ’s body.

Around the world at any given time, there are innumerable people in need. God does not hold me accountable for them, but He does require me to consider those in my immediate vicinity. Local people I can check on, to ascertain if their “needs” truly are genuine. I can visit their home, talk to their neighbours or friends, see what’s in their pantry, talk to their pastor or deacons, and draw my own conclusions. A “brother in need” should be a part of a family and a church, which can take charge of his care.

But an overseas person, someone outside my vicinity? It’s not so easy to verify their circumstances, so I’m not in a rush to do so, because they are not my responsibility. But I am interested and concerned in my locality, because that’s where God will hold me accountable.

Are there exceptions to this rule?

I think a scriptural one is the case when Paul launched an appeal for the needy church in Jerusalem (see II Cor.8-9). This clearly was an apostolically directed and overseen appeal, made initially to the churches of Macedonia, which the Corinthians were invited to share in.

International aid projects, when orchestrated and paid for by governments, are not legitimate exceptions. They lead to dependence on the part of the receiving party, and discourage the participation of the locals. Moreover, they have always been a recipe for corruption. Papua New Guinea is a classic case, and continues to be.

$3 million from a Western government turning up in a drought ravaged African or Asian nation goes to …whom? Very commonly, political cronies of a corrupt government, some local warlords, or someone else who should never receive it.

Westerners who want to assist a Third World community in need, do best to closely supervise their expenditure, and never accept the word of some government, that “We’ll look after the money for you.” Sure you will. You’ll see to it that you feather your own nest, first. It’s human nature, something us Christians should know a lot about. (Sometimes we forget).

We have to think of our own back yard, our own locality, and quietly going about establishing our own credibility. This will never be with a flash and a bang, but steady, faithful Christians and churches who understand their local responsibilities and opportunities, and beginning to act on them. With churches, this should always be with the oversight of elders, as it was in the Bible (see Acts 6:1-8). This means starting small, thinking through all the issues, learning as we go, figuring out what works, and who should receive help.

There will be issues of resources. Places like Food Banks where cheap bulk food can be accessed, along with issues of food storage, like storage sheds and refrigeration, and transport. And there will always be questions about money, and people who want to help.

There will be trial and error. There will be those who say they want to help, but on their terms. There will be mistakes made, and regular decisions to be made, and so much will seem to be boring and inconsequential, and there will be the constant pressure from people to give them money or resources that they don’t deserve to get, and they are rude and sometimes even threaten violence when they are refused.

And there will be well-meaning Christian people who find this kind of pressure difficult to resist, and presently that is much of the church.

But as Zechariah explained, “Who has despised the day of small things?” (Zech.4:10) Foundations have to be laid for any project to be long-lasting, and this means proper preparations, all based in scripture. And it means preparing people for a day coming, when there will be a great need for established church charities to pick up a lot of responsibility in the community.

Actually, that need is now.

Conclusion:

Authority begins with responsibility and credibility. Jesus began as a baby, progressed through His childhood, became a man, and at about 33 entered into His public ministry. His public ministry came about after 33 years of preparation.

We have to think similarly about ministries of welfare. They take time and effort to establish, along with significant doses of disappointment, frustration and learning experiences along the way. Some pain is both normal and essential.

But if they are established scripturally and continue to function that way, they can be an enormous source of good in any community, and a remarkable testimony.

Surely no achievements of the Christian Church are more truly great than those which it has effected in the sphere of charity (Lecky).[1]

Is that what you want to be a part of?

 

 

[1] W. E. H. Lecky, “The History of European Morals,” quoted in Ian Hodge, “Making Sense of your Dollars,” 1995, p.10.