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Shaming the Poor in the Name of Christ

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'Paul Said, If You're Not Willing to Work, You Don't Get To Eat. The apostle Paul speaks of grace over, and over, and over in his writings to Philemon, the Ephesians, the Corinthians, the Thessalonians, etc. But even Paul said not to allow leeches to feed off your charitable deeds. He preached that giving to the lazy, at the expense of the community at large, was irrational and possibly sinful. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, Paul explains the example he set by refusing to "eat anyone's bread without paying for it," and he "with toil and labor"worked night and day, that [he] might not be a burden to any of [the Thessalonians]." He went on to make an even more serious claim. He wrote, "for even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat."' -- Matthew Travis

This is the one verse that anti-governmental Christians seize upon to insist that the poor get what they deserve. Let me first address the hermeneutics. We do not make doctrine out of singular verses that are not widely supported elsewhere in Scripture. That is what false teachers engage in through proof-texting. Any fair reading of the entire canon of Scripture must leave one with the clear understanding that God cares very much about the cause of the needy. It is in fact that second most discussed topic after salvation. It is what is required of us in Micah. God even instructed the Israelites to not glean from their lands edges so the poor might have something to eat. When He speaks about the light of the fatherless and widows He means the poor. The entire ministry of Jesus was walking among the marginalized. The two key verses are only two of hundreds that support this. What then do we do with this one verse? We exegete it correctly to see what Paul was speaking about.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you,nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. - 2Thessalonians 3: 6-12 (ESV)

The first thing we must recognize is this is not written as a command doctrine for all of humanity. It is written specifically for believers. If it were meant for everyone it would have been part of the moral law, which was carried over into the New Covenant. No beloved, this was written to the church at Thessalonica. The early church was far more communal than the anti-government crowd will ever admit but one just needs to read Acts. People gave everything they had to the community of believers. Even when Paul takes an offering it was for the brothers suffering due to a famine in another location. As one would expect, some people began taking advantage of this situation and took from the community without giving anything. Paul is stating the cause against idleness here not making some doctrinal statement on the righteousness of governments that might try and help their poor. Let's see how low Travis is willing to go:

'"This command" directly conflicts with handing out money or goods via a government program that cannot accurately account for ones work ethic, or lack thereof. It shows that it is not immoral to allow people to starve if they won't make an effort to feed themselves. In fact, Paul even says of those not willing to do their part in the community, "do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed." Yes. Those taking monetary, nutritional, housing, etc. donations should feel "ashamed," if they're not doing what they can to help themselves and, or, their community. It Seems Jesus May Have Agreed that Welfare Is Theft, Not Charity.' -- Matthew Travis

Wow, wow, wow. So this alleged Christian thinks that God is saying it is ok to let people starve to death if they refuse to work? Seriously? No wonder so many view the church as filled with hypocrites. Jesus loves you! Get a job you bum or starve to death! Also here, the statement from Paul is not a command and it certainly does not conflict with government run welfare. Paul is providing individual instruction to Christians not global advice to world leaders. I am not sure where Travis sees the word "ashamed" but that was not the point either. His point that those taking monetary, nutritional, or housing donations should feel ashamed reveals more about the blackened heart of Matthew Travis than anything else. Shaming the poor in the name of Jesus Christ is despicable. Then to make the insane leap in illogic to pretend that this somehow supports the notion that Jesus may have agreed that welfare is theft and not charity is beyond despicable. It is disgusting on a level hardly seen.

"Jesus never demanded that His followers give in the face of earthly consequences, nor to gain earthly rewards. He said to only give out of love, knowing their deeds would be seen by the Almighty. This theme was repeated in some of the apostles' letters, as well. In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he wrote, "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." Welfare is fed by taxes. If someone doesn't wish to participate in welfare, they would have to stop paying a certain percentage of their taxes. So, what happens if someone doesn't pay a portion of their taxes? Government officials will use guns, and the threat of severe violence, to put that man in prison. That sounds a lot less like Jesus' definition of charity, and a little more like theft." -- Matthew Travis

Clever but manipulating the Bible will not help Matthew's cause either. The reference to 2Corinthains is in relation to giving to the church, not paying your taxes. Nowhere does the Bible suggest we must cheerfully pay our taxes. Travis keeps revealing more and more of his skewed views however unintentional. To Matthew Travis, taxes are theft. This is a common refrain heard from anti-governmental crowds who apparently do not think the government has any role in the lives of its citizenry. What does God say however about paying taxes?

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