Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Help The Poor, Not the Lazy

I recently entered a brief conversation regarding one’s responsibility to help the poor.

My friend’s words are bold and italicized.

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Is there a line at which helping the poor becomes not right?”

While I can’t help but think your question is rhetorical (and the expected answer is “No!”), 2Thessalonians comes to mind. Here the Apostle Paul "commands" that "if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat" (3:10). Thus the "line" here seems to be not enabling laziness.

“Poor does not equal lazy. That Republican malarkey.”

I did not say nor have I ever said that "poor equals lazy.”

“You quoted Thessalonians saying ‘if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.’ That's the only verse you quoted. Never mind the numerous exhortations to help those in need.”

Friend, you asked if there is a line at which it is wrong to support the poor. According to my reading of 2Thessalonians 3:10, it is wrong to enable laziness. That is, the Christian should not support a person who refuses to work. (There's a world of difference between one who can’t work and one who won’t work.)

In so saying, is Paul offering us "Republican malarkey"? No. (I'm almost positive he was once a Pharisee but never a Republican.)

True, there are lots of verses about helping the poor. However, I'm not familiar with any verses about helping the lazy (except the one which says don't do it).

You see, Paul understands that not all poor people are lazy.

And I understand this too. I was raised by a single mom. She worked extremely hard. She worked multiple jobs. I worked too. Years before I could get a "work permit" I was mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, etc. for the man who owned the trailer park where we lived. By the time I was sixteen I was working in fast food and going to school. (Many kids did and do the same.)

My mother and I worked very hard and yet we were very poor. So yeah, I've been poor. But I've never been lazy.

Please understand: the fear of work is not necessarily connected to wealth or the lack thereof. There are very rich people who are lazy and there are very poor people who are lazy. Laziness, like greed, isn’t confined to any particular layer of social strata. 

But Paul's point is this: We are morally obligated to help the poor (with our own money—not someone else's!) but not the lazy.