A blog about everything about teaching the Bible. "And still I will show you a more excellent way..." (1 Corinthians 12:31).
Thursday, October 10, 2013
The Poor, The Government, and the Individual of Character
An example of these messed up purposes is the question of who's supposed to take care of the poor. The U.S. government (and many others) has meddled in that business at least since F.D.R., and it has arguably had disastrous affects on American society. Today, a radio speaker said freedom is the fruit of responsible labor, and a people gets the kind of government it deserves. As a people's character decreases, its government takes more and more control of their lives until they have nothing, including no freedom. People can't legally force individuals, families, or churches to give them anything. But, if they can convince lawmakers to make it a matter of law, governments can force people to give their hard-earned money to others. It all arguably starts with good intentions, but the end result is always legal thievery that creates an ever-growing class of unproductive government dependents that swells the population of the poor to a level the church, family, and individual can't even begin to help privately. This is why, when a nation's entitlement bubble eventually bursts--and it always eventually will--the result is rioting and all kinds of crime until somebody strong enough to martially restore order rises up and starts the society over.
So, who should take care of the poor? Governments can't do anything right, except military and infrastructure. As far as I'm concerned that's beyond dispute. It's definitely not the government's job to take care of the poor, except to provide a safe environment in which people of character can freely work.
So, who should take care of the poor? The church? So many conservatives say so. In my opinion, the answer is actually both yes and no. It depends on what you mean. Most people mean the church as an institution should take care of the poor in a way that's similar to government entitlement programs. It's alarming how many people who never darken the door of a church building for worship call or show up looking for money as if the church owes them.
If churches are institutionally responsible to the poor, then local churches everywhere should immediately create infrastructures staffed by trained individuals who can hear cases of need, decide the best course of aid, and act accordingly. It means the members of the church will have to generously increase their contributions, because few churches have the means to put even a dint in the poverty of their communities as is. Government "assistance" has contributed to a dependent poverty problem in many areas that far exceeds the local church's ability to solve it. If the government were to abruptly stop all entitlement programs, chaos would ensue for a time, because nobody has enough money to support such a huge number of unproductive people. Truth is, the government doesn't have it either and is proceeding on borrowed time.
I'm all for churches drastically stepping up the sophistication of their benevolence programs, because the church is the only institution remotely able to deal with poverty in a responsible way (that is a redemptive and rehabilitative one). However, even this approach if seen as the main way to help the poor will ultimately prove insufficient.
The church is the body of individuals saved by grace into fellowship with God and bound together in common cause. It exists to glorify God, and equip its members to do the work of ministry individually and as families. The real solution to poverty and dependence is in the healing of the family, and the solution to the healing of the family is in the conversion and restoration of the individual to good character. When individuals in society are once again of good character, they will form strong families which will hold family members accountable to do productive work. Then families can help families, take in orphans, and do so in a private way that preserves the dignity of the one in need and holds him accountable to work toward financial rehabilitation. These individuals and families are what make up local churches that will actually have a shot at effectively helping the poor in the surrounding communities. I'm not at all against institutional approaches to benevolence like church supported orphan's homes, job-training ministries, and the like. We need more of them. But, we need the individuals and families with the strength and character to support them. We also need individuals and families that see helping the poor as their own private responsibilities--not just the responsibility of an institution.
Social problems start with individuals and families, and then weaken churches and ruin governments. A messed up government can't fix social problems, because it's too big, and too impersonal. Churches used to environments in which big governments have usurped their responsibility to do good works, because of the collapse of the family, are too busy trying to keep their families together to effectively solve the problems of dependence and poverty in their communities. Families can't solve the problems, because they're too busy trying to stay together against the overwhelming odds of individual senses of entitlement and an overall lack of character.
What we need is the restoration of the individual of character. That's the solution to society's problems at every level, and will effectively eliminate poverty along with all other social ills to the fullest extent possible this side of eternity.