amy courts: en route


Is Charity an Act of Will, Obedience, or Nature?

From my previous blogs it’s obvious the common problem many Christians have with the idea of socialism is that the sharing of goods is a requirement rather than a voluntary act of the will.

Which got me thinking, why is it so important that sharing from one’s abundance with those who have lesscharity be voluntary rather than obligatory? And, more to the point, does Scripture ask us to give, tell us to give, or simply say we will give if indeed we belong to Christ?

Here’s what I’ve come to so far (and again, I’m thinking out loud):

This concept that “I shouldn’t be forced to share what I’ve worked hard to earn” is one practiced and understood only in communities whose people have come to depend on their acquisitions as a source of worth, status, and identity. In short, it’s the chief source of Self, of Pride. We believe (consciously or not) that whether acquired by hard work, education, or birth right, we deserve what we have. And conversely, those who own less have earned and deserve less.

This social distinction is necessary so that when we “give voluntarily” to those in need, we acquire in return a sense of goodness for having “chosen” to help. We are champions of the poor and oppressed, who pat ourselves on the backs for giving something away. Our hungry pride is further fed, and the truth of the exchange – that we haven’t actually given anything, but simply made a trade – is utterly lost.

But what if caring for the needy is not a choice?

From what I see in Scripture, most notably in Matthew 24:31-46 (but also elsewhere in the New Testament, where both true love and faith are linked irrevocably to giving of oneself), caring for the needy is neither a choice nor a mandate, but simply the Mark of a true Believer. If we belong to Christ, we will care for the least of these. It’s a matter of definition and identity. Just as a singer sings and a plumber plumbs, a Christian, by definition, gives selflessly from an attitude that says, “If I have something you need, then by virtue of needing it, you ought to have it.” It’s not mine to give, but yours to have. It’s a subtle but significant distinction.

We want and have made it a matter of choice because “choosing” to give feeds our pride.

What I find ironic is that when we do strip away the status of ownership – when all needs and property become shared needs and property – we finally grasp real worth. We find that we’re each infinitely and inherently valued by God and necessary to the Kingdom simply because He marked us with His image and a unique personality and spirit at Creation. My worth is no longer tied to what I have or can give away, but to the simple fact that because God made and marked only one Amy Jo Courts-Koopman, I belong and am utterly irreplaceable.

Inevitably though, when stripped of the stuff and left with the nude self, we can’t help but become painfully aware of our equally inherent deficits. We’re shown in great need of what can only be met by humbling ourselves to receive and learn from those who are rich in the qualities we lack.

In the end, the great irony is that we need giving to be a choice because, in our pride, we cannot fathom being worth what we haven’t earned, and we cannot tolerate having nothing to give but ourselves. And we really can’t stand true equality, because it means we all are equally depraved…or needy.

But if we can give what we have “out of the goodness of our hearts,” at least we have our own goodness to fall back on, which sets us just a step above the others.

I don’t know how this all fits in the context of voluntary love or how it coincides with the fact that authentic love cannot be forced. But I have a feeling that it all comes back to the basic Truth that “we love because Christ first loved us.” I have a feeling the we’re capable of giving love only in response to (or in overflow from) what love we’ve already received.

Which again, isn’t so much a voluntary act of the will, but a natural succession or response…Once I’m filled to the brim with love, my cup runs over into others.

It’s worth pondering…

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19 Comments so far
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Amy, well put! I agree wholeheartedly!

I would even take it a step further and say that the very nature of a true believer causes him or her to realize that nothing that they have possession of is actually theirs anyways. It all came from and goes back to God. As the scripture says, our God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills”. With the realization that nothing is yours, you begin to recognize that God has given you what He has given you as a “Talent” and it is your to invest and bring a return to His Kingdom, not yourself. This naturally causes one to give cheerfully and provide for those less fortunate out of a heart surrendered to Christ, not a selfish heart desirous of what you get out of giving.

It all comes back to the Spirit’s work in and through your life. Alone, you can do nothing good. But by the Spirit of Christ, you can do all things, and it is only by His Spirit living inside of us that we actually do anything good at all.

If we are truly walking by the spirit, we will not carry out the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16), which would include selfish giving. The problem with the Church in America today is that we do not walk by the Spirit. If we did, we would see a much different church, and a much different world. But, alas, we are still fallen creatures in need of a Savior.

Sorry to bring it pack to your previous blog entry, but that’s where I have a hard time with a socialist governmental system, while the overall idea may be great. It will ultimately fail in it’s goal because it is not governed by the Spirit. And where socialist governments fail, they fail hugely and ultimately end up being totalitarian governments. Thus the reason I favor small central government, and more civil liberties. That’s what I was getting at in my response to your last blog. A socialist system run by secular man will always fail, because it’s not led of the Spirit.

Not that I actually believe Obama is a true socialist anyways, but he stands for big government. As has Bush these last 8 years, by the way… who cannot truly be called a fiscal conservative. He spent more money in office than Bill Clinton!

Had I a real choice, I would have voted Ron Paul…

Comment by nater

Amy I have really enjoyed reading your thoughts over the past few blogs. Although, I disagree with most of them.

The connections between the political theory of socialism and Christianity are few.

Giving (whether out of obedience, obligation, or overflowing of love) cannot be equated to public rather than private ownership or control of property and natural resources.

Socialism strips individuality and reward from people, and these are two concepts that are championed by God.

“Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.” Psalm 62:12

“you reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve” Jeremiah 32:19

“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” – Matthew 16:27

“The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.” 1 Cor 3:8

“If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.” – 1 Cor 9:17

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” Revelation 22:12

There is no sharing of the reward given from work. God clearly is concerned with the individual and not the whole.

And I believe you misconstrue the motive behind not wanting to give out of mandate. The problem is not the mandate itself, but the management. As a Christian, we have no choice but to give of our time, our talents, and our money. But, we are also called to be good stewards. The government is not a good steward (see the deficit, the broken budget, etc). Even more interestingly, Jesus commanded multiple times that we give in secret. From my study and interpretation, I believe this means we have to rely on faith and spiritual discernment to determine where, when, and to who we give. And not make it a spectacle on top of that.

Just some thoughts. I could go on, but I have to get back to work.

Comment by Jason

I’ll keep it short and sweet. We are commanded…to choose to do so if we’ve chosen Him.

Comment by steverupp

Wonderful ponders. You made striking points. I think its amazing where the disciples ask, when did we see You naked, thirsty, hungry? And Jesus says, “When you did it for the least of these, you did this for me.” They were utterly unaware of the compassion and charity that was being poured out upon their neighbors. They took no pride in giving and moving and walking as Christ for Christ Himself. You hit something about charity as our choice feeds pride.

I also like what you said about “my cup runs over”. It reminds me of Psalms 116. David talks about performing his vows in the presence of the congregation, and precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. He also lifts the cup of Salvation up to the Lord. What is God really saying here? We are obligated to perform vows of love, not because we must “do” but because it is a result as you said, our cup is so full, it must run over. And this is precious to the Lord. When we die to self and give because of His great love, that is sweet.

When we are so filled with love as jars of clay, vessels holding His love, it is only natural that we be poured out. What benefit is a vessel storing goods if those goods are never poured out and used for their purpose? Will perishables not turn rancid if never used? I’m not saying God’s love is perishable, because its not. However, if we receive His amazing love once and we hoard it and we are never poured out, whether the love turns rancid or not, we are not maximizing our capacity to receive more love. He will continue to fill us as we allow Him to pour us out. We will never lack an abundance of love. And I think this same thing is true about earthly possessions. The greedy will never have enough, but one who is generous will never lack provision.

Comment by Walk as Christ

Jason: Socialism strips individuality and reward from people, and these are two concepts that are championed by God.

Indeed, socialism as a form of government does…which I think I said is why I don’t think God would actually sanction any form of socialism. As Nater said, if it’s not governed by the Spirit it’s bound to the failure of the sinful nature.

But I do still believe some of the fundamental principles of socialism – namely, equality of rights to basic needs – indeed reflect the heart of Christ. Point being, socialism isn’t inherently evil until it’s “done” by fallen man. That aside…

There is no sharing of the reward given from work. God clearly is concerned with the individual and not the whole.

I think it’s funny you mention this because while God is indeed concerned with the individual, He is – I believe – equally concerned with how those individuals function as His Body. We are His Kingdom. If one of us is off, everyone is off. I don’t think you can separate them so easily, but that we do need and depend on one another in many ways. But mostly on God.

I would also say that while we’ll each certainly be rewarded, we may all be rewarded equally (i.e. the parable of the workers, one of whom started early in the morning, the other who started late at night, and both earned the same wage at the end of the day). Point being, Heaven is the reward given to Believers, and its one we all share equally. (But that’s for another blog, cause there’re a LOT of worms in that can.)

The problem is not the mandate itself, but the management.

I think this is where you hit the nail on the head (and it’s the road I just didn’t go down, for time’s sake). We will give if we are Believers…but how we give, what we give, etc. will be different depending on our circumstances, and indeed, we are commanded to be wise stewards.

Point being, I think management is where liberty and responsibility come into play…not in the giving itself.

Comment by amycourts

Steve:“I’ll keep it short and sweet. We are commanded…to choose to do so if we’ve chosen Him.”

Hahah! Way to be concisely complex.

Comment by amycourts

I think that’s a fascinating thought process. I definitely have some opinions about the government forcing me to to do something, must to be candid it’s mostly because of the historical pattern of them doing so poorly at distribution. I grew up on welfare and I assure anyone who wants to know that the government is terrible at this process.
If not the government then who? Jesus commands us as believers. I have no idea why He chose this method when He has proven throughout history that He can actually make it rain sandwiches if He chose. For some reason He chose you and I to be the Body of Christ. We are the implementing arms of His ideas and desires.
I think the beauty of His “commands” is that they’re really wrapped up so beautifully in in His two commandments to Love God and Love Man. He didn’t force it, but commanded it. Seems like that there is a difference between commanding someone to do something and forcing them to do something.
good thoughts Amy.

Comment by Darren Tyler

Seems as though folks have hit on the topic that Socialism can only be achieved within the confines of Christianity – Not even Christianity… Because Christianity hinges on the fact that sin entered the world. So Socialism only works in a world unmarred by sin, bummer it doesn’t exist, but hey, (in the words of Switchfoot) “The shadow prooves the sunshine!”
So that being said I will hit on the idea of giving…

The other day while reading meters I saw a tree. I knew it was a buckeye tree because of it’s leaves and other features. However, unlike many other buckeye trees at the time, it was not producing buckeyes. There are the “Fruits of the Spirit” that are a result of what God has done for us. I think giving (of anything time, talents, treasures) should be paramount to our faith, but only as an expression of our love for God. Otherwise we endup grudgingly giving our “tenth” while others joyfully give their entire nest egg. So like the tree I think we are all “meant” to produce the fruit of giving, but when we fail to do so non-Christian utillity workers look up and say “Huh? I wonder why that Christian tree isn’t producing fruit? Something must be wrong – Well I don’t want a Christian tree in my yard!”
So there you have it – It may be a bit on the sporadic side and a bad analogy (because buckeyes are actually poisonous and giving is wholeheartedly good for you) but I think it works fairly well.
C.S. Lewis also had some cool things to say about giving until we are impovershed in “Mere Christanity” – And like all, I fail to measure up to what we are called to do in terms of giving. So I pray that one day I will be able to become a full fledged “Giving Tree” bursting with delicious fruit!

Comment by Aaron

Very well articulated Amy, but what fun would my comment be if I left it at that?

I would argue that:

…when we “give voluntarily” to those in need, we acquire in return a sense of goodness for having “chosen” to help. We … pat ourselves on the backs for giving something away. …[yet] we haven’t actually given anything, but simply made a trade

…is not actually incompatable with:

It’s a matter of definition and identity. Just as a singer sings and a plumber plumbs, a Christian, by definition, gives selflessly … “If I have something you need, then by virtue of needing it, you ought to have it.” It’s not mine to give, but yours to have.

…as you seem to argue. Your statement about trade is not, or so it seems to me, fully formed yet (of course you did start out saying you were thinking “out loud.”)

My reasoning is that you seem to equate this trade with inherently evil (in the sense of godless) motivations of pride. And yet you fail to recognize that even a singer CHOOSES to sing and plumber CHOOSES to plumb. The choice is not as obvious as say, Warren Buffet giving half his net worth, but choices they are none-the-less.

If we can agree that a choice has indeed been made, in this instance a choice to serve another rather than be focused exclusively internally, am I deciding that more benefit is received by the one whom I serve rather than specifically serving myself? Or am I deciding that I will receive more benefit from serving another, rather than serving myself?

I contend that regardless of the source of my satisfaction (be it pride, or the satisfaction of know I’ve done something that makes Jesus smile), I am indeed trading my service for my own satisfaction, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Scripture does not label reward for actions as wrong, and there is scriptural evidence and support for rewards (at least in heaven) for “selfless” activities, how then can a blanket statement, that giving outside of altruistic motives is ultimately wrong, be accurate?

Take for example the child who creates a picture for her parent. If said parent displays affection for the child and pride in the accomplishment you can be sure a second picture will arrive. But if no affection follows the presentation, and no pride is displayed is there encouragement for a repetition of this act of love? Does this make the second picture created any less love-inspired than the first? Following the logic of your “trade” statement, this second drawing (and any subsequent) is actually meaningless, that no true love has actually been displayed, and that if the child chooses to not draw another picture, that is a selfish pride filled act.

But furthermore, I argue that altruism is another form of reward, that has little to do with pride.

If we can go back to acknowledging that every action is indeed a choice, then by your argument a singing singer sings to boost/salve his pride. Your statement implies that any form of satisfaction is pride centered and that the satisfaction of hearing one’s own voice is not reason to sing. Yet, if that is the case, why does a singer sing in the shower where there can be no reward beyond the satisfaction of hearing his own voice? Why must the plumber’s plumbing because she enjoys the satisfaction of helping someone with a leaky sink come down to an issue of fallen pride? Likewise, because I gather satisfaction from giving of me does not mean I am an evil prideful person. It means that my priorities are such that I find helping others to be more satisfying than simply focusing on myself.

I think it quite likely that part of the transforming work that Christ performs in his body is the rearrangement of priorities such that his people will find more satisfaction in helping and sharing than in hording.

Now it is tempting to say, “well that’s all fun and good, but what about dealing with the unlovable, helping those who are filthy, doing things for people that no one ‘enjoys’, how does satisfaction come into that?”

I think the satisfaction there is tied directly to that rearrangement of priorities that Christ performs. As Christians we derive satisfaction from doing that which we know pleases Christ, and that is a good thing. Else Eric Little was selfish to run simply because “when I run, I feel his pleasure.” How does his competing in the Olympics differ from the satisfaction of serving at the Nashville Rescue Mission.

Following your logic to the end, one could also argue that the only service that is worthwhile is that which makes you grimace and wish you were doing something else, only serving that takes an act of sheer will power to even begin pleases Christ. But I don’t believe Christ has called the church to be masochists.

Comment by spectaprod

Tim….you make my mind hurt and run me in circles. Then I get dizzy and fall over, and you think you’ve changed my mind when, in fact, all you’ve done is confuse me. 😉

All that said…here’s my immediate thought:
My original post had nothing to do with satisfaction. Because I agree that God takes pleasure in our pleasure, and that our greatest satisfaction and pleasure is in basking in His pleasure over us. (How’s that for running in circles?)

Nor do I assume that all giving is motivated by pride, especially not for the Christian. Rather, my whole point is that, for true Believers, giving is motivated by instinct, by nature. That we derive great satisfaction from giving – and thus want to continue giving – doesn’t change the initial motivation. Once we give, we see its value both for us and others, and naturally (wink wink) want give more and thus are more satisfied.

[What is so intriguing to me is that the more we give of ourselves the fuller we actually become. It seems ironic…shouldn’t we be becoming more empty as we give, rather than full?]

I would argue that: ‘…when we give…’ …is not actually incompatable with:…

I don’t think my two statements are incompatible if you follow my thinking. Let’s look at it like sneezing. I can’t force myself to sneeze. It’s an involuntary action my body engages in instinctively. But that doesn’t diminish the satisfaction of the sneeze. And while I guess it’s reasonable to say I could have chosen not to sneeze, that choice would have been contrary to my natural instinct.

In the same way, while you *could* say I’ve chosen to give (or withhold) myself and resources for the sake of the poor, my motivation still isn’t my will unless I’m choosing the negative…to give is instinct, or nature. It’s Christ growing in me that produces the giving. It doesn’t change the satisfaction derived from giving. Nor did I actually “earn” the pleasure by doing something special or particularly deliberate. It just means I’ve done something great and my Father is pleased with me.

Take for example the child who creates a picture for her parent. If said parent displays affection for the child and pride in the accomplishment you can be sure a second picture will arrive.

I prefer the example of the pooping child: Just as we applaud our kids for pooping (and thus encourage them to do it more and not fear the poo!), it’s not as if they’re doing something particularly special or unique. In fact, they’re simply being healthy humans. The benefit is a result of a healthy nature.

OR! We could (again) appeal to CS Lewis and his theory of the sixpence: A father gives his child sixpence to buy him a birthday gift. When the child comes back with the gift, has the father earned a return on the money? And is the child particularly special for doing with that sixpence what he was meant to do? No, but the father is infinitely more pleased in his child for having given him the gift all the same.

I think it quite likely that part of the transforming work that Christ performs in his body is the rearrangement of priorities such that his people will find more satisfaction in helping and sharing than in hording.

I think you’re right that all of this is a process of transformation and rearrangement of priorities. Because no matter what I’d like to say, it is still hard for me to give up myself. I think that’s the tension we’ll always experience between wanting to follow our new (true) nature while confined to the body of old (Romans 7).

Following your logic to the end, one could also argue that the only service that is worthwhile is that which makes you grimace…I don’t believe Christ has called the church to be masochists.

I don’t think that’s the logical end at all. I follow it to mean that while giving inevitably produces immense satisfaction such that we’ll never know otherwise, the giving is still not something we necessarily “choose” to do. Giving is a product of nature rather than willful “choice.”

Comment by amycourts

Aaron, I think the comparison to the Fruits of the Spirit is a good one. And I suppose, in that regard, while we could say giving is a choice, the choice itself is a product of the Spirit, of our new nature. And thus, nothing we can derive pride from (though it’ll certainly satisfy).

And I think in the end, again, it’s a matter of pride. Self vs. others. Which is the priority of the Christian? Obviously, others.

Comment by amycourts

Darren:”I definitely have some opinions about the government forcing me to to do something, must to be candid it’s mostly because of the historical pattern of them doing so poorly at distribution.”

This is paramount to the discussion. It’s not the force, it’s the management…like Jason noted earlier.

If not the government then who? Jesus commands us as believers.

I think the fact that our culture (the Church) as flipped this is the real problem: “If not the Church then who? The government. Oh yes, that’s good.” It comes back, inevitably, to the Church either having too much to handle or failing miserably from the start. Usually a combination of both. Yak!

For some reason He chose you and I to be the Body of Christ. We are the implementing arms of His ideas and desires.

Agreed! And I think that, for those of us lucky enough to live in a democracy where our voice and values can effect legislation and how our country operates, part of the implementation can be accomplished through supporting certain government efforts. (Case in point: I don’t know of many who lack appreciation for Bush’s faith-based initiatives program, except that they’re so poorly funded…)

Seems like that there is a difference between commanding someone to do something and forcing them to do something.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Comment by amycourts

the giving is still not something we necessarily “choose” to do. Giving is a product of nature rather than willful “choice.”

And I think that is where we find our disagreement I think. I assert that everything we do (beyond the physical response to stimuli, such as sneezing – although there was that Buddhist monk who literally burned himself to death and remained calmly sitting the whole time) is indeed a choice, and while the choice may be subconscious (such as following the impulse to sing) it is a choice of the will all the same.

I didn’t articulate my critique all that well (despite my attempt to edit it thoroughly). I believe it would be more concisely put this way:

We want and have made [giving] a matter of choice because “choosing” to give feeds our pride.. This statement only makes sense if your foundation is that as believers we only give impulsively (compulsively?). But if that is the case, then salvation actually removes our will (because we literally have no choice except to give)?

But then what about all the good stuff of love itself being an act of will? A choice one makes. Now granted chasing this tail leads is an effort of futility.

Could Christ’s commands be simply edited to say “If you love me you will [choose] to..?” without loosing any meaning?

Let’s assume Paul like grilled cheese sandwiches, no, not like, thrives off of. Nothing makes him happier than a grilled cheese sandwich. Early in your relationship you think “hmm, Paul loves grilled cheese, I’m going to make him grilled cheese to demonstrate how important he is to me” (this is even more poignant if you can make yourself grossed out by cheese). As your relationship progresses you make him more and more grilled cheese sandwiches, and with each one, the decision to do so is less and less conscious and increasingly instinctual (“Paul! You made the bed! You’re getting grilled cheese today!” becomes: “Well of course I made you a grilled cheese sandwhich, I love you!”).

While “instinct” has “taken over” you are still making a choice, one that quickly becomes evident when Paul stops making the bed, and thus you stop making him grilled cheese sandwiches. You are angry no longer feeling such love for him and suddenly it is a conscious act of the will to again make him a grilled cheese sandwich (“this is good for him, and I love him, so even though I’m angry I’m going to make this for him”).

A choice is still is a choice, regardless of your awareness of the choosing.

Comment by spectaprod

You know, Tim, I think you hit on a very important conundrum of our faith: while we know that love can only truly be expressed once it’s truly been received (we love because Christ first loved us), and that the fruit a tree bears is born because of what it is rather than by conscious decision or will to bear such fruit – if I’m an apple tree, I’ll bear apples (if any fruit at all), we also see in Scripture, by the simple fact that we’re GIVEN a will (which is in keeping with – or part of – God’s image in us), we have choices to make. Where do love and charity fall?

I think indeed, it’s a core disagreement (if indeed it is one …I’m still not sure we’re not just looking at the same elephant from different sides and using different words to say the same thing) of the nature of choice.

Can we call it a choice if we haven’t deliberately made it?

I would make Christ’s statement:
“Because I love you, you will love me by loving others.” Perhaps, then, He is leaving it up to us…though, if you think about it, there’s really not much of a “choice” to be made.

And I do think the word you used for our loving: “impulsive” (or “compulsive”) is better exchanged for “instinctive.” Perhaps it is a choice (if we’re gonna be semantics-crazy)…but not one we necessarily deliberately make. When our love is for Christ and His people, our priorities shift, and this becomes what we do and how we’re defined. I am a singer, so I sing. It’s not a deliberate choice I make…I do it, because it’s what I do. I’m a Christian, so I live as Christ.

I’m running in circles here…

Comment by amycourts

It’s beautiful though, that God can see through our sin and even when we give pridefully he still sees giving (as long as we have hearts that belong to Him) as something of the spirit not the flesh.

Comment by Aaron

Hi Amy,

I came to your blog via a comment left on mine. Thanks for stopping by Bread Crumbs! 🙂 Now, regarding this post, I really enjoyed your thoughts about giving, socialism, etc. You made me think.

I agree that as Christians we are mere stewards of God’s resources here on earth and should not be obsessed with wealth accumulation. We should also be willing to share what we have if we are blessed materially. I suppose my disagreement, for lack of a better word, with the socialist perspective is that having the government take our resources to fund large governmental programs is not the most efficient use of such resources, nor is it the most wise. Taking care of the poor and less fortunate is best left up to the churches and smaller institutions that can make decisions about aid on a case by case basis, discerning need vs. want and discerning a person’s true ability to provide for themselves. Wouldn’t it be cool to see so much giving going to our local churches & non-profits rather than the government? 🙂

Those are my thoughts. Keep up the good work here.

Janna

Comment by Janna

What Jason said.

We believe (consciously or not) that whether acquired by hard work, education, or birth right, we deserve what we have. And conversely, those who own less have earned and deserve less.

I don’t think that follows. For example, a tragedy can destroy what someone has acquired rightfully. The main concern is “Thou shalt not steal” means that people have the right to private property and individuals or the gov’t don’t have the right to steal it to give it to themselves or others. I think it’s significant that Paul (the Apostle, not your husband) said
“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10

That’s not too socialistic, although I suppose it means the person isn’t contributing according to their ability. Sin means lazy people will try to ride the backs of the diligent.

Comment by Randy Brandt

Randy: I don’t think that follows.

I’m appealing mainly to the general sense of entitlement among Americans and those in other stupid-wealthy nations. May or may not be the case among (all of) the Church, but I’d say it’s pretty basic to human nature, especially those humans who’ve grown accustomed to getting and having and keeping for themselves whatever they want (and denying such things to those they deem “unworthy” for whatever reason…)

“Thou shalt not steal” means that people have the right to private property and individuals or the gov’t don’t have the right to steal it to give it to themselves or others.

Hmmm…the whole conversation over “private property” is an intersting one, especially given that, within the context of that law and those who received it, it could be said that the people were living fairly socialist lives, except in regards to whatever they carried in their own tents. Which isn’t what’s up for discussion here at all…

I think it’s significant that Paul (the Apostle, not your husband) said
“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10

But who was Paul speaking to? Those within the Church who are already called to a higher standard of moral and ethical living set by the God of their faith? I don’t think it’s too much to ask that people work for their keep, of course…but I do think there’s a significant difference in how the Church ought to treat those within the Body who are also accountable to the Christ’s standard, and how we treat unbelievers who, whether by their own laziness or circumstances unknown to us, don’t have their basic needs met.

Sin means lazy people will try to ride the backs of the diligent.

True that! But at what point do we stop being the judge and start simply obeying (or being what we are), leaving to God what is His to know? And, by the way, obedience ought to mean more than just handing a homeless guy $10…it, to me, looks more like giving the guy a ride to McDonalds and buying him a meal, or offering him some work, or taking him to the local Rescue Mission. It doesn’t mean being an unwise steward…but neither does it mean turning a blind eye to what we’ve called but can’t be certain is “laziness.”

In the end, I’d rather be guilty of giving too much to the lazy poor than judging wrongly and ending up one of those who denied Christ in denying the least of these…

Comment by amycourts

This is painfully hard to type, but–gulp–I agree with you. Other than the Hebrews living socialist lives, of course. I’ll never admit to socialism anywhere in Holy Writ because I believe Biblical teaching is totally anti-socialist from Genesis to Revelation.

That said, many of us find it too easy to turn the proverbial blind eye, but interestingly enough, when I was with Compassion Int’l, I was amazed how many reasonably well-to-do Republicans were the movers and shakers and sponsors there. Democrat singers like Rich Mullins would come in and make anti-Republican jokes and everyone would just stare at him as the awkward silence indicated his jokes weren’t working. He just assumed that people laboring to help the poor must be Democrats, but he was totally wrong.

Comment by Randy Brandt




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