Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
Paul was a bit of a stickler that every able bodied man should work. He was also equally adamant that the Christian church should take care of the disabled, the widowed, the elderly and children. Things have changed a lot since then. For most of history that is what Christians did. We helped the down and out get back on their feet. We cared for our elderly parents and we took in the orphan and the disabled. We did this because that is what we were expected to do. In the US we were also a very individualistic lot refusing what we deemed charity and wanting to make it own our own.
Things began to change in the 1930’s. Slowly the government began to take over this care that was once left to the individuals. With social security it was no longer a family’s obligation to take care of the elderly, the government would do it. Then the government decided to take over help for the poor and disabled and one more individual obligation was taken away. Rather than do these things ourselves we could let the government do it. And when they messed up it was the politicians’ fault. Cut a program and whichever party did it and it was seen as a war on the group getting the cuts. We could wash out hands and point to government failure.
The bad thing is it took away individual responsibility. Why work if you can get more money from the government. Why help the poor and down and out when it is the government’s responsibility. We have for the most part turned over what God intended us to do to the government. In doing so it lost that personal touch that help both the receiver and the giver.
Today a person can avoid seeing poverty. We can relegate the old and sick to some government program. We live a sanitized life smug in the knowledge that our taxes are doing the job. We need not care for elderly parents because the government will support them. The hungry, that is what welfare cards are for. And we become further disconnected form the world and those not like us. This is not God’s plan. It is not what Jesus wants us to do. He said feed the poor not write a check. He wanted us involved with our fellow humans and in doing so show them Christ in us.
Have a blessed day,