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'If a man doesn't work, neither should he eat': When helping hurts [part 1 of 3]

Most every person who has been involved in the area of benevolence within the church has heard the following remarks or something similar in meaning; 

You are a church. 

You are supposed to give us groceries. 

You are supposed to put gas in my car.

You are supposed to put me up in a motel.

You are supposed to help me with my utility bills.

You are supposed to pay my medical bills.

You are supposed to buy diapers and formula for my baby.

You are a church; you are supposed to help!

You call yourself a Christian?

It would seem that a large number of requests/demands for help come from people who willingly make decisions that bring hardship upon themselves and other family members. They then expect someone else to provide for their needs. Many times, this is attempted by concocting a story based upon an emotional appeal. Churches, because of their benevolent reputations, are at the top of the list to obtain assistance by those who have genuine needs, as well as the professional beggar. Many brethren who have assisted those “in dire straits” have experienced the reality that the one helped had been dishonest in the facts concerning their difficulty.


What has God commanded?

One does not have to look far into the pages of God’s word before they discover that assisting the needy was a command under the Old Law.

1. If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs… You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore, I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land’ (Deut. 15:7-11).

2.  When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God (Lev. 23:22).

3.  He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy (Prov. 14:31).


     Assisting those with a physical need is also commanded in the gospel of Christ.

1. They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do (Gal. 2:10). 

2. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35).

3. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world (Jam. 1:27).

4. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (Jam. 4:17).


Concerning the poor Jesus said, “For the poor you have with you always” (John. 12:8). This is proof that no matter what man tries, poverty will never be eliminated. Just as there will always be a need to share the gospel of Christ to the spiritually destitute; there will always be people in the world who are in need physically. Those truly seeking to serve and please God will be benevolent towards those in need. Benevolence is not just the act of assisting. It also involves our attitude. A person can do a good thing with a bad attitude. To rightly practice benevolence is to extend kindness towards another because we are motivated by compassion. More than a dozen times New Testament scriptures reveal that Jesus taught and practiced compassion. If we are imitators of Jesus (1 Cor. 11:1), we will do likewise.


Poverty in Branson, Missouri

In preparation for this writing, I gathered the following statistics concerning poverty in our hometown. While these figures will not be exactly the same for every community, the percentages given are probably very similar. This information was reported at the 2019 S. Truett Cathy Poverty Summit. This conference was conducted February 1, 2019, at the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri. 


Population of Branson, Missouri:

a. 10,500. 

b. More than 2,000 people live in motels. These individuals are not counted in the census. 

c. Over 500 of the people living in motels are children.


Low-income housing:

a. In 2005 there were only two extended stay motels in the city. 

b. There are currently more than forty of these weekly/monthly type motels. 

c. Because of city health code violations, several of these type motels have been shut down and many others face the threat of closure if they do not make improvements required by law.


Local soup kitchen report:

a. In 2009 more than 11,000 meals were served.

b. In 2018 more than 62,000 meals were served.


Disability statistics in Branson, Missouri:

a. Of working age people, 9.1 percent are on disability.

b. Nationally, homes with two or more drawing disability assistance rose from 525,000 in the year 2000 to 850,000 in the year 2015.


Average income:

a. The average hourly wage paid in Branson, Missouri, is $10.

b. If a person works 35 hours per week at $10 per hour, they will earn $1,400 per month less taxes.

c. Because much of the work in Branson is tourist related and therefore seasonal (nine-ten working months per year), the average income is only slightly higher than the individual who stays home and receives SSI (Supplemental Security Income).

d. When disability is added from one or more people in the household, many people receive more money to stay home than if they actually worked.

e. Single women are rewarded for becoming unwed mothers by receiving more financial benefits than the married mother.

f. Over the past 10 years in Branson, Missouri, there has been a dramatic increase in request for assistance from single women with children. (Is there any wonder why?)


Categories of poverty in Branson, Missouri: 

a. Approximately one-third who seek financial assistance have a disability.

b. One-third are dealing with adversity (i.e., job loss, repairs needed on home or vehicle, medical bills, etc.).

c. One-third have chosen the lifestyle of financial dependence upon others because of an addiction to alcohol or other drugs.

Based upon this preacher’s experience there should be another category averaged into these statistics: some people are just lazy! And our government programs, in many instances, reward laziness and irresponsibility. This element makes discernment between the afflicted and the opportunist more challenging for those who are desirous of assisting persons truly worthy of help. 

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