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'If a man doesn't work, neither should he eat': When helping hurts [part 2 of 3]

Is assisting someone with a physical need always pleasing to God? 

While aiding the poor is a command from God, financial hardship does not equate to automatic assistance from the Christian. What has caused this person to fall upon hard times? Certain qualifications must be met by the recipient before aid is approved/required by our Lord. A good steward of God’s money will strive to use proper discernment in disbursing His funds. This will require investigation into the request. (More will be said concerning that process later in this writing).


Laziness should not be rewarded.

Of the Christian’s work ethic the apostle Paul wrote, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). Those seeking to please God strive to follow the admonition of Solomon; “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Eccl. 9:10). There will be no space occupied in heaven by a lazy Christian.

     In consideration of a request for assistance it should first be understood that a person who chooses not to work, has also chosen not to eat. Emotionally this may seem harsh, but physical consequences are a vital part of spiritual growth. Solomon wrote, “Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger” (Prov. 19:15). Regarding this principle the apostle Paul taught, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). God’s word plainly teaches that it is wrong for a person to choose to be in poverty; therefore, it is also wrong for others to help the lazy to be comfortable in their sinful lifestyle.

      Did you give the individual on the corner food, money, clothing, etc. because there was a need which God would have you meet? Or, did you just soothe your conscience because emotionally you felt badly for the person’s physical appearance (or circumstances they claimed as written on the sign which they held in their hand)? Did you give the person $20 for gasoline because it was a proper use of God’s money? Or, was it just the quickest way to be rid of an uncomfortable solicitor? Are we helping people to seek God, or are we helping people to be comfortable in their sin?


Physical assistance can be sinful.

     There are circumstances when God requires that physical assistance be withheld. In those instances to give physical assistance would actually cause spiritual harm. The parable of the Prodigal Son, recorded in chapter 15 of the gospel according to Luke, is familiar to most people. In this parable Jesus tells of a father who had two sons. The younger son asked the father for his part of the inheritance. This was not an unusual request in their culture. After receiving his share, the younger son went into a "far country" (vs. 13) and spent all of his inheritance on wasteful and depraved living. Soon after "going broke" the young man began to starve and could only find employment feeding pigs. Jesus said the young man was so hungry he even considered eating the swine's food. It was not until he reached this point of desperation that the son felt sorrow for his sinful decisions and decided to go home and ask for his father's forgiveness. The young man felt his actions were so bad that his only chance for forgiveness from his father was to return home and serve him as a slave instead of a son. Because of the young man's penitence, the father forgave him and restored him to full fellowship as a son which included all the blessings of a faithful child.

     Part of this story, quite frequently overlooked and yet very important, is found in verse16. Before the young son repents, he finds himself in a pig pen. He is in desperate physical need and still Jesus tells us, "no one gave him anything." No one gave him money. No one gave him food. No one gave him shelter. No one gave him clothing. No one gave him anything! "No one" includes even the young man's family. We might be tempted to defend the family by saying, "They could not have known of the young man’s condition because he had gone into a far country" (vs. 13). It is true that this son wanted to be out from under the control and influence of his father and, therefore chose to be where he felt he was beyond his father's reach. You may recall, however, that the older brother knew exactly where the younger brother had been and the sinful activity in which he had engaged (vs. 30).  More important, the father in this story represents God who is all knowing. Because of this, we must also understand that the father (representing our Heavenly Father) was aware of his son's location and circumstances, but chose to let him suffer the consequences of his sinful decisions. He longed for his son’s return home, but he did not try to force him or lure him home. The father knew the son would not desire to live at home under his rules of conduct until the young man "came to himself."     Do you think the son would have wanted to return home if his father had helped him to be physically comfortable in his sin? Of course not! The son was enjoying the blessings that were available at home at the time he made the decision to leave.

He also knew those blessings remained available to anyone his father accepted. It was not until the prodigal son "came to himself" (vs. 17), (repented and displayed godly sorrow, 2 Cor. 7:10), that the blessings available from his father were desired by him.     Helping those who choose to live in sin to be physically comfortable in their sinful state will not cause obedience to God to become more desirable in their eyes. Those who have experienced the blessings bestowed upon God’s faithful children, and still choose to live a life of rebellion, cannot be "niced" back home. Until they experience the consequences of their decisions, coming home to live by God’s commandments will not be attractive to the ones choosing to live in darkness.     How many friends and family members have aided those living in the far country by claiming they are only expressing love and "keeping the door of communication open?" To those who choose this avenue I ask: "How has that worked out for you?" Is your loved one any closer to repenting now (because of your fellowship and support) than they were the day they chose a life of sin? How many weeks, months, or years have passed? Is your situation the exception to our Lord’s rule? God promises to assist those who put Him first (Mat. 6:33). Do you love your child more than God loves His? Are we not to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1)?     Withholding physical assistance to a loved one in need is a very emotional circumstance which makes obedience to God’s instruction difficult for the spiritually immature. But let us remember that God's way is always best even if it disturbs our emotions (Isa. 55:8). Many who have loved ones living in the “far country” refuse to imitate God and, therefore, enable the lost one to continue in sin. Sadly, most of those in the far country will remain there. Why come home when the comforts of home are being supplied by those who live at home?     How desperate is your loved one to return home? What will you make available to them when they return that they are not receiving from you presently? "And no one gave him anything."

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