Thursday, March 29, 2018

Caring for the Poor

The New Testament teaches Christians to care for the poor. People who understand this requirement have been drawn to support governments that introduce welfare programs. This approach to poverty has been a huge mistake.

Government welfare programs have to be operated by a bureaucracy. Bureaucracies have to be rule-driven organisations to ensure that funding is controlled. The bureaucrats who administer welfare programs have to apply the rules in an even-handed way. These rules leave no room for love, and very little scope for flexibility to deal with individual circumstances.

When it is your job to care for the poor, it is almost impossible not to become hard and harsh with people who have continually messed up. What love the bureaucrat had when they started tends to get overwhelmed and numbed by the hardship and suffering they deal with.

Without love, welfare is demeaning. Recipients lose their faith and self-respect. The consequence is that many recipients of government welfare get locked into poverty.

Handing responsibility for caring for the poor to the state has been a huge mistake by the Church. The justification was that the problem was too big for the church, so they wanted to marshal the greater resources of the state to the task. This is an illusion, because the state has made the problem worse, so even more resources are needed.

Christians should be more effective in dealing with poor than governments. Love is essential for the task, and we should be experts on love. The Holy Spirit gives Christians the strength to keep on loving in the face of persistent hardship and despair.

Escape from poverty often needs a change of heart and mind. The Holy Spirit is an expert on changes of heart, so people who can bring him to the task have a huge advantage.

Taking care of the problem of poverty would be a huge responsibility, but a great opportunity for the gospel. It would need massive resources, but Christians own a huge amount of unrighteous wealth that could be used for this challenge.

This article is not a justification for voting against welfare programs. You can’t replace something with nothing. Taking state welfare away before we have established something better would be cruel.

Rather if Christians got serous about caring for their neighbours who are poor (1 John 3:16-17) and once that was done, moving into poor neighbourhoods where there are no Christians, poverty would gradually disappear.

The need for state welfare programs would shrink and they would gradually disappear. Welfare budgets could be cut, because they would not be needed.

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