Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Something to Share With Those In Need

The command to work is one of the Creation Ordinances, given to Adam before the Fall. The Lord said, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1.28) It is a command to all people of all times. Throughout Scripture, the fruit of a man's labor is repeatedly credited as a blessing from the Lord. "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain." (Psalm 127.1) John the Baptist knew that "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven." (John 3. 27)

Because of the Fall, God placed a curse on all Creation. Evidence of the effect of the fall on our Labor is obvious to the farmer, homemaker, artist, CFO, etc. No one disputes God's declaration that thorns and thistles, sweat and pain will accompany our work until we die. "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, til you return to ground," (Genesis 3.19) are some of God's exact words to Adam.

Yet despite the curse--thorns, sweat, pain and all--there is incentive to work. There is great incentive even to work hard. Proverbs is full of admonishment/warnings relating to work. The good worker described in this book of wisdom is he who plans, is diligent, cautious, ambitious, etc. It is not a guarantee that one's work will be met with plentiful physical return, but one is not a fool to expect it. Understanding that it is the Lord who grants (and therefore also withholds) all things, our Savior declared that it is just a right for a workman to receive wages that are fitting to his efforts (Matthew 10:10, Luke 10:7).

There are at least three reasons we are to work. Simply stated, one is to provide for our own physical needs. The second is to provide for the physical needs of our family. These are reasons that do not need to be expounded upon, for even pagans do them (1 Timothy 5.8). A third reason we are to work is so that we will be better able to share with others. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, taught those in the Ephesian church to "do honest work with [their] own hands, so that [they] may have something to share with those in need." (Ephesians 4.28) This aspect is one to be expanded upon for the purposes of this essay.

Who are "those in need" and what am I to share with them? How am I to share with them? There are myriad examples listed in Scripture of men/women/groups in need, and almost just as many examples of how their needs were met. A sample is below.

- In Luke 10 we read how the Good Samaritan provided for an the critical needs an enemy. He acted out of love toward a victim and was not coerced.
- The Israelite people were commanded to not reap their fields right to the edge, nor to glean what was left in the field after harvest. This was a way to provide for the poor and sojourner (Leviticus 19.9, 10)
- The Gentile churches took up an offering for the Jerusalem church, which was in poverty.
- In Matthew 5.4 (and Luke 6.30), Jesus commanded his disciples to "give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."
- It is clear that it was the practice of the early church to care for widows. The office of Deacon was established primarily to care for the physical needs of the church of Jesus Christ.

I solicit the help of the reader to provide an instance in Scripture where a government was charged with the responsibility of caring for the poor, the widow, the orphan, or the sick (teaching the children is another topic for another day). The wisdom and foresight that the Lord gave Joseph helped the nation of Egypt to feed the "whole earth" (Genesis 41.56, 57), but at a price. It is presumed the nation of Egypt made obscene profits as a sole result of the leadership and shrewdness of a righteous man (it is also interesting to note that the line of the Messiah was preserved at the same time).

Is caring for those in need not clearly the responsibility of the family primarily, and believers secondarily? If the needs of the poor, widow, orphan, or sick are not being met by these two people groups, does the government even have a say?

There are many in this nation who are clamoring for the US government to take over the existing system by which the sick (and well) are cared for. If legislation is passed which dictates how much of the wages of which I am worthy are to be used to fund the medical care of my countrymen, I will be forced to pay it. We as believers are commanded to "be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." (Romans 13.1) The government to which the Roman church was subject happened to burn Christians as human torches. If I must pay taxes to fund a socialized system of health care, I concede that there are far more difficult acts of submission. Furthermore, Jesus commanded the Jews of His day to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar, and to God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 20--listed three times, perhaps so as to quell any objection!)

My desire, simply stated, is for the US government to

1) Leave decisions regarding the payment for health care for
in the hands of individual citizens,
2) Leave decisions regarding the
amount of health care received in the hands of individual citizens,
3) Provide greater incentive for private citizens (both believers and pagans), to provide health care for those who cannot afford what is necessary for life,
4) Clean up a judicial system where frivolous lawsuits abound,
5) Stay out of the steroid issues in Major League Baseball (sorry, unrelated)

In short, I wish for Caesar to only ask for what is Caesar's, and to stay out of realms where God has not charged them with responsibility or authority.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Welcome Home, Dadda!

What cares and troubles of a work day can withstand the melting power of this smile?