“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” – Thomas Jefferson
In early March there was a story about a young woman in Detroit, MI that created quite a stir. This person was “struggling” to get by when in the process of her struggles she managed to buy a winning lottery ticket worth $1,000,000. She had been receiving government assistance at the rate of $200 per month. After winning the lottery and purchasing a new home, for which she paid cash, she opted to continue to live on the dole because the government was remiss in discontinuing her assistance. And as she said, times are tough. It bears mentioning that this speaks to the inefficiency of the government in instituting a program it was never authorized by either the Bible or the Constitution to carry out. But what caught my attention was her response after being “caught” in this act and it provides plenty of insight into the state of our nation.
The troubling part of this story is not just the fraud (legal or not) this young woman was committing or the fact that she somehow managed to purchase a lottery ticket when that money could have gone towards the necessities….no, what is really disturbing to me is the envy seen in the statements of the two different people quoted at the end of the story. Because of this woman’s actions they were being deprived of the state support they felt rightfully belonged to them! When did we stop earning our daily bread? Somewhere along the line we have learned to EXPECT something for nothing. While we may be tempted to get angry, we shouldn’t be angry at this young woman BUT at what she has been taught to do. This is the heart of the tragedy that is being lived out in our country and ultimately portends our demise.
We have institutionalized laziness in this country. We encourage it. We subsidize it and worst of all we are teaching the next generation to follow the example of this one. As our President likes to say, “This is unsustainable!” I believe that this, as in many things, is symptomatic of the church’s behavior, i.e. Christians. How many of us as Christians have replaced “firm reliance on Divine Providence” with “I am going to get my fair share?”
The truth is that we have departed from the work ethic that used to define us as a people. What is that ethic? The Apostle Paul sums it up in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12. The concept is simple; if you don’t work you shouldn’t eat! Now this passage is referring to those who are ABLE to work not those who are incapable. That is a blog for another day.
I was once in a job interview when the subject of faith came up. The prospective employer challenged me on the fact that, in his opinion, “Christians don’t make for good employees so why should I hire you?” My response to him was that “the real ones do!” But where do you suppose he got that notion about Christians and the lack of a principled work ethic? Whether they were Christians or not our grandparents outworked us. Why? Hard work has historically been the formula for success in this land of plenty and the impact of the Biblical work ethic permeated our society. The “new” way to success is much easier!
So where do we go from here? I don’t believe, apart from the saving grace of God, that you can make hard workers out of lazy ones BUT you can certainly motivate them. You motivate them by taking away the free ride as the Scripture directs us. If a man has to work in order to eat he will do so rather than starve. It sounds harsh but this is truly what is in the best interest for that man and his family. Paul makes an interesting statement in verse 13 in the above text, “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.” It is a “de-motivator” to watch others prosper in their laziness while we “pay our fair share!”
The answer is not to envy them (Proverbs 23:17) but to hold fast and continue in the things we have learned (2 Tim 3:14). The church and specifically Christians MUST uphold the Biblical principle of labor…by living them every day. So what are the Biblical principles of labor?
- God sanctified the principle of labor and endorsed work both before and after the fall. Gen 2:15, Ex 20:8-9, Psalm 104:22-24
- God blesses that which He endorses. Duet 28:11-12, 30:9, Ps 90:16-17
- God opposes laziness. Proverbs 18:9, Proverbs 21:25-26, Romans 12:11
- We are to work while we can. Eccl 9:10
- The principle of labor is magnified in the life of Christ. John 4:34, John 17:4
- Our work should always be with an eye towards the eternal. No work that is set before us is too menial or without spiritual consequence. 1 Cor 15:58, Col 1:9-10,
- We are to work to support ourselves and help those in GENUINE need starting with our immediate families and going from there. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, I Tim 5:3-8
- We are not to steal another’s bread. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
What else can we do? We can, by the grace of God, search every area of our lives to root out laziness in our God given responsibilities. Let’s demonstrate a principled work ethic by being the kind of workers we ought to be as employees (or employers), parents, husbands or wives, children, pastors, teachers or whatever it is that God has given us to do. This is the example our country and our world needs to see. (DBL)