It's Time for More Bible and Less Welfare
Government has considered and tried many plans for dealing with poverty in the United States, from all different points of view-welfare, workfare, charities, economic interference, and the like. There is one method, however, which has fallen out of popularity in this age. This is the biblical method.
What God says about the poor
The Christian, or biblical, view of poverty is liberal in some respects and conservative in others. For example, Paul gives this rule to the early church: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10). At the same time, the leaders of the church placed great importance on providing food for the poor, and James says that pure and faultless religion is to "look after orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27). While the early church cared for the poor as a community, pooling together their resources and assigning deacons to oversee the distribution of food to the poor (Acts 6:1-6), in the Old Testament the welfare of the poor was not the responsibility of the church or any form of government, but of individuals: "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land" (Deuteronomy 15:11). Paul's rule, if a man will not work he shall not eat, is balanced by the God-given rights of the poor (Psalm 82:3). Proverbs indicates that poverty is often the result of laziness or foolishness (Proverbs 6:10-11, 10:4), yet makes it clear that the happiest people may be poor through no fault of their own (Proverbs 13:7, 15:17, 19:1). Proverbs also declares it a virtue to help the poor: "He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord" (Proverbs 19:17). Leviticus makes it a commandment: "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien" (Leviticus 19:9-10). In ancient Israel, those who couldn't afford to buy food could go into the fields and vineyards, follow behind the harvesters, and glean the excess from the fields or vines. In this way, individual Hebrews provided for their less fortunate neighbors.
It seems at first glance that many of the Bible's statements on poverty contradict themselves. Are those not working not entitled to assistance, or do all the poor have rights which we must protect? Is poverty the result of individual choices, or is it a situation in which the individual has no choice? Should government, whether church government or state government, care for the poor, or is that the job only of individuals? In fact, none of these statements are contradictory, because poverty is an issue with a wide range of questions, and the Bible addresses many of those questions in the statements above. All the ...