OceanSide church of Christ
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GOD’S WILL: WORK OR WELFARE?
Victor M. Eskew
Christians are individuals who hold the Word of God in high esteem. They realize that the words found in the Bible are words that originated first in the mind of God (I Cor. 2:9-13). They also understand that God’s Word has been given to direct man in every aspect of life (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:3). Christians know that they are to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (Jam. 1:22-25). They are also fully cognizant that God’s Word will judge them in the last day (John 12:48).
It is the Christian’s relationship to the Word of God that often causes him to be troubled when he looks at the environment in which he lives. He sees so much of the world in complete rebellion to the will of God. Over the last 50 years, one area of rebellion involves physical labor, that is, work.
God authorized work for man from the very beginning of time. “And the Lord God took the man, and put him in the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Gen. 3:15). Dressing and keeping a garden involves effort and labor. Adam’s hands were to stay busy during the daylight hours.
When man sinned against God, his labors were made more strenuous. The ground was cursed. It began to produce thorns and thistles. Man’s labor would now involve the sweat of his face. “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat of the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:17-19).
When we turn to the New Testament, we learn that God expects man to work. In I Thessalonians 3:11, Paul exhorted the Thessalonians, saying: “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.” A similar admonition is given to this same group of Christians in II Thessalonians 3:10-12. “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.”
This writer grew up in a family wherein both parents worked. My mom worked a 40-hour work week. My dad also worked a 40-hour work week. There were also times when dad took a part-time job in order to support the family. At the age of 14 or 15, this author began to work by cutting grass for some extra money. At the age of 16, I took a job in a grocery store as a sacker. Since that time, there has not been a time when I did not work. On one occasion, I had a full-time job, a part-time job, and preached every Sunday at a small church 3-1/2 hours from the house.
Forty or fifty years ago, the work ethic of my family was manifested in almost every home across the United States. Hardly anyone would go on unemployment. It was a shame and a disgrace for individuals to rely upon others for their daily sustenance.
Things, however, have changed in our nation. A recent headline in the news, read: “People on Welfare Exceed the Number of People with Jobs in 11 States.” In this article, Micheal Snyder set forth this statistic: “In 11 different U.S. states today, the number of people on welfare exceeds the number of people with jobs. This list of states includes some of the biggest in the country: California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Maine, Kentucky, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, New Mexico, and Hawaii….In California, there are 139 ‘takers’ for every 100 workers.”
This fact should deeply trouble every child of God for a number of reasons. First, many in our nation are in violation of God’s will. They are not working, but they are eating. Here, we need to quickly point out that we are not talking about those who are legitimately receiving Social Security. These individuals are only collecting that which they have paid in over the years that they were working. Second, sin has a tendency to abound if it is not stopped. When sin raised its head in the church at Corinth, Paul warned: “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (I Cor. 5:6). As more and more refuse to work, others who are working will be influenced not to work. They will ask: “If others are eating without working, why can’t I?” Slowly the welfare state will grow larger and larger. More and more healthy men and women will engage in the sins of laziness and sloth. Third, those who are not working are being supported by someone. The ones supporting them are the hardworking men and women of our nation. As the scales continue to tip in favor of welfare over work, the more assistance it will take to support the “takers.” Dear readers, the workers only have so much to give. Eventually, there will be no more that can be given. What will happen then?
The Son of God taught that “the labourer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:17). The laborer is the one that should receive money. The laborer is the one who should be rewarded. It should NOT be the other way around!
Numerous examples of diligent workers are listed in the Bible: Jesus was a carpenter (Mark 6:3); Peter, James, and John were fishermen (Luke 5:1-10); Simon was a tanner (Acts 9:43); Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla were tentmakers (Acts 18:1-2); and Lydia was a seller of purple (Acts 16:14). God wanted us to realize that work is something that is honorable. It is not beneath even the Son of God to engage in legitimate labor.
Our nation needs to pick up God’s Word again and study it. We need to apply its principles to all aspects of life. If we were to do this, we would definitely become a nation of workers again and not welfare recipients. Christians, let the reform begin with us! Let’s always give serious heed to God’s will concerning work. Perhaps all would do well to memorize the words of the wise Solomon. “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase” (Prov. 13:11).