November 15

2 Thessalonians 3:6-9

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” vs. 10

This verse is familiar to folks who are generally unfamiliar with the scriptures. We’ve heard it many times in a variety of contexts. Most often it’s used to buttress the belief that welfare recipients should work in exchange for their benefits. It’s not unusual for people in our country to believe that millions are taking advantage of the welfare system to receive money and services that they do not deserve. In some instances this is undoubtedly true–people are enormously inventive in coming up with clever scams of every kind. But it’s equally true that millions of people are unable to work for a whole variety of reasons and have enormous physical and economic needs. And the bible is very clear in saying that the nation has a responsibility to care for the poor and needy. It’s a shame then that this one verse, the only one of its kind in all of scripture, is used to cast all welfare recipients in a bad light. Paul’s words reflect conditions in one congregation at one particular point in history, a moment when many were expecting the imminent return of Jesus. They should not be used as a pretense for withholding funds from people in desperate need of assistance. Obviously where people are scamming the system there’s a problem to be addressed, but it’s not an excuse to turn our backs on the poor.

Thought for the Day: How do people scam welfare?

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