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Early church leaders had a passion for generosity. They learned it from the Apostles who learned it from Jesus. Acts chapter 15, recognizes almsgiving as an essential part of living faith. Paul’s principle reason for his last return to Jerusalem was to deliver money the Gentile churches had collected for impoverished Jewish believers.
The early church’s proclivity for almsgiving was widely known and applauded. Its inclination to help the needy, however, soon led to abuse of church charity. Where there was no need to work lazy people stopped working. It is for that reason Paul instructed the church at Thessalonica, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” He says such slackers are to, “…work in quietness and eat their own bread.” They were not to freely eat someone else’s bread when it was in their power to work and earn their own bread. Practical observation and godly judgment will discern the different between need and greed.
Civil governments ought to take note of the biblical “work to eat” principle. Modern government does the every opposite. Laziness is often rewarded. For example, the Cato Institute recently reported that public assistance in 33 states pays more than a minimum wage job. Welfare in North Carolina pays the equivalent of $12.38 an hour. Hawaii and the District of Columbia pay $29.13 and $24.43 respectively. Many people on welfare truly need help. Many others are simply receiving a salary for slothfulness. They are eating someone else’s bread for free. Working people resent supporting such lucrative laziness. Biblically administered charity increases desire in most people to support it.
Failure to follow biblical principles of charity doesn’t lessen the occurrence of poverty it increases the number of people claiming to need assistance. The rate of so-called poverty in America has not decreased since the White House declared a “War on Poverty” in 1964. We now spend a trillion dollar a year on hundreds of poverty programs. Both laziness and rewarding laziness are sins. Rewarding sin never works for the good of society. Following the Bible does!