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What would real compassion for the poor look like?
Edited from notes written by Joel Hilliker in THE MARCH 2015 TRUMPET PRINT EDITION
Compassion for the poor is a driving political issue. Politicians count on winning votes by appealing to voters’ desire to end poverty—their own or that of others. And who could disagree with that?
Governments have enacted enormous welfare programs to try to feed, clothe, shelter, educate and transport their citizens and even to put cell phones in their hands. In the United States, for example, the welfare state has grown to consume nearly a third of the government’s annual budget. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson launched a massive spending program to eradicate poverty in the world’s richest nation. But the program didn’t defeat poverty. Instead, it created welfare dependency, laziness, and opportunity for fraud.
The American households in the bottom 20 percent of income tell us how the war on poverty is going. In 1960, nearly two-thirds of these heads of households worked. But by 1991, only one-third of them worked, and only 11 percent worked full-time, year-round. (These are year 2015 figures.)
This helps explain why millions of Americans are still living below the poverty line. It also explains why in many big cities, close to 80% of babies are born to “single mothers.”
What did it cost to reduce the poverty rate by 5.5 percent in the U.S. up until year 2015? The U.S. spends about $1 trillion a year on close to 200 federal and state welfare programs. Based on Census Bureau data, that amounts to $16,800 per person in poverty or over $50,000 for a family of three. In other words, America spends enough in cash to buy every poor person out of poverty! Only today, a family cannot manage on less than $20,000/year and they struggle with buying enough healthy food to stay comfortable. This is a pattern destined to “end badly.”
Openly taking cash from hard-working people and handing it to their neighbors would only create a cycle of dependence and laziness. Modern welfare programs are basically one step removed from that—while adding a few layers of well-paid government bureaucracy and administration. Even non-government-sponsored welfare programs such as Christian charities can feed this cycle of dependency. Though the generosity is admirable, programs and charities that focus only on the effects are feeding the very problem they’re trying to eliminate.
The U.S. is far from being alone in its misguided welfare system. The United Kingdom spends 23 percent of its budget on welfare. On average, the European Union spends a third of its GDP on welfare. The results? The EU poverty rate is 16.4 percent, slightly higher than the rate in the U.S.
So what kind of welfare program would work for solving poverty? What kind of program actually helps people without encouraging laziness and dependency? What kind of program addresses the causes of poverty? What kind of program can win the war on poverty? God wrote such a program long ago, but governments have ignored His advice.
God has tremendous compassion for the poor. He created a detailed and complete welfare system to help those who are needy. It doesn’t just get you through the month, it gets you back on your feet, back into work, back into productivity and back into an honorable and respectable role in society. He revealed this system when He directly governed the ancient nation of Israel, and its wisdom still holds true today.
God’s welfare laws contrast starkly against those used by our various national governments. Most today ignore His laws; many claim them to be unjust, primitive and harsh. But an honest and deeper look shows otherwise. This system reveals fundamental flaws in how human beings concoct welfare apart from God’s perfect wisdom. God’s welfare program is workable and sustainable. It is designed t eventually have no poor people and everyone working for his/her living.
If You Want to Eat …
Today’s welfare recipients get checks and subsidies in their mailboxes. But God’s welfare program encourages the poor to work. The Apostle Paul wrote that “if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). This principle is demonstrated in God’s instruction to a poor person on how to attain what he needs.
Read God’s command in Deuteronomy 23:24-25. God’s law stipulates that a needy individual is legally permitted to eat his fill in any of his neighbor’s vineyards or fields. He can’t harvest anything to take home, but he can eat enough to fill his empty belly. This provided for Israel’s poor—without any government subsidies or welfare programs.
This principle constantly reminded those of means to keep the poor in mind. God told property-owning Israelites to leave the corners of the field alone; to leave the ears that fell to the ground while reaping; to leave the imperfect fruits or clusters. These were for the poor and the foreigners who couldn’t possess land in Israel. Thus, every time the Israelites reaped their fields, they had to remember their responsibility to the poor (Leviticus 19:9-10).
God doesn’t command that we set up soup kitchens, give handouts or issue unemployment checks. He commands the poor to get out and work. If you want a meal, you are welcome to it—but you have to go into the field and pick it yourself. And of course, if a man showed he was able-bodied enough to do that he might be offered honest work for an honest day’s wage, and that is one way poor people get back to work.
My own experience when I was young and a bit desperate to work was to take any job I could find and that led one day to an offer for better employment. You’ll notice the attitude I held. I was not going to remain unemployed. I wanted to work, to be useful in the community, and to get a regular paycheque every week! A society that rewards boys for doing nothing is paying them to please girls in bed and play video games. In other words, they are rewarded for being useless “pets” who are “owned” by the government. This, by age 25 will likely lead to a lifetime of welfare payments, or, if the economy crashes, masses of “pets” whose future could be extremely grave, indeed!
Modern welfare laws break God’s law – which is in effect turning everyone into a criminal! They take the responsibility away from the neighbor and place it on a vote-hungry government that uses taxation and debt to add more and more people to the government “dole.” These policies encourage laziness, welfare dependency and various types of crimes.
Of course, this is exactly what the Socialists want. They want everyone dependent upon the government, to be “wards of the state,” or “slaves” of the government. This develops a Socialist country which eventually becomes a Fascist or Communist country with a population entirely enslaved.
Paying for Immorality
Common sense says you get what you pay for. Psychologists say, “You get what you reward.” If you subsidize law-breaking, you will end up with more law-breaking. Man’s welfare legislation falls into this trap by rewarding the poor for breaking God’s other laws—on sexual morality, for example. Young men fornicate and procreate without taking responsibility for providing for, loving or even knowing their children. Young women are now financially motivated to bear illegitimate children because they know the state will send checks to take care of them. Unsurprisingly, single mothers are among the biggest recipients of welfare. Many women who are at this point the 3rd and 4th generation on welfare, have several children by different fathers, solely because the benefits they get from the government allow them an income greater than they can earn doing work outside their home.
Of course the welfare agents saw this coming. For a short time my own sister’s husband was a welfare agent, (until he was invited to become a police detective in Long Islands, Nassau County.) He told me plainly around year 1960 that the welfare system was bankrupting Nassau County. He also told me if I would go to work for the government I would never work a full 40-hour week, I could “save” sick days and vacation days that I did not use and then at my option take a 3-month paid vacation! You can see these sorts of “union benefits” provide more than what is fair (if compared to other workers). But, in the other hand, it forces taxes higher and hurts everyone, particularly the poorest people.
[Elderly poor often starve and freeze to death nowadays. No one hears about that on TV news. Young impoverished people find a way to be warmer. They burn portions of their cities to the ground as a “protest.”
There’s nothing quite so comforting as warming up beside a burning building. Of course, the fire department is a bit of an impedance, but one can always throw rocks at firemen preventing them from their work, thereby allowing one to continue to be warmed.]
Economist Harry Browne explained that New York City had laws requiring people to have “standard” quality housing. If they could prove their housing was “sub-standard” the government welfare system was required to move them. Buildings were slowly destroyed by hoodlums who tore out pipes, floor tiles, anything they could resell for cash with which to buy drugs. When the building was finally sub-standard the city was required to move the occupants. Some buildings were set ablaze by these gang members because they knew when the building was ashes the city would support them into better housing. All of this contributed to the ruination of city and county budgets.
Anything that breaks the cohesion of the family increases welfare dependency. Forms of unmarried “sex-play,” no-fault divorce, single motherhood—this law-breaking, carousing, and “generally sinful behavior” is a form of social and financial suicide! It creates more needy people and a need for more welfare agency workers. This leads to more crime, more drug addicted, more horrendous child abuse (too ugly to discuss here, please understand.) Often such behavior simply leads to more poverty, more sexually transmitted and otherwise transmitted diseases. Again, the state welfare system pays for the healthcare expenses more health-care workers – and no one asks, “Where’s the money coming from?”
Actually ONCE the late New York Governor Cuomo did ask his congress, — “How are you going to pay for it?” We’re still waiting for a viable answer.
Simply avoiding what I call “generally sinful behavior,” that is to say, keeping God’s moral law, which forbids this type of behavior, drastically decreases the amount of welfare needed in the first place. Maintaining the guidelines of God’s economic and welfare laws also forces dishonest people to stay honest.
The lack of honesty has caused the development of a new term; “The Deep State.” The Deep State is masses of government workers who make their living in some sort of government administration, much of it actually quite unnecessary and very costly. Those people, like most of us, have a home, a family, future financial plans, and will do what they must (and vote as they must) to maintain their career and the benefits it provides.
They’ll find a way to justify their Socialism and dependence upon their government job, however useless it may be. I’m not saying that any one person, including perhaps you, my friend, are evil. I’m saying the entire system is flawed. Of course if YOU left your Deep State job for moral reasons the job wouldn’t stop. Someone else would be hired to fill your chair.
The system is flawed from the Federal Government at Capitol Hill all the way down to the smallest regulation stickler writing voluminous reports about the size and chemical contents of peeling paint chips somewhere. He knows his job is mostly unnecessary – but it pays his bills so he’s going to vote to keep it! That is a major reason why today there IS NO American Middle Class. The money you should have to be more comfortable than your parents were, has ever more reduced buying power. Prices for everything are rising. Your paycheque is not rising commensurately. Your dollar buys less. You finally realize you cannot afford to live without rising credit card debt and how you’ll survive after age 67 is anyone’s guess!
The young man who once told me, “Politics will never affect me” is going to be eaten alive by those politics! In fact, that young man 3-months later suffered when college loan laws changed and told me he was leaving Chiropractic college because there would be no more college loan for him. That made one less good doctor in the world. Politics certainly affected him – as it also affects you!
Along the way of all this, some government workers are dishonest or get special perks that seem to be a bit more than they deserve. We don’t need more regulations and more state workers. We need to help those in need in such a way as to allow them to provide a service that benefits their community and enjoy the emotional reward of knowing they have dignity because they do something that benefits the rest of the people around them.
Helping Those in Need
Debt is often what makes poverty absolutely crushing. Here is God’s simple solution to this problem: zero-interest loans. “If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury” (Exodus 22:25).
In man’s system, debt is big business. Banks give loans primarily to benefit the bank. They really are NOT loans. They are an investment. The bank never loans unless the bank is certain they’ll be repaid. They only bet on a sure thing. If you can prove that your business has so much cash that you don’t need a loan, then they’ll loan you money. That is why some Christian run businesses have never taken a loan and are more stable and profitable than those that join the banking system.
In God’s system, loans exist to benefit the poor. No one makes money from someone else’s debt. Loans are a form of welfare. God wants people to lend to the needy not to profit from them, but to help them.
Money should be put to work to make more money, but loaning at interest is not a good way to do it. My view is, opening more small businesses or business branches that employ more people and provide the business owner with a reasonable additional profit is the best way to approach the handling of money.
In God’s system, you cannot earn interest on money you are not using. So you might as well use that extra money to give out small, interest-free loans to those in need. “A culture which has interest-bearing loans encourages a selfish spirit and encourages the hoarding of money where we can make more money from interest. … [A] culture which has zero-interest loans encourages generosity to the poor and a giving spirit” (David James King, Creating a Nation Under God).
On the other hand, you should know, the banking system we have now was originated in the ancient Babylonian temples to Ba’al. The temple prostitutes collected a donation for their service, which was intended to cleanse the man of his guilt about his sins. If she got pregnant the pregnancy was dedicated to Ba’al and the baby was sacrificed, (burned to death on the altar) to Ba’al.
The temples originated the “fractional banking system.” Today American banks loan out well more than 12 times the money they have on hand. The Federal Reserve (which is not a reserve and is not owned by the U.S. Federal Government) supports this practice. All of it is designed to put everyone to work repaying loans. Everyone with a home or business loan is actually working for the bank! They are working to make the bank more profit.
God’s welfare system also includes a safety net to help those who have fallen into poverty get back on their feet. The law in Leviticus 25:35-38 says that if a brother or even a stranger or sojourner “becomes poor, and falls into poverty,” then he should be relieved, maintained and strengthened (New King James Version). The law gives two ways to do so: First is the no-interest loan; second is the provision that the poor can buy food “at cost.” God’s law forbids making a profit from selling food to the poor. These laws do much to put a poor person on the road to quick recovery.
In God’s system, children—not the government or a welfare program—are responsible for caring for their aging parents. Read, for example, the Apostle Paul’s discussion about widows in 1 Timothy 5:1-16. A woman’s family members—not the church or the government—are responsible before God to provide for her. “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (verse 8; Revised Standard Version). Widows without family support are given extra legal protection if they need to borrow money. God commanded His nation to give special attention to the widow and forbade people from taking advantage of her (e.g. Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 24:17; 27:19) because in those days women generally stayed home to care for children and a husband lost was the family income lost! A wife suddenly widowed was immediately thrown into poverty.
This casts a different light (doesn’t it?) upon the idea of a woman seeing her husband join an army to go on patrol for perhaps years! Why might she be unfaithful while he was away? One reason might be because she feared he was dead and there was no communication system to tell her so! When he went to war she was on her own to till the ground and manage as best she could. Why then did Rome have so many prostitutes near the end of that empire’s history? Probably because so many young men had been drafted into the military leaving young women alone, lonely, and scared out of their wits! Government, as usual, meddles in natural market forces and solves its own problems yet creating several other problems as it does so.
What would happen if we kept God’s welfare laws? Look at God’s promise to the landowner who follows His command in Deuteronomy 24:19: “When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands.”
We tend to think that the more we retain for ourselves, the more we’ll have. But God says it is always more blessed to give than to receive. If you live the way of giving, you’re setting a spiritual dynamic in motion that will produce more blessings and prosperity. As Solomon wrote, “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack” and that the “liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself” (Proverbs 28:27; 11:25).
Here is the real reason God gave for all these acts of generosity and benevolence. It is in Deuteronomy 24:22. This law aims to build compassion in us. God told Israel to remember the agonies of their captivity—so they would have compassion toward those who remain in captivity. God wants us to remember our own trials so we have more empathy for others in travail.
These commands show that it is wrong to spend every last cent we earn on ourselves. God wants us to think about the poor. Christ said the poor would always be among us, and would need help. Keeping these laws helps our society in three ways:
1) It teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We must not overlook the person who is in want, or say, Too bad for them, or, I’ll leave their care to the federal government. We are obligated to treat them the way we would want to be treated if we fell on hard times.
2) It keeps the burden of welfare off the state. Notice that none of these welfare laws involve the government. They help the poor without requiring a single penny in taxes for a federal program. It keeps government small and requires a morally upright society to see to charity.
3) It binds the nation closer together. In God’s system, welfare doesn’t funnel through a faceless bureaucracy. God’s way forms bonds between the people who give the charity and those who receive it. This benefits both parties. Often the wealthy elderly might give to help the younger people who will, in turn, do what they can to help the older person in his/her time of special need.
Think about all of these specific, practical ways God laid down for His nation to care for the poor in its midst. This is a welfare program that works! These laws alone do not eliminate all poverty, but they eliminate much of it, along with the worst of its oppressive nature. They prevent the poor from being ignored by the community.
Nowadays, if someone stops to help a homeless man it turns into a news item or a YouTube video. At the time Jesus walked among men and women the “news story” would have been about someone rich ignoring the needs of a man beaten and left for dead along the side of the road! God would not bless the rich man. He would bless the “untouchable” Samaritan who rescued the beaten man and remember him in a sermon that remains with us to this day. The good Samaritan set an example for us all forever. The world doesn’t know this. I am constantly berated by one of my “friends” of “the world” who says I give too much to help others. But I see it as doing God’s work and eventually, the people I help will help me. Meantime, yes sometimes I struggle a little but I bless the Lord for what I have and I don’t go hungry, and I’m seldom sickly or in want of anything. I am not living the high life, but I am content and thankful for the simple life I enjoy presently.
Also, consider that the government had absolutely no part in any of those laws. In God’s system, the community cares for their poor! That creates a much healthier communal attitude benefitting the less fortunate, the local populace, and the government!
Thankfully, this is a system you will have the opportunity to see implemented! God promises to reestablish His government and laws on Earth—not just within a single nation, but worldwide. The resulting civilization that is built on His moral, religious, civil and even economic laws will be blessed and prosperous—and will ultimately win the war on poverty!
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