Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Neither Should He Eat"

"Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away" (Matthew 5:42).

Taken by themselves, our Lord's words concerning our generosity would seem to mandate a universal practice of benevolence that asks no questions, and makes no qualifications regarding the believer's giving to the needy.

This is not the case, however. First, no declaration or passage of Scripture is to be taken by itself. "Whom shall He teach knowledge? And whom shall He make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little" (Isaiah 28:9-10). Even the words of the Lord Jesus Christ must be interpreted in accordance with the entirety of Scripture. We cannot understand any specific truth of Scripture without other Scripture to provide clarity and completeness of meaning.

This pointedly applies to the issue of the believer's giving, and to the personal responsibility required by both benefactor and recipient.

"For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat" (II Thessalonians 3:10).

The Apostle Paul reveals to us that our beneficence is to be exercised with reason, caution, and the understanding that we do no one any favors by rewarding irresponsibility. The human heart was made for stewardship. We are called to the personal application whereby our receiving of supply flows naturally from devoting ourselves to works that glorify God and benefit others. Our original forefather Adam was given all that he needed in the Garden, but he was also called to responsibly apply his blessings by being the caretaker of the Garden (Genesis 2:15). We are all called in some manner to the same receiving of God's good gifts, and the responsible use of them for good purposes.

The consecrated believer will always seek to help those who cannot help themselves, with whatever means God has supplied. However, we are not to provide for those who are not willing to apply themselves to the personal responsibility that is at the heart of the Christian Gospel. We seek first and foremost to ourselves walk accordingly. But we also seek to promote personal responsibility in others, and the nature and practice of our charity must reflect this calling. Indeed, to fill the bellies of those who will not use able hands is deceiving and gravely damaging to their hearts. And such an unwise practice sends forth a false and deceptive message concerning what the Bible actually teaches, and what Christians actually believe.

"Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you."
(II Thessalonians 3:8)

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