Does society owe us a living?
II Thessalonians 3:6-12 says, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh DISORDERLY, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves DISORDERLY among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. 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 WHICH 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.”
You will notice from the above passage, that it stresses that a Christian is not to walk “disorderly.” And one example given of walking disorderly is a man who will not work. The Bible reveals to us that it is a very serious sin for a man not to support his family. I Timothy 5:8 says, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” An “infidel” is “one who is not a Christian, or who opposes Christianity” (Merriam Webster’s Dictionary). An infidel is a lost person. The Bible says that a Christian man who will not support his family is denying the very faith that he says that he believes by the way that he is living.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam was told because of his sin, “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 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” (Genesis 3:17-19). Adam would have to work hard just for something to eat. Eve would have labor and travail in child-bearing, and Adam would have labor and travail in working to supply the needs of his family.
Notice carefully what God did to feed the children of Israel when they were out in the desert traveling toward the Promised Land. Exodus 16:12-26 says, “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God. And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay A SMALL ROUND THING, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat. This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. And Moses said, LET NO MAN LEAVE IF IT TILL THE MORNING. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and WHEN THE SUN WAXED HOT, IT MELTED. And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.
Notice several things about the manna. First, it was small. God did not drop loaves of bread out of the sky for His people. Neither did He make it automatically appear on their tables each morning. Instead, God sent a small thing for them to collect each morning. They had to collect it, and then prepare and bake it themselves. Numbers 11:7,8 says, “And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium. And the people went about, and GATHERED IT, and GROUND IT in mills, or BEAT IT in a mortar, and BAKED IT in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.” The Lord knew that if His people were handed their food for very long with no labor on their own part, they would never be willing to work again. They would be lazy and expect to be fed.
God even planned it so that the children of Israel would not “sleep in” half of the morning before getting out of bed. Notice in the above passage what happened. “And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and WHEN THE SUN WAXED HOT, IT MELTED. If they were lazy and did not get out of bed, they would find that the manna had melted, and they would go hungry that day. If they tried to gather too much for one day, so that they would not have to get up and gather any the next day, they also found that they had a problem! “And Moses said, LET NO MAN LEAVE IF IT TILL THE MORNING. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank…”
God wanted His people to get out of bed in the morning before it got hot outside. He wanted them to get into the routine of working every day, except the Sabbath day. “And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.” God wants His people to work and not to be lazy, but He also wants them to take time to rest and think upon Him. They were to do that on the Sabbath Day, and so He allowed them to gather up enough food for that day on Friday.
But what about the poor today? There is no manna falling from the sky every night for them to get up and go gather. God also expected them to go out and gather their own food. Leviticus 19:9,10 says, “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.” The farmers were told not to gather every grape on the vine and every stalk of grain in the corners of the field, but to leave them for the poor to go out and gather. The food was there, but the poor had to go get it for themselves. If you have ever picked apples, blueberries, strawberries. etc., then you know how slow it is to gather them when someone else has already picked through the trees or vines. It would be hard work to gather food from the gleanings. God wanted it that way, so that they would be encouraged to plant food of their own, and be ambitious and work. Our modern day welfare is a dead-end street that encourages laziness.
What part is the church to play in this matter today? If a poor widow is in the congregation, how is she to be cared for today? First, it is the families’ responsibility to care for her. I Timothy 5:3,4,16 says, “Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.” The church is not to take upon itself the support of any poor widows unless they are at least 60 years old, have a spotless reputation, and have no family to care for them. I Timothy 5:9,10 says, “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.”
Society does not owe people a living. Throughout the Bible, God expects the poor to be ambitious and to work for food and their daily needs.