The War On Poverty

August 14, 2013

The War On Poverty

            In the war on poverty there are no spent cartridges, no blood shed, no broken bodies, but still there is defeat.  We go on investing time, money, and man power in the war without seeing a decrease in the number on welfare rolls.  Some people, who are possessed of a sound mind, are beginning to ask if we should stay in a war we can’t win.  It appears as though we are in a no win situation.  What we are doing isn’t working.

What do we hope to accomplish by the war on poverty?    It would be foolish to go to war with no intentions of winning.  What constitutes victory in this war?  Is the goal just to help poor people by giving them money? We need to define our goals.  Before doing that, let’s take a serious and honest look at the damage that is being done by the war on poverty.  When we talk about the war on poverty we are also talking about the welfare system.

The welfare system is robbing people of initiative.   Both the rich and the poor are hurt by it. The poor are being robbed of taking the initiative to provide for their own needs.  It enables many to continue living an indolent or sinful lifestyle.  The rich are robbed of the initiative to be caring and giving.  They see the poor and say to themselves, “Why should I help them with my hard earned money?  Indirectly I am helping them by the taxes I’m paying.”

In the long run, we aren’t really helping people just by indiscriminately sustaining them

with a monthly welfare check.  We are making them to be what the Bible calls “slothful.” “The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour” (Proverbs 21:25).  In the New Testament we read, “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” (II Thessalonians 3:10-11). Obviously, it’s easier to just give money to a poor man.  That’s the lazy man’s way of helping others be lazy.  To win this war we need to dismiss the army of bureaucrats who are administering welfare programs and replace them with an army of caring foot soldiers who go out to help poor people get victory over their no win situation.

Shouldn’t our goal be that of helping people get out of the low income bracket?  We need to have the proper strategy for winning the war on poverty.  What should we be providing?    Shouldn’t we measure success by the decrease in the number of those who need assistance?  If we were to measure   progress by that measure, we would have to admit that we are losing the war.  Having a no win strategy is causing right thinking people to call for an end to the war, or if not, a change of tactics.

The war needs to be fought on two fronts.  The first, and most difficult, is that of helping people recognize that there is a life style that is conducive to poverty. If they are in that life style, we need to motivate them and help them get out of it.  If they are children or young people, we need to motivate them to make right choices so they will never find themselves in that maelstrom of humanity.

It’s unfortunate that many have blind eyes to the fact that immorality tends to poverty.  Prov. 23:21 says, “For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.” Many are poor because of bad choices they have made.  They will never get out of poverty if they keep making those choices.  They desperately need help to see that wrong thinking leads to bad decisions, which leads to unfortunate experiences.  If people aren’t made to pay for the bad decisions they have made, and continue to make, they will never learn.  They need to be compelled to enroll in, and attend the school of hard knocks.  Proverbs 13:15 says, “Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard.” Likewise Proverbs 28:13 says, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”

There needs to be a day of reckoning for those who are just plain lazy.   The Bible calls them “sluggards.”   Proverbs 20:4 says “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.” He has no right to expect to be sustained by diligent, hardworking people.  He will never have initiative to become self-sustaining and independent of charity if he isn’t obligated to provide for himself.

We are not blind to the fact that there are many who do need help.  As I write these lines I’m praying for a humble mother of 10 children whose husband is on, what may be his death bed.  If he dies, I do hope that she will get the help she will need.  Some are incapable of working and earning an income.  The best way to help them is for family members to be caring and sharing.  There is also public charity that could and should help them. In the Bible we are repeatedly exhorted to help the poor.  Proverbs 19:17 says, “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”    We are obligated to help   those who are poor due to unfortunate circumstances, not those who are poor because they are immoral or sluggards.

Work is honorable.  That’s why men of character are troubled when they are out of work.  They diligently seek work to rectify their situation.  They may accept unemployment checks out of necessity, but they don’t really feel comfortable with it.  They feel guilty, and rightly so, about being consumers without being producers.  Christians have what is called “the work ethic.” There is a satisfaction that comes from earning your own way.

Modern society has put stigma on   discrimination to the extent that we are often criticized for saying that certain people aren’t deserving of welfare benefits.  It takes boldness to face a man or woman and say, “You need to put forth more effort to help yourself.” Helping people help themselves is rewarding.  It’s the one sure way to win the war on poverty.  We aren’t being cruel if we insist that benefits should be withheld from whose who aren’t making any effort to correct their situation.  We are actually helping them take the initiative to help themselves.  It is what’s called “tough love.

At the beginning we mentioned that the war on poverty needs to be fought on two fronts.  The second way is to teach people occupational skills so they have something to offer in the job market.  Instead of just giving people unemployment checks, why not pay them to attend classes to learn job skills like welding, plumbing, electrical wiring, etc.?  They would need to get passing grades to qualify for receiving checks.  After completing the course, payments should be cut off.

Children and young people need to be motivated to learn.  They need to be made to understand that success in life depends on what we know.  Proverbs 8:10-11 says, “Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.    For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.” Teachers need to be motivators.

Capitalism has always been the most effective way of promoting a prosperous economy.  If the economy prospers there will be jobs.  It’s unfortunate that we have let so many jobs be exported.  We need to find the most effective way to bring those jobs back home.  That could easily be done by putting an import tax on imported merchandise.  It would bring unemployment down and promote prosperity.

What would happen if there was no welfare system?  Many today aren’t old enough to remember when there was no welfare system.  In the first 250 years of the history of our country there was no welfare system.  I have never read of mass starvation during those years.  Yes, there was poverty, but people worked, and worked together to provide for their needs and the needs of the less fortunate.  In the country of Paraguay there is no welfare system.  Those who don’t have work find a means of meeting their needs.  Some go door to door or stand on street corners vending their wares: fruit, roasted peanuts, razors, shopping bags, etc.  Many in our society would not react well to a situation like that.  They have been coddled for too long.  It’s unfortunate that welfare benefits are called “entitlements.”  That gives the implication that people are entitled to them.

My reader friend, are you a recipient of welfare benefits?  If so, what are you doing to help yourself so you can make your own way and be independent?  Don’t let yourself become comfortable with it.  With God’s help you can find a way out.

Jesus said, in Matthew 26:11 “For ye have the poor always with you.” We will never eliminate poverty. Some are poor because they have little motivation to work and better themselves.  Some are poor because of sickness or unfortunate circumstances.  Some are poor because they have chosen a life style that contributes to poverty.  God, in his sovereignty, gives some more than others.  We need to be good stewards of what God has given us.  Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The only help some people want is a hand out.  We don’t need to feel obligated to help them.   We should gladly help the handicapped and those who want to better themselves so they will not have to be forever dependent on others.  Help others if you can.  If you must accept help, be grateful for it and show your appreciation for it.

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