“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”
– Deuteronomy 15:11
As Christians, we are called to love the poor, to “minister to orphans and widows” (James 1:27). However, we are also told that “if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). What a daunting dichotomy! How are we to judge who should or should not receive help, who should or should not eat? How are we to know when we are truly helping, and when we are merely enabling ungodly and destructive actions? The Scripture seems very clear on this: when in doubt, we are to use the test of work.
It’s not enough just to provide handouts to anyone who will take them. Our task is to “teach a man to fish,” to provide opportunities, training, and resources for individuals and families to become self-sufficient. It doesn’t matter what they have or haven’t done. What matters is what they’re willing to do now. It matters if they are willing to work, to sacrifice, and to engage in a disciplined process of lasting change.
They won’t always succeed, but there is grace to continue trying. And God doesn’t force people to change, so neither can we. All we can do is offer opportunities.
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