The Republican Bible Verse
If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:10
I tend to gravitate towards information that confirms my view of the world. If something supports my opinion, I embrace it. If something contradicts my opinion – even if the evidence is quite convincing – I’m naturally skeptical. This is referred to as confirmation bias and the more passionate I am about an issue (like my faith or recovery), the more tightly I cling to those things that align with my view and the more likely I am to reject those that don’t.
In today’s passage, Paul continued his teaching to the Thessalonians on the value of hard work. Previously he said to avoid those who are idle, refusing to work. In today’s passage, he took it one step further, insisting that those who don’t work shouldn’t get to eat.
I have a job and I grew up in a conservative Republican tradition, so I like this passage. In general, conservative economic policy does not embrace welfare and the conservative part of my mind agrees. I work hard for my money, and I’d like to keep it. I don’t want the government forcing me to share my money with those who refuse to work. They’re just lazy and if they won’t work, they shouldn’t enjoy the fruits of my work. I can use today’s passage to argue that welfare is evil and that any government practice which taxes me to give to someone else, is likewise evil.
There are at least a couple of problems with my tendency to use this verse in such a manner though. Paul wasn’t dictating governing economic policy. He was teaching a principle that the Church was supposed to practice amongst themselves. Furthermore, we’re told many times in scripture – by Christ and others – that we must love our neighbors, providing financial aid to those in need. James insisted that authentic religion means helping widows and orphans (James 1:27).
Simply, there are those in our world who need financial assistance. As Christians, it’s our duty to help them. Yes, there are those who will take advantage of our generosity. As far as we can, we’re supposed to make sure that everyone who can work does work. If there are those who’re gaming the system to avoid work, we’re to cut them off. However, we can’t allow those who would cheat us to prevent us from doing that which Christ has commanded us to do.
Today’s passage is true, but it’s only one side of the coin. No, we’re not supposed to enable lazy behavior, but as Christians – even if we’re Republicans – we must share what we have with those who have less.