Martin Luther stated that “God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.” (Winger, Luther on Vocation 10)
I have been thinking and studying the reality of, what Luther called, The Doctrine of Vocation. I am not going to measure the merits of the doctrine in this article, but rather, we will look at the vitality of work as a part of the Christian life and experience. This will fall in line with our continuing series on the church’s’ response to the issues of poverty an their neighborhoods.
How does a person support themselves without work? The obvious answer is “They don’t, the government does.” or, as a Church Planter I stated in my last post that those that will not work and are capable are stealing from others. We have to be people that teach that God ordains us to work, not as a curse, because it was developed before the fall of man. Work is glorifying to God as it represents the skills and abilities he created the body to accomplish. It glorifies God for man to create, and to use his workplace to show the love of Jesus to other people. Too many in America are not working. They have a claimed disability or are in the application process. I am not saying that all who are on disability are able to work, and I am not saying that all who are applying for it do not deserve it. I am saying that over my twenty two years working with and among the very poor, many that could be productive, choose not to. I have seen countless people applying for some type of government support for things such as simple as social anxiety or diabetes. Both of these are manageable and the symptoms are nothing that should create an environment of doing nothing. I know, I suffer from both. Now, when the lost do this, I can overlook it as a person that has not began a relationship with God, and needs to hear the Gospel, not a financial lesson or a Doctrine of Vocation class. For those that proclaim Christ, and are capable, well, that’s a different story.
I hear it now…”the church is there to help those that are in need, it’s not Christian to not give if we have it….” There is a difference between abject and relative relative poverty, so the church needs to be wary. Abject poverty is level of poverty that is not the cause of a person, but rather disease or death. The death of a spouse can create widows or orphans. Disease can can cause a family to loose a great portion of income. These type of situations is where the church can be its strongest. Sharing food, or helping with utilities, or cutting their grass, all have an effect on our friends and neighbors, and is the group that the Scriptures give about helping. Relative poverty is completely relevant to the situation. Relative situations are what I saw most often in every homeless or poverty ministry I was a part of. People experiencing relative poverty can be coached through their issues. These groups of people tend to run the gamut, or use multiple churches and agencies in a community, and they typically are not experiencing death or orphanage. They are not permanently disabled and, given the right circumstance, can do a lot more physically than others can. Just because someone says they can not pay the electric bill does not mean that they need someone to bail them out. I would suggest a little discernment for the church or for the helpful friend. The challenge is this………..Lets wait for part two.