Some call it an oxymoron. Some think it’s okay. Some think it’s a lack of faith. Whatever our belief, the truth is that Christians everywhere are on welfare.
And not namby-pamby Christians, either. True believers are crying out to God to give them the wisdom to manage their finances better, bless them with a job interview, or increase their skills in order to get a promotion so they don’t have to receive government funds.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter what we think because our opinions don’t put milk on the table.
Sure, we can judge from the outside, but it’s like parenthood — a totally different story when you are actually in the mire and the muck. EVERYONE is a better parent before they have kids. And most people have an opinion on welfare without ever knowing the ins and outs of it.
What Does a Christian on Welfare Look Like?
Each Christian on welfare has a different upbringing, culture and education. They may have grown up rich or poor. They may have been on welfare as a child or a be trust fund baby. They might be black, white, Hispanic or Asian. They might have one kid or ten. They might have a regular salaried job at a prestigious university or be working contract plumbing jobs.
- A Christian can be on welfare and dislike the idea of socialized medicine.
- A Christian can be on welfare and also be a Republican.
- A Christian can be on welfare and still decide to have more children.
- A Christian can be on welfare and homeschool her children instead of working.
- A Christian can be on welfare and be a college graduate.
- A Christian can be on welfare and volunteer in their community.
Christians on welfare have Facebook accounts, they scroll through Pinterest for delicious recipes, and they invite friends over for coffee. Their bodies ache after a long day’s work and they wish they could get a nice massage just like everyone else!
But as a whole, those who receive government assistance spend significantly less on things like food, housing, transportation and entertainment than those not on assistance. (HuffingtonPost)
Christians on welfare are probably some of the most resourceful people. They know they are called to a high standard by God, and that standard isn’t diminished by the fact that every month they receive food stamps or that their children are on Medicaid.
They can take leftover wood and make a DIY masterpiece without spending a dime.
They can make beans and rice turn into soup, Mexican food, Indian food and Cajun food all in the same week. They don’t let anything go to waste. Brown bananas are made into muffins, the leftover crumbs of cereal are made into cookies, and the eggs from breakfast are thrown into that night’s casserole dinner.
They might look like a fashionista, but behind the scenes they are using fabric scraps and old buttons to create their latest ensemble.
Their home might look like something out of a magazine, but they buy things at garage sales and sew their own throw pillows from bedsheets.
Sure, they might go out to see the latest Hunger Games movie, but we have to remember that everyone usually gets birthday money from somebody each year.
So, when we see someone on welfare using an iPhone, instead of assuming they are milking the government we might assume they had it before they lost their job or it was a hand-me-down from a neighbor. Some people on welfare are driving nice vehicles because it’s a company truck or it’s paid off.
Should a Christian Be on Welfare?
Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with the welfare system itself, but I DO NOT have a love/hate relationship with the people that use it. There is a marked difference.
You can judge the system, but still show grace to its recipients.
For you have the poor with you always.
And it’s true. There were poor people back then, and there are poor people now. Whether it’s because of poor financial choices, an impoverished upbringing that continues to cycle into the next generation, or a flailing economy…the poor are with us.
(Read Nehemiah 5 to see how financial oppression occurs and affects an entire community.)
We know that scriptures also tell us that the man who doesn’t work, should not eat, but this does not apply to most of those who are on welfare. (USNews.com).
These are people that have served our country, educate our children and have gotten college degrees. These are people who will be the next generation of potential doctors, entrepreneurs and clergy.
We cannot know whether or not a Christian needs welfare until we know them and their situation personally. It’s easy to judge an entire sect of a population, it’s much harder to judge a friend.
We can judge or love, but it’s very difficult to do both.
Sometimes people find themselves on welfare after the death of a spouse, an illness, or the loss of a job. Often, we look upon those people and deem their situation ‘worthy’ of government assistance, but those that have “had too many children”, make poor financial choices or seem too lazy to get a job, we judge ‘guilty’ and would be content to let them wallow in their poverty.
What we don’t see is the pro-life couple that have repeatedly tried to prevent pregnancy but get pregnant despite their efforts, a woman who makes purchases in order to normalize her home for her children after a bitter divorce, or a man steeped in depression from so much sexual abuse in his childhood that he can’t see his own self-worth.
We often judge what we don’t understand, but our lack of understanding can be hurtful when we post snarky memes on Facebook bashing welfare recipients, not realizing that we might have countless ‘friends’ on the other side of the screen, who use governmental assistance, cringing and asking: “Do they think that about me?”
We justify our judgmental comments to those we think deserve welfare by saying:
“Oh, not you! I mean those ‘welfare mamas’ who take advantage of the system.”
Because of a few media-highlighted incidents tainting our view of the entire population of welfare recipients, many of us attack the minority while abusing the majority.
We take stories of the surfer dude buying Alaskan king crab with food stamps or a crack addict trading her W.I.C. vouchers for drugs and cast our lot about all who receive assistance. (While we never see news stories about how responsible someone receiving welfare acts.)
Judgement occurs when we feel superior to someone, but God tells us to esteem others above ourselves…even those that we assume are making poor financial choices.
Do we think the condemnation of poor people is a new thing? James spoke about it when he was addressing those in the church that gave the best seats to the rich while neglecting the poor. He says:
Have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
Even in James’ day the poor were shunned and thought of as ‘less than’ desirable.
Whether a Christian should be on welfare is ultimately between the government, the person and God.
Our job as Christians isn’t so much to judge if another Christian needs assistance as to love and support them in their time of need.
Why We Should Support a Christian on Welfare
Experts have stated that the problem with welfare, TANF, W.I.C., food stamps or Section-8 housing is that it enables a person to be dependent and often entitled.
I believe this IS and IS NOT true.
Why? Because each person who receives welfare is different. While one may feel entitled and another enabled, it may spur yet another to bettering themselves (which doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t still need help — especially if they can’t seem to ‘bootstrap’ their way out of their financial bondage).
Christina Zimmerman at LifeWay.com states that the effects of a person-to-person welfare system are threefold. Among those are:
- A sense of fellowship and belonging is fostered (2 Cor. 9:13)
- A stronger family unit is established (1 Tim. 5:8)
- A high standard for work, which prohibits laziness, is encouraged (2 Thess. 3:9-10)
We are called to use our own resources to bless those in need.
Scripture tells us to not go back over the harvest, so the wanderer, the fatherless and the widow might eat our leftovers. The Bible says that God will bless the work of your hands when you do this.
It says those who lend to the poor are actually lending to the Lord. The Lord promises to pay back what we give. It says by helping the poor we honor God.
Supporting a Christian on welfare is a blessing to us.
What Happens if we Don’t Help Those in Need
The Bible (both the New and Old Testament) speak very harshly against those that do not help the poor. It condemns those who say they are Christians yet do not give.
- It says that God’s love cannot be in them.
- It says he will be ignored in his own time of need.
- It says that his religion is worthless.
- It says his faith is dead.
And the most horrifying thing the Bible says about those who do not help those comes from Jesus’ own mouth:
‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry and you wouldn’t feed me; thirsty, and you wouldn’t give me anything to drink; a stranger, and you refused me hospitality; naked, and you wouldn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
As confirmed by the Bible, helping those in need isn’t something to be grumbling against or ignoring, but rather it should be something that we avidly embrace for the sake of others and ourselves!
Arguments Against Christians on Welfare
We might say that the government shouldn’t require us to pay taxes supporting medicaid/welfare, that we should do it of our own free will. I understand the sentiment, but given that Jesus speaks so harshly against those that don’t take care of the poor, I would venture to argue that since the church (meaning His people) has seemingly vacated their position of caregiver, we should be thankful that we have such a (albeit broken) system that takes care of our people. If you’ve ever been to another country, you will see the reality of living in a governmental system that doesn’t require this type of government aid.
We might make an outcry against governmental corruption and abuse of the system. But I would argue that there is corruption of all sorts – in all governments (and churches). Even if the church overtook caring for the poor, there would still be those who took advantage of the situation. Corruption and abuse will never cease until Jesus returns, so this excuse is invalid for neglecting our duty to the poor.
In my opinion, the strongest argument against a welfare state is by having so many people on welfare we are creating an environment ripe for socialism/communism.
- I believe that the constant pressure applied on our American economy is driving more and more people to welfare programs.
- I believe (as we war not against flesh and blood but principalities) this is a demonic plan of the enemy that will eventually usher in the New World Order.
- I believe that Satan knew all along what he was doing, but the people of God were blinded to it.
- I believe that there is a movement (whether demonic or otherwise, I do not know) to press the economy into such a state as to widen the gap between the upper and middle class, forcing them to become less and less likely to afford life.
- I believe that on some levels, welfare does enable people, but I also believe that the world we live in is set against those people trying to climb out of that hole. I’m not sure where one begins and the other ends.
But this is what we are left with: a system that has the welfare state firmly intact; one that was developed before most of us were ever born.
We must be careful in condemning people for a system they never created.
One might argue that if Christians are getting welfare already, why should we help them more?
Abdication of our Christian duty to our own brethren will continue to weaken our already weak American church. I believe that in order to see true revival in our land we must return to the precepts upon which the original design for the church body was based at any cost to our personal comfort.
Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. Acts 2:44-45 (NKJV)
Our Responsibility to the Poor (even Christians on Welfare)
Do you know that most people would get off welfare in a heartbeat if they knew how? When we focus on whether or not a Christian should be on welfare we ultimately forsake our opportunity to be a light in the darkness to them. Instead of asking ‘should a Christian be on welfare’ we could be asking ourselves, ‘What do I have to offer a Christian in my community that is on welfare?” And I’m not talking about money. If you are a financial adviser, help them sift through their financial records and develop a budget. If you are a business owner, offer them a job. If you have an extra room at your home, offer it to a single mom for a season so she can get back on her feet.
If we offer something other than (or in addition to) taking care of their immediate needs for food and shelter, we have the opportunity to succeed where the government ultimately fails: making a human connection.
What better way to show the love of Jesus to a Christian on welfare than by bringing sacks of groceries to them, sit and have a cup of coffee, and pray for them.
Relying on charitable person-to-person Christian welfare would solve many of the welfare abuse issues that remote government offices face. When you are in someone’s life…in their home, it’s a lot easier to differentiate between someone who is conning you and someone who really is in need.
Our Job is to Give
If we are a brother or sister in Christ who God chose to bless with the wisdom to accumulate wealth, we get the great responsibility to assist those that are less fortunate.
For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.
We need to use our money to do good works and give happily to those in need, ready to share with others whatever God has given them.
You can’t claim joy in giving and grumble against their inability to provide for themselves!
If you hate giving to the welfare system, realize that the alternative means a life-altering responsibility on our part. We are supposed to be housing and providing for those in our own extended family. For many of us that fact alone might make us cringe and decide the welfare system isn’t so bad after all.
No one said giving was supposed to be easy, but rather it’s a response to what we recieved through Jesus.
That might mean the money for our elaborate family vacation should be spent on building an addition onto our house so that our aging mother-in-law can live with us. Instead of shelling out a hundred bucks a month for a gym membership, we might give a $100 check each month to our single niece who is raising her child on her own.
Undoing our welfare state takes a radical initiative on the part of the church. If we aren’t willing to be radical about our Christian faith, it’s hard to justify condemning a welfare system that is.
Our Job is to pray
The Bible says to pray for those ‘in chains’ as if you were suffering with them. This verse is talking about those suffering persecution for Christ’s sake, but it still applies to praying for those in the bondage of financial misfortune as if it were ourselves.
Specific prayers could be:
- Praying for financial wisdom
- Praying that they not forsake tithing, even if it’s not monetary but rather their time/talent
- Praying that they remain faithful to the Lord during their poverty
- Praying for freedom from the yoke of sin that might be keeping them bound
- Praying for freedom from the bondage of a poverty mindset that keeps them in a cycle of poverty
- Praying for comfort
- Praying for jobs
- Praying husbands and wives experience the blessing of free (and safe) childcare and money for an occasional date night.
- Praying for more skills and resources
- Praying against any hidden cracks that are draining their resources unknowingly
Our Job is to Question the Church
Have you ever gone down a stretch of road and seen ten churches along the roadside? I have.
I’ve seen the big buildings created by multi-million dollar building funds. I know churches that have productions bigger than the New York Symphony to supposedly ‘share the Word of God’ and then charge money for them.
A friend told me that the church she was visiting let snow loose on the people after their Christmas Eve service. Another friend said her church requested the in-house coffeeshop start making French pressed coffee (to which she replied that she’d be making coffee all day and that people should go to Starbucks if they really want that much of a specialty drink). With all this in mind I had to wonder, “How much is it costing to entertain the already saved?”
How bitter it must be to a struggling Christian family to see their own churches neglect their own legitimate needs while fulfilling trivial ones.
As previously stated, when the government provides welfare, it enables; but when the church (meaning the people not the building) provides it, it empowers.
So, therefore why are we not questioning why our tithe money is being wasted? (Yes, I said wasted.)
We owe it to Christians (and non-Christians) on governmental support to question why they must turn to a detrimental system instead of a redemptive one.
Christianity Today says this:
[The conservative Christian] proclaims Christ as Savior and engage in vigorous efforts to “win souls,” but fail to address physical needs or fight injustices…[this does not] adequately grasps Jesus’ example of holistic ministry that meets material and spiritual needs and challenges both personal and social sin.
If we really wanted to reform the welfare system and the Christians trapped in it, we need to question these trivial expenditures of the church.
We need to lovingly direct the Body of Christ to provide for the physical, mental and emotional needs of others in our own country so our brothers and sisters in Christ can be lifted out of the pit of receiving aid.
How shameful it is that so many of our own people are relying on a godless system to supply their needs! (Apply the principle idea of Corinthians 6 to this context.)
How can we expect sinners to receive the Good News of Christ when we behave in such manner?
Does God Allow a Christian to Be on Welfare?
Let’s take our questioning even a step further and ask whether or not people are on welfare because God has a plan for them? Before you jump on the “God wouldn’t do that!” bandwagon, assess the following scriptures and stories.
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
In this scripture it is apparent that sometimes (though not all the time) God does allow a ‘crippling’ to happen to a person. Jesus said the blind man wasn’t blind because of anyone’s sin but because his healing revealed God’s power.
There exists even an entire book about a man that God allowed to be stricken in order to test his character. In the Book of Job, we see God stripping Job of everything (except his nagging wife) to expose the strength of Job’s loyalty in trusting God.
In the end, after all his questioning Job said this:
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.
There are many Christians on welfare who are crying out the same phrase Job did. “Though I’m on welfare, I will trust you!”
God is always more concerned with our inner man more than our outward man. God is always doing something beyond our comprehension. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Who knows!? Perhaps God may allow a Christian to be on welfare to expose the sad state of the church.
So, if you find yourself on welfare and you are doing everything you know how to avoid being careless with money please know that God DOES have a plan for you. He has not forgotten you. And if someone comes up to you saying that God didn’t intend this season of struggle for you, remember that Peter tried to tell the same thing to Jesus! He told Jesus that God wouldn’t ask him to die on a cross. Jesus’ response was classic:
Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.
And if you are not on welfare and you find yourself face to face with someone who is, for God’s sake, DO NOT tell them if they had more faith that God would financially bless them.
Seriously, it’s just the wrong thing to say (and furthermore unless you pray about it and really feel like the Lord is leading you, don’t recommend Dave Ramsey…we’ve already heard of him, read his book, listened to his podcast and are desperately trying to apply his principles with very little success.)
None of our efforts are wasted
When we give our support, prayers and resources to those that are in need, many people may say “What a waste!” The disciples said the same thing of the woman that poured out the oil on Jesus’ feet, but Jesus did not agree with them. He said:
Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me…for in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for [me]*
The reality remains; Christians are on welfare, but anything that you do to help them is akin to pouring expensive oil on the Messiah.
Whether it’s the government or the church (and I’d prefer the church), whether we agree or disagree with our current system, our giving will always be remembered by The One who matters most.
We ALL are on Welfare
I hope this encourages you to think more on the issue of welfare and the church. I hope that those Christians, like myself, who utilize government assistance (and wish they didn’t) will know that they are NOT alone. You are NOT a loser and God loves you so very much.
In a sense, we are all on welfare. We didn’t deserve grace. We deserved hell because of our sin. But while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
I don’t condemn nor do I condone the use of governmental assistance. I am thankful for it, but it’s not a cut and dry world that we live in. It’s messy. It’s hurtful. People are messy. People are hurtful. We all make mistakes.
We rely on the amazing grace and welfare of the Father through his son Jesus. There is NO way we could make it to heaven without it.
More on the Church and Welfare
- Can the Church Alone Provide Welfare for the Poor?
- Is welfare scriptural?
- Is the Church Responsible for the Welfare State?
- A Call for Church Welfare Reform
- A Biblical Alternative to Welfare
- Welfare: Is It Biblical?
- The Facts About Food Stamps Conservatives Don’t Want You to Hear (I’m conservative, but I’m guessing this is a click-bait title)
- Does Christianity really prefer charity to government welfare?
- Matthew 26:11
- Philippians 2:3
- Deuteronomy 24:19
- John 13:35
- Proverbs 19:17
- Proverbs 14:31
- 2 Thessalonians 3:10
- John 9:2
- Matthew 16:23
- 1 John 3:17
- Prov. 21:13
- Mat. 25:41-23
- Luke 12:48
- 1 Timothy 6:18
- Hebrews 13:3
- Matthew 26:10 *my burial
- Acts 2:44
- James 2
Head covering Christian woman who loves good wine, coffee, stinky cheese and missionary books. My favorite dessert is Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake. I am a Christian author, blogger, and speaker. I fell in love with my husband because he had rain drops on his glasses (true story). In my spare time I homeschool my six children (5 girls, 2 boys).