This morning my girls are eating frozen gluten-free waffles, and I’m drinking a piping hot mug of fair-trade coffee.
Sure, homemade is better, healthier and just plain cheaper, but let’s face it: Being the momma of three little ones 5 and under can be tiring sometimes.
Today, Mama needed a break from grinding her own flour and meticulously following an allergen-free waffle recipe to make her own.
But less than a year ago, frozen waffles and fair-trade coffee weren’t a choice.
We couldn’t afford them.
In fact, we couldn’t afford much period. We were living paycheck to paycheck with the help of WIC and Medicaid to make ends meet.
My husband was (and is) a high school teacher (with his masters degree). I am a professionally-trained journalist turned stay-at-home mommy turned blogger/writer/entrepreneur. The two of us together were working night and day and doing everything we could to improve our situation.
For several years, we netted less than $20,000 per year.
We were at the bottom of the middle or the top of the bottom–the working poor.
A few days ago, I posted this article on Facebook. The title, “An Open Letter to Paul Ryan” is a bit misleading. Sure, the author was, in a sense, responding to some of Ryan’s recent remarks on the poor in America.
But I am not a political person, so that is not what struck me about the article. The raw, real description of how the poor live and work literally right under our noses is what did.
Some of you read the “letter.” Others scoffed at the title, ruffled their feathers and clicked “unlike” before even giving it a chance, aghast that I, a conservative Christian blogger, would post something so contrary to their beliefs.
These people made an assumption on the article based on the title. It’s an amazing article–an article that, if people would take the time to read it…with an open mind…could foster grace toward those in a tougher situation.
But don’t they just abuse the system? Aren’t we the ones paying for it all? Paying for them to eat? Paying for them to birth their babies? Paying for them to have free childcare and cell phones?
No doubt, poverty in America is a complex issue. It’s not one that anyone will solve overnight.
(And even the definition of “poverty” is so subjective–especially when holding our country up against the rest of the world.)
But one thing we can all individually work on changing is our attitudes.
Those who clicked on the article the other day saw that it wasn’t really about Paul Ryan after all.
This isn’t about politics. It’s about people.
It’s about people struggling right in front of us every day.
Less than a year ago, my toes were still dipped in that world. I say dipped because, really, our challenges didn’t even scratch the surface of what most experience. (And having lived and served in third world countries, my husband and I still felt “rich” even when deemed “poor” by American standards.)
I pray I never forget my cheeks burning as I pulled out my WIC checks to pay for groceries, feeling like I had to explain to the cashier each and every visit: We aren’t lazy. We do work. My husband has his masters degree, for goodness sake.
Should I have felt ashamed? No. But I had witnessed the judgements against those who accept help, and it haunted me.
I hope I never forget how the telephone calls about our mortgage bills bred anxiety during my third pregnancy. And, despite our best efforts, the stories of foreclosure and bankruptcy I’ve yet to even tell.
How the only way I attended women’s events at church was via scholarship…scholarships that I was too embarrassed to apply for in person.
I hope I never forget. I don’t want to forget.
The crazy thing is…I’m thankful I lived it.
I’m thankful this conservative Christian from the South sat in the Department of Social Services and lived among and looked at those teen mothers and desperate fathers and weathered elderly in the eyes and saw them for who they are–people in need of hope.
This isn’t about a handout. It’s about lending a hand.
Sure, there are people who abuse the system. But I can almost guarantee that most of those in need of help are there because they’ve humbled themselves and need some way to silence their little ones’ rumbling tummies.
I don’t believe government aid should be a lifestyle or a permanent fix (except for those disabled). I believe it is a temporary solution–until those who need it can get back on their feet.
(And, really, a whole other post for a whole other day is that…I believe this aid should come from the church in the first place.)
I am a pull-my-bootstraps-up type of girl. After years of hard work, calling to cancel our Medicaid and WIC was monumental.
But I still remember feeling like there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
That widow wearing the waitressing apron standing in the food stamp line?
She has three mouths to feed, beyond her own. Her heart is so heavy and her hands are trembling so hard that she cannot even still them long enough to grasp hold of her bootstraps.
That elderly man? His bootstraps are so brittle from years of pulling them together that they will soon break if he doesn’t get some help.
The teenage mother? She chose to keep her baby–amidst rude remarks, ghastly glances and snide snickers. Her chest heaves and her legs wobble as she carries her infant into the WIC office to pick up the checks that will put the rice and beans and cans of tuna on her dinner table.
Some people’s bootstraps are so long and tattered, and their hands are so scarred or arthritic, that they have a hard time pulling them up all by themselves.
They need someone to help tie those shoes, hold their hands and help them stumble until they are walking and walk until they can run.
Everyone has a story to tell. And it could be any of us–any of us–in an instant. It only takes one job loss, one tragedy…
This isn’t about cop-outs. It’s about compassion.
It’s about pulling our heads out of the sand. It’s about knowing that not everyone has the choice of whether to send their kids to gymnastics or dance–but whether to pay the light bill or buy groceries.
Some people have not the choice of steak or chicken but of red beans or white.
Sometimes I feel as if I’m still standing with my feet in two worlds. And I don’t think I want it any other way.
Because perhaps we walked THERE so God could use it in the HERE.
What will it take to turn prideful pity into a picture of grace?
I am only one mommy blogger–a humbled homemaker–but I’m calling for a paradigm shift.
We give at Thanksgiving and Christmas. But people get hungry year-round, you know?
We donate our old clothes to those less “fortunate.”
But do we ever look into their eyes? Get in their lives? Admit they are…human?
Why does a compassionate conservative Christian have to be an oxymoron?
Why are those of us who are believers so often divided?
Why do compassion and empathy have to be political issues?
Everyone needs compassion. The kindness of a Savior. The hope of nations.
HE is the hope of nations.
HE–not Paul Ryan. Not Barack Obama.
HE, inside of us, changing out attitudes. Gripping our hearts. Evoking empathy.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” ~Matthew 25:40
Thank you for this post. As I read it, it felt as though you were writing my story.
We are still a little dipped in. But not really. We can eat on the income my husband brings home. The kids do have Medicaid and I am so very thankful they do. Our budget is very tight. But it is because I chose to stay home rather than continue to work 12 hour shifts while someone else cared for my children.
My biggest pride struggle now is that people still seem to pity us. We don’t live fancy, but we are.comfortable and all 7 of us eat well. I have to make everything from.scratch and I can’t always get the fair trade.coffee. (I am excited that Aldi sells it though. Such a blessing. 😉
I like canning my food and baking my bread
Thank you for sharing your story, Amy! I’m thankful I am now able to bring in an income from home (via this blog!) and not have to take my kids to daycare. What many people don’t understand (which you do) is that what I would make working outside of the home wouldn’t even cover daycare!
I do love that Aldi carries fair trade–love, love, love Aldi! It’s my #1 grocery store!
Have a great day!! 🙂
We are the working class poor. We ‘ve been in line for WIC. Medicare. Food stamps.
We ‘ve downsized, sold off, cut out , cut back until we barely had a thing to our name.
And yet God is good.
Some say you’re not that poor until you can’t turn a light on. We ‘ve always been able to turn our lights on. 🙂
Amen–God is so good! He provides for our every need! We’ve always been able to turn the lights on, too. When we look at our “plight” here in America compared to those who lives in darkness (in more ways than one) in other parts of the world, it really puts things into perspective. It doesn’t mean we never struggle, though.
Have a great day! 🙂
I live in Panama, a 3rd world country.
Living here has really opened my eyes to what real poverty is, with folks working for $1/hr minimum wage.
However, back in the states I worked as a volunteer with the Salvation Army. And my estimate is that 1 out of 10 people we helped were humbled and thankful. But before I go on, I want to explain that it was that 1 out of 10 that kept me helping.
Here are my experiences:
1. I have my MBA and have been in the tech industry for almost 20 years. I had knowledge to teach people computer skills to help them land office jobs! THEY WOULDNT SHOW UP! I volunteered to come to their place with my laptop. They weren’t there at the designated time. They ALWAYS showed up to things where they would get something for free, though. (I have not had any experiences with someone who actually wanted to learn new skills besides just talking about it).
2. We would give out free toys for kids for Christmas. These toys we collected through donations and purchased ourselves. So many of these parents who came in, complained about not having “XBoxes, video games, electronics, Dora the Explorer, etc” (or whatever the popular toy was that year). Very few showed any gratitude. One middle aged man had a stack of books and said to us, with tears in his eyes, “I am so glad you have books. I want my kids to love to read” — HE is why I did what I did, day after day during the holiday season.
3. We had a grant to help kids buy school clothes, $100 per kid. It was just walmart, but when the parents dropped the kids off, some of them kept asking for more money to spend (“Can’t you get them $150 or $200 worth of clothes”) and some of them sent their kids with a list for sizes for THEMSELVES not their kids. The kids would tell me that their parents took them to WalMArt the day before and knew what they were supposed to get. A petite 10 year old girl doesn’t need Women’s size 14 sparkle jeans!
4. We did an adopt-a-thon where parents could come and register their kids to be chosen to buy gifts for at Christmas time. The limit was $25 per child (so when the local radio station requested adopters/sponsors, they could say “only $25 per kid”). This was explained to parents very clearly, yet they kept requesting iPads and iPhones and XBOXs, etc.
So, I share these experiences because I am a bit jaded about how people take advantage of the system. But because I had these experiences I am not going to stop having compassion. Sure, it is frustrating. But I catch occasional glimpses of someone we really are helping. And I remember when Jesus healed the 10 lepers — how many of them came back to thank him? One? But he still served with compassion.
And that is what we are supposed to do.
My husband and I met while we were both living and serving in Costa Rica. Some people there are well-off; others make our “poor” look very rich.
Before we had children, we also had the opportunity to go on mission trips to the slums of Peru, China, Africa…among other places. After our first was born, we lived in a teeny tiny apartment in Vancouver, BC, Canada, where we worked with the immigrant population.
After having experienced all of this, it really is hard to call anyone “poor” in America. Yet, we know from experience that there are true struggles. The fall of the economy hit many hard. The definition of “poor” in America looks so very different, but, as you have seen, it still exists.
Human nature is so wicked; it’s in us all! I can see where you would be jaded. I actually felt the same when those we served in Peru fought over the Bibles we brought to distribute–tearing them apart before even one could begin to read them!
But I think your answers are key–and perhaps it is THE answer: “But because I had these experiences I am not going to stop having compassion. Sure, it is frustrating. But I catch occasional glimpses of someone we really are helping. And I remember when Jesus healed the 10 lepers — how many of them came back to thank him? One? But he still served with compassion.”
Thank you for sharing your story, Rebecca! And thank you for not letting what you have seen stop you from caring.
I get exactly what you are saying. Entitlement is rampant among us sinners. Thanks for sharing.
I also have volunteered with the Salvation Army for years. For food drives, for just about anything thing they were doing. Shoe vouchers for school kids, Christmas toys all of it. Here is what I experienced. A few mothers would show up driven by their boyfriends in Hummers and collect the goods, most did not. In fact my heart would bleed at the amount of Grandma’s that would show up looking for help for the grandchildren that they had living in their homes. They couldn’t get welfare for them, they didn’t have custody, they couldn’t get medical help or anything else, as the parent retained custody. Some of the parents were in jail and still the grandparents couldn’t get help. So, the SA helped them, without judging them. My town isn’t that big and we pretty much knew which grandma was there because of needs. During the time of Christmas giving I don’t think I ever saw one parent ask for an XBox or anything trendy. I did see many many look for pj’s and curling irons for their teenagers that were beyond the toy age. For the most part they were kind, they heaped blessings on us as we filled their bags and handed out groceries. Were there a few that took advantage? I don’t know, I never questioned by God put me there to donate, and to service, it wasn’t my place to judge. So sorry your experience gave you a jaded opinion, mine was just the opposite.
Thank you so much for sharing your perspective, Barb! I love this: “I don’t know, I never questioned by God put me there to donate, and to service, it wasn’t my place to judge. So sorry your experience gave you a jaded opinion, mine was just the opposite.”
When I first read your post I was ready to complain that you were too harsh, then I read on. I am not saying that there are not those who are just as you described as I know there are, and in some areas there are many. I also know that there are many that would love the chance to learn new skills but do not know where to go to find them or are afraid they will not be able to learn them. I also know that there are many who are grateful for any help at Christmas, I was once one of those who without the help of strangers like you would not have been able to give my children anything for Christmas one year. I was also one who needed help to get my kids uniforms at one time, and I worked for the school, that little bit of help allowed me to be able to purchase the other supplies they needed. I have been on food assistance and my children on medicaid. Like the author of this blog calling to cancel was one of the best days of my life, but it did not compare to going from one who needed help to becoming one that could help. I can never thank those of you who give so much for helping me to be able to raise my 4 children and for giving me the hope I needed to continue on and to teach my children the importance of helping others.
Again, thank you so much for posting the article. And this. It inspired me to write a real, raw look at unemployment 10 months later. Experiencing many of those things mentioned in the article.
There is always a story behind the heavy face.
“There is always a story behind the heavy face.” <---Yes. Thank you for sharing, Sara. Praying for you!! <3
Leigh Ann @ Intentional By Grace
Great post! And much needed. Thanks for sharing!
I am poor. My husband and I are the working poor. And I shook my head at your whole article. Here is why…when I was 20 and single and newly on my own I struggled to make ends meet. I went to bed hungry. I racked up credit card debt (which I later paid off completely)just trying to keep my old car running and food in my belly and a roof over my head. I lived in “the ghetto” because I couldn’t afford any other place. I worked 2 jobs. But I NEVER stole from others with the help of government and acted like I deserved food stamps or anything else.
Today I’m a stay at home mom. My husband works long hours and several times a year works a second full-time job at a lawncare company to quickly bring in a cushion of cash. We struggle. I am so thankful for my in-laws who pay for my oldest child’s education and buy our kids clothes and us groceries. They have helped us many many times.
But they CHOOSE to help us. I know that not everyone who struggles is a “lazy” person. My husband and I are not lazy and we’re living it! And despite our lack of finances we try and help others too. I’m a side-walk counselor outside an abortion clinic and I have bought diapers and clothes and formula for the moms when I didn’t even have 2 nickels to rub together. Because when God has laid it on my heart to help others he always brings me the money to do it. It is amazing.
Jesus gave the care of the poor to CHRISTIANS, not the gov’t. You can say it isn’t about politics but it is. Socialism is destroying this great land of ours and is a scourge on the earth. Because socialism leads to communism. And those things are founded in an evolutionary, godless, eugenic mindset. That we have no rights except what gov’t grants us. Private ownership is prohibited. Redistribution of wealth is the norm. These things are not healthy for our land of liberty. No one should be FORCED to give up their hard-earned money to pay for others.
The CHURCH has abdicated her responsibility to care for the poor. We could be forging real relationships, helping out our neighbor or our friend from church. We could be a blessing to them and laying up treasure in heaven by giving a drink of water in Christ’s name. But instead we shrug our shoulders and allow the “gov’t” to do it. We allow the poor to sit huddled in a welfare office without any human relationships formed–just a welfare check handed out.
If WE CHRISTIANS would help the poor–imagine how many people would hear the gospel. We could help meet their material needs and maybe, just maybe when they realized we cared enough about them to clothe and feed them they would listen about the One Who loves them most of all.
I agree with you. I feel that other than unemployment insurance, disability, limited welfare, healthcare benefits, and some education programs, that helping the poor belongs in the hands of the church and other charitable non-profit organizations.
I do also believe that there are those who take advantage of the system…. and that bugs me more if it is my tax dollars being spent vs. my charitable donations. I don’t know why.
But I also don’t think that we should preach to everyone, and make it a requirement to hear the Gospel in order for the church to help them. That leaves a very bad taste in people’s mouths sometimes, and they will avoid religion on the future. We can invite them to church and invite them to listen to His Word, but anything more than that (if they aren’t receptive) then we need to “preach” to them by our actions vs our words (does that make sense). I have found it works so much better that way. 🙂
Rebecca, I absolutely agree with your statement: “I feel that other than unemployment insurance, disability, limited welfare, healthcare benefits, and some education programs, that helping the poor belongs in the hands of the church and other charitable non-profit organizations.”
Thanks for sharing your story. Since you shook your head all the way through this article, I think you are probably my target reader for it. Let me touch on some of your points:
1. “But I NEVER stole from others with the help of government and acted like I deserved food stamps or anything else.”
Jesus said to pay unto Caesar what is Caesar. We all pay taxes…most of those who accept help pay taxes. It is our tax dollars that pay for government programs. These people are not stealing.
Do you drive on state highways? Is that stealing? Because someone else’s tax dollars (along with your own) paid for those.
Are people who send their children to public school stealing? Because someone else’s tax dollars (along with your own) paid for those.
Sure, some people who accept aid may feel they are “entitled” but many–perhaps the majority–that accept it have had to lay aside their pride and accept it in humility–because they have no other way to make ends meet.
2. “Today I’m a stay at home mom. My husband works long hours and several times a year works a second full-time job at a lawncare company to quickly bring in a cushion of cash. We struggle.”
Yes, yes–I’m nodding my head. I know where you are. I’ve been there. I’ve lived that. My husband worked as a high school teacher (and again, he still does) and also: taught an extra class during his planning period, taught the afternoon program, worked Saturday school, worked football games, tutored, took pictures for our local newspaper, did some design work on the side. And we still struggled.
I was that stay-at-home mom who could barely afford it. So you know what I did? I started writing–because it was the only “skill” I had. I spent 3 years of many, many, many late nights writing so we could get off of the aid we needed for that short period to make ends meet.
We struggled. Many families struggle–and are working their butts off to become self-sustaining.
3. “I am so thankful for my in-laws who pay for my oldest child’s education and buy our kids clothes and us groceries. They have helped us many many times.”
This might sting a little, Sarah, but I’m going to say it anyway: you have a luxury (yes, luxury) that many, many people don’t have.
We had that luxury as well. If we were really desperate, we could call my parents, and they would help us with food. We borrowed their old van for over a year before we could afford to buy it from them. And they helped us in countless other ways. But it’s not their responsibility, you know? We’re adults.
Very few people have mom and dad to bail them out. In the face of hungry children or cold, heatless nights, some people have only one place to turn–the government. And I for one am happily paying taxes this year (like every year but this year, because of our income increase, we are paying in a lot–and not getting a return) to help those who don’t have any family to lend them a hand.
Some people have no one–NO ONE–to help.
4. “And despite our lack of finances we try and help others too.”
I’m so glad you do. We did, too. We actually shared our groceries with another family when we could barely afford them ourselves. And as soon as our income increased, we were able to start giving more extravagantly–in ways that I won’t tout on here but in ways we had been wishing to give for years.
It is sad but true that I’ve seen those who give the most sacrificially are those who are already struggling themselves.
5. “Jesus gave the care of the poor to CHRISTIANS, not the gov’t. You can say it isn’t about politics but it is. Socialism is destroying this great land of ours and is a scourge on the earth. Because socialism leads to communism. And those things are founded in an evolutionary, godless, eugenic mindset.”
I agree with you. I am not a socialist and I am especially not a communist. Like I said here, I am a pull-my-bootstraps-up type of girl. I’m an entrepreneur. I believe in the free market. I believe education and hard work is key.
But the church isn’t giving. The church, as a whole, is scoffing. The church has a disdain for the poor–especially for those who accept help. Sadly, I even see it in your comments. 🙁 Those who don’t accept help harbor bitterness against those who do. My sister, this should not be.
6. “If WE CHRISTIANS would help the poor–imagine how many people would hear the gospel. We could help meet their material needs and maybe, just maybe when they realized we cared enough about them to clothe and feed them they would listen about the One Who loves them most of all.”
Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with you, Sarah. But it starts with compassion. It starts with laying aside our pride. It starts with me–and it starts with you. That is why I wrote this post. It’s time we Christians stopped complaining about the government and those who “take” from the government and start doing something about it.
Erin, thank you very, very much. I am crying deep tears (good ones) at your bringing truth and honesty to the discussion of the poor and the church. You are absolutely correct–” The church, as a whole, is scoffing.” The church is much more likely to judge the poor than to help. I feel that many in the church think that Matthew 25 and other verses about the poor “do not apply” anymore because of the “American dream,” American freedom that supposedly guarantees that good work ethic = lack of poverty (it does not), and that the “safety nets” catch everyone (they do not). Erin, thank you for your courage to stand up for truth and the hurting Christian poor and the Word of God.
It sounds like we are on the same page, Christa. Thank you for sharing!
The people on welfare do not pay taxes. Not at their income threshold!! At least not that I am aware of. But we all drive on the roads whether we make a million dollars a year or ten thousand dollars a year…. so it definitely isn’t equal since the millionaire is paying a lot more than someone who is making ten thousand dollars a year, if they even pay anything.
yes…we do pay taxes, even at our low threshold.
Thanks for sharing, Suni. I was scratching my head on that one. LOL I asked my husband last night: If we don’t pay taxes, then what is all that money they take out of your check? 😉
Suni, not all working poor pay taxes. I have neighbors who not only get all of there taxes retuned to them every year, but they also get extra money back because they have children under the age of 17, Earned Income Credit. They haven’t paid any income taxes in over 15 years. Additionally because they aren’t married and they file separately they have both gotten significant income tax returns each year, while I work hard and have to pay taxes they take every handout they can find and have no intention of trying to make their lives better.
Thank goodness I don’t consider them the normal household. There are many more people that have needed a helping hand for a short period to get back on track after an unforseen emergency. They accept the help like many here and once they are able become self sufficent again.
I’m not against Govt aid for anyone, but I think there needs to be a limit. Don’t have a large family if you can’t afford to feed and clothe that same family. I chose to have two children because that is what we could afford to raise and care for ourselves. I was always aware that if something happened to my husband I would be doing it all on my own, which wouldn’t have been possible with a large family.
I don’t judge, but I wish everyone would take into account what would happen if the breadwinner became unable to work or died. My own father died when I was 17. I was the oldest girl of 4 children and my mom had to do it all herself after that.
I do think there needs to be limits, for sure.
Hi Erin, thank you for your response. It starts with PERSONAL compassion. It would be SO EASY for me to say “Yes…yes welfare is good.” But you know what? Apart from sales tax my husband and I DON’T pay taxes because we make so little. It is always easy to be charitable with OTHER people’s money. But is that what God wants? Or does He want US to have compassion and for US to give to the poor? That is my point. Welfare is WRONG. I’m not saying people don’t need it. I’m not saying people don’t struggle. I’m not saying we should forget these people. I’m not even saying anything about those who abuse the system (though I saw plenty in my former job). Welfare and this whole “entitlement” and socialist way of thought is never what our founding fathers intended. And it isn’t what our heavenly Father intended.
Roads–everyone drives on them. And they aren’t paid for by income tax. Welfare…is everyone using it? I hope not. We’re doomed as a nation then. It is stealing. It is taking from someone who earned and giving to someone who didn’t. Welfare comes from the mindset: “from each according to his ability to each according to his need.” That is a communist philosophy and it is wrong.
Welfare enslaves. You should read Star Parker’s books. She was on welfare. It is a prison. It isn’t charity. I support food pantries and different charities that help the poor. I support them because it isn’t forcing anyone to give of their money and it also teaches skills and other good stuff to those they help. Gov’t is a wasteful way to help the poor. And not a God-ordained way either.
Again, I’m not saying don’t help the poor. I’m saying help the poor with your OWN wealth. Your OWN time. Your OWN possessions. Think of what we could do if Christians stopped delegating this charity to the government. It isn’t about forcing the gospel down people’s throats. When I help the expectant moms I don’t make them listen to a message before I help them. Christ didn’t do that either. But I hope they see Christ in me when I do whatever I can to help them in their need with no expectation of thanks in return.
And lastly, it isn’t about pride. I resent that dig. I think it is entirely prideful to grandstand about helping the poor when you advocate doing it with other people’s money. Christians have failed. We need to lay aside this socialist mindset and charity through taxes and start dirtying our hands ourselves.
Now I am the one shaking my head because it looks like you didn’t really read my post. I think you saw that I mentioned people living with the help of government aid and jumped to the conclusion that I am touting “welfare” as the answer.
“I don’t believe government aid should be a lifestyle or a permanent fix (except for those disabled). I believe it is a temporary solution–until those who need it can get back on their feet. (And, really, a whole other post for a whole other day is that…I believe this aid should come from the church in the first place.)”
Let’s continue the conversation:
1. “It is always easy to be charitable with OTHER people’s money.”
Again, we all pay taxes of some sort. I am not going to argue that with you. If the church were giving like they should, the government would not have to give from the national pool of resources that we all pay into.
I like how another reader, Kelly, put it: “It saddens me to see people with hard hearts that would have distain for the poor and claim they are “stealing” from others when they utilize the resources made available to help them. I loved your point about rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and your brief note that you believe the church should be helping more . I agree with both, but that’s of no matter what I think, it’s a biblical principle and that is what is important – helping those in need who are willing to work but need help.
“One point I would add in response to people’s thinking that it is “their hard earned money” being taken from them … I would be very careful about that mindset, as the Lord is clear that nothing we have is our own. “What do you have that wasn’t given to you?” (John 3:27, 1 Cor 4:7, Jam 1:17). Everything we have is from God, so talk about the ultimate “welfare” program – we are deserving of nothing, we are all poor, destitute and doomed without the precious blood of Christ, which He freely laid down for us.”
Amen to that ^. I’m really not sure how any believer could argue against it.
2. “Welfare and this whole ‘entitlement’ and socialist way of thought is never what our founding fathers intended.”
I’m not arguing that. I’m simply asking for compassion. To quote myself in the post: “This isn’t about politics. This is about people. This isn’t about handouts. It’s about lending a hand. This isn’t about cop-outs. It’s about compassion.”
I didn’t say what or how I thought that help or compassion should come (except in my reference to the CHURCH); I said it simply needed to start happening. The only way people will get OFF of government aid is for the church to stop disdaining the poor–to stop accusing the poor of being “entitled” when all they want to do (most of them) is…live.
3.” Roads–everyone drives on them. And they aren’t paid for by income tax. Welfare…is everyone using it? I hope not.”
Roads are made available to all, and, yes, most use them. Public schools are made available to all, but many do not use them. (My parents didn’t, and I hope not to, and it sounds like–thanks to your parents–you aren’t either.) Should we scoff at those who do send their children to public schools and condemn them for feeling “entitled” to something “we are paying for with our hard-earned money”?
No, not all are using welfare–praise God. But it is available to all to use. Sarah, what will happen tomorrow if your husband falls ill and cannot work or loses his job? Let’s pretend your parents or in-laws weren’t there to help. What would you do then?
It’s sad to think that we have to actually fall into hard times ourselves to develop any true empathy, but I’ve seen it happen. Truly, I think that is what happened to me.
I have several friends who never imagined they would have to live on unemployment–but without parents to help and with job losses–that is exactly what they had to do.
And guess what? When they did get jobs, they paid every penny back. That is how the system is supposed to work…a temporary fix not a permanent solution.
And if people could see our tax bill for 2013 they would see we are re-paying every single penny we ever “used” and then some–a lot more in fact.
Is the system broken? Yes, I think it is. I think far too many become dependent on it. But again, that is when the church needs to walk alongside of those who are struggling–reach down and help them pull up those bootstraps, help them stumble until they are walking and walk until they can run, free and on their own–and give back many fold.
4. “Welfare enslaves.”
Yep–it can. Does it always? I’m living proof it doesn’t. And so are many of the readers who commented here.
“I support food pantries and different charities that help the poor. I support them because it isn’t forcing anyone to give of their money and it also teaches skills and other good stuff to those they help.”
I support these, too, Sarah–but there are simply not enough. I believe in teaching a man to fish instead of just giving him fish to eat. I believe in teaching people to become self sustainable. It’s why my family support a ministry in Uganda called Hope 4 Women, International. It’s a widow sponsorship program where you can pay for a woman to go to school to learn a trade that will enable her to support her family for the rest of her life.
The church IS the answer, Sarah. I wholeheartedly agree. But the church isn’t following through. And what are these hungry people supposed to do in the meantime? Starve?
5. “And lastly, it isn’t about pride. I resent that dig.”
What dig? I believe I wrote: “It starts with laying aside our pride.”
I’m sorry if you took that personally, but I wasn’t pointing a finger at you. I was pointing a finger at me. I was pointing a finger at believers and society as a whole. When we think we have no pride in us…well, we are so very mistaken.
The past 5 years have been a humbling for me…it’s been hard but it’s been GOOD. I’m not the same person. I once scoffed at those poor mothers on WIC. Never again, Sarah. Never again.
God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.
6. “I think it is entirely prideful to grandstand about helping the poor when you advocate doing it with other people’s money.”
Once again, I am not advocating government aid in this post. As I said: “No doubt, poverty in America is a complex issue. It’s not one that anyone will solve overnight.”
If I had my way the church would take care of the poor.
My point of this post was to evoke empathy–to build compassion.
How saddened I am that, for some, the entire point was lost. And the culture wars and bitterness and entitlement continues.
7. “Christians have failed. We need to lay aside this socialist mindset and charity through taxes and start dirtying our hands ourselves.”
Absolutely, Sarah. I wholeheartedly agree. Christians have failed. We have failed in helping the poor and we have failed in giving them compassion when they accept aid in the only place that offered–the government.
Thank you too for your point by point assessments, right on. You are so much more patient than I! I am there and have been there in many capacities, and have also seen miracles like you wouldn’t believe through God’s supernatural provision. He made a 1/2 pound of hamburger, 1 cup of noodles, and 1 small can of diced tomatoes (cooked in a crock pot since we had no stove or microwave or tables or chairs or counter tops…) last for 8 days. 8 DAYS. The government can’t do that! But He also allowed us to benefit from the tax dollars we paid into the system. (Don’t worry they get it back in more ways than we could ever know or count, hard to “steal” what is already yours!) But more importantly, as a Western Christian following a Bible and a Savior that was written by, to, and for an Eastern culture, I see the disparity and the great provision that gets lost in translation from one culture to another. When you observe or study it out, a mindset of provision for the widows, orphans, and poor emerges. In the days of the Temple, you couldn’t come in unless you gave your offering for the poor. Our “plate passing” to pay the light bill isn’t the same thing! He never called us to build mega billion dollar buildings and only use them 2 days a week and lock the doors and go home. “Christians” or “the church” can’t cover a need this vast, the money is tied up in a thousand things that have no lasting value. Believe me, churches were the last places I called when it was desperate, and I was many, many times in spite of a full time low paying job. Biblical or Hebraic covenant provision was a full time business! Yet the prejudice was evident even then, the good Samaritan story is not just a parable but a reality. If we are going to follow this Jewish guy Jesus (or Yeshua as his mom called Him) it helps to stop squishing Him into a Western theocracy box and walk out the love He taught. Slow going yes, but “the poor will always be with you”, so we will never run out of opportunities!
Saying that a government taxing people is the same as literally STEALING is incoherent nonsense. Stealing means taking something without consent. When you chose to live in America, you chose to abide by the rules (ie. laws, including the taxation system). If you don’t like it, you are free to go live elsewhere. You give your consent by choosing to live there.
Agreed, Beth. It’s part of being part of a nation. The notion that these people–the ones not abusing or “gaming” the system–are stealing–lacks so much compassion. It’s no wonder they are afraid to go to the church to ask for help.
YOu know your post just makes me wonder when Jesus was walking among the crowds handing out the loaves of bread and the fish, did he stop, look at each and say where does your wealth lye? Did he ask if the person truly needed, or did he hand out the fish? Did he say you only weigh 100 lbs so you don’t need as much bread as your brother that weighs 200 lbs. Did he say I saw you at the market yesterday and you bought things, I’m not feeding you. Or did he walk among them and hand out the fish and the loaves?
I just found your site and read this post. As a democrat, I am not a socialist or communist. I love the Lord and do support our church in tithes and donations to humanitarian aid, missions etc, regularly. We own a business and employ 10+. It definitely matters not your political belief, but what you do and how you live your life. Just as all of us, I pay my taxes, and our political leaders need to see the needs and work together to solve them, not block legislation just because who is in the Oval office. We need to stop judging the need of recipients of need, in whatever fashion, whether WIC, SNAP, Unemployment insurance (which we utilized while my husband was unemployed nearly 30 years ago, it helped us while he went back to college).
Let’s be serious, until the Savior returns and reigns in this world, there is no way the church is going to able to help everyone, we must do our part in the private sector, but the government which we established has the look out for the “general welfare” of it’s people.
Thank you for saying everything I wanted to say! It doesn’t follow the constitution to force taxpayers to be charitable. The difference between taxes being used for roads and being used for welfare programs is the entire public benefits from roads, while welfare only benefits a portion of the public.
Welfare–food stamps, unemployment, WIC, Medicaid–is available to those who need it. And no one–no one–ever knows when they might be the recipient one day.
We all pay into health insurance–but not everyone uses it.
I would argue that the general public DOES benefit from welfare. Have you ever visited a country with rampant, dire poverty where there is no welfare? South Africa is like that, and coupled with spiralling unemployment of around 40%, it has led to our country having one of the highest crime rates in the world. If people had jobs and aid, I sincerely believe our crime rates would significantly decline, as people would not kill for a mobile phone, or hijack a car for the payment of R400 (about $40), or prostitute their children for payment in bread (yes, this happens), and school girls wouldn’t think that a sexual favour is fair exchange for bus money …I could go on.
This is a really good point, Tracy! I had not thought of that. Thanks for sharing!
It doesn’t follow the Constitution to have a standing army, either.
Seriously. Go look it up.
No, you stole from others by way of the government. You stole from others so you could breathe cleaner air (federal regulation of pollution). You stole from others so you could drive that beat up old car (federal and state money builds roads). You stole from others so you would not have to buy and train your own private army all by yourself (military protection). Don’t pretend you never use tax money. If anyone here is HONEST, we ALL know better.
I’d like to know what’s so much worse about asking for help paying for food as opposed to being OK with other people’s money being used to bomb little kids overseas. You know who I hear complaining about that on the conservative side of the aisle? Libertarians. Sometimes not even Christians. But no one else.
A postscript: I don’t actually believe you steal from the rest of us. But YOU believe using government services is stealing, you’ve made that very clear. I just want you to be aware of exactly what that belief means. ‘Cause I don’t see you footing the entire bill for your police and fire protection.
I love this post. We were doing OK financially until my husband chose us – his family over a military career and denied re-enlistment and his orders in August, 2012. He was honorably discharged, multiple awards to his name from the US military for his outstanding service and dedication to his country, and then…he couldn’t find a job post-military. We were nearly homeless, we nearly went without food. He was devastated. I was scared and angry. My husband is highly educated in his job field, not to mention that he’d worked in that field for years prior to enlisting, but no jobs. We went on welfare for nearly a year just to make ends meet. We finally moved back home (all on our own dime, the VA has NEVER helped us) and he’s now working for our county as a Corrections Officer (not my husband’s original job field, but he has dreamed of being a cop since he was 5 years old. It was wonderful to see his 26 year dream come true!). We’re doing well again, and I’m so grateful to God for seeing us through. There were so many nights we felt ashamed for the position we were in, but it humbled us. God can use every situation to the greater good of those who glorify Him.
“…it humbled us. God can use every situation to the greater good of those who glorify Him.” <---Amen! I am so glad to hear you all are back on your feet, Mandy! Thank you for sharing your story!
I’m so proud of you. Great stuff, young friend. Thanks for sharing your life, your convictions, your struggles, and your faith. May we all continually grapple with such issues – led by the compassion of Jesus.
Keep stirring the pot in the direction of grace, truth and compassion!
Thank you, Gwen!! <3 All glory to God. The past 5 years have been humbling, but they have been GOOD (even though I might not have seen it at the time--I needed that humbling so much!). So thankful to have you in my life--hope to get to know you more through this writing journey! You are an inspiration!
Thank you for sharing your story.
I agree with you…
Social (Welfare) reform is not about politics it IS about people.
I am disheartened to see what is happening to generations of people as they have become dependent upon a “welfare” system.
I personally witness, first hand this spiraling of work ethic that is actually crippling and disabling Americans everywhere.
I personally witness on a daily basis, abuse and fraud of the system.
If you seek God’s word, you will find scripture to address every part of life, and “welfare” is well addressed.
God never intended the government to become responsible for “helping the needy”.
As you can see in scripture (quoted by you), that is the job of the family, the church; other people.
As an educated individual, surely you are bound to know that America is headed for economic collapse. (Anyone with simple math skills can figure this out)
America is not able and cannot afford these programs.
To me, America is behaving in a social and fiscal irresponsible manner.
To me, this irresponsible path is the most non-empathetic, degrading system America has.
Allow me to ask you this question: Who then will feed these millions of human beings after after America goes bust?
At this point, I am more concerned about how millions of American’s, who are dependent upon the government, will survive when the economy finally collapses, and there is NO money for anything. Too many Americans do not know how to “survive”. They lack basic God given life skills.
The thing that puzzles me is that our forestry and “animal” professionals have a better understanding of this “welfare” concept than most Human Beings do. That is why they “prohibit” the feeding of animals. Why? It ruins them… They become dependent on being fed rather than figuring out how to feed themselves. It creates dependency. Please consider what happened in Louisiana after the natural disaster they experienced as it is only a small glimpse of what America will experience on a larger scale. Welfare recipients stayed there after being told to leave because they did not have their welfare checks and they did not have the means to leave. Some even threatened to sue the government for not sending out their checks early so they could leave. Many sat and Waited for the government to come and bail them out! …cussing them when the government “assistance” finally got there…
This issue we are facing is far less about empathy and more about dependency.
The reason I believe that the government is not to provide things for free is because it is not biblical. God clearly gives us a human beings the right to CHOOSE to help others. The government FORCES the people to help others through taxes. I pray that you can see the difference.
Is welfare scriptural?
Larry BurkettCo-CEO of Crown Financial Ministries
The issue is very clear biblically: We are to help those in need. There may be disagreements about how much help is necessary and who should receive it, but there should be no disagreement on the necessity to feed, clothe, and shelter the poor.
Welfare for the poor is biblical and necessary. The fact that the government has assumed that function of caring for the poor does not negate our responsibility.
No one can realistically deny the fact that the church is no longer the prime mover in meeting the needs of the poor; the government is. Nor can there be any doubt that from this base of government welfare the “great society” has grown. From this society developed many families in permanent poverty, and because of this many Christians have developed resentment and indifference to the real poor.
The purpose of welfare
“For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land'” (Deuteronomy 15:11). God’s Word says that there will always be needs in the world around us. The purpose is twofold: one, to test our commitment to obedience (Matthew 25:40); and two, to create an attitude of interdependence (2 Corinthians 8:14). We are admonished to meet the needs of the widows and orphans because they are unable to meet their own needs. But does welfare stop with the elderly widows and orphans? Unfortunately, in most of Christianity, it doesn’t even include them. Simply because Satan has misused welfare for his purposes doesn’t make welfare wrong.
It’s impossible to read the epistles of James and John without recognizing the requirement to help others in need. John uses the lack of concern for the needs of others as evidence of the lack of love (1 John 3:16-18). Therefore, we know that the true purpose of welfare (meeting the needs of others) is to prove (demonstrate) God’s love through us. An outside observer would have to conclude that there is little evidence of God’s love in America. That is exactly the conclusion many unsaved come to. The church is more interested in buildings, programs, and promotions than in caring.
Effects of welfare
It is interesting to see the contrasting objectives of biblical welfare and government welfare. The effects of sharing with others in need, out of God’s love, are threefold: one, a sense of fellowship and belonging (2 Corinthians 9:13); two, a stronger family unit (1 Timothy 5:8); and three, a high standard for work, which prohibits laziness (2 Thessalonians 3:9-10).
Unfortunately, the effects of social or government welfare are almost the opposite. Why is this? It is because the motivation is not love but pity, or even worse, guilt. When society tries to make up for previous wrongs by providing government welfare, the results will be permanent dependence and poverty. With the best of intentions, our welfare system traps people at the lowest economic level by indiscriminate giving. To qualify for support, most recipients must show only that they are not working, not that they cannot work.
Additionally, most welfare recipients resent the system and, ultimately, the society that supports them. Why? Because of the degrading method in which the funds are distributed and the stigma attached to “taking someone else’s money.” Welfare must be voluntary to express any kind of caring. Government welfare recipients must adopt an attitude of “you owe it to me” to justify receiving the money, even if they have legitimate needs. After only one generation, a welfare mentality and permanent dependence develops. The temptations of free money attracts more and more recipients until, finally, there are fewer “givers” than “takers.”
Christians are given clear and absolute direction about welfare in God’s Word. Fortunately, the standards for welfare also are given. Indiscriminate welfare traps the recipients by making them dependent. Biblical welfare meets needs and always looks toward restoring individuals to a position of productivity.
Qualification for welfare
Poor – In Scripture, being poor literally meant those who were unable to meet even the most basic needs. Those who were poor (not lazy) were worthy of support. (Deuteronomy 15:7-11; 2 Samuel 12:1-5; Proverbs 14:31, 19:17.)
Diligence – There are many people who are lazy by nature. They do not qualify for support and, in fact, require a good swift kick for motivation. Supporting these people is just as unscriptural as not supporting those with legitimate needs. “A worker’s appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on” (Proverbs 16:26). (Also see Proverbs 19:15, 20:4, 24:33-34; 2 Thessalonians 3:10.)
Widows – A qualified widow is defined as a woman 60 years or older whose husband has died (1 Timothy 5:3-10). In the first century it was acknowledged that families took care of their own widows. In our generation, the qualification could well be extended to those who cannot get help from their own families (divorcees included).
Orphans – It would seem evident that being parentless is a nearly impossible situation. All children belong to God’s family. If Christians fulfilled their function, every child would have parents. Even if we can’t adopt them all, we most assuredly can care for their needs (both material and emotional).
Benevolence – This is nothing more than material “obedience.” Welfare means long-term care; benevolence means meeting immediate needs. In James 2:15-16 we are admonished to help those in need. It does not qualify them as “poor” or “widows” but only as “lacking of the daily food.” Such temporary needs can easily be the result of illness, imprisonment, or unemployment. Benevolence means giving to the obvious needs of another.
Lifestyle – Legitimately, many Christians ask what constitutes a need in another’s life. The Scripture seems to indicate a moderate lifestyle but not one of poverty. “For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality” (2 Corinthians 8:13). Reason would indicate that a need is relative to the society and times. A Cambodian’s needs probably do not include an automobile. But for many Americans, a car is necessary for earning a livelihood. Since there are no absolutes on this issue, it would seem that God allows individual discernment. However, the need for food, shelter, and clothing to survive are absolutes and, unfortunately, there are many people in our world who are dying for the lack of these things.
The truth is that Christians are doing a miserable job of caring for the physical needs of the poor. If we can’t meet the needs of those around us, we won’t meet the needs of people in other countries. Few churches today have any organized program for helping the poor of their own fellowship or community. Some have a benevolence fund to help meet some emergencies but nothing to meet continuing needs. Obviously, vision and leadership come from the top down. If the church doesn’t practice the “body” concept of Christianity, it is a certainty that it will never reach the unsaved community.
At present, the governments of the world account for nearly 95 percent of all the care to the aged, ill, and impoverished, and the evidence shows they are using it as a tool to spread atheism. Is it any wonder that the unsaved are rejecting Christianity? In the matter of caring, it has become just another religion rather than a “faith.” (Obviously, there are exceptions, and many Christian organizations do a great job of meeting the physical and spiritual needs of others, but they are few in comparison.) It is not a question of ability or direction. Christians in America have the resources to do at least ten times what we are presently doing for the poor, with little or no alteration of lifestyles.
Many Christians are going to be very ashamed to face the Lord and explain how they hoarded money for indulgences while others went hungry at the same time. “And he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?'” (Luke 12:18,20).
What can we do
Welfare was transferred from the church because the church neglected it. It can be recovered, and the church can become a leader in caring about personal needs. This is not an option from God; it is an imperative. “He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses”(Proverbs 28:27).
Committed Christians should encourage their church leaders to establish a body life ministry. A portion of every church’s budget should be designated for needs in the fellowship and in the community. There should also be an outreach to starving people in other countries. If the denomination doesn’t have a “care” program, support a good, independent ministry that feeds the hungry.
Each church should have a resource committee set up to counsel families in need, to determine who does and does not qualify. There should be such an atmosphere of sharing and caring that members would feel as free to share a financial burden as they would a physical burden. Ultimately, within the Christian community there should be health and child care centers, vocational training centers, and employment agencies, so that when faced with needs from within the Christian community or the secular community we could respond without relying on government help.
Thank you for taking the time to write all of this. It was eye-opening and convicting. I am very much in agreement.
I haven’t read the article or above comments yet. I have read the above story. As I wipe away my tears to type, I want to sing your praises. I agree!!! I am 38, have worked since I was 15. Mostly two jobs, until I worked my way into a better position. I believed that I just had to work hard for what I wanted. I helped others, worked up to 16 hrs a day. Then a silent nightmare began, I have fibromyalgia. I can’t work, could barely take care of myself. I have no income, as I wait for the powers at will to decide if I am sick enough for disability. I get $187 in food stamps a mth. No Medicaid. If not for my family and frineds, I would have lost my home and everything else I have worked for. I get it. When I worked, I was in the caregiving field. I walked into these peoples homes. Saw their lives and stuggles everyday. I also walked into the homes of the very wealthy. And saw their life and struggles. We need to take a minute before we make assumptions about either. I know there are people who abuse this or any other system. That is sad but true. What little I get is a blessing to me, and I am thankful. Thank God you were able to better your situation. Great post!!!
Reading just now your article brought back memories of when my 3 children (now 25, 20 & 18) were little. I remember being pregant for our 3rd & last child & hearing the doctor say he will be born with problems. Going to Riley’s Childrens Hospital when he was 4 days old. All the surgeries over the yrs that are not done even yet. Of being on WIC, and no not food stamps didn’t quailfy for those, having Cripples Childrens Insurance as it was known then at that time b/c our sons medical bills were out of this world. I also remember being embarrassed & yes ppl rolling their eyes, sighing behind me b/c it took so long to get thru the checkout with those vouchers. But I was grateful for every WIC voucher I got & my attitude was this my husband worked hard to pay for those taxes that were paid in so we could use WIC. So when a mom turns & says I’m so sorry this taking so long you know what I say? I say don’t sweat it I was there once too!!!
I loved this. I am a WIC user as well, while hubby finishes school to make our situation better. I see my neighbors at the Health Department with dirty kids. I know how much they appreciate the help. Yes churches should do more. My hubby often says “If churches were doing their job we wouldn’t need WIC or SNAP.” I think that is where we could do the most good. As for your statement “I am not a political person” I hate that you say that. We need people like you to be involved in politics because our country is falling apart. Our kids need Moms like you to care what our elected leaders are doing. Until more conservative christians get involved, the people who are out to turn our country into a socialist state will just dig their heels in deeper. I think you are VERY political, and you have a great perspective on social issues. Keep up the great posts!
Beautifully said. Full of grace and truth.
God placed the duty to help the truly “needy” NOT on the Government, but upon YOU!
Kelly @ The Nourishing Home
I couldn’t get through your article without tears streaming. What a beautifully written discourse on the real face of the working poor in our nation. And as you said, we need to look to Jesus and have His compassion. Each person can make a difference in not only relieving the pain and struggle of others in this life, but of even greater importance of helping others to come to know and love the Lord, the giver of eternal life to those who hope and trust in Him.
It saddens me to see people with hard hearts that would have distain for the poor and claim they are “stealing” from others when they utilize the resources made available to help them. I loved your point about rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and your brief note that you believe the church should be helping more . I agree with both, but that’s of no matter what I think, it’s a biblical principle and that is what is important – helping those in need who are willing to work but need help.
One point I would add in response to people’s thinking that it is “their hard earned money” being taken from them … I would be very careful about that mindset, as the Lord is clear that nothing we have is our own. “What do you have that wasn’t given to you?” (John 3:27, 1 Cor 4:7, Jam 1:17). Everything we have is from God, so talk about the ultimate “welfare” program – we are deserving of nothing, we are all poor, destitute and doomed without the precious blood of Christ, which He freely laid down for us.
So how can we then turn a blind eye to the plight of those in need? I think about this the passage in James 2:14-17, which clearly says our faith (our claim that we believe and follow Christ) is of NO value, but is DEAD, if we see a need and merely give lip-service rather than help.
All this to say, I couldn’t agree more that need to soften our hearts and open our eyes to the need all around us. But as we see so many great physical and emotional needs, let’s not forget that the REAL NEED people have is the Savior. For He is the bread of life, the stream of living waters, and He is the only One by which we can be saved and have the hope of eternal life with Him. (Acts 4:12, John 14:6)
May our generation commit our hearts, minds and lives to passionately pursuing the Lord and His Kingdom, and doing good toward others sharing His Gospel of Salvation that our children may see from our example the love of the Lord and following our footsteps of love toward God and man.
Megan at SortaCrunchy
Beautifully spoken, Kelly. My thoughts EXACTLY. Thank you for this Christ-centered response.
Thank you. I am struggling right now with two things: since growing our family our income situation changed unexpectedly and the “why on earth did you have more children? You know how much they cost?!?!?” comments keep coming. We aren’t anywhere near welfare, but things are tight and we’ve had to make some changes. Also, we are ‘compassionate conservative christians’, and here in South Africa dire poverty is literally on our doorstep. As we seek to understand and minister, we are deeply saddened by the attitude of most, believers and non, towards the poor and downcast. We need a revolution of love. “Where you stand determines what you see.” Sometimes the position we stand in changes by forces beyond our control, and for this, like you, I am grateful because it is an opportunity to learn and grow amid the difficulty. And sometimes we must choose to stand somewhere else so we can see more, and better.
Thank you for standing up for those of us who chose to stay at home and have had to pay the price for it. My husband and I BOTH have Master’s degrees, but with 3 kids in 3 yrs and me at home, we lost 60% of our annual income. My husband works THREE jobs and we still can’t make ends meet. It is tough to try to make money blogging and I’m still not there yet. But one day we will be and I can cut up my EBT card. One day I’ll be able to replace my husband’s income and I can throw away our Medicaid card.
But for now… Thank you for advocating for us — regular God-loving people who fell into hard times and are so glad the government had a provision for us. And I agree with you — ultimately, this is the CHURCH’s responsibility.
This was awesome. And, yes: “And, really, a whole other post for a whole other day is that…I believe this aid should come from the church in the first place.” It starts with each of us. My dad is the pastor of a large parish and he always says that the biggest gifts to the church and the poor come from those who have least. Also, many times we have no idea how much our churches ARE actually giving and this is dependent on what we give to the church. Churches often help in quiet ways that aren’t advertised and if we stop our support, we’re guilty of ignoring our neighbor. Thanks for the post, it’s such a good reminder during Lent to increase our thankfulness, almsgiving, and compassion.
One more thing, I was in a professional development session for my inner-city teaching job and the presenter told a story about asking students to bring in school supplies for the needy (in reality, the supplies were going to be divided up among all of the students…it reminded me of the way the Church functioned in Acts of the Apostles). One little girl brought the teacher 2 pencils and told her, “My mama said we had to bring pencils for the poor people.” The teacher told us that she wanted to tell the little girl, “Honey, you ARE the poor people!” and that she was really touched by the generosity of the students. Just an example of taking personal responsibility for the people around you.
We never used WIC or Medicaid when we were in school, but my daughter was born at 25 weeks and was in the hospital for 2 and half months. She qualified for Medicaid and WIC. I remember how I felt each time I used my WIC. I finally stopped using it even before we stopped qualifying. I always explained that my daughter had been in the hospital and because she qualified for Medicaid she automatically qualified for WIC. I felt guilty because really my husband has a great job. So I went with my gut and stopped using it. We had regular insurance. But people do need to realize that we have three children two of which has special needs. It is a lot of stress sometimes and 80% of people who have a kid with special needs end up in bankruptcy. We had a short sale two years ago in January. It was a humbling experience. At the time we didn’t realize that our daughter was going to be born with Spina Bifida and other birth defects and that just a year later we would find out that our three year old had an autistic spectrum disorder. I am grateful we had the short sale. It has made it possible for us to care for our kids. People have judged us for short saling but had we not we would be in a lot of financial problems today. It was a matter of prayer and it deeply humbled me. I am also disabled. I have arthritis and bipolar disorder. It is about people and you never know what their story is. I used to think why did such and such do WIC when they had money in the bank and then we were in the same situation and I realized that sometimes people are just doing the best they can and it doesn’t matter what we think they should do. They need to do what is best for their family.
oh man. you are speaking TO the choir and FROM the heart of God.
my story ended up i left the church too, and although i am now ‘making ends meet’ that all depends on what i can call abundance. i have love and a place to stay .. all good!
Christians lack many things but fearfully pronounce judgment so the don’t end up the ‘eaten’ and they don’t realize they are the ‘eater’ instead. sharing this . . bless you and the Lord magnify your favor.
Heather Anne Hendricksen
Yes and amen… You have such a gift as a writer, Erin. This is eloquent, genuine, and heart-felt. I pray that your words will convict (as they have me) and we can begin to see the church, us conservative Christians, being the hands and feet of Christ as the Bible teaches. It is only then that we will begin to see change in our communities. Blessings to you, sweet lady and sister in Christ.
I know more who have taken advantage of the system than those who have not. My solution is to help those God puts directly in front of me. I pass on clothes, give money when someone needs it (no loans, as that affects friendships), give rides, bring extra snacks for other people’s kids at events, help watch kids for free. But someone needing rent money every single month b/c they can’t get it together and have made poor choices for 20 years is a different story and I help when I can and move on to others who want to help themselves and are just having a hard time temporarily.
P.S. I forgot to say that I could easily be on the other side of this. I have said many times I would never put my kids in daycare and would go on welfare first and deal with the scorn of society if I had to. Now that I homeschool 5 kids, if my husband lost his job, I would totally go on assistance to stay home and educate them, unashamed, while working from home online like I do as a proofreader and writer and hope it paid the rest of the bills.
First I want to say I love Love LOVE reading your posts! I am a very recent subscriber but I find myself reading and agreeing, shaking my head yes, and saying AMEN to many of your thoughts and helpful creative suggestions.
I did read the post you shared the other day about poverty and I cried, I wish more people would read it and catch the heart that is behind it! As others have commented it was as if you were telling my story! It’s not often that people experiencing poverty have an advocate!
Let me share with you what the last 7 days have been like for me. March 12th I posted an article on my blog titled “Holey Socks” it was me coming to realize how the holes in my socks made me realize how far I had changed my identity because of a label of poverty and how I was now awakening and fighting off that label. The following day there was a snow storm and I wasn’t able to make it to my Nanny job. No show up, no get paid. The day after that with 8 inches of snow on the ground my car got repossessed, right in front of my children in my driveway. (I had to make a choice – my home or my car and well.. we couldn’t live in a car) ) and three days after that my 20 year old attached washer/dryer decided to retire. Even the repairmans’ visit today couldn’t resuscitate it and said it wasn’t worth fixing! Yeah all of this really happened to me this week, and all of these situations need to be addressed by me.
The repo man’s disdain was evident in how hard he pounded on my doors and then the windows of my house before I could even respond to his first set of bangs. As I fumbled to empty my vehicle in my pajamas and search through my purse with my keys I was humiliated. I wanted to offer an explanation but knew he didn’t care.
He didn’t know that 2 years ago I was injured in a house fire, stayed on medical leave to long and got fired from my job. He didn’t know that I had been in a burn unit, been through skin grafts and was working 3 part time jobs to make ends meet since loosing my full time position. He didn’t know the victory the week before of making a mortgage payment and keeping groceries on the table… he just didn’t know and at that moment it didn’t matter. I felt I had lost a battle that never was in my control.
So thank you for your posting of “An open letter to Paul Ryan” It spoke to my weary heart!
I do have hope and faith that days will be better! I do know that God is my ultimate provider and trust Him despite what the circumstances look like. Even still we need each other in this life to hold each other up and keep each other strong!
I look forward to reading more from you!
God’s Blessings In this Journey!
I just read your post and I want you to know that I am praying for you & your family. You just reminded me…HUMBLED me….that there are many people out there in a much worse boat than we are. Many blessings to all of you.
Thank you Lisa!! WE ARE in this together! That’s what the church and brothers n sisters in Christ are! Thank you for taking the time to pray for me and my family! I will uphold yours as well!!
I love when God works all things together for his GLORY don’t you??
Kristy @ Little Natural Cottage
Oh, Erin, thank you for this article. . I have walked in those same shoes. Thank you for so beautifully (and honestly) expressing your story… and mine.
Your blog post hit frighteningly close to home for us. We, too, are the working poor. The recession took away about 80% of my carpenter husband’s income. Foreclosure & bankruptcy? Been there, done that–twice on the bankruptcy….all to save the dumb house we plunked down $100,000 in cash for a downpayment (obviously, that was in much better years that have long since passed). You are absolutely correct in saying that we are put into and brought through a bad situation to carry us to where we are now. That’s God’s plan for us. It was for me. Being a years long borderline atheist (not by choice–it just evolved that way), my whole world came crashing down one night 4 1/2 year ago in October that ended with me on my knees praying and begging for help for our situation. That help came in a visit from something that picked me up off the floor and directed me to the computer to look up the service info for the little old Methodist church up the road from me. I was guided to that church by some unseen force and it literally saved my life. I had an actual epiphany that night (and that’s what I named my blog “www.octoberepiphany.com”). Out of a bad situation came a lot of good. Going thru those hard financial times put me on the path in life I’m on now. I’m right where I am supposed to be and God place me here…..HE placed me here, not me. Was the whole thing we went thru hard? Excruciatingly hard, BUT, we got thru it and we will be okay because God has my back just like He has everyone else’s.
Great article… and all the comments reveal true hearts and minds on the subject. I personally get so angry when I see people making sweeping judgments about those of us who qualify for assistance. I am a homeschooling, stay at home mother of 2. My husband puts in long working hours even though he should be on disability due to his car accident two years ago, right after I became pregnant with our dear little girl. We have never been people who wanted to be on WIC or Welfare, take from charities, and such. We both worked hard before our first child to make sure to have plenty for ourselves and for others. After our son was born, thing got tighter, the money changed, jobs changed, living arrangements…everything. We were able to get off WIC after nearly three years and able to afford to buy a house, but things went awry… we built our lives back up slowly and just when we didn’t need any assistance or even qualify, the economy struck and my husband was left without the nearly 60K a year we were used to having, including my own self-employed money. My self employment was also hit by the economy…and then the call of God on our lives to leave everything behind that was familiar to us and move to another state. It took us 2 1/2 years before we had more than a post office box as an address, staying back and forth in the new state and our former home state with friends and family. God finally brought us to a place where my husband has a job, and even though I no longer can consider myself *self employed* due to the lack of income (not that I have stopped endeavoring, but I have to switch gears and start over to find something successful), I have found that I can do so much with couponing and spending when we have so we can save when we don’t. Without the help of WIC, Medicaid, and Welfare, we would be so much worse off. My son has a milk allergy, which means he needs to drink more expensive types of milk. He is also beef sensitive, and allergic to a few other foods and many environmental things which means we have to take special precautions for him, and they aren’t always cheap. We thank God for the helping hand we get from the government at this time. Working for churches isn’t as lucrative as many would make it seem. The spiritual rewards are vast and immeasurable, and the treasures in heaven will be wonderous…but what we have here is a paycheck to barely paycheck situation where credit, prayers, and the help of the government is what we have in order to make ends meet.
Your passion for Christ is evident in the article you wrote advocating for the poor. I once was a self-employed freelance writer, but now am jobless. I planned to work part-time during my daughter’s nap time and after she went to bed, but now my primary source of income is no longer there. One month before giving birth in 2011, I got laid off along with all of the other writers. I had no way of collecting unemployment, and 2 years later I’m still searching for work. I know that you mentioned writing to supplement the family’s income. Could you please give me some guidance on how you got started writing from home? I don’t have a lot of experience with freelance writing, and want to earn the money we need. I got my college degree later on in life, and have limitations due to previous trauma. Any advice is greatly appreciated. The church may place the poor into negative stereotypes, but Christ’s love sees past the remarks. Some may call us lazy but Jesus’s eyes set us free from the judgements that bind us. God Bless!
Unfortunately you’re right, the problem isn’t that there are people taking advantage of the system, it’s that Christians have scoffed, ridiculed, judged and turned a blind eye to others needs way too often. What if instead of building million dollar mega churches and paying pastors 100,000 plus per year that money was used for those who needed it, like Christ and the early believers set an example of? The Bible says true religion is taking care of orphans and widows, yet how many Christians do you know take in orphans or provide for widows? I know of 2………2. I truly deep down believe that Christ called us to live in his power and grace and do amazing things, yet we are falling so short. You can never fix the collective, but we need to start taking personal responsibility and trusting God to help us do amazing things for our fellow human beings.
THANK YOU for this comment. I am constantly aghast at the money spent on all the mega-million dollar churches I see, and I wonder how many mouths could have been fed instead. In Arkansas se have one of the highest poverty rates. I can’t help but be driven far, far away from most churches because of this; and I can’t blame people who won’t have anything to do with religion. Mostly, the churches are not setting an example of love or of Christ in their (lack of) actions.
I just want to say thank you for even just talking about this!! Five years ago, my husband was ripped from our lives and put in prison for protecting our family against two men who invaded our home. I had NOTHING and no where to go. I was a stay at home mom who homeschooled and my husband was a logger. We had no savings and barely any money. Since he went away, I have been working to get my bachelor’s degree while still home schooling, and yes, on food stamps the whole time. I’m so ashamed of our need for them that I quietly tell our boys not to call it ‘food stamps’ but our ‘grocery money’. And you know what? I shouldn’t be so stinking ashamed. I’m trying and working on getting us out of a place where we need that grocery money. God has been so faithful to us! And we as a nation, as a society, should stop shaming people for needing help, for being in need at all. It’s not a terrible place to be. It teaches you humility and kindness. It teaches you to depend on the Lord and it teaches you to see beyond yourself and to see others in need as well. Thank you so much for being open and honest and for bringing an issue that is taboo to light in a Godly, conservative Christian way. It really does mean a lot.
Misty Nicole Overstreet-Roberts (The Lady Prefers To Save)
Thank you for the article. For me, as a Political Scientist, and a blogger, its hard for many people to come to terms with the many labels society places upon us. For me, I balance my faith and politics by stating that:
I am a Christian, because my faith is my God.
I am a Democrat, because my people were poor, working-class Irish immigrants, unionists, and worked themselves out of deprivation through hard work and education.
I am a Feminist, because the issues surrounding women’s health, children, families, and the social implications and public policy that surround these issues directly effects me.
I am Political, because I still believe that the greatest enemy to the breakup of this nation is empathy, understand of out political culture, and Constitutional paralysis is to change social policy.
I am a Liberal, because I believe in classical liberalism; I believe in the theories of free markets, free enterprise, freedom, civil liberties, and in social equality. I believe in the betterment of all people, even if they are not in my home, community, church, or circle of friends.
I am a Humanist, because it is through self-imposed sensitization on topics, such as poverty, that can change the everyday situation of so many, like myself and husband, who is also a teacher.
For me, I like to not think I am my brother and sisters keep, but I am my brother and sister.
This type of debate reminds me of my favorite Robert Kennedy quote, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” What can be more Godly than that?
Misty, your explanations of labels make so much sense to me.
I loved this whole article, Erin. I have had such a hard time with the Christian community hiding behind “the Bible says” and using that to justify inaction and hate towards people.
I love Jesus. I am having a harder time with the people who say they follow Him these days.
It is something that I have been struggling with. Thanks for sharing your story.
Thank you for sharing this story. My husband and I both came from working class/lower middle class families and we were encouraged heavily to go to college and get degrees. We did, but we entered college around 2001 when financial aid to states, institutions and students was withering, at the same time tuition and books were going up. (and then I quit for a couple of years as well) We were encouraged to take out student loans because “its the best investment you can make for your future and will be the best way to get ahead in the world. So we did. We both have Master’s and now we have our first child and want more children. We have been struggling. Our families live a minimum of 8 hours away so we have no help. We have great credit and live on his income with my supplemental subbing and nannying jobs, and I recently just started a blog too! We have been trying to buy a house, but kept getting denied a house loan. We kept getting denied because of our massive student loans. We have put off having a second child to help us get ahead. After being denied several times to get a house, we worked really hard last year (and my husbands job stopped moving us around so we could get ahead) and just this past week we were approved for a small house loan. We are so, so happy about it! But its frustrating when we see and hear people (even my own family) making comments about how easy it is to “make it” if you just work hard. We have worked so hard and we have made so many sacrifices. We have shed many tears over feeling defeated some days and feeling like we made huge mistakes by going to school. Anyways…I could go and on, because its a long story (my husband is encouraging me to share on my own blog..but I haven’t quite gotten the courage, though you have encouraged me through your blog a lot). We know there are so many more people who struggle much, much worse than us and know we have so much to be grateful for. There are many who have no light at the end of the tunnel..thank you for pointing that out. Please keep writing! I just started following your blog a few weeks ago and your family is such an inspiration to me!
Thank you for sharing your story. My husband is a minister. I have taken a position outside of my field because I can’t find work, despite having a Masters degree. We are just above the qualification mark for any assistance. I often feel like Jacob wrestling with God, pleading for an answer or deliverance from this current placement. When you mentioned that some families don’t have the choice between gymnastics or dance, that has been us. Our girls have watched while other friends get to participate in the extracurricular things or go on Disney vacations. They often ask when will we get to do those things, or my oldest cries at having nothing to say when people ask her what she likes to do. My youngest has decided she wants to try to earn some money (at the age of 10) because she knows we can’t afford a lot. We are often “robbing Peter to pay Paul” just to keep from having water and electricity cut off. Some days I can combat the lies from the enemy on the quality of mother I am. Other days, I struggle. I hold fast to Jer. 29:11-13. I know this is overly used sometimes, but I also know That set of verses, combined with Psalms 34:18 & Romans 8:28, God will use these times of trial to form a testimony to hope Him, while making my heart more sensitive to those in need. I appreciate you sharing so openly. Often times, the enemy likes to isolate us in order to make us feel less than dirt. The enemy seeks to kill, steal, and destroy. HE came to give life! Thank you again!!! You have been a much-needed encouragement!!
It is SOOOO hard to ask for help when you are not sure if you need it or not. But that is the best time to get help. When I was 19 I didn’t have much. My parents moved out of my home town and I stayed because I needed the job experience and loved my job. I remember volunteering as a youth minister and collecting food for the poor. It felt so strange to have food carelessly stacked into sacks. I remember thinking, I wonder if anyone would notice if I take a couple of cans for myself. But I didn’t. I didn’t even know where the foodbank was and I didn’t want too. One day I messed up. I parked on the wrong side of the road in montana in the middle of winter. The plows ordered my car towed. I woke up in time to run out and they let my car down but not before I had to pay them $25. I made only $850 per month so the $25 I just paid meant no food for a couple of days.
As I lay on my living room floor hungry, waiting for payday and listening to the old radio I kept from my parents house Rush Limbaugh came on and explained how being poor was all my fault and if I didn’t want to be poor then I needed to change something. As much as many hate Mr. Limbaugh, he was right. The circumstances we all put ourselves in (school loans, more kids, living away from home, even the job we have or dont have) are all things you can change.
Of course I made the changes and my story ends happily ever after but not without it changing me. Much like the author I do have compassion for people who need help and want to help implement solutions in their life.
You ALL need to be very careful in reading this article. This article MUST serve as proof that you can change your current situation and you should get help if you need it. It MUST NOT serve as validation for your impoverished state. You need to LEARN from it. Get a job “outside your field” if the world lied to you and told you to get a degree and borrow the money for it. I think everyone commenting on this blog saying they have school loan debt listed bible verses to justify their stance on life yet the bible is pretty clear about borrowing money and where it will get you.
I went from Computer programmer ($850 per month) to tech support to staples associate, to computer programmer to software company owner to software project manager to now real estate agent (started in 2011, which was not easy). Each change was hard but each change resulted in more success except when it didn’t, then I changed again.
Dont let a degree or a misunderstanding of some phrase in the bible tell you what to do. DO what is BEST for you.
Get some help, get it early, so you can get out of it.
And please, Jesus Christ(I am actually calling him here) don’t let anyone worried about their financial situation (most in this thread) buy a house. That is the worst thing you can do and this is coming from a real estate agent, at least while I am successful at that. 🙂
Those of you saying you can’t get a house because of your student loans could not be more wrong. You cant get a house because you don’t have enough money left over at the end of any given month to buy a house because you spent your future money years ago.
I would be interested in your post on why you think the aid should come from the church. My sister discussed with me some of what Rob Rienow writes in his book Limited Church, Unlimited Kingdom… His stance is (from my understanding) that the institution of the church should not overstep its bounds by giving aid to the poor BUT individuals (you know, the PEOPLE) who make up the Body of Christ should be meeting the needs of those around them however possible. It’s really easy to sit back and give to a church fund without seeing those faces, buying those clothes, filling those pantries with food.
We have been grateful for the ways individuals have blessed us…humbled. And, though we are “below the poverty line,” we love looking for ways to bless others.
Thanks for commenting, Kayla. When I refer to the church, I am actually meaning the individuals who make up the church body. I think compassion is best honed when we do give individually–face-to-face.
Erin, this is a beautiful post. I think it’s sad how politically charged this subject can get. I totally agree with you that welfare should be taken care of by the church and not the government then politics would become more distant. My local church actually has a great welfare program where the members fast and give the money they would have spent on the food and then some to the church to be used locally to those who are in need. It’s a great way to be sure no one in the congregation is going without the things and food they need.
So well written and from the heart. Thanks for this inspiring post! I hope I never will forget the principles you have shared.
This is wonderful, I haven’t read your initial article but I will shortly. The part that spoke to most to me was the comment on the teen mother. Not to get too political but it’s insane to me that republicans are pro-life, but it seems like while they want the baby born (I absolutely do to) they don’t want to help it, or the mother, at all after that point. I don’t mind paying taxes for that reason. Hurrah for compassion!
While I agree with the spirit of this article I must say that if you qualify for EBT (Food Stamps) you also qualify for Earned income Credit on your taxes. Most people who fall into this category usually get all the money they paid into taxes back ,if not more that they paid in. I have worked for the state in Customer Service for the Medical Insurance that low income families receive. There is a fair amount of people that have to pay something ( again this is based on income and if your pregnant or not) for it, a co pay if you will. I may be a little jaded as well and I would like to think that the people that sign up for assistance have just hit a rough patch but the truth is most of them will never be in a better situation, sadly many have made it a life style choice. It would be detrimental for them to get a job because then their aid would be cut and they would not be able to make ends meet. Some people have no desire to to better their situation because that is what they know and if it is going to be given to them why not take it. There was maybe one in fifty people that I spoke with on a daily basis that actually seemed grateful and did not expect help but was very thankful that it was given. Regardless of their situation and if they wanted to be where they were at in life it was my job to help them. My compassion is not gone regardless if I think that the vast majority of the people that I helped on a daily basis are never going to better their situation . They still needed help, they still need to feed their children, and they still need medications. Who am I to say that they can not have it because I do not feel that they are not trying hard enough . It is not up to me to decide who is deserves assistance. Thank God for that, we are human and we are judgmental and I am thankful everyday that God does not pass judgement on me so easily.
This was an emotional read for me. We are on Medicaid as well as getting food stamps for the past 3 years . We have been on WIC for the last 4 months, since the birth of my daughter. It has been a humbling experience. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel guilt and wish there was a way we could not be on it to make ends meet. I could go back to work, but the thought of leaving my nursing baby and little ones, just to make min. wage and still not be ahead, is heartbreaking.
We had 5 children and were married nearly 20 yrs before we ever needed any kind of gov. assistance (we’ve had 2 more children since.) and then the economy went south and my husband’s line of work really suffered. He is not a lazy man . The first thing people notice about him, is how hard he works. His work has been slow the last several months and when he does have plenty of work, he has to bid low, just to get the work. When things first started to get tight,we could no longer afford the health insurance premiums. The price of gas went up and so we had to put it on our credit card . We ended up living off of our credit cards. Then we couldn’t afford those anymore. We had to file bankruptcy. The only way we were able to survive was by getting help. We’ve tried to sell our house before we filed bankruptcy, but we didn’t get any offers. Now that we have poor credit, it’s not something we will be able to do because we can’t get a loan to buy something less expensive. I fear we wouldn’t be able to find anyone to rent to us (having 7 children) and imagine it would cost the same if not more a month as our mortgage.
I’ve had 2 children while getting assistance. Although I rarely use Medicaid and have given birth at home (we pay that ourselves..it’s much more affordable but still takes us some time to pay). I still hope the Lord will bless us with another child, if it be His will. I am 40 yrs. old and know I may not have many years left to have more. I feel very guilty though to even consider it, since we can’t pay for all of our food or insurance. We keep hoping that things will get better and I know in time they will but thinking about putting our family size on hold, when I have only a few years left to do so, is a very hard place to be. We waited 5 years to have our 6th child and our 7th child was not planned but I’m so glad she’s here.
I wanted to share a little bit more regarding this wonderful article, and it’s taken me a long time to do it! 🙂 But reading and skimming through things again, I am again reminded of our God Who is the epitome of compassion.
We have two severely disabled people in our family (including me), but we work as much as we can. My husband works over 70 hours a week taking care of our many medical and other needs right now, but he doesn’t get paid for that, even though he has over 30 hours toward a master’s degree and does an exceptional job in his care-giving. I do what I can physically (not much) and write children’s books and try to help people.
Without government help, we would be starving (or without heat, etc.) because many of our relatives have given their lives to God (pastors and missionaries) for relatively low or very low salaries and don’t have enough money to help us with our entire large and ongoing need. (They do what they can, which is a lot, considering their incomes.)
Sadly, even “disability income” is rarely enough to pay bills if you have children, even with an extremely frugal lifestyle. It’s even worse if the family has suffered other material loss through disaster (which insurance did not cover) like we did.
I have Christian friends both “in person” and online—all around the United States and even Canada and Australia—that carry similar heavy burdens because the church (Christians as a whole) judges their situations or their chronic illness as well as their poverty.
It is different if someone is living in rebellion against God and making continued choices to become pregnant out of wedlock, drink to drunkenness, etc. (Anyone can make mistakes; repentance is the key.) If someone had helped the Prodigal Son while he was still in rebellion, he might never have come back to his loving father. This would have been a shame for himself most of all!!!! So, when looking at poverty, one must distinguish one situation from another.
However, for those of us who are NOT in rebellion against God, people who blame us for our own troubles are only kicking us when we are down, no different from the friends of Job in the Bible.
Recently, James 2:5 has been very comforting to me: “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”
Wow, just beautiful. I too have lived on both sides. I feel like I’m still “right there” on the line. We can’t get medicaid or foodstamps, but we often have to choose which bill gets more. This year, we had to get our Christmas tree from a church, which I am grateful cares enough about their community to have tree drives. Like you, I feel the church has a responsibility to help as well. Thank you for writing this, it touched my heart and brought memories of burning cheeks as I pulled out my food stamp card when I was a single mother.
I linked from your FB share, and what I have to add is too much for a reply there.
I have been there and done that…I was on ‘welfare’ when my daughter was born and my son was getting ready for kindergarten…I did the right thing, and spent that time earning my diploma and RN license…intending to return to the tax paying rolls…Hey, I’d paid into the ‘system’, why not utilize it to my advantage?
But what always chapped my butt was the limo full of ‘working girls’ and their ‘manager’ who walked ‘proudly’ into that office to pick up their checks, only to march back to the limo and hand that check to their ‘managers’…and no, I’m not exaggerating, this was inner city welfare office entertainment at it’s finest…
I went to work in an inner city ER, and eventually ended up in a suburban ER…and the polarizing opposite mindsets I saw were unbelievable…in the inner city, the majority of our patients were on some sort of assistance, some of them multigenerational recipients, some just folks down on their luck…and I can honestly say that those down on their luck, or perhaps with a disability/chronic health condition were the most grateful for what we could do for them…those of the ‘entitlement’ mindset, we could never do enough for them…and holy cow, when I went to the suburban ER? I wanted to run back to the inner city! The ‘entitlement’ folks in the suburbs were horrendous! They expected to be waited on hand and foot! There was a particular ethnic group that dominated the entitlement group, which I will not name…but let me just say that in the inner city, I cared for many from other cultures in their country, who were much more gracious and grateful for whatever assistance we could provide…and I’m going to say something potentially controversial here, but the illegal immigrants (primarily Mexican) were folks I was actually sympathetic to (they were working multiple jobs, unable to go to a doctor during the day because they had to be at their jobs, and coming to the ER because their employers didn’t offer insurance, on top of them sending money back home while trying to support themselves and/or their families)
So, here I am at 50+, laid off a year ago, have had exactly one job interview, and trying my darndest not to get back into the cycle…but I may have to…But you say, oh you have a degree and a license, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a job…but you don’t understand the field and how it is changing…Most facilities want a Bachelor’s degree these days…Sorry, but at my age I can’t rationalize taking on the debt it would require me to get that, not while I’m STILL paying on my student loans from my associate degree…not to mention the dearth of cheaper employees, due to all the nursing schools in our area…My experience does come with a price, and those new grads cost a lot less…
So this isn’t a feel sorry for me post, honestly, altho it did give me a second to vent…
But it is all about not judging folks who may be on assistance…because as hard as I’m trying, I may well be back on that boat again…My own experience tells me that ‘back in the day’ there were more who didn’t necessarily ‘deserve’ to get assistance…but these days, it truly is hard to say…
I appreciate you. Right now, we are at the “red faced” stage of this journey. We have boyh worked very hard and have scraped by. Living from paycheck to paycheck. Feeling guilty for using the last of the toothpaste or dish soap or shampoo. Gritting our teeth when the diapers or wipes get low. It seems silly to some, but it’s all very real. Its tough to watch your amazing husband feel like a failure bcuz he feels He isnt providing enough. I just want to say, that you are doing your job as an encourager. when I see that someone else went through it, got through it, and remembers to look back, and help others, I know that God can do the same for us. He is building and shaping us for our future. I can’t wait for that day when we too can cancel Wic and assistance. We are getting closer… Someday soon.
Heather @ My Overflowing Cup
As is your usual style, this post is both humble, graceful, and touching. Jesus taught us the importance of our hearts. Giving is an issue of the heart. If we are to love others like Jesus did, we can have nothing short of compassion. If we are to live thankful lives, we can’t help but be generous with what He has blessed us with. I can’t imagine Him criticizing us for giving from the heart to those who don’t truly need or deserve it, but I can see Him condemning us for not giving when we saw a need we could have met. May our hearts be filled with more compassion than ever in 2015! I hope that you will keep challenging us with posts like this one, Erin. Thank you.
Thank you so much for your kind words, Heather! Happy New Year to you!!
Oh my, I can’t even imagine the comments this article will get. For me, it made me cry. See, I’ve been at the top and bottom income wise. What people don’t realize is how quick things can change. Money is money. It’s nice to have but regardless of your job, it can change in an instant.
A few months ago I lost my dream, well paying, job due to medical issues. I had to swallow my pride and apply for help. I was fighting for my life and was judged. And that hurt. I’m not a statistic. I’m a real person.
I still haven’t found work and bills are piling up and car just broke. I literally haven’t been able to afford to go to church for weeks.
But guess what? I’m not unhappy anymore. Most of the time, I still have moments of stress but I’m working on that. When you’re at rock bottom, you find out what’s truly important.
This is a hard season of life but it’ll change. It’s been humbling to accept help from others and a creative challenge to meet our needs (and some wants) but I’m learning so much about HOW to help others. I haven’t been able to donate money but I can donate my time, skills and material items.
Thank you Erin for such a thoughtful post.
I am so, so sorry for this tough time you are going through right now. There is a light at the end of the tunnel even when it’s still dark. I will pray for you right now! Thank you for sharing your heart. I pray you sense the Lord’s arms around you today and His PEACE that passes all understanding!!! <3
My Pastor recently shared this wise observation, ” We are all just one event away from disaster.” I am thankful for the blessings I have today. It can all disappear so quickly.
Thank you for this. I grew up in a very poor home. My dad was on disability and my mom worked tirelessly to keep us above water.
My kids have more than I could ever imagined and we are very blessed and I am grateful everyday for the things we have. But you never really know anyone situation.
I run a sponsor a family program at Christmas and through that program we became aware of a family living in terrible conditions. Their mobile home is literally falling apart out from under them..7 people in a 2 bedroom unit. One child with special needs, a single mom. Her older son works..he came in..he was impeccably groomed, and spoke very well and he was so smart..and I thought to myself..no one would know. No one would ever know what these kids come home to.
Through many ministries we are getting them a new mobile home unit, counseling for one of the kids and mentoring for the mother.
So many people live this way in AMERICA! That is the kicker. We need to have our hearts and eyes open. Small gestures can go a long way. Look at people with love. Thats what Jesus did.