Imagine a world where the work of one person is valued exactly the same as the work of another person. A medical technology scientist investigating the effects of drug interactions is valued by society no more and no less than the fisherman who risks his life out on the boat. The teacher and the doctor are so equally important that no distinction is made in their names or their titles. The firefighter, the plumber, and the atomic scientist are on the same footing socially and economically. A young child who shows aptitude for mathematical reasoning is quickly moved into a public school program that focuses entirely on math, while another who shows amazing skill in gymnastics is pressed into an intense, all-expenses paid Olympic-training program.
Sound nice and rosy, doesn’t it?
Or does it really? Every American citizen is guaranteed the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are a nation of self starters who have depended on God in hard times and good times and in the in-between times. These Americans have earned their wages through hard work and determination. The American Dream tells us that each of us has unlimited potential in our career choices. If we value working with people, then we can immerse ourselves in a people-oriented career. If we like living on the edge and serving others, we might head towards the police, firefighter, soldier, or other careers that require us to lay our lives on the line each and every day for the sake of our fellow citizens. If we are gifted in the art of communication, we could become writers. Healing? We could become physicans.
In God’s economy, there are no favorites, are there?
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.[e] But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites. Colossians 3:22-25
God’s view on work is that we are to work willingly for God. We are to view our work as our calling. And those verses above tell us that we will receive an inheritance from the Lord himself as our reward for working and serving willingly. You could say that we will be PAID. There are no favorites with God…no idolized football stars or American idols in God’s Kingdom. But look carefully…we all will be paid.
See, I believe God knows our hearts. He made us, didn’t he? He knows that we are creatures who desire upward mobility — being reflections of our Creator, we ourselves like to create. And like our Father, when we do create, we like to step back and be able to say that what we made was good. Being paid for our willing service, no matter what we do, is part of not just the American Dream, but part of God’s plan for our lives.
In Luke 10:7, Jesus told his disciples to accept the hospitality of those whom they serve.
because those who work deserve their pay.
The value of hard work carried through to the early church. Paul had strong beliefs about the relationship between work and pay.
2 Thess 3
We were not idle when we were with you…Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.
So we see there is a clear Biblical basis for encouraging each other to earn our own living. Paul gives a clear message that those who are idle, who refuse to work — should not even eat. That’s a pretty harsh statement in light of our own government programs. Any welfare policy that does not have a work requirement is in direct opposition to what Paul is teaching here.
But what about those who cannot work? The elderly? The widows? Protection for the less fortunate has been around a very long time. In 1 Timothy 5, Paul goes on to describe a kind of welfare-like safety net for a specific group of people. But first he calls on families to take care of their own. Those who do not are denying true faith and are “worse than unbelievers.” Here is the original “welfare roll” as found in 1 Timothy 5. Notice the very strict conditions under which a person could receive financial support from the others:
A widow who is put on the list for support must be a woman who is at least sixty years old and was faithful to her husband. She must be well respected by everyone because of the good she has done. Has she brought up her children well? Has she been kind to strangers and served other believers humbly? Has she helped those who are in trouble? Has she always been ready to do good?
The requirements are lengthy! Sixty years old, widowed, female, faithful to her husband, well respected for the good she has done and for the way she brought up her children, kind to strangers, humbly serve others, helped those in trouble, always ready to do good. How many of us honestly would be able to say they fit the bill on each one of those requirements (I’m thinking of the qualifier “always” and “humbly” here!)?
Why did Paul set the age limit for “welfare”? Let’s read on and see:
The younger widows should not be on the list…and if they are on the list, they will learn to be lazy and will spend their time gossiping from house to house, meddling in other people’s business and talking about things they shouldn’t. So I advise these younger widows to marry again, have children, and take care of their own homes. Then the enemy will not be able to say anything against them. For I am afraid that some of them have already gone astray and now follow Satan.
Hmm. Interesting. Paul says that those who are young who go on the “list” will learn to be what? Lazy gossipers sticking their heads in other people’s business and talking about things they should not. Instead, he encourages them to follow a homemaker career. He further implies that the younger women on the “list” have gone astray and follow Satan.
It is further interesting to note that an elderly man is not mentioned, nor are young men mentioned, as being possible beneficiaries and members of the welfare “list.” It is assumed, then, that Paul said those men who would not work, would not eat. Period. Women could not earn wages at the time…but men did. (Note: Does anyone else notice that in our current welfare culture, the government has taken over the charity work that used to be job of the church?)
Paul doesn’t stop there, though, or let any of us off the hook. He writes that if a woman is a Christ-follower and has relatives who are widows, she MUST take care of them and not pass off the job onto the church…or, it could be extrapolated to today’s times, onto the government.
If a woman who is a believer has relatives who are widows, she must take care of them and not put the responsibility on the church. Then the church can care for the widows who are truly alone.
But what about wages? Is it Biblical for someone to earn more than someone else? After all, God has no favorites. Ah, but we will be paid for the work we do. It stands to reason, then, that those who work harder or longer or in more dangerous or valued careers will be paid well for their work. And this is what Paul is speaking about when he talks about Elders. Elders were the leaders of the church. They were well respected men who had already become successful and had strong characters. There are many requirements for elders, but as shepherds of the flock of believers, they worked long and they worked hard.
Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!”
So when Barak Obama and his wife Michelle start talking about spreading the wealth around, when they tell a hard-working plumber that some of his wealth needs to go to someone else, when they say that someone has to give up a bigger piece of their pie so someone else can have more…my antennae goes up.
The “utopia” I described in the opening paragraph is actually nothing but a scary picture of what could happen if we allow our leaders to redistribute our wealth. It is the image of Karl Marx, who pushed class warfare to the extremes. It is what happens when our politicians keep polarizing us and making us think that there is something intrinsically evil about a person earning more than $250,000 a year. It’s the whole “us vs them” “lower class” vs “middle class” vs “upper class” scenario. (Again, this is why we need to toss the income tax because it artificially places distrust and disgust between groups of people of different income levels. I’d rather see the wealthy man say to the poor worker: come. Work hard for me not for me, but for the Lord, and you will be a success. You will not remain in the lower tax bracket forever. FairTax, FairTax, FairTax would be closes thing to fair as possible in getting income for our government. When we instituted the income tax in the 1920’s, we were already well on our way to becoming a socialistic society.)
Here’s a news flash. Someone else will always have a bigger piece of the pie. If you want more, work more. It is doable and is being done by millions of Americans all across the country. I know people who moved to this country from Korea with nothing but a couple dollars in their pocket. They saved up and bought a truck. This family sold fish out of the back of their truck until they had enough money to open up a small restaurant. After awhile, they opened another one, and then another one. Now they have a restaurant chain and are the perfect picture of people who used the talents God gave them to earn their living. They never took a penny from the government, although those pennies were available. No. It was a matter of principle to them that they be paid for their work.
There’s another scary element to the story I painted in the opening paragraph. It’s called socialism, and it is the step between capitalism and communism. Remember communism? Remember Russian repression? How about current-day China where people are prohibited from having more than one child and are forced to have abortions? Where Christian churches must meet in the dead of night in basements and other secret places…where Christian pastors are abruptly arrested and thrown in prison with no explanation and no trial?
It won’t ever happen here, will it? It will if we don’t reverse the current mode of thinking in society that all people are entitled to the wealth of everyone else. If we allow the government to take even more money away from the successful to pay the lower “classes,” (as Obama said, those who are ‘behind you’), there will be strings attached to that money. It follows that the (unconstitutional) “separation of church and state” doctrine would one day tell people who receive state money that they can’t use that money to tithe or support church-run programs. Because that would be a violation, you see.
I value the work ethic. I shudder every time I hear Obama criticize McCain for not paying enough attention to the “lower class” or the “middle class.” Why? Because that’s just what Karl Marx did. Only he didn’t call it the “lower class” or the ‘middle class.” He called it the proletariat and the bourgeois. Same difference. Same rhetoric. Just a different time and a different mouthpiece…but the socialistic message that contradicts the guidelines set out in the Bible is the same.