Before reading this VERY controversial post I suggest you read this short article from the Akron Beacon Journal. I read it at 3 A.M. (Read Jake's blog for info on all that....)
I just took the time to re-read the article and I can not believe it. Where do I begin. I am sure Barbara is a kind and sweet woman. It is a great service she has done to help the needy. I am not discounting that... I am appalled at how blatantly judgemental she is. That is not how we are supposed to be as Christians. I know many of you don't see things the way I do when it comes to the system helping people. But here is the thing....this woman began this "Freely, Freely" (the name is based on a Bible verse) and gives things to poor people. But you have to be the working poor or be actively looking for a job. First of all - how does she know if you are looking for a job? She doesn't give assistance to people who are getting cash assistance or food stamps. WHAT!? You can work and get food stamps. So, if you get $100 a month in food stamps you can't get help with furniture or clothing? That doesn't even make sense. And what if you are one of those "working poor" and you don't have money for food but you have cable, cell phones and a dog. Does that make you less of a "freeloader"? This is the problem with being judgemental. You can't really gage a situation accurately. I know she feels she is doing the right thing. And many of you may agree with her at first. I understand there are people who live off the system and who are lazy. Our society has created them. They don't know another way of life. Trust me....they pay a price for it. It is not like these people are out living a life of luxury. They live in horrible neighborhoods and live in fear of most authority figures. They live under an alternative economy - one that you and I do not understand. They sell their food stamps to pay for diapers and their kids birthday parties and then have to go to food pantry's for food. They worry about how they will keep their electricity on but at the same time have NO concept of conserving energy. I am not saying there aren't lazy people in our society. There are many. And I am not saying there aren't people who know how to work the system. I know first hand and have actually learned a thing or two from them. BUT what I am saying is this....Warning some of you aren't going to like it....
As Christians we are to 1. Love Christ and 2. Love each other. Plain and simple. You can't love someone if you are judging them. And more importantly how can we rely on our own meager judgements to be just that....JUST. We can't. There are people out there who will never set foot in a Church or ever know Christ because they know "Christians" are going to judge them. I attended a conference a few weeks ago and one of the speakers said something that may seem a little "cliche" but it really hit home for me. She said that there are many people who will NEVER attend a church (for many reasons) and you (me or you) may be the closest thing to Jesus they will ever see. I think it is so true of my job and my clients. Once I was at a home with a family....the type of family that "Freely, Freely" would NEVER serve. They were needing help with something (I don't even remember what) - regardless- I asked them if they ever attended Church and said maybe they could ask a Church for help. The mother looked at her motley crew of a family and looked back and with a half hearted laugh said, "Do we look like the kind of family that would go to Church?" Doesn't that break your heart? Here's the thing. Jesus Christ died for the prostitute, the beggar, the thief, the abuser, the liar and the user. Just like he died for all of our HORRIBLE sins. Yes the system is messed up. Yes the government has created a mess. But the Christians have sat back and allowed it to happen. If we were doing what we are supposed to do - "This is my commandment, that you love each other and I have loved you. John 15:12" - then we wouldn't be in this mess would we?
Here is another verse...
Deut 15:7–11 7 If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. 8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
Maybe you feel like the lady does. Please just take a step back and see how it is being judgemental and how it can be so destructive. Every single family that is labeled as "freeloaders" has a story. A story that would probably break your heart right into pieces. Yes many of these people have made awful choices and many, many mistakes. Your sins, their sins....all the same in the eyes of God.
I've been feeling like this for a long time. If Christians would really get a hold on this love stuff. If we really could love one another (other Christians and non Believers)....well, it would fix the world. I haven't really worked out all the kinks but I do know that, although it is nice and loving, donating stuff: giving people old clothing and toiletries is not really loving them. To love them, you are going to have to get to know them. Really know them. Hear their stories, walk in their neighborhoods, hold their hands.... It doesn't have to be scary. I'd bet there are "needy" people in your neighborhood. You know there is something to that "love your neighbor" stuff.
And please don't give me any of that "I can love someone even if I don't like them" CRAP. I hate that saying. It is impossible.
It is a tall order. But remember, it was NOT my idea. Jesus said and now we have to do it.