Questions From Readers
● Is it proper for a Christian to avail himself of government provisions of welfare or of relief supplies sent to disaster areas?—P. A., El Salvador.
Yes; the government makes these provisions with the expectation that they will be used by those eligible for them.
Christians pay taxes as required by worldly governments. (Rom. 13:1, 6, 7) Hence, when the need arises, the Christian who legally qualifies for government aid may properly accept benefits that are made available through such tax-supported relief arrangements, if that is his desire.
There are, however, unprincipled individuals who are not true Christians and who have, in many instances, obtained such aid fraudulently. Some have concealed facts regarding their true economic status. Others have refused to work, though capable of doing so. In certain cases, through devious means, families have lived on government aid for years, though not actually eligible for it. The true Christian cannot do these things. He must be honest, truthful and upright. He should have a clear conscience before God and men.—Prov. 3:32; Acts 24:16.
Christians fittingly bear in mind the principle enunciated by the apostle Paul at 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.” They know, too, that “if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” (1 Tim. 5:8) Nor do they forget that “the getting of treasures by a false tongue is an exhalation driven away, in the case of those seeking death.” (Prov. 21:6) Obviously, then, responsible, able-bodied Christians will work to obtain the necessities of life when that is possible and will not illegally and fraudulently seek government or other financial aid.
If it became known that a dedicated Christian unjustifiably and illegally obtained such assistance, he would not have “a fine testimony from people on the outside” of the Christian congregation, or from within, for that matter. He would be “greedy of dishonest gain.” Consequently, he would not qualify to be an appointed servant in the Christian congregation.—1 Tim. 3:1, 7-9.
A sincere Christian is willing to work. However, he may lose his job for some reason. If a provision exists for such a person to receive unemployment compensation, there would be no Scriptural objection to doing this while trying to find other work. When receiving this assistance and while seeking another job, the Christian may even be able to devote more time than usual to ministerial activity. But it would not be fitting for any Christian to refuse to work and specifically plan to remain on relief rolls indefinitely, just to be able to devote more time to the preaching work. Additionally, if the unemployed person is expected to expend effort and time seeking employment in order to qualify for such aid, it would be improper for a Christian to accept the money but fail to meet this requirement. When suitable employment becomes available, the Christian would not turn it down and dishonestly endeavor to continue receiving unemployment compensation or other financial aid of a comparable nature. He knows that the Bible does not register approval of dishonesty or laziness. The Scriptures recommend honest, hard work.—Eph. 4:28; Eccl. 3:22.
If, due to prevailing circumstances that he cannot now rectify, a Christian lives on some form of public assistance, he should be judicious in his use of funds that are provided for his benefit. They are furnished to cover his needs and only because he is faced with financial hardship, not so that he can satisfy a craving for unessential luxuries.
At times, because of floods, earthquakes or other calamities, a government may declare a particular region a disaster area, taking relief measures and providing necessities for the victims. Food and other supplies may be sorely needed by these persons, and true Christians may be among them. Under such circumstances it would be proper for a Christian to accept such government provisions. Yet the true Christian does not take undue advantage of such arrangements, realizing that he should accept assistance only if he truly is in need. Faithful servants of God desire to conduct themselves “honestly in all things.”—Heb. 13:18.
There are arrangements that the government may have, however, to which people are entitled whether they are in dire need or not. This may include some form of Social Security, medical aid, unemployment compensation or other assistance for those advanced in years. Those who are legally entitled to such benefits may certainly claim them.