“Do you think welfare is a Christian concept?”
This question comes from my 15-year old son, who often continues conversations with others that begin in his head, an idiosyncrasy he comes by honest. I do it all the time, just ask my husband, whose most common response to my insightful observational commentary is, “What are you talking about?, or more commonly, a look of total confusion. Oh wait, you can’t. He’s not on the interwebs.
But I digress…
Me: Welfare as in government subsidies to help the poor or as in general well being?
Son: Government welfare. I mean, as Christians, we’re supposed to give to the poor, right?
Me: Well, yes. The bible says we are to take care of widows and orphans; to help those in need. But that’s not the same thing. We should choose to do these things of our own free will. We’re not giving to the poor when we pay taxes. We’re giving to the government. We have no say in how much is then given to the poor. That’s the function of bureaucrats–to decide how our money is to be allocated. So I suppose the answer to your question is no. Welfare is not a Christian concept, but charity is.
Son: Do you believe in welfare?
Me: Yes. I believe there are people who are truly in need, but I also believe that giving people money often incentivizes them not to try and earn it for themselves or worse, creates a mindset that they are entitled it. For most, I think it should be a temporary remedy. Oftentimes it becomes a cycle of dependence.
Son: You mean like for lazy people?
Me: Lazy people, people who seek to beat the system. But honestly? I think there are just a whole lot of people who have given up hope of ever making it out of poverty. It’s easier just to allow someone else to take care of them. Which is sad because it robs them of their own power and limits their personal freedom.
Me: Do you remember last week when I did all of your laundry?
Son: Yeah. Thanks. That was great.
Me: What would have happened if I hadn’t done that? What would happen if I never did your laundry?
Son: I’d probably still have a big pile of dirty clothes. Well, no. That’s not true. I would have done my own laundry like I usually do.
Me: And is that such a bad thing?
Son: I’d prefer you do my laundry, but I can do it myself. Besides, when you do it, you wash my stuff with everyone else’s. Sometimes my favorite jeans don’t get washed because you don’t have a full load, and my Nike Combat workout stuff is the same way. You only wash my workout stuff when there’s a full load, so I end up wearing workout stuff I don’t really like because my Nike stuff is dirty.
Me: How is that any different than when you do it yourself?
Son: When I do my own laundry, I wash the stuff I want to wear first. That way, if I don’t finish it all, at least I have the stuff I need.
Me: But you’re supposed to wash jeans separately from your workout stuff, and the whites need to be bleached, so you can’t just throw those in with your other stuff.
Son: Mom, those are your rules, not mine. I’m a guy. I don’t really care if my socks are bleached or not. As long as I get the stink out, that’s clean enough for me.
Me: So, if you do your own laundry, you decide how and when to wash it, right? Your clothes are not subject to your mom’s laundry rules–rules that you care nothing about. Right?
Son: Yes. Besides, I don’t need you to do my laundry. I can do it myself. But I appreciate you doing it that last time. I had a whole lot of dirty clothes piled up after a week in Orlando, plus I had make-up work to do from school. I was pretty overwhelmed.
Me: You’re old enough to do most things for yourself and that’s a good thing. With responsibility comes freedom and vice versa. But sometimes life presents us with circumstances which prevent us from doing for ourselves. That’s why I did your laundry last week. I was your safety net when you needed some extra help. But don’t expect me to do your laundry all the time.
Son: Of course not!
Me: So, I’ll ask you the same question you asked me: Do you believe in welfare?
Son: Yes. But only if you truly need it. It should be the last resort, not the first.
Me: Well, there you go.