Post-Trump Reflections Part 2: Care of the Poor in Scripture

In the first post of this series, I looked at the dueling moral cultures of the conservative South and the more liberal Pacific Northwest, based on observations during the significant time I lived in both. I’ve noted from living in two starkly different cultures how easy it is for Christians to assume their preferred culture more closely aligns with Scripture. Instead, there is power in getting out of our comfort zone in order to understand our own personal blindspots. I have experienced culturally accepted immorality in both cultures, but I’ve seen God’s common grace in each as well.

Today, I want to look specifically at social justices issues, particularly the care of the poor and marginalized, that I have seen divergent cultural attitudes between the South and Pacific Northwest.

After the election, I posted what I called 30 Days of Social Justice on the Practical Theology for Women Facebook page. I did it so I could sit for a while simply in God’s Word, meditating on what He thought about the poor and marginalized, the disabled and immigrant. An interesting thing came from my efforts to find 30 different quotes from Scripture or respected Bible teachers on the subject. First, though I was generally familiar with the laws from Deuteronomy and Leviticus on the care of the poor, I was struck by their clarity and specificity. Second, I found an essay entitled The Duty of Charity to the Poor by Jonathan Edwards, famed reformed puritan who wrote Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

I don’t always agree with the old guys. Jonathan Edwards had his own cultural blindspots around slavery, so there are certainly things to challenge on his understanding of the image-bearing dignity of all humanity. Yet, it is noteworthy that this puritan that you could never accuse of being a cheap-grace softy saw a Biblical case for government involvement in the care of the poor. His writing on the subject has solidified my conviction. Sadly, sometimes I need an old guy to convince me that what I’m reading in Scripture says what it seems to say, but I also believe this is a function of the historical church that modern Christians often overlook. There is much new thinking of the last 40 years in some hallways of Christianity whose disastrous results could have been avoided by respecting the old guys.

Concerning the Christian duty toward the poor, let’s first look at the most specific Scripture passages which come from the Old Testament Law, Deuteronomy 15. Here is a summary:

v. 1-3 Every 7 years, you must cancel all the debts of your neighbor or brother.

v. 4-5 If you obey these laws carefully, the Lord is certain to bless you and there will no longer be any poor among you.

v. 7-8 You must not be hardhearted or tightfisted against any of your neighbors or brothers who have a need.

Note particularly the wording of verses 9-11.

9 Be careful that there isn’t this wicked thought in your heart, ‘The seventh year, the year of canceling debts, is near,’ and you are stingy toward your poor brother and give him nothing. He will cry out to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty. 10 Give to him, and don’t have a stingy heart when you give, and because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you do. 11 For there will never cease to be poor people in the land; that is why I am commanding you, ‘You must willingly open your hand to your afflicted and poor brother in your land.’

Here is Jonathan Edward’s conclusion from this passage.

It is not merely a commendable thing for a man to be kind and bountiful to the poor, but our bounden duty, as much a duty as it is to pray, or to attend public worship, or anything else whatever.

Then from Leviticus 25

5 “If your brother becomes destitute and cannot sustain himself among you, you are to support him as a foreigner or temporary resident, so that he can continue to live among you. 36 Do not profit or take interest from him, but fear your God and let your brother live among you. 37 You are not to lend him your silver with interest or sell him your food for profit. 38 I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

The wording here causes us to seek out God’s instructions on the treatment of foreigners, which can be summed up with Leviticus 19:33-34.

 “When a foreigner lives with you in your land, you must not oppress him. You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God.”

I grew up in a religious affiliation that did not value the Old Testament Law, and when I point out such requirements in the Law, I still hear from some a simple dismissal of it since we are no longer under the Law. However, that understanding misses how Jesus talks of the Law. Remember that He didn’t come to “abolish the Law but to fulfill it.” In particular, He fulfilled it’s requirement of punishment, which is why there is now “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The Law was our tutor on both the character of God and all the ways we fall short of it. Note how both Leviticus 19 and 25 use the phrase, “I am Yahweh your God.” These passages are about the character of God and how we as His image-bearers are supposed to live among each other.

Thankfully, the New Testament continues these instructions so that we are protected from the temptation to write them off with the fulfillment of the Law.

Luke 6:35 Do good and lend, hoping for nothing in return, for then you are like your Father in heaven who causes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust.

2 Cor. 9:5-7 Give, not begrudgingly or because you are forced, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Mt 23:23 You have forgotten the weightier matters of the Law like justice, mercy, and faith.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.

That last instruction from Paul in Galatians is key to understanding the elemental way God speaks throughout Scripture of the duty of charity to the poor.  Most Christians agree that the Bible teaches the care of the poor, widow, and immigrant. I submit that it is not just the poor, widow, and immigrant Christian, otherwise the parable of the Good Samaritan has no meaning. But though most agree on the general need for Christian charity, our divergent opinion by culture is around the question of the government’s involvement.

Most Christians agree that the government’s roll is to generally restrain sin against others. But what constraints on sin should government regulate? We don’t legislate general morality, and I don’t believe government’s role is to restrain my personal sin. But when my sin affects others, government is right to step in and protect. Generally, we accept government restraint of those that harm others without consent. We prosecute murder, not suicide and rape, not adultery.

Consider Romans 13.

3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. 4 For government is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. 5 Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath, but also because of your conscience. 6 And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s public servants, continually attending to these tasks. 7 Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.

To bring this full circle, a lack of charity, as the Bible presents it, is a sin against the poor, and it has victims. That’s really the sobering thing that Jonathan Edward’s essay helped me to see. This is why God speaks through the Bible of hearing the “cry of the poor” …

Prov. 21:13 The one who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will himself also call out and not be answered.

And defending the rights of the destitute.

Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do what is good.
Seek justice.
Correct the oppressor.
Defend the rights of the fatherless.
Plead the widow’s cause.

The Bible challenges the popular American view that my money is my own, and I have absolute rights over it. Charity to the poor was not an over-and-above-the-call-of-duty kind of moral act. It was a baseline moral requirement in God’s society, similar to commands against fornication or murder, and it is linked to theft.

Isaiah 10:1-3 Woe to those enacting crooked statutes
and writing oppressive laws
to keep the poor from getting a fair trial
and to deprive the afflicted among my people of justice,
so that widows can be their spoil
and they can plunder the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of punishment
when devastation comes from far away?

This led Jonathan Edwards to conclude

It is fit that the law should make provision for those that have no estates of their own. It is not fit that persons who are reduced to that extremity should be left to so precarious a source of supply as a voluntary charity. They are in extreme necessity of relief, and therefore it is fit that there should be something sure for them to depend on. But a voluntary charity in this corrupt world is an uncertain thing. Therefore the wisdom of the legislature did not think fit to leave those who are so reduced upon such a precarious foundation for subsistence. But I suppose not that it was ever the design of the law to make such provision for all that are in want, as to leave no room for Christian charity.”

The Bible also challenges us when we ask, “Who deserves such charity or justice?” Who is an image bearer of God? Who gets to be a recipient of mercy? When I ask this question, I am reflecting a lack of understanding of mercy and justice as Jesus presented it in the gospels. Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan reflects the summary of Old Testament law on justice and mercy – treat others the way you want to be treated. Love your neighbor as yourself. Well, then, who is my neighbor? It is even the unconscious guy on the side of the road, overlooked by his own, with whom you do not share nationality or religion. Treat THAT person the way you want to be treated. Love THAT neighbor as yourself. And in so doing, you have fulfilled all the Law and the Prophets.

Beyond these basics, there are a great many things to debate concerning government care of the poor, particularly the best way to curb government’s notorious bureaucracy and inefficiency. And based on your views of dispensationalism and end times, you may remain unconvinced that the Old Testament Law has any bearing on the NT church. In my experience, that theological/doctrinal difference strongly influences how believers react to arguments for government care of the poor in Scripture. Whatever negative reaction you have to this post, I simply encourage you to consider the Scripture I’ve referenced and, if all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for training us in righteousness, consider what that might mean for your views of both your and your government’s duty of charity to the poor.

 

27 Responses to Post-Trump Reflections Part 2: Care of the Poor in Scripture

  1. Judith Martinez January 5, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

    Where I’m not understanding your perspective is taking those commands to care for the poor and applying them to government. It seems to me that those commands are directed at believers and at the church. No where does Scripture direct us to use force to collect resources from others and then distribute those resources to the poor and that is essentially how government assistance programs work.

    • Wendy January 5, 2017 at 2:45 pm #

      I tried to show that Scripture speaks with specificity of this duty along with the right of the poor to cry out against us when we don’t. This is the language of a victim with rights and of a people with obligation. Like the right of a homeowner not to be burglarized, the poor has the right not to have basic support denied from lack of charity. The poor, widow, orphan, immigrant, or generally marginalized in society have a right to care from those with resources. At least, this is how the Law paints it. That is why Edwards titles his essay with the word DUTY.

    • Caroline January 11, 2017 at 5:04 pm #

      Judith, it seems to me that the Old Testament gleaning laws are an example of a legal requirement that those who have resources provide some of these for the poor, which leads me to the conclusion that it is, at the very least not wrong, and more likely a valid role, for those in authority to require that the well-off make some provision for the poor. How this is to be done is a separate issue. But while the commandments acknowledge personal property rights, there are quite a number of examples (not just gleaning) which show that these property rights are not absolute, and come with responsibilities.

      Your description of the use of force strikes me as odd. Surely if we are law-abiding citizens there is no need for the government to use force to collect taxes.

    • Sue M. January 13, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

      Judith,

      You’re not the first person to say that we “use force to collect resources and then distribute them to the poor…”. We have a representative government at all levels, city or village, county, state, and federal. We vote our representatives into office. They may levy taxes or approve programs that some people approve of and others despise. That how our system works. If you don’t like the stands your representatives take, then work to replace them in the next election.

  2. Ann January 5, 2017 at 1:47 pm #

    What exactly is meant by “the poor”? One reason many hard-working people take such offense at helping “the poor” is because of the high percentage who expect to be helped rather than to work. Most people who have made their own way are not opposed to helping people who need a hand up or who are disabled. They do, however, deeply resent being forced to subsidize people who are unwilling to put much personal effort into their own success. And I am not convinced that your good arguments for Biblical charity should be applied toward these people either. It is a much greater societal issue than just “Christians should be willing to help the poor.”

    • Wendy January 5, 2017 at 3:06 pm #

      This is where the parable of the Good Samaritan is super helpful. The Bible supports a prodigal generosity (Luke 6). So while there are reasonable options for government to employ to make sure the system is not abused, it also isn’t the end of the world if a Christian gives to someone who inflates their need.

      Having recently walked with a family member attempting to get unemployment, Medicaid, and disability benefits, I will push back against your statement that a “high percentage” want help so they don’t have to work. The system is pretty hard to manipulate that way, and while it does happen at times, government sets a high bar for proving you need such services.

    • buddyglass January 6, 2017 at 10:40 pm #

      There’s a disconnect here. Anecdotally, I find that most people who strenuously oppose government’s role in caring for the poor believe that, by and large, the poor are undeserving. They’re poor only because they won’t work, they’re abusing the system, etc. Those who don’t balk at such programs admit that some such people exist, but consider that the majority of folks assisted by those programs aren’t gaming the system.

    • Wendy January 6, 2017 at 11:25 pm #

      Yes, buddy. This is my experience as well.

    • Liz January 11, 2017 at 7:46 pm #

      I’m interested in where one would find statistics regarding the “high percentage” mentioned. I’m a young woman with a Master’s degree, married to a man with a Master’s degree, who has been on government assistance for seven years as a result of being incapable of finding jobs for either of us. Having the electricity turned off on us many times, skipping several meals, I can tell you that we were not on assistance out of preference.

      What strikes me about the many, many verses Wendy included, is that none of them suggest we should only give to those deserving of the giving. And in addition, if they had, would that mean we then don’t give to anyone, for fear of mistakenly giving to someone who doesn’t deserve it? I don’t see that reflected at all in any of the excerpts from the Bible above.

      I think it’s also difficult to answer these questions without diving into systemic oppression, mentioned elsewhere on this blog. There are many who are poor as a result of the wrongdoings of others and are, by fault of those same wrongdoings, unable to climb out.

    • Wendy January 11, 2017 at 10:04 pm #

      Thanks, Liz. I’m sorry for your experience and I agree with your analysis.

  3. Helen Louise Herndon January 6, 2017 at 8:42 am #

    In Scripture, the poor, the widow, and the orphan, the alien were generally bereft. Very often today and in our society that is not totally true. For instance, a parent dies leaving one parent to take care of their family. The Social Security payments for each child are fairly high and often more than what two living parents can provide for each child. Also, often the surviving parent is bringing in enough to support well those children. Many widows are left with huge insurance benefits as well as either pension and/or Social Security payments. Another unfortunate situation in our society is that of women having many children out of wedlock with different fathers who will not be financially responsible for the children they sire. In other words, some do not need help but take it, others promote need by behaviorial choices. Christians should begin by taking care of those in their families, their local church, and the larger Christian population. Those are their first responsibilities based on genuine need. Then they should minister to the world around them. As to the government, it has been unwise in many of its policies and does promote sinful behaviors with tremendous consequences. It is a mixed bag. But Scripture does advise us where to begin.

    • Liz January 11, 2017 at 7:50 pm #

      Are we to hold unbelievers to the standards God grants us for our protection? Perhaps folks land in desperate situations as a result of their choices- isn’t that the very definition of mercy?

    • Liz January 11, 2017 at 7:51 pm #

      I’m sorry, I meant to say “isn’t responding to those situations with generosity the very definition of mercy,” my sentence is unclear as written.

    • Lynn Betts January 12, 2017 at 10:15 am #

      Yes, Liz, in answer: responding to such circumstances IS mercy.

      As for methodologies for applying mercy: no individual, no church, no denomination, or association of churches or denominations – on a county, large city, state, national or international scale (IF we could get them all to agree on what to do), is able to address such circumstances for the sheer scale of the logistics involved. Government is the only practical (though still imperfect) instrument available to us that comes even close to being able to handle them.

      It is a great instrument that we readily apply to other societal needs such as law enforcement and infrastructure…yet American Christians make a hundred excuses AGAINST using this same tool for the social needs of welfare and healthcare, which Scripture makes so much of.

      American Christians (and those in other countries, too, of course) should be excited, rather than reluctant, to use this instrument as a way to show God’s character and relieve the suffering in our midst. It is a readily-available way to help fulfill our duty to make the best of this creation we can while we are here.

      My condolences, and prayers, for your family on your own circumstances. I’m thankful you found assistance, and hope you continue to, as needed.

      And I continue to pray for and encourage American Christians to recognize that they need to support the application of government resources to this huge issue of administering mercy, as a key part of their faith commitment.

  4. Alistair January 6, 2017 at 4:02 pm #

    Very intriguing. In Australia and Nz we have welfare systems that I believe is more extensive than in the US. There are definitely abuses and it does lessen the desire among Christians to give personally, but it also does provide those in need with the basics (and more). One result is that people are not aware of how terrible poverty might be without it. On the other hand, in some situations (not all) governments think that throwing huge amounts of money at social problems that accompany poverty is the way to fix them.

    I don’t know that I have worked out my understanding of biblical requirements as far as governmental support of the poor goes, but you raise interesting thoughts. One question I have, though, is how the Law related to Old Testament government. Certainly, the government would enforce the 7 year cancelling of debts and the year of Jubilee (i.e. systemic help for the poor) but does the Law include direct payments from the government to individuals? I guess that is wear wisdom must play a part.

    One tangential point: You comment, “Generally, we accept government restraint of those that harm others without consent. We prosecute murder, not suicide and rape, not adultery.” But if you are appealing to the Law regarding charity to the poor, I’m not sure you can maintain that last position because the Law also asserts governmental involvement in punishment for consensual sin like adultery, with the maximum penalty.

    Anyway, thanks for your post. Excellent fodder for thought.

    • Wendy January 6, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

      I should clarify. My appeal to the Law regarding charity to the poor is that it paints it not as a victim-less crime. In fact, Scripture as a whole (such at Isaiah 1:17) pictures it as a justice issue. There is a victim, the poor or widow or orphan, when Christians disobey these laws, and the poor are right to cry out for justice just as a victim of theft or attempted murder. We clearly aren’t under the law, but we still value government’s role in enforcing modern laws reflective of the Judeo -Christian understanding of justice for victims of crimes that the Law first taught us. My point is that the same reasoning we have for modern government laws against murder or theft should lead us to modern laws on the care of the poor.

  5. Scotty Mac January 6, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

    Hi Wendy,

    I want you to know that I have been appreciating you insightful posts for the last few months and have found myself challenged- over and over again- to engage with Scripture on issues that you have addressed.

    I often find myself concerned (and yet… not surprised) at how many American Evangelicals- myself included!- tend to respond when certain issues are addressed. Bring up the topic of sexual ethics and orientation and we will quickly go to Scripture and “submit” to its teaching on the sacredness of the marriage bed. Bring up the question of same sex marriage and we will quote Old and New Testament passages that clearly underscore the sacrosanct nature of the male/female marriage covenant. Bring up the issue of abortion and we will deftly quote verses that speak- although often indirectly- to the sanctity of unborn life.

    However, bring up the subject of the poor among us- even direct our attention to the numerous verses about how the people of God are called to care for the poor- and we will rationalize, look for loopholes, and seek to turn the conversation from being about us to being about “them.” Bring up the plight of the refugee and we are greeted, not with passages about how we should treat the foreigner among us, but with arguments that have been ripped from the headlines and not from Scripture. Bring up the question of racial injustice and we are quick to quote Galatians 3:28 as if it is some sort of shorthand for being “colorblind….”

    Would that we were as passionate for the truth and authority of Scripture when it undermines our sensibilities as when it aligns with them! Are we called to submit our lives in accordance with all that Scripture teaches when it comes to sexuality, marriage, and the unborn? Absolutely; just as we are called to take a Biblical posture when it comes to how we relate to the poor, the refugee, and those marginalized by race and creed among us! Our obedience to Scripture should not be “either/or” but “both/and”!

    Thanks again for posting thought provoking stuff!

    • Wendy January 6, 2017 at 4:17 pm #

      Thanks, Scotty! You encourage me.

  6. Lynn Betts January 7, 2017 at 6:23 am #

    Thanks Scotty for pointing out our duplicity (hypocrisy). And Thanks, Wendy, for giving this your attention and exposure.

    My two cents worth:
    God’s followers are instructed to do our best to “make the best of” God’s creation while we are here. All of creation is included, but probably the biggest part of that is to foster “human flourishing.” We are to use all of the resources He delegates to us, with wisdom, but also with joyful “prodigiousness” (generosity; think “prodigal father” in the parable). to accomplish that goal. Civil government is simply one of the resources (tools) available to us in our God-assigned efforts.

    Government is not inherently evil, nor is it a replacement for God spiritually or morally. It is a tool that can be used for either. We are not to put too much faith in government (nor in any other of His resources) in place of our faith in God, whether it be resources that are used for our security, our civil infrastructure, or services of compassion (which includes welfare programs and healthcare), but we are not to ignore (sinfully so) a God-given resource that is available to assist in our duty to provide compassionate services. As an expansive tool, civil government is often the best way (though still imperfect) for us to pursue our assignment of “making the best of it”/”promoting human flourishing” on large scale.

    Civil Government is one relatively easy and commonly-accepted way to pool the resources of individuals to accomplish what is best done by pooled resources in a society. We can’t afford to wait for the perfect method, so we use the best we’ve got while we’re here…and government is one.

    Some suggest that churches or denominations, or individual Christians, should be the tool for all services of compassion. I don’t think they’ve looked around at how fragmented, territorial, tribal, and wedded to a “Not Invented Here” methodological stance each of these is. Here’s a practical test: would you trust your own bank account to be managed on your behalf for the nextv10 years by ______? (Pick any other denomination, random pastor or church within 100 miles, or roll the dice for the name of any church-goer in ‘Merica.)

    I grew up on a small farm, and situations often arose for which we did not have the “right” tool. Colloquially speaking, “Bubble gum and bailing wire” were the imperfect tools we often called on, because the task had to be done, and without delay “or there’d be hell to pay.” Services of compassion are like that: hell is, in fact, taking a huge salary from America because too many Christian Americans ignore a useful (though imperfect) tool to help get the job done by ignoring government. They’ve got various ways to justify it, but the bottom line is: the job isn’t getting done. One Christian leader is somewhat famous for saying to a conference of pastors (paraphrasing):

    “Today (X millions) of children will die of starvation. The really sad thing is that most of you pastors sitting here don’t give a s—. But the saddest thing of all is that you’re more offended that I just used the word s— than you are that those children are dying.”

    Of course we should “reform, and keep on reforming” our use of the resources, including the resource that is our particular shape of government (other democracies have found ways to provide the services, as one Australian has noted here in a comment; in fact, America may be the worst of the major democracies at providing services of compassion to its people).

    But regardless of where America is now, our Christian duty is right here in front of us every second of every day, and our duty to administer compassion generously (prodigiously) should be our controlling priority. We can work on improving the details as we go.

    But diving into doing it – with every resource available, and our best wisdom – should make us joyfully excited and eager to attempt …instead of reluctant naysayers.

    • Wendy January 7, 2017 at 8:05 am #

      Lynn, your question about banks is REALLY insightful. Like Edwards essay, you focus on the essential Christian duty that in our fallen world can’t be left only to churches any more. I appreciate your last sentence. I weary of reluctant naysayers who can’t hear the import of this in Scripture without denigrating the poor.

    • Lynn Betts January 7, 2017 at 3:44 pm #

      Thanks for the positive feedback, Wendy.

  7. Velma January 9, 2017 at 1:59 pm #

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments on this challenging subject. My husband and I own rentals and we seek to be an encouragement and help to our tenants. Many (most) struggle in paying their rent on time. We have been very gracious. Some have moved on still owing us hundreds of dollars. We see the money going to support their addictions, child support, expensive entertainment, many fast food meals, and other items which are not in our personal budget. I realize that we are “privileged” because our parents by their example taught us to be wise in our spending. We have had experience living on a very low budget. We have lived in a third world country; therefore, we know what true poverty looks like. Does anyone have an answers to this dilemma?

    • Lynn Betts January 10, 2017 at 9:47 am #

      Hi Velma. Just a couple of thoughts; though sorry, no silver bullet “answers:
      On one hand I’m sure you realize the “dilemma” you live with in your compassionate approach as rental owners is one that all who operate a business or ministry on these grounds face: we provide products and services to people, and as part of that we extend mercy/compassion to people using our best judgement – and then there are widely varying ways it is received.

      I very much admire your willingness to operate this way; it is using the resources of creation that God delegates to you to use in the duty He assigns you (and all of us) to “make the best of this world we can while we’re here.” All of us are stewards of certain resources, and are to manage them toward this end; doing so can show the world the kind of God He is, and enriches us and those He allows to cross our path (the Jericho road Good Samaritan).

      Even though we do our part, in faith and obedience, however, that does not force an appropriate response by those to whom we extend compassion, of course. We experience our own version of God’s experience with His creatures: we do our part, and get a variety of responses; so how can we believe our experience will be any different?

      Two things that should not be forgotten or minimized in doing our duty are: including a sense of fairness (justice), and managing it all so that sufficient income is maintained to keep the work going. Applying these In the specific situations you face, with the specific people, depend on your sensitivity to God’s direction. You do the best you can, under His guidance, and thank Him for the opportunity to share in His glories, and in His sufferings. Being imperfect, you’ll make some misjudgments, but you have to be generous with forgiving yourself. You meant well, you did your best (boldly). This, I think, is what Martin Luther meant when he said (I believe to the timid but devout Melancthon) “sin boldly!” Not because bold sinning is your intent, rather because if you’re acting boldly to honor God, then when you sin (and you will), then your sins will also be “bold.” But this also means that you must be generous with forgiveness – including with forgiving yourself. In our spiritual warfare, there is little time or need to wallow in guilt, when we know our intent was honorable, and that we still have the same honorable intent – we just made a mistake.

      Finally, if you haven’t read Tim Keller’s book “Ministries of Mercy: Following the Jericho Road,” I think it would help.

      Blessings to you in your work, and I hope this is somewhat helpful. Keep doing the best you can as long as you can, knowing that He will do all He can to make the best of it possible. What more are we commissioned and equipped to do?

    • Velma January 11, 2017 at 9:33 am #

      Thank you for your very kind and eloquent thoughts on this subject. After living in somewhat of a Christian “bublle” for most of our lives, I am grateful for the opportunity that we now have in our retirement years to have contact with people who come from a very different background and lifestyle. May we show them God’s love and justice with wisdom and understanding.

    • Lynn Betts January 11, 2017 at 10:11 am #

      You are welcome, and to your own statements: Amen!

  8. Sue M. January 13, 2017 at 1:25 pm #

    Thanks, Scott Mac.

    My husband resides in long-term care due because of frontotemporal degeneration (dementia). Unless they are very wealthy or don’t live long after admission to long-term care, most residents end up requiring Medicaid to pay for their nursing home bills. They can still use Social Security (disability or normal retirement) and/or pension benefits to pay for Medicare and a Medicare supplement, and vision and dental insurance. I have a friend there; his wife has been a resident there for > 4 years and receives Medicaid benefits for her long-term care. He is like the Christian you describe, although he’s a decent guy overall. He also readily talks about the need to rein in entitlement spending. I want entitlements to be used more effectively and efficiently, but generally have no problems with them. Sometimes when he goes on a rant about entitlement spending, it takes a lot for me to keep my mouth shut so I don’t say, “Medicaid is an entitlement program. It’s not like Social Security or Medicare where you and your wife paid into the system. How would you feel if Medicaid got cut?” Thankfully, God gives me the grace to keep my lips sealed.

  9. Dan January 20, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

    Hi Wendy,

    Would you support using taxpayer dollars to fund government-run prayer services and hymn singing services?

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