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What the Bible says about Welfare Mentality
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 47:18-20

Many people conceive of ancient Egypt as having a small ruling aristocracy, a priestly caste, and a military class, and then millions and millions of slaves. Yet, that is not how it was at all—at least not before this tribulation. What we witness in the story of the seven years of famine is instead a picture of a free people who became slaves, selling their livelihoods, their land, and finally themselves to the government. The tribulation of that day was so great that the Egyptians literally "sold the farm" to Pharaoh.

Charles Whitaker
The Other Great Tribulation

Numbers 27:9-11

God set up a table of progression or priority. If there were no sons, the inheritance automatically went to the daughters. If there were no daughters, then the next step, then the third and fourth steps.

Why was God so concerned about land? There is a logical reason for it, as well as why He wanted the land to remain in the family. The principle, a very simple one, is shown in other parts of the Bible: Land is the source of wealth. If a person (male or female) has land, and he is able to work it, he will be able to produce a measure of income.

What a blessing that would be today, if every family owned land. This would solve one of our country's major problems! There would be almost no welfare because nobody would need to receive welfare from the State except in small amounts, since every family would be able to produce at least their own food (or some product by which they could buy food).

This principle within Israel kept a major welfare system from developing. In addition, there were the psychological benefits of owning land—because then a person has something tangible, something to which he can give himself, maintain, develop, use to create wealth and a sense of self-worth. Land gives a person a stake in the community, and with that comes a sense of responsibility to the entire community.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Seventeen)

Matthew 5:7

English language dictionaries are of limited help in understanding this mercy's biblical usage. In English "mercy" is normally used to mean showing compassion, forbearance, pity, sympathy, forgiveness, kindness, tenderheartedness, or liberality or refraining from harming or punishing offenders or enemies. These synonyms give us some insight on this word; they all express how a merciful person might act. However, none of them specifically pictures what biblical mercy is because the scriptural concept is virtually untranslatable into a single English word.

The Greek word used in Matthew 5:7, eleemon, means essentially the same as its English counterpart, "merciful." However, in all likelihood Jesus spoke in Aramaic, and the idea behind His statement about mercy come from Old Testament—that is, Hebrew—usage and teaching. The word He would have used is the Hebrew and Aramaic chesed.

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible commentary on Matthew states regarding this word:

It does not mean only to sympathize with a person in the popular sense of the term; it does not mean simply to feel sorry for some in trouble. Chesedh [sic], mercy, means the ability to get right inside the other person's skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.

Clearly this is much more than an emotional wave of pity; clearly this demands a quite deliberate effort of the mind and of the will. It denotes a sympathy which is not given, as it were, from outside, but which comes from a deliberate identification with the other person, until we see things as he sees them, and feel things as he feels them. This is sympathy in the literal sense of the word. Sympathy is derived from two Greek words, syn which means together with, and paschein which means to experience or to suffer. Sympathy means experiencing things together with the other person, literally going through what he is going through. (p. 103)

Much easier said than done! Having a sense of another's feelings to this degree is very difficult to do because we are normally so self-concerned, so aware of our own feelings, that sensitivity for others to this depth often requires a great effort of the will. Normally, when we feel sorry for someone, it is an exclusively external act because we do not make the effort to get inside another's mind and heart until we can see and feel things as he does. It is not easy to walk in another person's shoes.

The world, from which we have all come, is true to its nature; it is unmerciful. The world prefers to insulate itself against the pains and calamities of others. It finds revenge delicious and forgiveness tame and unsatisfying.

This is where we all begin. Indeed, all too often in the church, worldliness is hardly dormant, revealing itself in acts that show some degree of cruelty. Usually, these cruelties are delivered verbally, but all too frequently, brethren simply ignore the real needs of others.

The mercy Jesus teaches is not humanly derived. He says in Matthew 6:14, "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you." This occurs, not because we can merit mercy by being merciful or forgiving of others, but because we cannot receive the mercy and forgiveness of God unless we repent. We cannot claim to have repented of our sins if we are unmerciful towards the sins of others.

The truly merciful are too aware of their own sins to deal with others in sharp condemnation, so they constrain themselves to deal humbly and kindly with those in need. Nothing moves us to forgive others like the amazing realization that God has forgiven our sins. Mercy in God's children begins by experiencing His forgiveness of them, and perhaps nothing proves more convincingly that we have been forgiven than our readiness to forgive.

Recognizing God's mercy is a key element in motivating our expressions of mercy. Too many people today, even in the church, possess a "welfare mentality." They go through life with little or no gratitude, thinking they deserve the handouts of governments or private citizens. Ingratitude is vital to understanding this because, as long as one is unthankful, his thoughts will center on himself. The merciful person is sensitive to others' needs and takes action to supply them. An ungrateful person, though, insulates himself from others' pains because he is too focused on his own perceived miseries.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful

1 Corinthians 13:13

Paul writes, "The greatest of these is love." In its own way, faith is primary, as it precedes the others, but it does not remain the most important. Faith, however, is the foundation on which the other two operate (see Hebrews 11:1).

Hope, we could say, makes the other two fly. It gives impetus to them. We can believe or have faith in something, but if we do not hope in it, we will do nothing. We can believe that love is the right thing to do, but we will never take action on it unless we hope, unless we have a solid expectation of the fulfillment of whatever we love. Depending on how powerful it is, hope can move us along with intensity and enthusiasm to see how all our knowledge of God can be acted upon and fulfilled to its greatest capacity.

The first thing to note is that our hope did not accrue to us because of our merit; it was given to us. It was not owed to us; it came as a gift. We did not ask for it. In fact, we could not ask for it because we did not even know what to ask for.

This is important to see in light of the welfare mentality that has infected quite a large segment of society. Satan hammers this mindset into our minds from the time we are born. Governmental systems like socialism are evolved or devolved out of this mindset, but it began with Satan the Devil. It tells us that we are owed things: People owe us things, God owes us things, and governments owe us things. This plays terrible tricks on our attitude toward God, our parents, society, and government. It warps our approach to other people, making us seem far more important than we really are. It makes us neglect our duties and responsibilities, and the result is that we look for government or for God to do everything for us. It perverts our hopes by destroying initiative and the inclination to serve.

God called us with a purpose in mind, and eventually, that purpose is to serve Him and all of mankind fulltime. But we must be motivated to do so, but if our hope is always that somebody else will do it, somebody else will take care of it, somebody else will take care of me, initiative and responsibility are devastated. God has granted us the capacity to hope to motivate us to do things on our own, to use initiative to step out and act.

So God, in His mercy, gave us a living hope. Even as we had no control over our conception in our mother's womb, we had no part in this either. It was entirely a creative act on the Father's part to start us on the road toward a new creation, a creation He has purposed from the very beginning.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Resurrection From the Dead

Ephesians 2:10

If God, having foreordained us to be in His Kingdom, is not willing that any should perish and has thus called us, led us to repentance, and given us His Spirit, why should we be careful to "maintain good works" (Titus 3:8) or "exercise [ourselves] . . . to godliness" (I Timothy 4:7)? Why is such work necessary, since God is so determined to have us in His Kingdom?

The reason is both simple and profound. It is essential we understand it because it captures the essence of the issue of God's sovereignty. The reason is, simply, because it is His will that we do them. We must do them or we may destroy ourselves by refusing because we thus show Him that He is not really sovereign in our life. The works, of course, have other purposes as well. In fact, they have many purposes, for God rarely creates or commands anything for which He does not have multiple uses.

It should be enough for God's children to do as He wills simply because He has bidden us. Nowhere does Scripture teach or even encourage an attitude of fatalistic indifference to our circumstance. The Bible everywhere urges us not to be content with our present spiritual state. We have a long way to go to grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. This is a major reason why the "welfare mentality," dragged into the church from the world, is so damaging. It destroys human responsibility to God and each other, greatly hindering one's submission to God's will. Submitting to God's will entails some measure of work because human nature, Satan, and ingrained habits must be overcome.

In Philippians 3:14, Paul proclaims, "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." God has summoned us to salvation. Salvation is the prize that goes to those who yield to His will, showing by their lives that God is indeed their sovereign. Jesus admonishes us to, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:24). God's Word exhorts us to proceed energetically and solve the problems of life according to His instructions.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility: Part Eleven


 




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