And it struck me that this is difficult to reconcile with this:
10For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."
11We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.
14If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed.
In this passage, Jesus seems to identify directly with the poor. And he tells us that when we fail to feed the poor, we are rejecting Jesus himself. But in the first passage, we have Paul (and Silas and Timothy) telling us not associate ourselves with those who don't work. Holy Biblical contradiction, Batman!
42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'"
Or maybe not. I can think of two ways to reconcile this.
- Maybe when Jesus is referring to the poor, he's not referring to the people who are unwilling to work.
- Maybe, when Jesus is referring to feeding the poor, he means something other than just tossing food their way.
But #2 is intriguing to me. I think that it might be an important part of the correct answer. I think that to feed the poor, we need to do more than just provide food for them. We need to teach them to provide food for themselves. We need teach them the value of work. Poverty is humanity's default state. Do nothing and poverty persists. It is through working that poverty is beaten back.
But what is work? Who can create jobs? After the recent election season, all the candidates - at every level - tried to convince us that they can create jobs. I don't think that's true. When the government "creates" a job what they do is take money (through taxation) from one group and use it to fund the work. Unfortunately, doing this fails to measure what jobs would have been funded by the people who were taxed. Because they can't spend that money on their own, there's a bunch of work that can't be done for them. So when the government says it "creates" jobs, it does nothing of the sort. It simply transfers the jobs from one group to another - completely ignoring the relative value that the taxpayer would have been able to give and receive had she been able to spend her money as she pleased.
So, how do jobs get created? A job gets created everytime any of us do things that are of value to other people and then trade. In fact, that is the only way to create jobs. When that happens, both the worker and the employer are wealthier than they were before the trade. The employer, valuing the work more than the money, is willing to give the money in exchange for the work. The worker, valuing the money more than the work, is willing to give the work in exchange for the money. After the exchange, both parties are wealthier than before. And that wealth is new wealth. It's wealth that never existed before in the world. But the key is the value. To fight poverty, you must be able to produce value.
But, of course, God created us all with gifts and talents. Those gifts and talents were given to us for a purpose. That purpose must be of value because it's from God. Which means that every last one of us has something of value to share with the world. And every last one of us can fight our own poverty through using the gifts that God has given us. And then trading with others.
So when I hear Jesus calling me to feed him, I don't think it means only providing food. I think that's a start, but I don't think it's enough. I think it means helping people to figure out what God given gifts they have so that they can use them to fight their own poverty. I currently do this as a Money Map Coach. I want to help people fight their own poverty by teaching people how to live within their means. Then, maybe they can find enough abundance to fund the projects that God has in mind.
That's what I'm doing to feed the poor. What about you? Are you just throwing money at them? Or are you helping them to learn how to fight their own poverty? What can you do to teach that?