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My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
At the same time, the apostle Paul touches on the issue of the “lazy needy” in 2 Thessalonians 3:10–15 (The Message):
Don’t you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” And now we’re getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately—no excuses, no arguments—and earn their own keep. Friends, don’t slack off in doing your duty.
If anyone refuses to obey our clear command written in this letter, don’t let him get by with it. Point out such a person and refuse to subsidize his freeloading. Maybe then he’ll think twice. But don’t treat him as an enemy. Sit him down and talk about the problem as someone who cares.
There is a good deal of sorting out to do here, especially within in the context of the contributions by and the treatment of worshipers in the local church. But it does not appear to me that this pending inquiry should hold me back from obedience to Jesus’ call to serve the poor, the homeless, or the needy. In his very convicting book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, Ron Sider touches upon this issue of the “lazy needy” when he observes that “God does not overlook the sin of those who are poor due to sloth or alcoholism. God punishes such sinners.”1
However, given Jesus’ discussion of this topic and its direct relevance to my reception before the throne of heaven (Matt. 25:31–43, quoted below), it appears to me that the best course is to err on the side of being overly generous and compassionate, while balancing this against the need to be a faithful steward. To take the opposite path is to fall victim to the temptation to judge whom among the poor may be in that condition due to their own sin.
Surely, I am likewise guilty of much sin. I do not find myself among the materially poor in large measure due to God’s grace, undeserved as it is.
For Reflection: Matthew 25:31–43 (NIV)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on
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