"God didn't send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what He has done, collecting a following for Him" (1 Corinthians 1:17)

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Church vs. Government

church prayer

Yesterday on facebook, a friend of mine whom I love dearly (and this is no stab at her, it just got my wheels spinning) noted on her status that Governor Walker (my Governor here in Wisconsin) will be cutting food stamps and then followed it with, “By all means fix the budget on the backs of the poor, especially kids.” And it got me to thinking about the Church vs. Government. What does God have to say about this?

REMINDER FROM GOD: (Eph 2:10) Long ago I planned that you should spend your lives helping others. (1 Tim. 6:18) Use your money to do good. Be rich in good works and give happily to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever I have given to you.

(Isa. 58:7-10) I want you to share your food with the hungry and bring right into your own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute. Clothe those who are cold, and don't hide from relatives who need your help. If you do these things, I will shed My glorious light upon you. I will heal you; your godliness will lead you forward, goodness will be a shield before you, and My glory will protect you from behind. Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day.

(1 John 3:17-18) If someone who is supposed to be [one of Mine] and has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need and won't help him--how can My love be within him? Stop saying you love people; instead really love them, and show it by our actions. (Prov. 14:31) Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting Me! To help the poor is to honor Me.

(Psa 82:4) Rescue the poor and helpless from the grasp of evil men.  (Prov. 28:27) If you give to the poor, your needs will be supplied! But a curse upon those who close their eyes to poverty.

(James 2:14, 20) What's the use of saying that you have faith and are Christians if you aren't proving it by helping others? When will you ever learn that "believing" is useless without doing what God wants you to? Faith that does not result in good deeds is not real faith.

NOTE TO SELF: I’m going to finally confess something here today about myself and my family that is incredibly humiliating.

When my husband was injured on the job we lost a majority of our income and we had no choice but to apply for government assistance (health insurance and food stamps). For over three years now, we have vowed with each new year we would finally get out of this downward spiral. But each year we find ourselves worse off then the last, and we just can’t make it without some sort of assistance.

I can’t tell you how badly I’ve been treated at the grocery stores when I use our Quest card, or how insulted I am when someone assumes I’m a food stamp frauder because I don’t “fit the mold.” Or how many hoops I’ve had to jump through when the government refuses to do their job and then punishes me for their mistakes. And even as a Republican/Conservative, I’ve heard my own party disrespect me by imploring that anyone receiving food stamps should not be able to buy/purchase certain items that those who aren’t on assistance can buy.  

Originally, it wasn’t the government who “took care of” the poor and needy. The church did that. However, during the Great Depression, the government decided to take matters into their own hands, thus, creating a dependency upon government and then turning people away from dependency on the church…AND God!

The CHURCH was supposed to take care of the community! It should STILL be that way. But ask the church for help and you need to go through nearly the same process as you would for government assistance. And with church assistance…you’re even MORE limited in what you can receive.

We are a part of benevolence program at our church and receive a $50 gift card each month for Woodman’s Grocery Store, which doesn’t take us very far as you can imagine. Most months I’ve had to remind our sponsor about our cards, or ask her when we can get our items. It’s been incredibly humiliating. It’s a very impersonal process. Our sponsor hasn’t really reached out to us on a personal level. And that makes us feel awful. I’d like to be treated like a person, not a charity case. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate what they do for us, because I DO—you have no idea! I just wish it didn’t feel so…obligatory on their part. Like our family is their “good works” and there’s nothing more to it. 

Our church also offers a food pantry, which is nice, but you're limited there, too. You are only allowed 4 bags of groceries or household goods. One bag takes up 2 rolls of paper towel, another bag takes up toilet paper and dish soap, so that leaves us with 2 bags for non-perishable foods. So the church is no better than the government when it comes to “cutting back” and making restrictions on the poor.

4 bags. $50. If we relied solely on our church to help us, we’d starve to death!

Our church doesn’t supply diaper programs, or wipes, pet products, or cleaning products. There goes our $50, and more out of our own pocket. 

When we were near getting our electricity turned off back in April, the church said they couldn't help us because they had already helped us 6 months prior, as if wed never need help again in one single year! So I had to put the bill on my mother's credit card, racking up more debt.

We shouldn’t complain that someone may possibly cut government food stamp allowances to balance a State budget. What we should do instead, is step up as Christians and as a church! Take the cue! It's NOT the government’s responsibility to take care of us, but many of us rely on it because our church is even more restrictive in helping their own people than the government.

And as much as I keep hearing we shouldn’t be government dependent Christians, but rather God dependent, it’s not possible when the church has more pressing matters…

In these incredibly difficult times, the church needs to refocus! Stop rebuilding. Stop remodeling. Stop buying new gadgets. Stop making life easier for the wealthy folks with iPads. Stop badgering us for our hard earned money that we can’t afford to give away so you can buy 25 new flat screen TVs. Just. Stop! Just for a minute. Just for a time. We can get back to that soon enough. But right now there are families in crisis. Kids who are going to school and going to bed hungry. Stop worrying about how long I’ve attended YOUR church in order to help me, and worry about helping those who care enough to attend church at all!

Focus on God’s Word. Focus on your congregational needs. Focus on those who are in trouble. Focus on the communities that are falling apart. Diverge from your rigid rules and regulations on what help means and looks like from your corner view high atop a castle.

We are God’s children in need. We need more than a smile and a handshake, or an “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through a tough time,” talk. Tough times calls for a tough church to buck up, step up, and take up that money and help those in need. Get your congregation off food stamps and government assistance programs! Heal the community by showing them that they can rely on the church for the help they need.

When the community and/or congregation relies more on the government than the church, the church has a real problem…that NEEDS to be fixed!

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