Did we let the government take it?
I recently visited a “benevolent home” nearby. The original structure is a grand old building constructed just after the turn of the 20th century. The service club that supports it began just before the American Civil War, its’ original charter having been signed by Abraham Lincoln. The meetings of the club were heavy on “pomp and circumstance” as so many of the clubs of that day were.
The original purpose of the home was the support of widows and orphans of the members of the the service club. It served that purpose very well for a good number of years in the first third of the century. Then, something major happened. In 1940 Social Security began paying out monthly benefits to spouses, minor children and survivors of workers who died prematurely.
Suddenly, the “service” that the home had been providing had been taken over by the Federal Government! Wishing to remain open and still wanting to provide a benevolent service, the home changed its charter and began providing “temporary care of children in need.” It still operates today, but it is slowly fading away with fewer and fewer children placed there.
But what of the loss of actually preforming “service” to the members of the club? That is, the loss to those caregivers and those supporting the home financially… the “givers.” A major societal change had been made! Responsibilities had been transferred. The Federal Government had become the main provider in “benevolence.” This has had a profound effect on service organizations, churches and families.
The government took over and local personal oversight of charitable assistance was lost. The door was opened for all kinds of scheming, scamming and downright laziness. Now, when a church or organization is approached by someone requesting help, they have no idea who they might be dealing with. We’ve all seen cases where welfare scammers take in far more than an average salary in a given community. This change killed the opportunity for individuals and groups to safely and effectively perform benevolence. Without complete investigation, one might unknowingly aid criminals in scamming of the government. Some even create fraudulent documents in order to become eligible for these benefits, stealing from citizens and taxpayers what is not legally theirs to have.
Since Social Security began, service organizations, churches, families and individuals have lost the motivation to help the needy in their community… “let the government do it,” has become the theme. “After all, their pockets are much bigger!” And… considering the litigious atmosphere today, it’s just a lot safer to not get involved.
But the concept, the responsibility, the longing to help our fellow man still is valid. So, what are we to do? Benevolence has long been summed up in this verse:
27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
There is a clue in this verse. It is the word “oneself.” How do we practice “pure religion?” We return to individual responsibility! We personally help those, that we personally know.
After all the years of conflict over how churches can provide for widows and orphans, maybe a governmental mandate has brought us back to simple biblical truths. The bottom line is, that responsibility for benevolence falls on each individual Christian.
If we do our part… God will be pleased.