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Ministering To The Poor

Many look down on the poor as lazy and during the industrial boom after World War II, that was partly true of the working age poor, but did not account for the vast number of poor who were elderly and could not work and had no family to help them. There are many circumstances that result in poverty that are beyond the client’s control.  Our current economic climate was created by government and business leaders who have tried to manipulate the economy for their own benefit, with little concern for the consequences for society as a whole. As a result, many are now unemployed through no fault of their own.

Some poverty is caused by poor choices. Many girls today are being lured into free sex with the assurance of government and community leaders that birth control will prevent any unwanted pregnancies with no warning about their high failure rate.  Without accurate information, many are choosing actions that leave them pregnant with no support. Our leaders also assure them that abortion will take care of any “accidents”, while hiding the physical, emotional, and psychological problems that often result from abortions, and no mention is made that it is taking the life of their child.

Since the development of the  government’s welfare program, many are poor due to the government’s attempts to legislate assistance, with no understanding of the effect of that legislation. Providing a decent income without requiring work has created a feeling that the government owes them a living. While the government required the person to look for work to get assistance, heavy welfare caseloads and the added paperwork needed when clients worked encouraged welfare workers to discourage clients from working so they didn’t have to do the extra paperwork. Welfare without limits resulted in 3rd and 4th generation poor because children saw their parents on welfare and figured that was the easy way to live. Many are also caused by government and social leaders who have tried to create a new society will little or no understanding of human behavior. Legalizing abortion was supposed to prevent the population from exceeding the food supply (which was not really a threat at the time) but it encouraged promiscuous sex resulting in a flood of unwanted pregnancies whose mothers were unwilling or unable to get abortions.

There is no universal cause of poverty and no universal cure. Each case must be evaluated but government workers have neither the time nor the resources to do so. The church has members who have the time and resources but has not felt the need to mobilize those resources because it felt the government had things under control, however, the government has been part of the problem.

I have gone into extensive discussion of ministering to the poor in “A Servant’s Heart-part-B” in the sections on ministering to the poor, but would like to add some important comments here.

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We have seen a complete shift in ministering to the poor from private assistance to public assistance. In the beginning, a private agency monitored those in need and determined if there is a need. If there was a need, the agency supplied the need and then monitored them to make sure the need was met. The Salvation Army today still operates that way. I gave people a voucher to take to the pharmacy to get medicine, the gas station to get gas, or a utility company to pay for utilities. We never gave the client cash. We wrote on the voucher what the client needed and monitored the pharmacies, utilities, and gas stations to be sure the clients got only what we ordered.

While liberal politicians push the idea that we can do more with the great resources available to the government, we are in fact using more resources but accomplishing less. While the government has great financial resources, it has little human resources and in dealing with the problems of poverty, it is the human resources that accomplish the most good. Liberals see the problem of poverty in America as a failure in the distribution of wealth which leaves some with a great deal and some with very little. They feel that if you redistribute the wealth, everyone will have enough but they ignore the basic nature of man and the basic nature of government.

Man is motivated by the law of rewards and punishment. He must see some reason to do what he does and will avoid doing that, which creates problems. That is the basic problem with liberal thinking. If you take from the rich that which they have worked hard for, they will no longer work hard because there will be no reward in it. If you give to a man without requiring him to work for it, he will not see any need to work because he can get what he needs without it. If the rich don’t produce a surplus to supply the needs of the poor, and the poor don’t work to help supply their own needs, you won’t be able to provide for the poor. That is why every Communist and Socialist government up to the present has failed. Since man doesn’t voluntarily submit to such a system, Communism always deteriorates into an oppressive Socialist dictatorship where the elite minority oppresses the majority.

The problem with the nature of government is that it must treat everyone equally and by so doing, it must operate by a basic set of rules. It determines eligibility on the basis of whether you meet a certain standard, which the government determines as poverty. If you meet that standard, you are poor and get help but if you don’t meet the standard, you don’t get help. People’s need vary a great deal and one size doesn’t fit all. When I worked for the welfare department, everyone on public assistance got an equal amount based on the number of people. If we say a family of four got $400 a month, we must compare two families of four to see how it works. If family A pays $400 a month rent, they have nothing left for food or utilities, but if family B owns their home and only pays $1200 a year in taxes, ($100 a month) they have $300 left over for other expenses. Many people, if you give the money to them in cash, they could spend all of it for alcohol and drugs and not pay the rent and utilities. In addition, government workers don’t have time to monitor whether the client uses the money for what is needed so you get people who waste everything the government gives them and then go to other agencies and get help with their rent and utilities. (See “Poverty In America” for needs of the poor and how to minister to them) With the government system, you have a lot of people getting help they don’t need because they qualify, and a lot of people who don’t get help they need because they don’t  qualify.

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One of my major concerns is that large numbers of people go long periods of time seeking jobs with little success while there are large numbers of jobs that go unfilled due to a lack of applicants. The job market has changed drastically in the past few years but most people seeking jobs still seek a job the old way which no longer works well. Many job openings are never publicized but are circulated among a small number of people because of the number of people looking for jobs. I meet many church people who are looking for work and sit in church with other church members who know about job openings but don’t know that the person next to them is looking for work. Churches need to find ways to bring those seeking jobs together with job openings. I probably receive at least a half dozen new job opportunities a week and many go unfilled for a month or more. I publish job opportunities that come to me on my website for those looking for work. Churches could do something similar or have a member who works with those who are unemployed and puts out regular requests for job opportunities that the congregation may be aware of.

I have also become aware of a growing trend among churches to develop job clubs. Job hunting is a difficult and frustrating task and it is easy to become discouraged. The clubs are similar to weight watchers but are for those who are unemployed. They are made up of those who are unemployed and provide encouragement, offer helpful advice, and hold members accountable, just as weight watchers does. There are a number of clubs growing up in the Toledo area.

Jobs that are publicized are soon flooded with people seeking work so the competition for the job is very intense. Once people locate a job opening, they are often unprepared to compete for the job. I attended a seminar recently put on by the Blessed John XXIII Church in Perrysburg. When the church was formed, one of the concerns raised was the number of people who were unemployed. As a result, the church developed a program in cooperation with the personnel manager of a large corporation to help those who are unemployed find work. It helps those who attend write a resume, survive an interview, and land a job. It also has a group of members who are in business who meet regularly with those who are unemployed to guide them in finding work. The church has expressed an interest in working with other churches to conduct the seminars to help people find jobs. Other churches are developing job clubs also.