Friday, November 30, 2012

The Poor

"He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God."   ... Proverbs 14:31

So did you read this article back in September?:

Well, I did, and I've needed time to cool off, I suppose, before writing about it.

Oh my... That (former) Kroger manager's remark made me livid. You know, the "Excuse me for working for a living and not relying on food stamps like you," thing. It reminded me of how shocked I was when, earlier, dear Facebook friends published snide remarks about food stamps users, comments which sounded as though all people on food stamps are suspect-- lazy, drug-using cheaters sucking the life and money out of all our wallets.

And this story also reminded me of the time, just months earlier, when still-unemployed Tom told me, "You know... officially we qualify for food stamps," and I got all panicky just thinking of how we'd be perceived by people if we used them. The Georgia woman incident hadn't yet happened, but inside my head, I'd imagined it happening to me. I know how people, even otherwise-nice friends, can be when it comes to others receiving government help.

Do some people take advantage of food stamps unfairly? Yes, of course. But is that a reason to make cruel assumptions about everyone on welfare? (Or remarks which, even unknowingly, make all recipients feel bad, even those who truly have a need?) Isn't that like assuming all churches are cults just because some are? Or all doctors are quacks, just because some have been? 

Now, it probably wasn't wise for the Georgia mother (who is on dialysis and has a husband who does work, but can't get enough jobs as a carpenter) to cop an "I told you so" attitude toward the manager. She may have not stayed sweet when the items in her cart were questioned as to whether they qualified for the food stamp program.

Always, yes, there are two sides. But the Bible says to defend the cause of the weak, the poor  (Ps. 82:3)--and it doesn't add, "but only if they are sin-free, gleaming examples of humanity." Also it states, "If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered." (Prov. 21:13). Ouch. Truly something to consider if we wish our future to be, well, good.

 It's this "everybody on food stamps is a lazy thief" attitude which needs to stop. I've seen it spread like wildfire and it burns and destroys just as hurtfully. Our faulty, non-compassionate, better-than-thou assumptions can slice spirits like silent knives, killing even fresh desires of those floundering to pick themselves back up.

And woe be unto us, if we had any part in that.

Proverbs 19:17  He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.
Psalm 82:3-4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
(Something good to remember? Weak people are, well, weak. Not necessarily bad and out to make trouble, but just unable to use wisdom. God asks us to bear with them, rescue them-- not condemn them with our words.)

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands... " 1 Thessalonians 4:11


If we lived right, ourselves--trusted God, sowed good things, gave cheerfully our tithes and to the poor-- we'd not be panicky and bitter about governmental debt. Instead, we'd know God could and would take care of us no matter what.

"Never assume anything."  (Oh, how God has drummed that one into my head these past two years! He won't let me get away with assumptions about anything.)



Anonymous said...

We finally gave in and applied for food stamps years ago and used them for 3 months. I remember being very embarrassed to use them. We had never bought cokes and such anyway so we did not spend the stamps on such but still I wondered if people were looking to see what I bought with 'their' money. Walking a few steps in another's shoes can make you see the world differently. Now I say a prayer for the welfare of the family in line using stamps. If people in line start to act grumpy because their transaction takes a bit longer than normal I understand and try to help the others do the same. We do not know what difficulties this family faces and having to deal with. Getting food stamps is not easy with the paper work etc too. They do not just hand them out without interviews and lots of paper work. Sarah

K.E. said...

I spent a couple of years on welfare after my husband left. I felt it was more important to stay home with my 18 month old son than go out and get a minimum wage job and have to pay for day care.
We received less than $300 in support, (the rent was $250) and $60 in food stamps a month.
I went to the library and checked out vegetarian cookbooks; kept all the veggies scraps and made my own stock; I shopped sales once a week. I learned to cook. I definitely feeling judgement (and shame) in the check-out line.

None of us knows what burden someone else is carrying.

Holly Young said...

can I stand up and give a giant standing ovation?

I've never had to use food stamps (thank the good Lord) but I did have a teenage daughter who had a baby out of wedlock at age 15. And the looks we got using WIC was unbelievable.

Yes, maybe she made a mistake, but isn't that between her and God? Let he who has never sinned, and all that business,,,and my precious grandson was NEVER a mistake.

Today, that daughter is 27 years old, working, married, supporting herself and has given me an additional precious grand daughter to love.

Amen to your kind, loving words.

Sara said...

Add my standing ovation! The health system for which I work has a value statement which includes "presume innocence." How powerful! It not only extends the grace and kindness which Jesus commands of us, but frankly, it saves me making a fool of myself on a regular basis!

Debra said...

I so appreciate each of you who were bold enough to share your own stories.Thank-you. Really. And Sara--I love that "presume innocence." If only that sign could be placed everywhere we go! Blessings, Debra