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Christian Generosity: Loads and BurdensBy Evan Nehring
This is the fourth in my series on poverty. It's an adventure, happening as we go. I'm currently focused on income inequality. You can find the rest of these posts here.
I was taking in a Wallbuilders podcast not long ago when David Barton and Rick Green interviewed Ohio pastor and author Chad Hovind. The subject matter was Hovind's book, Godonomics. It's a textbook-like resource on what God has to say in the Bible about economics. No such project is without controversy, but I am finding it compelling reading...helpful and thoughtful.
Hovind's treatment of Christian generosity is outstanding.
Christ-followers have a dual responsibility. Each person is responsible for carrying his or her own load, as we saw in Galatians 6:4-5. At the same time, each one needs to be looking for ways to help those who have a legitimate need or "burden": "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (verse 2). Paul's choice of words is important. You are to carry your own "load" and carry other people's "burdens." The distinction between the two is critical.So the basic idea is that everyone is responsible to care for themselves, and then we show compassion for those who are overwhelmed with an excessive burden. There are a few takeaways from that gem.
1. If we carry someone else's load, we are doing them no favors. This is not compassion. We are helping to create poor character in that person by allowing them to sponge off of us. We are creating weakness and dependency in them.
2. If we do not help others with their burdens, we are coldhearted and selfish. When someone is truly crushed by their circumstances, we honor God by helping them through.
3. If we do not carry our own load, we should not be helped.
4. If we are overwhelmed with a burden too heavy to bear, it honors God to reach out to others for help.
This is so helpful! Loads are for carrying. Burdens are for sharing.
For example, if someone makes the unwise choice of spending their money on alcohol and drugs, we are adding to their calamity by helping them to live comfortably. We're hurting them by enabling more poor choices. Or if someone doesn't budget their personal finances properly to maintain their mortgage payments, they should lose their home.
But what if someone suffers a tragic accident? That's a burden. That's when insurance and the love and family and friends justly come along to show compassion and help. Great personal loss and major illness are other examples where we can step in and help.
Loads and burdens. We could go on for days with examples, but the principle is solid.
I'm not going to say a whole lot more about that today, except for this... What are the odds that a government worker in Washington, D.C., or Ottawa or London, understands clearly whether my friend in northern Wisconsin is dealing with a load or a burden? Is it possible for national central planning to be truly fair to everyone, making each person carry their load but stepping in only to help with burdens? I don't think so. Even if every politician was as pure as the wind-driven snow, the task is impossible.
Charity should be as close to home as possible. I don't believe the federal government should have any hand in it. I question whether the state governments are even close enough. In this way, government hinders the poor.