Don’t Work….Don’t Eat?

We have seen it hundreds of times on the CDA Facebook comments, tweets, in blog comments and from Religious Right and far-Right affiliated organizations…. “The Bible says ‘If you don’t work, you don’t eat!'” This has been used as a Biblical excuse to cut food-stamps for families in poverty, to not fund health-care for the poor/Medicaid, unemployment benefits and even Medicare and school-lunches for poor kids! But the scripture as it is used in this context – and the attitude and legislation that goes with it – is not in alignment with the values Jesus taught, with the Genesis to Revelation message of compassion and caring for the poor, the least of these. Of course, we see the very important and basic principles of “hard work versus laziness” teaching throughout all of the Word, especially in Proverbs. These are basic sowing and reaping principles that we know to be true – if you have a great job that pays a livable wage and you are physically capable of doing that job but you decide you are too tired or don’t prioritize, you will lose that job and will more than likely lose your home, car, etc. Faithfulness, self-control and hard work are Biblical principles and important values.

However, the “Don’t work, don’t eat” scripture is not used in the context of people who fit this category. There is a much higher majority of people who try to find work but can’t, are working hard every day and still can’t make ends-meet, aren’t receiving a livable wage but can’t leave their job, don’t have transportation to find work, are disabled, etc., than people who are abusing the system. And it is the use of scripture to stereotype and thus abuse the poor and disenfranchised that is disgraceful, and maybe could even be considered blasphemous. So just how has the “Don’t work, don’t eat” scripture been abused? Let’s read the actual scripture, in context…

2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good. (NLT)

This often-quoted scripture is directed not towards the poor or anyone struggling, but to (depending on which translation you read): gossips, busy-bodies, people meddling in the affairs of others and not contributing to their community! So, the people meddling in the affairs of those who need assistance…these are the ones who this scripture is actually directed to! Take a look at the Amplified version…

2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 For while we were yet with you, we gave you this rule and charge: If anyone will not work, neither let him eat. Indeed, we hear that some among you are disorderly [that they are passing their lives in idleness, neglectful of duty], being busy with other people’s affairs instead of their own and doing no work. Now we charge and exhort such persons [ministers in Him exhorting those] in the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) that they work in quietness and earn their own food and other necessities. And as for you, brethren, do not become weary or lose heart in doing right [but continue in well-doing without weakening].

So basically, if you have nothing better to do than to criticize the lives of others, meddle in people’s lives and gossip, then you need to find a job and do something useful to help your fellow man. Once again, the scripture has been twisted to serve a political and social agenda – let’s spread the truth! Our God is indeed an awesome and caring God and he tells us the truth when we need to hear it, in love – and He cares about the poor and disenfranchised.


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