I shared a photo on my Facebook that seemed to get some of my family and friends riled up.
It sparked a conversation, or well really just a bunch of comments, about how people should be drug tested for assistance such as SNAP or SSI. However, the way things went down left a bad taste in my mouth about the way we view folks who utilize these government-based assistance programs. I went to the Page that originally shared this photo, and someone honestly said “no one really deserves food, it should be worked for”. Now if we were cavemen I would agree. If we were still hunter/gatherers, yes, sure, why the heck not. I’m gonna hunt and gather for my family, and since resources to do so are limited, I’ll take care of us first.
Just kidding. I cannot even type that in good conscience – notice how I said “I’ll take care of us first”. Not “us and that is all”. I’ll make sure my provisions cover myself and whomever is in my charge before I give an extra away, but I’m going to give the extra away to those who need it.
The argument here was twofold;
that they did not earn their own money to buy their own food, and that their use of government benefits required the working class to pay taxes which are then used by the ‘non-working’ class to procure aforementioned food
that these people who are using drugs should pass a drug test to use the government assistance programs which will help them get food and necessities.
Essentially the argument was “Why should people who do drugs use MY hard-earned money to get food?”
My question is when did we become the judge on who deserves to eat? People who struggle with, or even simply live with, addiction don’t deserve food? They don’t deserve help? Is that truly what we, as a collective whole, think? Would the same people who type that on Facebook be willing to walk up to their family member and say that, not knowing that said family member struggled with addiction, no longer can work, and needs government assistance to feed their family? Are we really so that devolved and devoid of compassion?
What truly produces righteous fire in my soul is when we as Christians make this argument. Because the argument is not made with compassionate accountability, it is made with indignant self-righteousness. It is made with the pointing of sin-stained fingers, as accusing as the crowd that gathered to stone the woman caught in adultery. There’s no desire to help these addicts who apply for assistance. There is no desire to pluck families out of poverty. There is no conviction to find jobs for the jobless or find help for the mentally ill. There is only the selfish ambition to protect our own wealth.
Know what is hilarious to me about this? That money we are whining about isn’t even ours. (Haggai 2:8) As Christians, we’re told so many things about love and helping those in need.
If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion–how can God’s love be in that person? – 1 John 3:17
But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum? ” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
– Matthew 9:11-13
How about when Jesus performed miracles and healed the sick. Do you think he spent time inquiring what their pasts looked like? Do you think he asked each of the 3,000 that he fed if they were sober? Do you think he called us to sit around and gripe about someone else benefitting from our hard work?
Jesus did all our hard work for us, folks. Jesus healed lepers. He forgave adulterers. He fed 3,000 people without asking them for a thing. Jesus was tortured and died a horribly painful death FOR US. Yet we worry about people who maybe don’t ‘deserve’ assistance benefitting from the work our capable bodies preform.
Can I share with you the actual requirements for government assistance programs?
SNAP (commonly known as food stamps): There’s a whole mathematical process to determine, based on household size and income, who qualifies. Able-bodied adults must have proof of being involved in a work program; “These work requirements include registering for work, not voluntarily quitting a job or reducing hours, taking a job if offered, and participating in employment and training programs assigned by the State. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in disqualification from the Program. In addition, able bodied adults without dependents are required to work or participate in a work program for at least 20 hours per week in order to receive SNAP benefits for more than 3 months in a 36-month period.”
SSI (Supplemental Security Income): SSI benefits take into account “limited income” which includes free food, free housing, money earned from any employment, and any money received from other government agencies (including Social Security benefits, workers compensation, unemployment benefits, the Department of Veterans Affairs, friends or relatives). Non-citizens must provide proof that they are “qualified” which includes a list of 7 different categories. They also must provide 40 quarters of documented work, however if they entered the U.S. after August 22, 1996, they are not eligible for SSI as a LAPR (Lawfully Admitted for Permanent Residence) for the first five years here.
That’s just TWO, and honestly I had to read both documents a few times, and I still hardly understand the full breadth of requirements and restrictions.
But my point here isn’t that people don’t abuse the system. They do. We all know it. They know it. And it is frustrating. Not only are they abusing a system that was originally implemented to assist, but they are hindering their own lives by living unfulfilled. Their choice, not mine. What IS my choice is how I view the folks who need help. The crux of this argument for me was that the thinking seems to be ‘addicts don’t deserve help’.
I’m reminded of the prodigal son’s brother, who stomps his feet and whines at his father when his brother got a party. But he didn’t deserve ittttt – I imagine him whining in the kitchen while sipping his Evian and eating caviar. I’m sure that would result in a very passive aggressive Facebook status or Tweet, if Brother had social media. His brother didn’t EARN that love, didn’t EARN that party, didn’t PAY for those resources, so why should he benefit from them?! And Jesus uses this story to illustrate God’s unfailing love for us no matter what.
It is a really good thing we don’t get what we ‘deserve’. I pray every day that I look past what I think someone deserves to truly see what they need. And I know for certain that we ALL need a little more Christ-like love in our lives.