Would Jesus Be An Enabler?

Josh Tinley wrote a great post.  So great, I tried to write a comment, and ended up with something so long I felt it would best be its own post.  You see, we’ve been talking a lot at MCB and other places about extending Christian mercy to those who are suffering, even those who are in the situations they are in due to unwise decisions.  I think the conversation is specifically about certain elements of the homeless population.

We have actually discussed this in Sunday School before, without coming to any kind of consensus:

As followers of Christ, what do we do when we suspect someone receiving our aid is gaming the system, or at the very least, taking advantage?  I know what common sense says, but what does Christ say?  Are we supposed to care if we strongly suspect we are, basically, giving a drunk a drink?  Do we even give any consideration to the thought that we’re possibly doing more harm than good, that we’re enabling a person in a way that will keep them in misery, instead of getting them out of it?

I ask, because I struggle with this.

I have no problem extending mercy to even to criminals who have committed what could be awful crimes; I’ve prayed with such men many times before, and made many friends behind prison walls.  Same goes for just about any situation a person gets himself into.  There but for the grace of God go I.

Yet, I have this blind spot about people who I know, or very strongly suspect, COULD work, but do not. 

The backdrop to this is that I come from pretty humble beginnings.  Everything I say has the backdrop behind it of where I come from, where I am now, and the concepts that got me from there to here.

My father never really preached religion to his three sons; he just sent us to church and let us get our religion by osmosis.  But, he preached nonetheless.

The only thing my blue collar father ever preached about, what he did drill into me was sermon after sermon on the value of work.  He would preach, “If you don’t have a job, and aren’t spending every waking moment looking for a job, you have shamed your name.”  Well, he didn’t say it like THAT, but I got the meaning loud and clear.

He believed that if you have a condition that keeps you from working, do everything possible to alleviate that condition – make it your number one priority – so you can WORK.  The work is the most important thing a man can do. Not the getting paid part – working itself.   Always work, and if you can’t, make a job of looking for work.

He taught me not to turn turn my nose up at ANY job, whether I found it beneath me or not, whether it could support me or not – the act of working was more important than the pay.  He taught me that taking a menial job, and outworking everyone, is the way to having a job that DOES support you and your family.  Other rules include never being late, that sick time is NOT “Not Feeling Well” time, that volunteering for the hardest tasks will get you ahead.  No matter what you do, be the best there is at that job, outwork EVERYONE, and prosperity will follow.  Approach the world of work with the attitude that you have something to prove, because you do. 

And my life has taught me that he was right.

I always have this voice in the back of my head telling me that a well spoken person in an area with 4% unemployment should be working.  He just should, period.   I can see my dad, shaking his head. And I just can’t shake that voice.

So, I have to square this teaching with my Christian beliefs. 

And, let me tell you, it’s hard.  Paul had some things to say about the slothful, and Jesus used them as a “bad example”, but we are not told if Jesus was ever taken advantage of, and if so, what he did about it.  Something tells me that he would have helped.  His prodigal son parable makes me think that; although I wonder: the son had given up “riotous living” – Jesus never makes it clear that the father did not go to the faraway country and help the son financially while he was still living in a way that would just mean his help was wasted.  So, I don’t know.

I am torn.  You can’t just throw away 20 years of paternal teaching – it kind of gets under your skin.  And it has served me well.  So, sometimes, I guess, this Christian has what appears to be an unmerciful attitude.  I’m not proud of it – but now you know why.

I guess all I can do is pray about it.

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12 Responses to “Would Jesus Be An Enabler?”

  1. dolphin Says:

    I don’t think Jesus ever put any conditions on helping others, but the thing about helping is that it takes at least two people with a common goal.

  2. Warrior Says:

    I had a pastor once that told me when he gave any money out, he would tell that person “This money is from God. What you do with it now is between you and Him.”.

  3. Wherein I Explain My Hard Words To A Homeless Man « Just Another Pretty Farce Says:

    […] MCB recently, and subsequently have received all sorts of Bible verse comments about Christianity. Slartibartfast wrote a post to which I typed this comment. His post was about whether or not Jesus would be an enabler. Then I […]

  4. Katherine Coble Says:

    I don’t think Jesus ever put any conditions on helping others

    Except for all those times he said “Go and sin no more” and “don’t tell anybody else I did this”

    I take that to mean a) Charity to one person should be an acute measure–not a chronic one and b) Charity isn’t supposed to be talked about. We shouldn’t use our charitable actions as calling cards.

  5. dolphin Says:

    Except for all those times he said “Go and sin no more” and “don’t tell anybody else I did this”

    Do you think those were conditions? I don’t interpret those as conditions. Did the blind, given sight, have his withdrawn the next time they sinned? Well, the Bible doesn’t say, but I suspect not.

    I have my own interpretations of “go and sin no more” (several actually) but I’ll not get in to them because it would require more time than I’ve available, but for the context of this discussion, it’ll suffice to say that I don’t believe Jesus either requires the recipient of help to live a perfect life from that moment forward, nor do I think that Jesus would refuse to help someone a second time on the basis that they had sinned in between.

    As for not telling others, it’s clear that was not an actual condition on person helped:
    And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. And they were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.” – Mark 7:36-37
    This is a condition for the helper, not the helped.

    I don’t think we disagree actually. My point is that Jesus did not say “I’ll help you if you meet these criteria.”

    • Michelle Lucero Says:

      Jesus is not an enabler. Maybe there is no criteria for helping someone one, but there is definitely a warning concerning sin: “Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” I don’t believe most Christians have a problem helping someone the first time we are asked. I would probably even help the same person twice or even three times. I think the problem is that we don’t know where to draw the line when a person remains in sin. When do we stop helping in other words? Consider this. What if the blind man left, committed worse sins and lost his eyesight again? If he came back to Jesus asking to be healed again, would Jesus heal him again? Jesus died once, he made us clean once, he conquered death once and for all and said “Go and sin no more.” Are we to keep asking him to die over and over again? When we help someone, we do it with Faith that the good work will produce good fruit. If it produces bad fruit the work is not of God and we should move on.

  6. nm Says:

    As a thought experiment, consider Jesus’s exhortations in the context of Jewish definitions of and understanding of charity.* Don’t talk about your giving — check. Fix the situation that’s keeping the person from working — check. (I don’t know where a 4% jobless rate fits into that scenario.) It also suggests that it’s maybe better if the person doing the giving isn’t sitting in judgement on how deserving the person receiving actually is. And if the person doing the receiving takes some steps to fix things, as well.

    *The formulation I have linked to is from the 12th century, not the time of Jesus. As I understand it, though, both the concept of levels of giving and the idea that charity = justice (rather than charity = love) are things Jesus would have found familiar, whether he accepted them or wished to change them; it’s certainly considered the normative statement about giving to others for all branches of Judaism today.

  7. Warrior Says:

    As for the term “go and sin no more” and other such statements, they always followed, not proceeded, the act of kindness. In my thinking, that makes them exhortations, not conditions.

  8. Kes Says:

    I don’t believe that charity ever helps anyone so much as it strengthens the giver. I believe Jesus knew that giving is a way that even the poorest of people can transcend the social conditions for themselves. Whether the person doing the giving is “enabling” goodness or evil is a whole other issue…

  9. Orphielle Says:

    In Matthew 25, Jesus makes very clear who is going to Heaven and who is going to Hell. If He was talking about feeding the “deserving” hungry, clothing the “hardworking” naked, and visiting “innocent” prisoners, then why didn’t He say so?

    Enabler? No.

    But we use Jesus as our enabler whenever we conveniently ignore what He preached and then expect to go to Heaven based on our beliefs.

    Jesus preached against hypocrisy and made the religious authorities uneasy. So they had Him crucified to shut him up. There’s a message to be learned there. Think about it.

    I believe in Jesus, but I don’t believe in Christians who ignore his words in the four gospels and skip right to Paul for their theology.

  10. Vivian L. Sessoms Says:

    Absolutely, Jesus preached against hypocrisy. Jesus was indeed an enabler. He taught compassion and mercy. He was not judgemental nor did he make distinctions between people, either by ethnicity or race or even religion. “When I was hungry you gave me meat; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in….”In asmuch you have done it unto one of the least of these my bretheren. you have done it unto me.” Matt.25:34-40. There were no conditions to this type of enabling, it was charity and compassion.

    The truth of the matter is the average person is not capable of giving or helping without some type of judgement or demand. Mercy, according to Jesus, was not an exchange for something else. Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit” for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

    Throughout his ministry Jesus preached love, compassion and mercy and tried to show the world how significant it was to love your neighbor; he tried to show that riches, material things were not important.

    Enabler? Most certainly.

  11. Peter Says:

    Jesus was totally an enabler. An enabler is someone who shields you from the consequences of your behavior. That’s exactly what he did by dying for our sins.


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