Have You Seen This on ABC News?

Let me throw this out there for thought…

In a recent story on ABC News entitled, “Refugee Aid Dependency,” the question is asked—“Are people in refugee camps becoming dependent on humanitarian aid?” I watched this story yesterday and was surprised by their analysis. After viewing it for yourself here (you may have to watch an ad first, sorry), then return and read on…

It reminds me of the blog entry I posted on September 16, where I discussed the surprising (to some) biblical command for Christians NOT just to give money, food (i.e., material aid) to those who are unwilling to work. And I think this is a big lesson our society needs to relearn (I say “relearn” because past cultures seemed to understand this principle better). Somehow it has become politically and socially vogue in our culture to believe that the most compassionate thing for governments and individuals to do is simply provide people what they need for however long they may need it. And if we don’t do that, we’re said to be hard-hearted, selfish, and stingy. But the scriptures teach otherwise (see previously cited blog), and now, it appears, so does this story on ABC News.

Now, admittedly, I’m the last person to think I’m any kind of expert on actually how to solve such problems in Africa, let alone in impoverished communities and lives here in our own country. Thank God there are smarter people in this world than me. But it seems to me that one thing that needs to at least be in the mix of how we help people is that we require them to work in some way for long-term material aid. This is primarily for their benefit as well as the benefit of society. Is there a way that refugees can begin to work for their aid so that they do not become lifelong dependent refugees? I don’t know. But it seems to me that that’s an important question that needs to be explored.

Now, what surprised me in particular from the ABC News story was that the same people who came to the realization that the U.N. is creating a society of people dependent upon humanitarian aid do not also seem to understand the same principle when it comes to the various welfare and food-stamp programs in the U.S. Certainly there is a role for some kind of short-term government assistance, but I think it’s clear to most people that we’ve created a society of people dependent upon humanitarian aid right here in our own country. And it just seems to me that the solution to the prolongation of their dependency is NOT to give them more aid. Might it be better, somehow (again, I’m certainly no expert), to require people to work for any assistance they may receive? And should there not be a cut-off time when material aid is over and material necessity forces those who are able to work to work? Because, as the Bible says, often the compassionate answer is not more aid.

And so I believe there are implications for this not just for governments, but for individuals and churches too. Sometimes the most compassionate thing is NOT to give someone money who asks for it. That’s controversial today, I know. But sometimes—oftentimes—most of the time, the most compassionate thing is to require someone to be forced to work hard to find and keep a job so they can earn their own living. I realize it may not always be as simple as that. But I also realize, as did the ABC News story, that it’s certainly not as simple as just continuing to give people more money either.

Your thoughts?

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