When America Stops Work
By: Jim O'Brien
A somewhat strange news story was reported from Hawaii. State and local officials are stationed at certain airports in Hawaii to turn away homeless people who are arriving in the state with the intent to set up a tent as a permanent resident. Apparently airlines have reduced fares to increase business and some homeless people are taking advantage of the opportunity to move to Hawaii. To counteract this invasion of non-productive immigrants the state is refusing entrance to any person who cannot show evidence of being self-sustaining. The state has gone to the extent of paying for the return fare to the mainland.
On the surface it is confusing because one wonders how a homeless person has the money to fly to Hawaii. A reasonable person would use the money spent for airfare to improve his lifestyle in Florida or California, from which they came. We might ask where a homeless person got the money to purchase plane tickets. Did it come from working citizens through a government welfare program?
Three people were arrested and returned to the U.S. mainland because they had no connection to a residence in Hawaii or ability to provide sustenance for themselves. The authorities could only conclude that they were planning to remain as homeless residents.
Why did the mayor of a large city in Hawaii take this costly and drastic action? Whatever the answers to these questions, the clear realization is that there is something seriously wrong in our country. What is America doing to undermine the work ethic that has long been a basic value in our culture?
A close friend called to tell me about his brother, Timmy, who was homeless. Ironically, his brother was intelligent, highly skilled and healthy enough to work at meaningful jobs. He was capable of making a genuine contribution to other human beings. In spite of this Timmy ended up living under a freeway overpass in Richmond, Virginia with a group of other men in a similar condition. They had a leader who assigned each person to a certain street corner to panhandle for money at specific hours, after which they would pool their money to purchase beer and steaks for them to grill each evening. As chance would have it, a kind person from a philanthropic group provided a good job for Timmy, convinced him to stop drinking, get an apartment and live a productive life. The dramatic transformation was widely praised and even broadcast by a local television station. All was well for about six weeks until Timmy began longing for his previous lifestyle. He walked away from his job, went back to his homeless friends to become a panhandler again.
Charles Colson wrote an outstanding book entitled "Why America Doesn't Work," in which he points out that the Protestant Work Ethic was the concept that lifted America above every nation in the world. Colson points out that work has a positive spiritual bearing on the life of every human being. He demonstrates how low educational standards and a broken welfare system have deprived people of the skills and motivation that would otherwise make people productive in a competitive job market.
Worse, a centralized welfare program has killed the spirit of humans that would otherwise find personal value by using their unique skills to better mankind.
The pioneering sociologist Max Weber, in his work "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism," credited the Protestant Reformation for the rise of capitalism. It provided upward mobility based on hard work, increased personal wealth and increased the individual's self-esteem by removing feudalism and slavery.
The Apostle Paul set an example for the Church at Thessalonica when he wrote, "For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat." (2 Thessalonians 3: 8-10)
Paul simply recognized that one of the ways man connects with God is by working to serve others. After all, man is made in the image of God-and God worked for six days before resting on the seventh.
Until next time,
Pastor, Church of God Cincinnati
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