How often do you encounter another professed Christian who doesn’t seem to walk in a Christian life? I’d bet such people are all around you. What does that mean and how are we to respond to people who just seem not to be with the “program”?
I first saw an instance of this, not long after we were saved, with people who said they were Christians when my wife and I were doing some real estate rehab. We had fixed up a house with the intent of selling it, but circumstances in the market didn’t lend themselves to that objective. Grudgingly, we decided to rent the property.
The house was in a challenged community. We could discuss for a couple of hours the wisdom of our rehabbing in that suburb, but one thing we vainly hoped was that we could be part of an increase in community restoration. The couple we rented to were on Section 8 rental assistance from the government. There are pros and cons to that, but we certainly saw the cons over a period of time.
Government largesse has always come with a price. In this case, free money came at the expense of family unity. Handouts were greater when the husband wasn’t living in the household, because that’s how payments were structured. Since the initiation of the Great Society by LBJ, the intent was to destroy families by making it more profitable than keeping them together.
Once we learned that’s how this couple was pulling in more free rental assistance, we weren’t terribly pleased. At one point the wife asked if we would lie to cover for them so they could continue the ruse. We refused, but somehow they managed to keep the conditions for paying them in place.
These folks were, as I say, professed Christians, but the more we interacted with them, the less they seemed to be people who walked in the way of Christ. Unfortunately, in this community, the allure of living on Welfare ran generationally deep. The people in our house had learned well and did all they could to game the system. Assistance was available for utilities, and of course, food stamps. To access a newer program for utility payments, they willingly spent their morning at the government office waiting in line for hours to have that obligation paid for by others.
After about three years we decided to try again to sell the property. Upon inspection, we knew that we had to put significant time, effort, and money once again into making the house sale ready. We gave our renters notice that they’d have to leave. Because in this particular community, for them to continue with rental assistance, it was required that they get a recommendation and release from their landlord to go into a new place.
They had done some damage and we required them to pay for it. Additionally, my wife happened to check with the city for the water bill, which wasn’t covered under the utility assistance program. Our folks owed around $800. If we had signed off without learning this (which they didn’t tell us about), that bill would have been our responsibility. As it was, because of the leverage we had for the signoff on their moving to a new house with rental assistance, we were able to demand they paid the bill.
All this background to say that these people were certainly not living up to the standards that the Apostle Paul declared were necessary for those in Christ. He wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:6:
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.
I think we could safely say that Paul would not have been a big fan of public welfare as an ongoing lifestyle.
Moreover, Paul admonished in 2 Thessalonians 3:10:
For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
To the folks living in our rental house (and probably to us for agreeing to cooperate with the system), Paul would likely say that welfare is not healthy. It destroys families and the incentive to work. Don’t live that way and don’t be part of the system promoting it. In fact, Paul’s attitude was that people should learn from their idleness by going hungry, so as to realize that they needed to work for a living.
Finally, in this letter, the apostle had concluding advice that cuts both ways. He said in 2 Thessalonians 3:13-15:
As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
Our renters, if truly born again, should have heeded the Word of the Lord in their lifestyle, which obviously wasn’t pleasing to Him. But we had an obligation as well, which we may have fallen down in obeying. Paul charges us to go to people such as this and warn them in the Name of Christ about the error of their ways.
I know I spoke to them one final time, but did I do this in the way that Paul urges? I don’t know that I did. One thing I can say is that I know more now about walking in the light of Christ than I did then. Hopefully, I’d be bolder now than at that point.
We all have to learn these things. As we read God’s Word, He works in us to do greater things in His Name and to better represent Him. There’s no sense in beating ourselves up if we’ve blown opportunities to be a better witness for the Lord. What we can and should do is to learn, to repent, and to move on.
We are Christ’s ambassadors to this lost and dying world. How well are we doing?