Two converging events have created in me a need to write this post – a post that will no doubt offend (or embarrass) a few of my fellow Christian workers. Please forgive me for what I am about to write.
This past week the Obama campaign rolled out a fictitious story about Julia. Julia’s story unfolds on the computer screen telling us about all the ways that Uncle Barack has come to the rescue in the form of government assistance just when Julia was at her time of greatest need. It contrasts these benefits with all the heinous cuts the evil Republicans are planning to make. The Republicans responded fiercely, painting Julia as a ward of the state, sucking from the teat of government rather than making her own way in life (that’s the first time I have ever used the word “teat” in a blog post!). One rather cute tweet noted that, most likely, Julia will be moving in with mom and dad after college since she cannot find a job.
This got me thinking about the “support-raised Christian workers” who are taking advantage of government welfare programs. They are, in effect, missionaries on welfare.
The phrase, “support-raised Christian workers” refers to people working in organizations that require their staff members to find donations to pay for their ministry cost. I am aware of a number of them that are now sucking at that same teat (2nd time!!) as Julia. The issue to which I am referring is almost exclusively found among US-based staff (none of the aforementioned “welfare missionaries” are with Pioneers, mind you, although there may be some).
My bias against welfare is about to come out and I apologize in advance for being such a troglodyte about government assistance. I have this old-fashioned idea that welfare is not supposed to be a part of a household’s economy unless there are (negative) extenuating circumstances. In other words, if you are on welfare, you have problems and need help.
I have learned, however, that many consider government welfare (whether it concerns food stamps, school lunch assistance, or any other range of assistance programs) to be “rights.” In other words, if you qualify, than it is your “right” to have it.
There is something that seems wrong about deciding to work a bit less at fundraising because, with a lower income level, one can top off the budget with free school lunches. Worse yet? Qualifying for food stamps or assistance payments that allows a person to continue in ministry despite budget shortfalls. If one works for a non-profit I assume the idea is to provide a service to society, not to ask society to give you welfare benefits. After all, non-profits already get a government break through reduced taxation.
As I pondered this, I realized that I myself have sucked at a government teat (wow – three times in post!) but perhaps not the same one. Just this past month my wife and I refinanced our house. We qualified for a lower interest rate through an FHA-sponsored program that covered most of our closing costs, courtesy of the Obama administration, based on when we purchased our home. I didn’t ask for it – in fact, we were bombarded by offers and simply couldn’t pass it up (that’s my justification for doing it). If one extrapolates this to include other benefits of government for which I qualify (roads, bridges, protection from the US armed forces, etc.) I suppose we all get government assistance of some sort.
Still, am I wrong to suggest that missionaries who raise their support should think twice before getting welfare benefits?
What do you think?