First Earn, then Eat!

“If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
The Apostle Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:10, NIV).

The key word in the much neglected verse above is “man,” which in context means “grown-up.” Of course, babies and children must be fed long before they can work. As they grow, they learn to take responsibility for their lives. Others need time and support, for legitimate reasons, to train or recover from setbacks or disabilities. They need to eat too. Grown-up Christians who are not afraid of honest work also stand at the head of the line to help the helpless.

Fruitful seeds of integrity are sown into the biblical maxim above. Justice stops rolling when able-bodied non-working people live as a burden on hard-working people. Some grown-ups genuinely need a hand up, but too many today prefer to live in emotional and financial diapers. And they vote!

A Chinese proverb puts it this way: “Dig a well before you are thirsty.”

A Serious Sin!

What kind of people steal, embezzle, cheat, defraud and extort? Answer: lazy people who want a free ride– the same sort of people who enslave others to live off of their labor. The apostle Paul advised otherwise:

    He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. (Ephesians 4:28).

No Lazy Legacy:

The Puritans arrived in America with an earnest sense of vocation and they worked hard to fulfill it. John Winthrop’s call in 1630 to make America a “city on a hill” was a call for honest work. They welcomed work and hardship as God‘s will. The farther we stray from our Puritan legacy, the more our culture crumbles. Puritan priorities are found in Will Roger’s quip some ninety years ago: “What this country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds.”

A Biblical Mandate:

Paul taught that “…each one should carry his own load.” (Galatians 6:5). He advised, “Work with your hands… so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). Paul also reminded the Thessalonian saints that he did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it. Instead, “…with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you.” (1 Thessalonians 3:8). He admonished the idle (the unruly and undisciplined) saying, “Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12).

Final Thought:

Work hard

Sacrifice leisure, focus on your goals and beat back all your setbacks. But don’t expect the applause of all. Instead of letting honest labor inspire them, slackers and shirkers wallow in self-pity and envy. They will belittle you as “privileged.” Ignore them and listen to Thomas Edison (1847-1931): “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Fried Children

The silver screen comedian W. C. Fields (1880 – 1946) was once asked if he liked children. He quipped: “Ah yes, boiled or fried?” There was a time in America when that was funny. No more. Reality is trading places with absurdity. Too many children are being boiled and fried alive, so to speak, in today’s popular culture.

Would you like America’s babies served up in the second trimester or third? Would you like to see our children’s hearts boiled by Internet pornography, or their brains fried by endless attention to raunchy and violent video games? Would you like to dress your pre-teen daughter in all the latest hot fashions for that hard-boiled little-lady-of-the-street look? Just go to your local mall. Would you like our children’s innocence fried to a crisp by cable television, by education bureaucrats forcing through activist anti-family curriculums, or at the hands of unrepentant homosexual clergy who run “outreach” websites to beckon boys into homosexuality? Would you like to see youth suicide rates rise even higher due to increased sexual confusion and isolation? And why is unusual crudeness and indecency in entertainers so richly rewarded today? Why are children empowered to do most of the enriching? Finally, what would a modern comedian do with these questions?

I recall an American culture wherein sexual chaos was stigmatized and innocent hugs were not. Now the situation is reversed. Lawyers stand in line to help sue a teacher, minister or care-taker who might give a wholesome hug or apply corrective discipline to a child but too many turn a blind eye to real child abuse. The lack of outrage among Catholic leaders over priests preying abusively on boys was inexcusable. A similar moral coma at Penn State allowed a popular coach to abuse boys who idolize sports figures for over a decade.

Our culture mocks purity, celebrates profanity and wallows in vulgarity. We are decomposing marriage and demonizing those who want it protected. Eventually, we will be enforcing laws so bisexuals can equally create “marriages” wherein all the partners can have partners from both genders. Homosexual, bisexual and transgendered activists want to change the way little boys and girls think about sex and marriage. The manipulation of little minds is what the homosexual revolution is about. And few leaders care about the harm this does to children, including faith leaders who are easily intimidated and driven into shadows where they can be silent and safe.

America’s narcissistic hyper-sexualized culture preys on children. Who cares? Jesus would. He said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.” (Mark 8:41)

Jesus was no milquetoast Messiah. When it came to kids, he was a Millstone Messiah! If you follow Jesus, be a Millstone Parent! Be a Millstone Mentor. Our kids need decent adults to step up. If an official tells you that you are the only one to complain, don’t melt. Get a spine. Speak out. Write letters. Use discretion. Apply love. Partner with ministers and teachers. Keep kids out of the frying pan and away from the fire. Make their spiritual protection priority number one. Send any TV in the bedroom of a minor to Pluto. If your child objects, a wonderful teaching moment has been laid in your lap. Children can’t see all the stumbling blocks this world shoves in their way and it takes a lifetime to open their eyes.
Here is some good news: On September 7, 2013, Trail Life USA, a new outdoor mentoring group for boys was launched as an alternative to the Boy Scouts who have caved to the intimidation of our culture. Their motto is, “Walk Worthy.” Check them out!
When W. C. Fields was “caught” reading a Bible one day, he excused himself saying; “Just looking for loopholes.” How witty. Today, people are finding loopholes in the Bible left and right, enabling them to create their own moralities and realities. But these self-serving loopholes are turning into nooses around the necks of our children. It is time to say, “We’re as mad as heaven and we are not going to take it anymore!” Let’s make evil exploiters tremble for a change.

An Exceptional Heritage

On September 10, 2013, President Obama made his case for using military force against Syria in response to internal war crimes. He closed it thusly: “I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.”

Five years earlier, while overseas, Obama said: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” In other words, there is nothing exceptional about our belief that America is exceptional. It’s just provincial presumption. That same year, In France, he said, “America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive,” (April 3, 2009). That sounded like he thought we were exceptionally bad.

Nevertheless, in 2013, the world heard Obama affirm that America is exceptional. President Putin of Russia took exception to this. Two days after Obama’s speech, Putin wrote in the New York Times:

It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy… We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Invoking God was odd for a former KGB officer and previous atheist with a brutal legacy. That aside, apparently Putin sees America the same way Obama did in 2009.

Here is what neither President Obama or Putin seem to understand: American exceptionalism has nothing to do with thinking we are better than anyone. It’s about our Founder’s vision for limiting government rather than expanding it. That was exceptional in an era of tyrants like King George III, Robespierre, Napoleon and others.

Much of human history is a story of monarchy, autocracy, anarchy, tyranny and such. America emerged as an amazing, though flawed, exception to this. “Exhibit A” for American exceptionalism is President Washington stepping down from power. He had enough popularity and prestige to become the first American king and rule for life. Having none of that, he gave up his power and returned to his farm. For over 2,000 years since Cincinnatus returned to his plow, no leader in similar circumstances had done what Washington did. He showed a top-heavy world how to conduct peaceful transitions of power. His exceptional greatness can be seen in contrast to the power-hungry Napoleon who, in exile, whined, “They wanted me to be another Washington.” But Napoleon was far too typical for that.

The Enlightenment ideals of representative government and the consent of the governed were not unique to us. They came from Europe. But the application of those ideals of liberty to the faith-based society cultivated in colonial America was unique. Our Founders worked hard to craft a largely secular Constitution and pass laws but they often warned that such things were wholly inadequate for a society without religion and morality (a reference to our Christian underpinnings). Faith provided the soil from which our nation and its enlightened Constitution grew. That was exceptional.

Revolutions are not unique but the French and Russian Revolutions were disasters because they spouted lofty principles while severing themselves from a faith-based heritage. They were anti-Christian revolutions. They professed to honor the common man but that was a ruse with no foundation in a moral or religious anchor. The American Revolution retained and respected that foundation and empowered the common man by limiting government and separating the representative powers. Slavery, it must be confessed, was a tragic exception to our exceptional beginnings. There was nothing exceptional about slavery in those days.

America is not a geographical location. The land was here long before there was an “America.” Nor is America merely her government. Race, gender and class have no bearing on our identity as Americans. If your ancestors came here on the Mayflower or on a slave ship, you now (though this took time and cost many lives) have an equal claim on America. Here, talent, skill and hard work should determine your fate more than birth, race or class. America was an exceptional idea. Over time, we forged a unique oneness based on principles and ideals (e pluribus unum), not on old school hierarchies and castes.

American exceptionalism is not rooted in our willingness, or not, to hold a dictator in Syria accountable for war crimes. That’s a complex international question. President Obama was wrong when he dismissed American exceptionalism in 2009 and again when he claimed it inaccurately in 2013. It is our heritage that is exceptional and I am grateful. I also grieve that so few Americans today understand or treasure our heritage.

Loving Sinners

“Let those who love the Lord hate evil.”
(Psalm 97:10)

True love, this side of heaven, cannot escape the struggle against evil. For Christians, this painful struggle begins inside as repentance begins its work in us. Then it emerges as confrontation with the destructive forces of evil around us.

When evil grows, love shrinks. Jesus warned, “Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12). Thus, the good fight against wickedness is precisely the fight FOR love. But it is not a safe struggle. Confronting evil got the prophets persecuted, John the Baptist beheaded, Jesus crucified and nearly all the apostles martyred. One apostle who outlived all the others (according to various traditions) saw this confrontation at the heart of Jesus’ mission on earth. John wrote; “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8).

The apostle Paul saw the connection between genuine love and hating evil. He succinctly wrote, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9).

An 18th century English poet, Alexander Pope, coined a pithy gem of brilliance when he wrote, “Love the offender, yet detest the offense.” Long before Pope, the cross of Christ clearly demonstrated God’s profound hate for sin and love for sinners at the same time. Pope’s maxim, however, is a cop-out whenever one claims both sides of it (hating the offense and loving the offender) but only practices one.

Jesus was questioned by some Scribes and Pharisees for loving sinners. “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” they asked. He replied, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:30-32). To this day, the most loving thing a Christian could possibly do is to seek the best time and place to plea with a committed sinner to repent and be reconciled to God. But this takes courage since many, including professing Christians, will call you a hater for doing this. Do it anyway. There is no better way to destroy the devil’s work than to promote repentance. Besides, love endures all things!

Over 30 years in Christian ministry, I have wept with far too many broken souls whose lives were shattered by sin to ever be seduced into going soft on evil. It’s a killer. The older I get, the more I hate sin and love sinners. I live in a culture, however, that has it the other way around. I see our society loving sin with endless passion and all too often disparaging and scandalizing sinners. Jesus turns that immoral twist on its head.

“Blurred Lines”

The Obama presidency is best defined by the phrase, “blurred lines.” So is his Party. There are few firm lines in their world.

Calling abortion a “choice” is a line blurring spin. Never mind that a life is destroyed. Redefining marriage to suit some powerful sexual identity groups but not others is a line-erasing atrocity. Offering amnesty to illegal immigrants blurs the notion of citizenship itself. Redefining or censoring terms only thickens the fog. Claiming that “the fence is now basically complete,” as the President did in El Paso, Texas, May 10, 2011, does not make it true. Blurring boundaries is a passion for the left.

Barack Obama’s presidency and his party were both echoed in the recent performance of a song titled, “Blurred Lines,” by Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. The song, according to its author, was written to fundamentally challenge and transform taboos. Obama’s presidency is rooted in his resolve to fundamentally transform America. Echoing abortion, the lyrics literally degrade women as animals, denying humans of their humanity. Democrats do not advocate a rape culture, as the song does, but as moral lines and boundaries continue to blur, who knows what will change next?

Abortion rights advocates often deny personal support for abortion. Only an avid fan of Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus could buy a fuzzy twist like that. In 2008, Rick Warren asked Obama, “At what point does a baby get human rights?” The candidate replied, “Answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade.” We soon learned that “specificity” on anything was above his pay grade. Sadly, the notion that “human rights” are beyond a president’s pay grade was bought, hook, line and sinker, by the voters.

Candidate Obama’s hard line 2008 promise to close Guantanamo Bay within a year soon fell out of focus. The vociferous critic of the Patriot Act as a senator actually ramped it up as president. Declaring a “red line” in a 2012 speech sounded good but when such a line is crossed, what’s a line-blurring president to do? Obama has often said that Assad (Syria’s dictator) must go, but he offers no plan for how or for who or what would replace him. Soon after Obama’s “red line” speech, four Americans were murdered in Benghazi, Libya. The Obama administration stayed focused on their campaign priorities and repeatedly lied about the circumstances surrounding the planned terrorist act. They knew which lines to hold and which ones to blur. Voters swooned.

Regarding Obamacare, the purely Democrat votes that passed it were cast without anyone bothering to read it. Bold promises were made (or made up) and thuggish partisan methods pushed it through. Today, the law is eroding into massive delays, fuzzy exceptions, slippery evasions, blurry revisions and cheap excuses as deadline after deadline passes unmet. Adding the word “dead” to the word “line” does not prevent blurring.

As a candidate and president, Obama has held firm to his support for abortion and mandating sex education beginning in kindergarten. The blurring enters only to suit whatever audience he is addressing or when political winds change. In 2008, candidate Obama said, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.” He called marriage a “sacred union.” Let’s place this in context. Over 16 years, Obama went from supporting same-sex marriage, to being “undecided,” to opposing it (during his first presidential race), to “evolving” (after he won), to being the world’s leading advocate for it today.

Obama introduced himself to America in a speech at the 2004 Democrat Convention in which he eloquently warned his audience of dividers and spin-masters among us “who embrace the politics of anything goes.” It turns out, he was talking about himself.