Saturday, 5 September 2009

Entitled to nothing?

The headline in Michael Portillo’s article in this week’s Sunday Times was pretty blunt: Idle young should be entitled to nothing. What Mr. Portillo actually said in the text was rather more undogmatic: “perhaps, at least, we ought to assume that fit young people are not entitled to anything.”

It is curious that the New Testament’s language on the subject is much closer to the bluntness of the headline. To quote the apostle Paul: “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (II Thessalonians 3:10)

We cannot know exactly why the apostle wrote these words, but it appears that there were some in the early Christian church in Thessalonica who were able to work, but were not doing so, and who apparently expected others to support them. In those days, no one would have envisaged such support from the state, so it seems that these people were looking to their fellow Christians. The book of Acts (4:32-35) tells us that the early Christians in Jerusalem shared their possessions - in other words the church basically acted like one big happy family - and it seems that something similar must have been going on among the Christians in Thessalonica, and that some people were taking advantage of this arrangement and letting the others support them.

The fact that Paul says that he gave them instructions not to feed the idle when he was with them, and now feels the necessity to repeat himself, indicates to me that the church seemed a little reluctant to crack down on the idle. But Paul clearly takes the view that expecting others to support you when you are unwilling to work is immoral - and should not be tolerated. And if it is intolerable for the church to support those within its fold who are unwilling to work, is it any more tolerable for tax-payers to support their workshy neighbours?

Idle young should be entitled to nothing?” That’s exactly what the apostolic teaching of Christianity was. I wonder how many Christians realised that when they read the Sunday Times headline.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For the most part, it isn't unwillingness - just a lack of work. And indeed it isn't the idle young - it's all the people consigned to the scrapheap in the 80's.
Channel4's factcheck website has some interesting analysis, as does