Government “Assistance”

cavalry1.jpgWhen disaster strikes in the United States, politicians and government bureaucrats have a very romanticized and unrealistic view of how things should work. I think they have a picture in their heads of old Hollywood westerns. The American citizens are the poor settlers who really don’t know how to take care of themselves. Disaster (be it man-made or natural) is a vicious tribe of Indians on the verge of killing the poor settlers. And the government agency assigned to help in the given situation? Well, that’s the cavalry riding over the hill to the sound of trumpets — just in the nick of time — to save the day.

But the Hollywood view rarely has real world application. This is no exception.

The fact of the old west is that the cavalry was rarely around to help settlers with anything. Those poor old settlers were anything but helpless. In fact, they were quite capable of taking care of themselves.

Today government officials view American citizens as helpless and in dire need of their assistance. And, this too, is an erroneous view. And if there is any group of people in America who ought to be opposed to an over-sized federal government bureaucracy being in charge of assisting people in need it is Christians.

Matthew 5:14-16 says this:

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

God intends for His Church to be the agent of grace in this world so that He may be glorified. In fact, the Church is better suited to help than the government. After a tornado with wind speeds of up to 200 mph destroyed the three homes on the family farm where I grew up it was God who provided for our immediate needs.

The day after the tornado hit normal, everyday citizens were on hand to help. Members of the local churches were setting up shelters, cooking meals, providing blankets, clothes, water, and all manner of essentials to people who had lost their homes.

cavalry2.jpgThe members of my church — an hour and a half drive away — gave me supplies and money to give to my family. They organized a workday to help with the clean up. And they asked me over and over what I needed. When the scheduled workday arrived 25 people showed up. They brought their own chainsaws and hammers. They brought their trucks and trailers. They brought two heavy front-end loaders and chains for pulling heavy debris away.

They worked hard. And they accomplished in one day what I thought would take a week. And they did it because they genuinely care. They did it out of love. And their witness has brought more glory to God than we may ever know.

While they were working I had people asking me who they were and why they were doing this. When I’ve shared their story I’ve been asked what kind of church they attend and what makes it different.

Contrast what the Body of Christ did to the accomplishments of our federal agencies.

Three days after the tornado hit I saw my first representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They were standing around a Red Cross booth eating free lunches — for hours. Four days after the tornado hit three FEMA representatives arrived on the site where we were cleaning up my families destroyed homes. They got out of their car, put on their official FEMA jackets, talked on a walkie-talkie, and, seven minutes later, drove away. I haven’t seen them since.

The federal government confiscates billions of our dollars every year in the form of taxes under the guise of providing for our needs. Put aside for a second that the federal government has no constitutional authority to do this and just look at whether or not it is an efficient use of our money. When the federal government decides to provide “aid” there are hundreds of steps to take before any real aid arrives where it’s needed. They have to “assess” the damage. They have to file preliminary reports and requests. They have to send everything through “channels” to get “approval” for sending aid. Then, people who need help have to “apply” for help — the government will decide whether or not that application is legitimate.

Of course the government employees will have had the appropriate “sensitivity training” so that they will be prepared to show kindness when they waste your time.

When church members decided to help they had a two-step process:

  1. Find out what needs to be done.
  2. Do it.

woodennickel.jpgHow much more could the normal, everyday citizens have accomplished had their resources not been confiscated? They certainly would have been more efficient with them than our government has been. Even in the cases where the government actually helps it is in a manner far less efficient than we could have done on our own. They will have reduced the resources they took from us and made it worth less than a wooden nickel.
And the biggest difference is this…

To the government bureaucrats at agencies like FEMA, disasters are their business. When people are hurting it’s just another day at the office for them. All their “sensitivity training” can accomplish is to provide them with the proper canned platitude for the situation. And that will never, ever be a suitable substitute for all those regular citizens, neighbors, and church members help because they genuinely care.

About Chip
Chip is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He served more than five years on the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as Director of Communications and Public Relations, editor of the Indiana Baptist newsjournal, and regular contributor to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently earns his living as a writer. He serves his local church as a teacher and deacon and his local Baptist Association as a Seminary Extension instructor and supply preacher.

One Response to Government “Assistance”

  1. Mary Bayer Johnson says:

    Thank you for posting this Chip. And, yes, I was interviewed 3 times by FEMA. The last time on the site where my house once stood in the pouring rain. After a series of random questions I ask the FEMA rep, “what will you be able to do for me?” His response was “nothing, you don’t qualify, but I have to finish my report.” I sat there thinking that I am the one who pays the taxes to provide his salary in order to fund this organization that won’t help me! I have never been so frustrated. Had I been a citizen who didn’t pay taxes or pay my insurance premiums, I could be helped. The ones that helped us the most were indeed, the church body! Those from Lonoke, Clinton, Searcy, Dumas and many other places. Thank you to all who are in Christ!

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