Biblical economics 101: screw those beggars!

 This gem of a letter graces the pages of Beeld  this morning (the translation is mine):

Adri from Wonderboom-South writes:

“The Bible lays down the principle that those who don’t work, should not eat (2 Thes. 3:10). If those beggars really can’t do anything to earn money, then the place to go and “beg” is the church. If those people belonged to a church, their church would look after them. Therefore, as a matter of principle, I won’t give anything to those people.”

The writer may be correct in her (or his?) interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 3:10. Fact is, if you use the Old Testament Bible as your literal guide to life, the first book alone could justify prostituting your wife, cheating your brother, lying to your father and stealing from your employer.

Now I always thought the central economic  message of the Bible (religious meaning is another issue) is about charity: helping those in need. A welfare state philosophy, if you want. For people like Adri, that is not the case. In her (or his) economy, it is everyone for himself, with God on your side, and screw the rest. In a country like South Africa, with its huge structural economic problems and disparities of wealth, such an attitude can only have one outcome for “those people”, as Adri calls them: a life that is, in the words of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes,  “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. While Adri and her kind of Christians dream of eternal life and the next holiday in Plettenberg Bay.


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