We’ve all heard phrases like “you don’t appreciate what you don’t earn” or “no pain no gain.” The idea that income must follow labor goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, where Adam is told, “by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Gen. 3:19).
A good work ethic is a cornerstone of a healthy character and success in life. When we talk about helping the poor, passing on an inheritance, or winning the lottery, we must proceed with caution, recognizing the destructive potential of income disconnected from effort.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with a friendly gift, and there are appropriate ways and means of assisting those in need—it is, in fact, a fundamental calling of the Christian life—but it is imperative that we look beyond material circumstances to ensure that our actions produce their intended results. This requires knowing the person, and that tip should clue us in on God’s design in all of this. Bureaucracies, drive-thru food pantries and quick hand-outs at the intersection are cheap knock-offs of the real thing: relationally-driven service and grace. When we remove relationship from the equation, we also remove accountability and responsibility—the lack of which is often the very source of the problem to begin with.