Welfare Ministry


Chapter 23—Helping the Poor to Help Themselves

Educate the Poor to Be Self-reliant—Men and women of God, persons of discernment and wisdom, should be appointed to look after the poor and needy, the household of faith first. These should report to the church and counsel as to what should be done. WM 194.1

Instead of encouraging the poor to think that they can have their eating and drinking provided free, or nearly so, we should place them where they can help themselves. We should endeavor to provide them with work, and if necessary, teach them how to work. Let the members of poor households be taught how to cook, how to make and mend their own clothing, how to care properly for the home. Let boys and girls be thoroughly taught some useful trade or occupation. We are to educate the poor to become self-reliant. This will be true help, for it will not only make them self-sustaining but will enable them to help others.—Testimonies for the Church 6:278, 279. WM 194.2

A Call to Men of Thought and Means—The question will often arise: What can be done where poverty prevails and is to be contended with at every step? Under these circumstances how can we impress minds with correct ideas of improvement? Certainly the work is difficult; and unless the teachers, the thinking men, and the men who have means will exercise their talents and will lift just as Christ would lift were He in their place an important work will be left undone. The necessary reformation will never be made unless men and women are helped by a power outside of themselves. Those who have talents and capabilities must use these gifts to bless their fellow men, laboring to place them upon a footing where they can help themselves. It is thus that the education gained at our schools should be put to the very best use. WM 194.3

God's entrusted talents are not to be hid under a bushel or under a bed. “Ye are the light of the world,” Christ said. Matthew 5:14. As you see families living in hovels, with scant furniture and clothing, without tools, without books or other marks of refinement about their homes, will you become interested in them and endeavor to teach them how to put their energies to the very best use, that there may be improvement, and that their work may move forward?—Testimonies for the Church 6:188, 189. WM 195.1

God's Word Reveals the Solution to the Problem—There are largehearted men and women who are anxiously considering the condition of the poor and what means can be found for their relief. How the unemployed and the homeless can be helped to secure the common blessings of God's providence and to live the life He intended man to live, is a question to which many are earnestly endeavoring to find an answer.... WM 195.2

If men would give more heed to the teaching of God's Word, they would find a solution of these problems that perplex them. Much might be learned from the Old Testament in regard to the labor question and the relief of the poor. In God's plan for Israel every family had a home on the land, with sufficient ground for tilling. Thus were provided both the means and the incentive for a useful, industrious, and self-supporting life. And no devising of men has ever improved upon that plan. To the world's departure from it is owing, to a large degree, the poverty and wretchedness that exist today.... WM 195.3

In Israel industrial training was regarded as a duty. Every father was required to teach his sons some useful trade. The greatest men in Israel were trained to industrial pursuits. A knowledge of the duties pertaining to housewifery was considered essential for every woman. And skill in these duties was regarded as an honor to women of the highest station. WM 196.1

Various industries were taught in the schools of the prophets, and many of the students sustained themselves by manual labor.... WM 196.2

The plan of life that God gave to Israel was intended as an object lesson for all mankind. If these principles were carried out today, what a different place this world would be!—The Ministry of Healing, 183-188. WM 196.3

Multitudes Might Find Homes on the Land—Within the vast boundaries of nature there is still room for the suffering and needy to find a home. Within her bosom there are resources sufficient to provide them with food. Hidden in the depths of the earth are blessings for all who have courage and will and perseverance to gather her treasures. The tilling of the soil, the employment that God appointed to man in Eden, opens a field in which there is opportunity for multitudes to gain a subsistence.... WM 196.4

If the poor now crowded into the cities could find homes upon the land, they might not only earn a livelihood but find health and happiness now unknown to them. Hard work, simple fare, close economy, often hardship and privation, would be their lot. But what a blessing would be theirs in leaving the city, with its enticements to evil, its turmoil and crime, misery and foulness, for the country's quiet and peace and purity.... WM 196.5

If they ever become industrious and self-supporting, very many must have assistance, encouragement, and instruction. There are multitudes of poor families for whom no better missionary work could be done than to assist them in settling on the land and in learning how to make it yield them a livelihood. WM 197.1

The need for such help and instruction is not confined to the cities. Even in the country, with all its possibilities for a better life, multitudes of the poor are in great need. Whole communities are devoid of education in industrial and sanitary lines.... WM 197.2

Imbruted souls, bodies weak and ill-formed, reveal the results of evil heredity and of wrong habits. These people must be educated from the very foundation. They have led shiftless, idle, corrupt lives, and they need to be trained to correct habits. WM 197.3

How can they be awakened to the necessity of improvement? How can they be directed to a higher ideal of life? How can they be helped to rise? What can be done where poverty prevails, and is to be contended with at every step?—The Ministry of Healing, 188-193. WM 197.4

A Work for Christian Farmers—Christian farmers can do real missionary work in helping the poor to find homes on the land and in teaching them how to till the soil and make it productive. Teach them how to use the implements of agriculture, how to cultivate various crops, how to plant and care for orchards. WM 197.5

Many who till the soil fail to secure adequate returns because of their neglect. Their orchards are not properly cared for, the crops are not put in at the right time, and a mere surface work is done in cultivating the soil. Their ill success they charge to the unproductiveness of the land. False witness is often borne in condemning land that, if properly worked, would yield rich returns. The narrow plans, the little strength put forth, the little study as to the best methods, call loudly for reform.—The Ministry of Healing, 193. WM 197.6

Even the poorest can improve their surroundings by rising early and working diligently.... It is by diligent labor, by putting to the wisest use every capability, by learning to waste no time, that they will become successful in improving their premises and cultivating their land.—Testimonies for the Church 6:188, 189. WM 198.1

Establishment of Industries—Attention should be given to the establishment of various industries so that poor families can find employment. Carpenters, blacksmiths, and indeed everyone who understands some line of useful labor should feel a responsibility to teach and help the ignorant and the unemployed. WM 198.2

In ministry to the poor there is a wide field of service for women as well as for men. The efficient cook, the housekeeper, the seamstress, the nurse—the help of all is needed.... WM 198.3

Missionary families are needed to settle in the waste places. Let farmers, financiers, builders, and those who are skilled in various arts and crafts go to neglected fields to improve the land, to establish industries, to prepare humble homes for themselves, and to help their neighbors.—The Ministry of Healing, 194. WM 198.4

Help Men to Help Themselves—By instruction in practical lines we can often help the poor most effectively. As a rule those who have not been trained to work do not have habits of industry, perseverance, economy, and self-denial. They do not know how to manage. Often through lack of carefulness and right judgment there is wasted that which would maintain their families in decency and comfort if it were carefully and economically used. “Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.” WM 198.5

We may give to the poor, and harm them, by teaching them to be dependent.... WM 199.1

Real charity helps men to help themselves.... True beneficence means more than mere gifts. It means a genuine interest in the welfare of others. We should seek to understand the needs of the poor and distressed, and to give them the help that will benefit them most. To give thought and time and personal effort costs far more than merely to give money. But it is the truest charity.—The Ministry of Healing, 194, 195. WM 199.2

Physical Effort and Moral Power Required—Physical effort and moral power are to be united in our endeavors to regenerate and reform. We are to seek to gain knowledge in both temporal and spiritual lines, that we may communicate it to others. We are to seek to live out the gospel in all its bearings, that its temporal and spiritual blessings may be felt all around us.—Testimonies for the Church 6:189. WM 199.3

Unwittingly Injured—We may err in making gifts to the poor which are not a blessing to them, leading them to feel that they need not exert themselves and practice economy, for others will not permit them to suffer. We should not give countenance to indolence or encourage habits of self-gratification by affording means for indulgence.—Historical Sketches, 293. WM 199.4

You may give to the poor, and injure them, because you teach them to be dependent. Instead, teach them to support themselves. This will be true help. The needy must be placed in positions where they can help themselves.—Manuscript 46, 1898. WM 199.5

Not to Be Supported in Idleness—The Word of God teaches that if a man will not work, neither shall he eat. The Lord does not require the hard-working man to support those who are not diligent. There is a waste of time, a lack of effort, which brings to poverty and want. If these faults are not seen and corrected by those who indulge them, all that might be done in their behalf is like putting treasure into a basket with holes. But there is an unavoidable poverty, and we are to manifest tenderness and compassion toward those who are unfortunate.—The Review and Herald, January 3, 1899. WM 200.1

Poor to Seek Counsel—There is a class of poor brethren who are not free from temptation. They are poor managers, they have not wise judgment, they wish to obtain means without waiting the slow process of persevering toil. Some are in such haste to better their condition that they engage in various enterprises without consulting men of good judgment and experience. Their expectations are seldom realized; instead of gaining, they lose, and then come temptation and a disposition to envy the rich. They really want to be benefited by the wealth of their brethren, and feel tried because they are not. But they are not worthy of receiving special help. They have evidence that their efforts have been scattered. They have been changeable in business and full of anxiety and cares which bring but small returns. Such persons should listen to the counsel of those of experience. But frequently they are the last ones to seek advice. They think they have superior judgment and will not be taught. WM 200.2

These are often the very ones who are deceived by those sharp, shrewd peddlers of patent rights whose success depends upon the art of deception. These should learn that no confidence whatever can be put in such peddlers. But the brethren are credulous in regard to the very things they should suspect and shun. They do not take home the instruction of Paul to Timothy: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” Let not the poor think that the rich are the only covetous ones. While the rich hold what they have with a covetous grasp, and seek to obtain still more, the poor are in great danger of coveting the rich man's wealth.—Testimonies for the Church 1:480, 481. WM 201.1

To Be Willing to Receive Advice—Many lack wise management and economy. They do not weigh matters well and move cautiously. Such should not trust to their own poor judgment, but counsel with their brethren who have experience. Those who lack good judgment and economy are often unwilling to seek counsel. They generally think that they understand how to conduct their temporal business, and are unwilling to follow advice. They make bad moves and suffer in consequence. Their brethren are grieved to see them suffer, and they help them out of difficulty. Their unwise management affects the church. It takes means from the treasury of God which should have been used to advance the cause of present truth. WM 201.2

If these poor brethren would take a humble course and be willing to be advised and counseled by their brethren, and then are brought into straitened places, their brethren should feel it their duty to cheerfully help them out of difficulty. But if they choose their own course and rely upon their judgment, they should be left to feel the full consequences of their unwise course, and learn by dear experience that “in a multitude of counselors there is safety.” God's people should be subject one to another. They should counsel with each other, that the lack of one be supplied by the sufficiency of the other.—The Review and Herald, April 18, 1871. WM 201.3

Most Poor Could Help Themselves—There are very few in our land of plenty who are really so poor as to need help. If they would pursue a right course, they could in almost every case be above want. My appeal to the rich is, Deal liberally with your poor brethren, and use your means to advance the cause of God. The worthy poor, those who are made poor by misfortune and sickness, deserve your special care and help. “Finally be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another; love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.”—Testimonies for the Church 1:481. WM 202.1

Observe the Golden Rule—God often raises up someone who will shield the poor from being placed in positions that will be loss to them, even if it be given to their disadvantage. This is the duty of man toward his fellow man. To take advantage of a man's ignorance because he cannot discern the outcome of a course of action is not right. It is the duty of his brother to personally set the matter plainly and faithfully before him, in all its bearings, lest he shall act blindly, and cripple the resources justly his. When men observe the golden rule, Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you, many difficulties now existing would be quickly adjusted.—Letter 85, 1896. WM 202.2