An end to the something-for-nothing culture
The proposals are mainly aimed at the 68,000 on ‘Jobseekers' Allowance’ for more than two years and the 16,000 on the benefit for more than five years. And there were something around a million people claiming ‘incapacity benefit’ in 1997. Under New Labour, this has risen to more than 2.5 million, a million of whom are allegedly suffering from a ‘mental illness’ which prevents them from working.
Has New Labour really depressed a million people to the point of inaction and perpetual prozac?
Let us be clear, Cranmer has compassion, buckets of it, for it is a primary Christian obligation and inherent in the scriptural exhortations to love one’s neighbour, to care for the poor, and to weep with those who weep. But he has very little time for those who leave school at 16 with no qualifications, claim benefits, and then continue living off the state, prioritising the purchase of cigarettes and alcohol, and ten years later find themselves no further on, still living off benefits which have done them no ‘bene’ at all and rendered them ‘fit’ for nothing.
Scripture is replete with warnings of the consequences of not working. The consistent presupposition of the Book of Proverbs on this subject is that the person being addressed is indeed able to work. This would include most of us by far, but there are certain people who are unable to work (for whatever reason), and should not feel guilty for not being able to perform the duty described in the proverb. For them God has another word of wisdom (cf Prov 3:5f).
But working is essential to living and obtaining the essentials for life (eg 12:11a; 16:26; 28:19a). Work should be accepted as God's divine design (Gen 2:15; 2Thess 3:10), such that people who refuse to work reveal a lack of common sense in their judgment. Sometimes people refuse to do the job that they have because they are always looking for a better one (Prov 12:11b), but refusing to work can lead to death (21:25).
It will come as no surprise to Cranmer’s communicants and readers that he exhorts the Protestant Work Ethic and the theology of Calvin, for hard work brings a profit (14:23a); work done in a slack manner is as good as a piece of work which is later destroyed - both are valueless (18:9); slack work leads to poverty (14:23b), while diligent work leads to control of one's situation (12:24).
Work can be very rewarding (12:14). As time passes, a person who has worked wisely and diligently will find themselves rewarded by their labour as well as skilled at what they do with the result that people who are skilled at their work are sought out by others (22:29).
So work is good for the soul.
Well done, Mr Cameron.
Cranmer looks forward to more of the same.