Beholden to No One
by Kenny Gardner

We watched the movie Sergeant York the other night. I’m sure I’ve seen it before, but it’s been a long, long time, because I hardly remembered any of it. There was one comment in the movie that caught my attention. Before World War I broke out and Alvin York went into the army, he and his mother and two younger siblings were seated around the supper table and “Mother York” offered the blessing. She only made two comments: she thanked God for their “victuals” and asked that she and her family be “beholden to no one.”

I find it interesting that she wanted to fend for herself. She wanted to be able to take care of herself and her family without depending on anyone else to help them out. Her attitude, and I’m sure her attitude was not all that unusual back then, is so different from the attitude of so many people today, who are expecting others to take care of them. So many today seem to have no sense of personal responsibility. They seem to want more and more and expect the government or society or the rich or someone, anyone to give them whatever it is they want. Today there are college students from wealthy families attending Ivy-League schools (which cost about $50,000 a year) and these same students are taking food stamps. In fact, government employees are actually advertising—trying to get more people to take food stamps and get on welfare. A few years ago I heard about a school bus driver in California who purchased an $800,000 home, and—surprise, surprise—couldn’t make the payments. Of course, the bus driver wanted the government to help her out. Why should others be expected to pay for this lady’s mistake? After all, how many of us who are working and paying taxes are able to afford a nearly million dollar house?

The Bible teaches us that we ought to be more like “Mother York.” Even the Garden of Eden, often referred to as “Paradise,” was a place of work. God put Adam there to work—to “dress it and to keep it” (Gen. 2:15, KJV). The Jews of Nehemiah’s day were able to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem because the people “had a mind to work” (Neh. 4:6, KJV); they “worked with all their heart (NIV), they “worked with a will” (NEB). We’re taught in Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (NKJ). In Acts 20:35 the apostle Paul instructs us to work so that we’ll be able to provide not only for ourselves but also for others who cannot provide for themselves. In Romans Rom 12:11 we read that we are not to be “slothful in business” (KJV), that is, we must not “be lazy but work hard” (NCV). We are to “condescend to men of low estate” (Rom. 12:16, KJV), or “condescend to things that are lowly” (ASV). In other words, we must “give ourselves to humble tasks” (RSV footnote) and be “willing to do menial work” (NIV footnote). We are admonished in Ephesian 4:28: “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (KJV). Likewise, Paul states that “if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8, KJV). And it was Paul wrote that “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thes. 3:10, KJV). In fact, Paul told the church at Thessalonica to withdraw fellowship from anyone who was unwilling to work:

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us (2 Thes. 3:6, ESV)

Now such persons [those who were idle and were busybodies] we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. . . . If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed (2 Thes. 3:12, 14, ESV).

Finally, Paul, like “Mother York,” did not want to be “beholden to anyone,” as he told the Thessalonians, “We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you” (2 Thes. 3:7-8, ESV).