The Obama administration, through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced a new policy directive to the states that would waive work requirements in the welfare program known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). This program specifies the work requirements that accompany welfare assistance and requires recipients to work or actively look for work. The new policy suggests that new flexibility for states to help families find and secure employment.

Since the emergence of this presidential memo, the issue has been hotly debated on both sides of the political aisle. But are we asking the right questions? What does removing the work requirements do to the very nature of work itself, and how does it alter the incentives for those receiving welfare?

Designed to Work

From a Judeo-Christian perspective, we see that people are designed to work. In the Book of Genesis we read, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). Wheaton College professor Leland Ryken comments on this verse: “Here human work is shown to have worth and dignity as a service to God and as something that gives purpose to human life.”

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