There is nothing wrong with being concerned about the wellbeing of your neighbour. But there is plenty wrong in thinking that more Big Government is the answer. Plenty of the social justice warriors (SJWs) on the Left never lift a finger to actually help their neighbour – but they are more than happy to vote for more government handouts.
Of course that means a bigger government, and higher taxes. And less economic growth. But it is economic growth which has proven to be the best means of helping the poor. More government programs have NOT been the answer. Yet sadly plenty of Christians have bought into the idea that confiscatory state welfare programs are somehow the thing Jesus would urge.
Um, no. The Bible throughout urges God’s people to take personal responsibility to help the poor and needy. It nowhere demands a growing state bureaucracy or socialist confiscation policies. It puts the responsibility where it belongs.
But lefty SJWs always manage to mangle Scripture as they baptise socialist economics and Big Government “solutions” to our social and economic problems. Now, is there a place for government help here? Of course. God created the institution of the state and it certainly has a role to play here.
But God also created the institution of the church, and he expects believers to also play a big role here. Simply absolving ourselves of any personal responsibility – whether as individual believers or as the church – and thinking an ever-expanding state should do all this is not a case of “What Would Jesus Do?”
But since so many Christians especially get this so very wrong, it is worth spending more time on. In the minds of many believers the “Christian” thing to do is simply to vote more high-taxing, big-spending, entitlement politicians and parties into office, be they Democrats in the US or Labor and the Greens in Australia.
They may not lift a finger to actually help the poor themselves, but they think that voting socialists into power fulfils their Christian duties here. Oh, and they may go to some rock concert that throws around platitudes of helping the poor, thinking they have done their Christian bit.
But helping the poor is far different than that, biblically speaking. Here I want to draw upon the insights found in two recent articles on all this. Regis Nicoll of the Colson Center first penned “The Injustice of Social Justice” which is well worth quoting from.
He begins with a brief definition: “Justice is about fair play, giving people what is owed them without bias or favoritism. An employee is owed a fair wage by his employer, an accused criminal is owed a fair trial by the court, a child is owed the protection and care of his parents.”
He then looks at the biblical picture, as well as lessons from church history:
To be sure, God has special concern for those on the margins of society. Scripture is full of warnings about injustices to the poor and disenfranchised. But contrary to the Gospel of Liberation, God’s foremost concern is not emancipating us from political and economic oppression; it is redeeming us from sin. This is not to diminish the importance of giving people what they need. To the contrary, meeting the needs of others has been at the heart of Christian action from the beginning.
In the first century, Christians took such comprehensive care of their own that St. Luke remarked, “there were no needy persons among them.” During the plagues in the second and third century, Christians attended the needs of the sick and dying who had been abandoned by their pagan physicians and civil leaders. The Christian community went on to establish the first hospitals and orphanages such that, by the fourth century, the scope of their compassion attracted both the notice and ire of the Caesars.
Frustrated over the social conditions in the Roman Empire, Flavius Julian called it a scandal that Christians “care not only for their poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.” The effectiveness of charity among the early Christians is attributed to something ignored in the modern discussion on social justice.
What Jesus had in mind is a far cry from what the SJWs have in mind:
When Jesus taught about charity and compassion, he was not speaking to Roman consuls about their governmental duties; he was speaking to individuals about their moral duties. That’s because in the biblical division of responsibility, the Church, not the state, is the instrument of compassion.
As divinely ordained, the duties of the state are limited to restraining evil, executing justice, and securing social order. The state fulfills that high calling by protecting the rights of its citizens: first and foremost, their “natural rights” which include the freedoms of speech, thought, and religion; and secondarily, their legal rights, such as the right to vote and drive a car.
It is time to put the focus back on the church, not the state:
To achieve real social justice, the state must decrease and the Church increase in the area of compassion. Is that a realistic expectation? Many folks would say, no.
But given the inefficiencies and impersonal nature of the state welfare system and the fact that Christians make up over 70 percent of the tax base, the Church could take over the compassion business, efficiently and effectively, with only a fraction of the cost of state-run programs.
I have no misgivings. Such a transition could not happen over night. Even with the political will of the electorate and the moral will of the Church, it would take years, if not decades, to shrink government and prepare the Church (individual Christians, churches, and faith-based organizations) to recover its biblical role in compassion services.
In a follow-up article entitled “Has Government Become Too Big?” he continues this discussion:
Thomas Jefferson is said to have quipped, “a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.” While history does not support the Jeffersonian attribution, it does support the conclusion—witness Soviet Russia, Communist China, and North Korea.
But how big is too big? At what point does the size of government become an obstacle to effective governance and the common good?
Plainly, government needs to be large enough to protect the governed and their property, but not so large that it becomes a threat to those ends. Of course when a country spends over $0.5 trillion each year more than it takes in, it is safe to say it has reached beyond what it can effectively govern.
He spends some time on the claim that we just need to raise taxes and get the rich to pay their “fair share” and then writes:
The bottom line is that we can’t tax our way out of the deficit, much less the federal debt (currently, a staggering $20 trillion and rising). That means getting our fiscal house in order will largely depend on reducing spending by trimming the girth of government.
In 1789, the federal government consisted of about 50 employees in three departments: State, Treasury, and War. Today there are 4.4 million federal employees working in hundreds of departments, organizations and agencies. Although an exact figure is hard to pin down, estimates vary anywhere between 200 and 500 federal entities with duplication of effort, overlap, and inefficiency, rife.
He takes us back to what the American Founding Fathers believed:
The U.S. government is currently running at about 36 percent of the GDP with the biggest area of growth over the last 100 years in “entitlement programs” (Medicare, Medicaid, social security, welfare, food stamps, etc.). Those programs, which amount to nearly one-half of the total, were virtually non-existent prior to the twentieth century. It reflects the thinking of the Founding Fathers that, as James Madison put it, “Charity is no part of the legislative duty of government.”
It seems that the Founders understood what our modern leaders have forgotten, or dismissed: in the area of compassion, services to the needy are best administered by those closest to the problem—that is, local and regional organizations, like churches, faith-based institutions, civic groups, and volunteer associations.
In fact, for the first nineteen hundred years of its existence, the Church took the lead in social work, establishing hospitals, orphanages, food distribution systems, and houses for the poor and aged.
And speaks more to the vital role of the church:
As I have noted previously, when Jesus taught about the duty to the poor, he was not speaking to Roman consuls about their duties; he was speaking to private citizens about theirs. Until the modern era, Christians accepted the biblical division of responsibility, by which the Church, not the state, is the instrument of charity.
That is not to say that the state has no responsibility to alleviate human need in the wake of widespread emergencies (e.g., the Great Depression, Dust Bowl, hurricane Irma). Rather, it is a reminder that the state’s involvement should be limited and temporary—augmenting, not usurping, the responsibilities of the Church and other mediating organizations established to serve the common good.
To starve the leviathan, the Church must reclaim its biblical role. In partnership with other mediating groups, the Church must be a compassion supplier that progressively reduces the demand for state involvement in social service.
As he mentioned, this will not be easy. Far too many Christians have abandoned their biblical responsibilities here, and have simply looked to Big Government as their saviour. And no state ever willingly likes to relinquish power and control. The bigger it grows, the more it demands. And the growing pool of those getting government handouts continues to spiral out of control.
So between unbiblical Christians who have forsaken Scriptural counsel, an ever-expanding welfare state, and a growing percentage of those living on entitlements, this will never be an easy task. But if we really want to help those in need, and if we really want to do things by the book – the Good Book – then it is time to start rethinking all of this before such change becomes impossible.
Ronald Reagan certainly had it right when he said, “Welfare’s purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence.” Let me finish with a humorous take on the psalms from a few years ago. It does indeed help make my case:
The State is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
It makes me lie down in federally owned pastures.
It leads me beside quiet waters in banned fishing areas.
It restores my soul through its control.
It guides me in the path of dependency for its namesake.
Even though our nation plunges into the valley of the shadow of debt,
I will fear no evil,
For Barack will be with me.
The Affordable Care Act and food stamps,
They comfort me.
You prepare a table of Michelle Obama approved foods before me in the presence of my Conservative and Libertarian enemies.
You anoint my head with hemp oil;
My government regulated 16-ounce cup overflows.
Surely mediocrity and an entitlement mentality will follow me
All the days of my life,
And I will dwell in a low-rent HUD home forever and ever.