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Monday, November 4, 2013

Why Big Government Can't Do Charity

Lost in all the uproar over Obamacare, and for that matter, in virtually every debate over government “entitlements” or “handouts” or whatever you want to call them, is the fact that, when it comes to charity, our government is just about the last place that one should turn. Time and again, Big Government liberals love to paint themselves as the champions of the poor and down-trodden—while at the same time making conservatives out to be selfish brutes (when, in reality, conservatives are far and away more personally generous than liberals).

That liberal of liberals, Paul Krugman of The New York Times, recently did so. “Republican hostility toward the poor and unfortunate has now reached such a fever pitch that the party doesn’t really stand for anything else,” he wrote on Halloween. He added that, “[Republicans are] still clearly passionate about making sure that the poor and unlucky get as little help as possible…” This is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) lies of liberalism.

In general, liberals aren’t for the poor and others in need. This may have been somewhat true of classic liberalism, but today most liberals are for those in need as long as it helps them feel good about their immoral anti-God behavior, make money, win elections, and/or remain in power (or keep other like-minded liberals in power).

So just why should we help those in need? The answer is not as obvious (to most) as it seems. First of all, the truly needy must be identified. To pad their voting rolls, liberalism has made this purposefully difficult. Of course, not all those who ask for help need it or deserve it. So what is our standard? Where do we look for moral guidance in this significant (literally to the tune of trillions of dollars) matter? The same place that we should look in all such matters: Scripture.

If you are secular minded, don’t balk. In his attempts to justify his extremely liberal Big Government agenda, Obama himself has made many appeals to the Bible (as do other like-minded liberals). In the 2008 election, when Obama was asked by pastor Rick Warren what he thought was, “the greatest moral failure of America,” Obama (almost certainly with his Big Government agenda on his mind) responded that, “I think America’s greatest moral failure in my lifetime has been that we still don’t abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me…”

When describing the “least” of us, Scripture often mentions those such as orphans, widows, and the physically impaired (lame, blind). Of course, people in those circumstances will usually be “poor.” The first laws God gave concerning those in need (in Leviticus) instructed the Israelites to refrain from “gleaning” their vineyards or reaping the corners of their fields (in other words, gathering every last morsel).

This was so that the “needy,” the “stranger,” or the “alien” would have something to harvest. Notice that even those described as needy were expected to work and gather for themselves. Those who owned the fields and vineyards were simply instructed to provide the “needy” with an opportunity.

In the New Testament, Jesus often spoke of ministering to the poor (sometimes more accurately described as “the poor in spirit”). Among other things, He instructed His followers to give to those in need without expecting anything (in this world) in return. Jesus’ ministry modeled such generosity. He went about healing those who were desperately ill, feeding the hungry, delivering the demon possessed, and even raising the dead. He told His followers to “go and do likewise.”

However, (and this is what often escapes those who attempt to justify their Big Government policies with the words and deeds of Jesus), Jesus didn’t perform acts of charity simply to fulfill some physical need a person had. Consider that the greatest miracle recorded in Scripture, performed by Christ, was raising someone from the dead. (There are three recorded instances of this occurring.) This was not done merely out of “niceness,” only to save the lives of those who had died. They would, after all (with apologies to James Bond), “die another day.” His ultimate goal was to give them “everlasting life.”

This could be said of every miracle Christ performed. It is true that He healed, fed, and cast out demons because of His great love for those in need. However, these acts alone did not save anyone. Those healed of one disease or sickness would someday die of another. Those fed would someday be hungry again. Christ’s ultimate goal was to bring people into His Kingdom. In other words, God became man not simply to help us with our troubles in this world, but to make us into new creatures.

“Niceness” and “good deeds” are excellent things. Jesus told His followers to
“let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).” Inversely, as C.S. Lewis puts it, “When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world.”

Lewis continues, “We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our power, to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up ‘nice’ (performing good deeds); just as we must try to produce a world where we all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeed in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save.”

Thus we see, the ministry of God—feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick—can never be separated from the message of God—to repent of our sins and believe that Jesus was who He claimed to be: the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

It should also be pointed out that, in today’s American culture that is so obsessed with self, especially the sexual gratification of self, the message of “repent of your sin” must include the truth about marriage (one man for one woman for life) and the sins of homosexuality, abortion, divorce, and the like. The ministry of God and the message of God—both together complete the mission of God. And this is why a secular government can never effectively do charity.

Copyright 2013, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

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