The morality involved, and what would Jesus do (WWJD)?
This is based on a social media conversation I had with a couple of Christian Left supporters. Their positions are in bold italics. This is longer than most articles I post, but I hope it will hold your attention.
The James 2 reference in this meme by “The Christian Left” talked to individual Christians, NOT Government. Simply because there is a need, does not mean that government MUST fulfill that need. And Christ’s admonition to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and so on, was pointed at each Christian to do the work themselves, NOT for them to lobby Cesar to do it for them. Which “The Christian Left” advocates.
But is there anything wrong with society doing it as a group? I think conservatives create a false dichotomy between individual charity and social charity (government). It’s often more efficient to share the risk and responsibility – like we do with Medicare and Social Security and other forms of insurance.
There is no such thing as government charity, or social charity funded with tax dollars. For something to be Charity, the funds must be given freely, without coercion of any kind. Taxes are not, and never has been voluntary. If you don’t pay them, eventually someone with a gun will come to your door threatening jail and or seizure of your assets. (Imagine your church threatening to lock you away or send armed people to your door if you don’t give your tithe.) Obtaining the money for “charity” work by forced taxation VOIDS any claim to being Charity.
If FREE individuals decide to freely pool their resources to help the poor, then this sort of collective help for the poor is perfectly good. But, that is the very definition of a church’s ministry to the poor, or any other nonprofit charitable organization who serves the poor. THAT is the only kind of collectivism that the Bible, especially the New Testament, supports. If you have money but not the time to help the poor directly, then you should be giving some of that money to one or more of these organizations, not lobbying Cesar to do it for you with the taxes you already pay and would have had to pay anyway.
About the “efficiency” of government: Honestly, if government had to abide by the same standards it sets for nonprofits, government would FAIL MISERABLY. Over the last 20 years, for every tax dollar that SS and Medicare received, they took 70 to 80 cents to support their bloated bureaucracies. If any nonprofit uses more than 30 cents of each dollar, they are vilified and liable to prosecution by the same government that is itself wasting so much more. And this is supported by the government’s own CBO figures. You cannot seriously say that you would choose government waste over nonprofits’ comparative efficiency?
If the majority of people in a society vote for gov’t reps who promise to protect social security, medicare and other safety nets for the poor, it doesn’t matter what you call it. It’s still people (or in this case a majority of people) freely deciding to help the poor. Making a distinction between individuals FREELY doing it individually OR the majority of individuals in a society FREELY deciding to do it as a society – is a false distinction.
Majority??? Does wrong suddenly become right because a majority agrees it is right? If you have four men and two women voting on whether or not the women will be raped by the men, does the act of voting make rape alright? Or, is wrong still wrong even when the majority agrees?
Question: if the majority believe so strongly that their taxes should pay for such things, do you think they would still vote in favor of imposing the tax for it if they thought that only those voting YES would be taxed for that purpose? Clearly the answer is NO, you know they would not. The truth is that they want to force all those other people who voted against it to pay for it too. There is no Freedom for the minority who votes descents.
The Founders of this nation knew and wrote about how Vile a form of government Democracy actually is. (One person, one vote, majority gets their way.) In such a system minorities are ALWAYS OPPRESSED, so now you know why they call it “the tyranny of the majority”.
Believing in Democracy is like saying you believe that Slavery was RIGHT because the MAJORITY agreed it was right at the time. That is why the USA is NOT a Democracy, it is a Constitutional Republic (that only uses democratic processes in decision making). This is the actual origin of the word, “Minority.” The majority can be WRONG, and too often, they are.
It is the duty of every Citizen and every Christian to stand up for what is Right, even if the majority says it is a good thing to rape, enslave, kill, or even to force other people to pay for the majority’s favorite “charity”.
Also, Jesus “completed” the old Law. Christians operate under Jesus’ new version of the law which He summed up as: Love God and Love your Neighbor as you Love Yourself. With the phrase, “As you love yourself” Jesus was not talking to the government. There is NOTHING in Jesus’ Law of Love about forcing others to love your neighbor for you!!!
Jesus also taught us to pay taxes and respect that process. Simply because Jesus did not tell Caesar to use taxes to help the poor does not mean he was against such social compassion.
Jesus told his followers to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” because He knew that doing so was the only chance they had of Caesar leaving them alone to practice their faith. And guess what, when The Roman Empire started hunting Christians down, arresting them and crucifying them, they stopped paying taxes.
Are you seriously putting slavery, rape and gov’t programs to help the poor in the same category? There is greed and corruption in all institutions – political, secular non-profit and religious.
I was not talking about “slavery, rape and gov’t programs”, what I characterized as morally wrong is “slavery, rape, THEFT” and the USE OF FORCE on people to make them do things they do not Freely CHOOSE to do. Are you seriously advocating the use of Theft and Force for “charitable” purposes?
I am a Christian and a libertarian. Being a libertarian means that I not only respect and defend my own Life, Liberty and Property, but I also respect and defend the Lives, Liberty and Property of others. Because I am both, it means that I will also do my best to fulfill Jesus’ command to love my neighbor and help her when she is in need.
And, This Is The POINT, if I believe that I cannot do enough on my own to help, I will pool my resources with other neighbors to help via a church or by volunteering for and donating money to a nonprofit charitable organization. The LAST people to which I would give my helping resources to, is the government or politicians. People often complain about the (usually false) claims of fraud, abuse and waste in nonprofits, but by any measure you can choose, the BEST the government can do is at least TWO TIMES worse than the Worst-case scenario of almost every nonprofit.
Unfortunately, in most of life we choose the lesser of two evils – gov’t programs like SS and Medicare are examples. I would like to do away with corporate welfare, however.
I agree about corporate welfare, it is one of the results of Cronyism (what we actually have now, not Capitalism).
The lesser of two evils is still EVIL. We have had more than a century of choosing the lesser evil, and we are FAR LESS FREE today because of it. We would be far better off saying NO to Both Evils.
The problem is not gov’t or non-profits or corporations or churches. The problem is human beings. Over time, some will find a way to exploit any system. All have to be regulated and rescued repeatedly. To demonize a particular system by blaming the system itself rather than the people in it is missing the root problem.
You are right, it is about imperfect human beings and how they tend to interact in groups or a society. You apparently believe that all humans are basically corrupt and evil, and if left to their own devices will choose the most hurtful and insane things to do. But government is made up of those same humans. You apparently believe that humans in government are somehow magically made good by that institution, I believe that humans are basically good, and that it is POWER (especially political power) that corrupts their hearts and minds.
When a human has power only over his own life and those under his care (family) that is the most power humans are capable of handling responsibly and benevolently over long periods of time. More power than that begins to corrupt the human spirit, and humans cannot maintain integrity for very long while wielding that much power.
We are now talking about individualism versus the group. But as a Christian, you have to consider Jesus’ theme of dying to self, and becoming one with God and others, which challenges the tendency toward individualism and “every man for himself” mentality – a type of social Darwinism.
I disagree. It does NOT challenge the basic FACT of the individual. Indeed the Bible speaks TO the individual, not the collective. All philosophy begins with the fact of Self, and Christianity is not an exception. Jesus’ “whosoever” (John 3:16) can only be interpreted as the individual deciding for himself or herself to “come”.
There is NOTHING collective about salvation. AND there is nothing collective about the individual Christian’s decision to follow His command to “go” or to “help”. Granted it may be performed collectively to some degree, but the individual must freely WANT to participate, or he is not doing God’s work, he is doing the bidding of another human, or of the devil.
DONATION and TAXATION are two completely different things, because one is voluntary and the other is coerced. Also, individualism and egotism are not equivalent. Unless you are advocating psychic suicide, “dying to self” is simply a colorful metaphor that means the Christian should prioritize the true needs of others above his own wants and desires (not his own true needs).
Many conservative Christians become social Darwinists in practice, which seems to be out of sync with Jesus’ main stream of thought and the New Testament concepts of “koinonia” and “body of Christ” – which seem to be anti-individual at least to some degree.
We can limit the group concept to family or even church – but I don’t think Jesus had any limits in mind.
The State or the Government was the Roman Empire. Jesus cautioned his followers not to give them more than what was required to get them to leave His followers alone to fulfill His commission. I believe He would have been shocked if his followers tried to go to Pontius Pilot and ask him to do their Christian duty in their place. YES, I believe there were limits to what Jesus would have deemed acceptable behavior.
By the way, “koinonia” is being in agreement with or common purpose with Christ and the “body of Christ,” that is all Christians (the Church). While most churches preach a broader interpretation of koinonia, what the Bible actually says is not very broad at all.
Why would anyone worship a god who thinks it is theft to spend tax money on feeding the poor? Humans have always lived in tribes and some form of group donation for the tribe has always been necessary.
Look at it this way: If it is sinful to take money out of the wallet of your neighbor (even if you intend to give all of that money to the poor), then it is sinful to use what is essentially stolen money through taxation to help the poor. The reason is that the INTENTION to do a good deed does not cancel out the sin of stealing. After all, this is not a decision between helping the poor or ignoring the poor, but one of helping the poor using immoral means or helping the poor using moral means.
Did you ever stop to think that in a small tribe, when individuals donate the fruits of their labor to the common good, they can see the good it does and whether or not their leaders are getting fat from those fruits? This is not so with big government.
The line between group donation and tribute can get fuzzy but when we start defining taxes to feed the poor as coerced tribute I dare say we’ve lost our humanity and sense of connection with one another.
Your response exemplifies the problem. People think that their need or the need of someone else entitles them to take what is needed from someone else. This line between good and evil is not “fuzzy” or difficult to understand! It is either voluntary, which means that a person gives their money freely and without any threat of force or penalty, OR it is Theft.
In a free and voluntary society, we would not lose our humanity, in fact, we would become MORE human and more peaceful.
My point is simply that we really do loose a basic part (the best part) of our human psyche, the need to help each other in hard times DIRECTLY, when we turn that responsibility to a government, who wastes most of what we give them and creates more dependence than help. Letting government take over charitable works is actually causing us all to lose our humanity, especially in the lives of those who are taxed because it discourages our hands-on participation in the lives in our neighbors and communities.
There was a joke going around in the 60s: someone from a charitable organization asks a person “Please give a donation to help the poor” and the person answers, “No Thank You, I gave at the office.” – a reference to payroll deduction taxes and to the government’s ever-growing takeover of charitable work.
I didn’t laugh then and I certainly don’t laugh now that I have had the experience of leading a small nonprofit.