“Those voting against healthcare are leaving their Christianity in the closet.”
“It’s the Christian thing to do.” – referring to the need to support increased government welfare programs.
“Anyone who votes against government helping the poor and defenseless cannot call themselves a Christian.”
These and similar quotes are heard often from various supporters of increased government social programs.
But, where in the Bible does it tell anyone to take money from someone else (rich or poor) and give it to others (rich or poor)?
As Christians we are indeed called to help the poor. “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” Deuteronomy 15:11
There should be no doubt that every Christian should help the poor to the extent that they are able. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18
However, we are called to do so as relatives, individuals, or churches. Never as governments. It scares me to make assumptions about scriptures and what the writer or God might have meant. But, every time I hear politicians and others talking about how the government needs to do more for the poor, how the government needs to take more from the wealthy in taxes and give more to the poor, I think of this verse:
“They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.” Mark 12:40
Perhaps more important, God makes it clear that rather than handouts, we are to provide opportunities for the poor and less fortunate to help themselves.
Among many similar verses, Leviticus 19:10 says “Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.”
This is very wise advice.
Someone who is simply given a handout develops no real appreciation for it. They don’t value it. And, the more often they receive something for nothing, the less they value what they’ve received. To a lesser extent, people who don’t value something can be more wasteful – of food, housing, healthcare choices, or what have you. Why be a conscientious consumer if it doesn’t cost you anything?
Someone who is given a handout begins to expect more handouts. The more someone receives from others, the more they expect. It’s human nature. Instead of appreciating what they’ve received from others, they begin to complain when they don’t receive it or if they receive less or if what they’re receiving doesn’t increase. Soon that expectation turns into a right – people have filed lawsuits when the handouts stopped or were reduced!
Someone who receives their livelihood with little or none of their own effort develops low self-esteem.
Someone who receives handouts from a far-off faceless government has no appreciation for what they’ve received and for the fact that behind their handout are people who’ve given something up in their own lives to provide the handout.
Those who receive welfare, be it foodstamps, welfare checks, or free healthcare, have little incentive to improve themselves. They have little or no appreciation for what they are receiving, and do not feel that they are a part of the rest of society.
There are shining exceptions, but unfortunately few and far between.
And on the other side is the animosity that these handouts generate. When people who work hard for their money see a significant chunk of it going towards taxes they become irritated. When they see a lot of these taxes then going to help poor people who do not seem appreciative it, who do not seem to be working towards getting off of welfare or helping themselves, who use foodstamps to buy junkfood while listening to their $300 ipod, who have among the highest obesity rates in the population, …this animosity turns to anger. And then when they hear more and more calls for more and more money to be poured in to social welfare programs…
On the other hand, following what the Bible teaches produces a far different result.
Someone who receives support and assistance from an individual or even their church has a much greater appreciation for what they’ve received. They value it more. They know the person or people who they received it from and they know that these people made sacrifices in their own lives to help others. Besides valuing and appreciating what they have received, they have a sense of being loved and cared for by these people.
Someone who works for what they’ve received may have an even greater appreciation. Aside from appreciation and value though, they’ve put their own effort into it. Their self-esteem is improved because they have earned their livelihood themselves. They feel more a part of normal society.
Receiving assistance from those closer to us, relatives, individuals, and our church, also has the benefit of providing a lot more than just material assistance. Closer support often comes with assistance in better managing our lives and support for making better decisions.
And that animosity people feel toward the unappreciative poor? Here it is replaced by enthusiasm. People, even many grinchy kinds of people, enjoy helping those who are genuinely appreciative and who are working and doing their best to help themselves.
The upshot is that instead of people angry on one side that they’re not getting enough handouts and people angry on the other that they’re being taken advantage of, we have appreciation and enthusiasm. We have people working together.
Now, which sounds better?
“Jesus answered, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'” Matthew 19:21