By Providence C.
The Need for Evangelism
Many societies have felt the social and moral obligation to help those working poor who struggle to make ends meet and to provide for those who are unable to care for themselves; and rightfully so. Still, with more people on the welfare rolls than ever before and billions of dollars being pumped into impoverished communities all over the world, poverty remains. Resultantly, many Christian proponents of socialism have become, as Justo Gonzalez has asserted, “preoccupied with the existing social conditions” instead of focusing on Christian evangelism and discipleship. Were the needy to know the true and living God, they would recognize that their existing social conditions are temporal and that their happiness doesn’t persist in material wealth. Were the more fortunate to rightly know Him, their hearts and desires would be turned from self toward others, generosity would be instinctive, and they would take to the business of blessing other people. Were people to know God through His Son Jesus, serving one another would be an inherent virtue. However, because of the perpetual selfishness and wickedness of the ungodly, and because many in the church often fail to “remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10) in their clamor to erect buildings instead of building people, greed, vanity, and covetousness reign above charity.
In any nation, governments do not produce wealth but merely collect and redistribute it. In a constitutional republic such as America, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land; and under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the authority to collect taxes so that the government may properly function in its governing. As the Apostle Paul said, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing” (Rom. 13:1, 6). Taxes do serve their purpose and through paying them, taxpayers receive some product, good, or service from their government in exchange for their money; as well, the citizens who pay no taxes directly benefit from the public services that are provided at taxpayer expense. Yet concerning taxpayer subsidies to the poor, no such exchange exists. Giving in exchange for nothing in return is charity. Christian charity is voluntary; government charity is extortion. The term government charity is an oxymoron because the term implies choice. Outside of our biblical responsibility to those in our family and of our household, no person should be forced to pay for another person’s education, health care, or housing.
McDurmon has noted that although, “God does require that we not let our poor neighbors languish,” the question remains, “Does He authorize the State to use force toward this end?” That answer is no. Government should not exercise force upon its citizens unless, as Charles G. Finney has warned, “It is demanded to promote the highest public good; it is the duty of government to inflict penalties when their infliction is demanded by the public interest.” But what if a man is poor and starving? Should the government then force its citizens to feed the poor? The biblical answer is no. The Bible proclaims, “People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house” (Prov. 6:30-31). And though most can empathize, stealing is wrong even in the worst instances of poverty. Like Dr. Martin Luther, Jr. proclaimed, “It is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends.” Government is not justified in stealing from one family to feed another.
Jay W. Richards said:
The government functions stem from our inalienable rights. We have a right to protect ourselves, for instance, so we can delegate that right to government. We don’t have the right to take the property of one person and give it to another. Therefore, we can’t rightfully delegate that function to the state. Delegated theft is still theft . . . Using the state to redistribute wealth from one citizen to another is different from general taxation for legitimate governmental functions, such as those enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. Rather than promoting the general welfare, redistribution schemes involve a group of citizens voting to have the government take property form others and give it to them. Rather than celebrating such schemes, Christians should be holding them to the light of moral scrutiny.
President Abraham Lincoln declared: “The legitimate object of Government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do for themselves in their separate and individual capacities. But in all that people can individually do as well for themselves, Government ought not to interfere.” In America and Europe, organizations such as the YMCA, the YWCA, and the Salvation Army were Christian initiatives
established to, as Gonzalez has said, “reach the impoverished and unchurched masses.” Ordinary people saw a need and responded. The United Way and the American Red Cross were also developed to aid those in need. Voluntary contributions have allowed them to successfully aid millions.
President stated this concerning a tax for maintenance of the poor:
President Lincoln said concerning a tax for the maintenance of the poor:
I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.
There is no country in the world where so many provisions are established for them; so many hospitals to receive them when they are sick or lame, founded and maintained by voluntary charities; so many alms-houses for the aged of both sexes, together with a solemn general law made by the rich to subject their estates to a heavy tax for the support of the poor. Under all these obligations, are our poor modest, humble, and thankful; and do they use their best endeavors to maintain themselves, and lighten our shoulders of this burthen? On the contrary, I affirm that there is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle, dissolute, drunken, and insolent.
The day you passed that act, you took away from before their eyes the greatest of all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety, by giving them a dependence on somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health, for support in age or sickness. In short, you offered a premium for the encouragement of idleness, and you should not now wonder that it has had its effect in the increase of poverty. Repeal that law, and you will soon see a change in their manners.
Knowing this, Christians should encourage personal and voluntary charity as the Bible has prescribed instead of deferring the responsibility of attending to social ills to the state. More government is not the solution. Should the government redistribute societal wealth so that none are rich, who would help the poor? Besides, what reasonable person would continue attaining prosperity if it would all be taken from him and given away? What good is working hard if hard work is in vain? If government remains the sole entity with all wealth, power, and control, if they control the marketplace, production, who eats, and who drinks, then freedom is surely lost.
The best way government can promote the greater good of society is by giving the poor the tools to help them become self-sufficient. Government intent should be to lend a hand-up, not a hand-out. American President Dwight D. Eisenhower has rightly advised, “In all those things which deal with people, be liberal, be human. In all those things which deal with people’s money, or their economy, or their form of government, be conservative.” Unfortunately, some regimes have found it difficult to be conservative with other people’s money.
McDurmon called to mind that “People, once the beneficiaries of government extortion, will never relinquish their ‘benefits’ voluntarily, even if it means others must bear the burden of being stolen from. This is the basis on which most people will vote: the candidate that promises them the most money. This is salvation politics.” In the United States, many domestic benefactors of government aid refuse to or are ill equipped to become self-reliant. Socialist policies have created perpetual dependents who have not and will not provide for themselves or their families. These dependents refuse to perceive the aid as a temporary help, denying the taxpayers relief from the burden of supporting them; and they reject work in exchange for taxpayer funded public assistance. Scripture says those who refuse to provide for their families have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8).
Church, Rise Up
Were the Church to lead by example and champion the cause of the sick and downtrodden, the needy would not seek the help of the government; but seek Christ to fulfill their needs. When people are in Christ, they are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live righteously, according to God’s Word. They are taught how to live responsibly and selflessly. They are taught personal responsibility. They are taught to love their neighbor. The people would not be so deceived as to elect governments to do the work that the Church was intended to do. Secular governments would have immense disapproval when they erect themselves in opposition to the Church. Nearly every socialist government has always led to the suppression of Christianity. Were the Church to proclaim the Word of the Lord all over the earth, people would not be overly consumed with temporal matters but instead heed the words of Christ: “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Jesus said, “The poor you will have with you always” (Matt. 26:11); men will have many opportunities to be charitable. This suggests that there is no permanent solution to poverty in the here and now. Biblically speaking, at a man’s best he is poor and dying outside of fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Despite the best human efforts, the biggest obstacle to the fairness in which socialism supposedly seeks is human sinfulness. Scripture, for example, has demonstrated that some able-bodied men refuse to work and contribute to their own livelihood. These men relish in laziness and delight in blaming others for their failures. Who should bear the burden for these slackers? The Apostle Paul said that these men who choose not to work should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10). Therefore, although socialist governments attempt to rectify disparities within their lands, socialism falls short. It exacerbates the inequities instead of alleviates them. It fails. These governments are only successful in making its citizens substantially deprived slaves of a godless state.
Christ never condoned or advocated for such a system. Christ entrusted the moral responsibility to care for the less fortunate to His church, not the government. The rampant spread of socialism throughout the earth should cause a sleeping Church to wake up, rise and reclaim its rightful place. Preach Christ everywhere, give to those in need, and defend the faith knowing that heaven and earth will pass away, but His Word will live on forever (Lk. 21:33).