Generous with other people’s money
|September 2, 2009||Posted by Anthony under atheism, Blog, Christianity and Culture, General, human rights, morality, politics, Secular Humanism|
This post should be understood as speaking specifically to Christians. I don’t deny that nonChristians might find it applicable but I am speaking to people, broadly speaking, that I expect to have a similar world view as I do. Most importantly, I expect that they accept the Scriptures as authoritative.
“Thou shalt not steal.” Exodus 20:15
There is a large divide between conservative and liberal principles and in many cases it is evident that there can be no compromise. However, many sincere, conservative Christians find at least some of the proposals often put forward by liberals as admirable, at least in principle. Environmental issues are one example. The most current one is health care.
There is a sincere desire of many conservative-minded Christians to find ways to help the poor and downtrodden in our society. The ‘best’ of the Democrat platform includes concern for these same folks and hence solutions that utilize the government to achieve that end often get support (at least in principle) even from conservatives.
I know of no Christian conservative that is happy that there are people in this society that cannot afford to eat, have shelter, or get health care. There is a certain allure of using the Government to provide for these needs. This tends to happen in particular when the problems seem to be too big for individuals or localities to deal with on their own or because of the high costs involved.
I mention health care because it is the topic of the moment but my challenge applies to many of proposed Government solutions.
My challenge is this: on what basis can we possibly justify taking money from other people by taxation (ie, through coercion, threat of punishment, etc), to achieve that which we think is a worthy charitable end?
If you see a beggar on the street, it is perfectly right and proper to want to help him. If you proceed to go over and help him, you’ve done what pleases God. If instead you go across the street, stick a gun in a rich man’s rib, and take the rich man’s money and go over and help the beggar, I am not so sure that is what God had in mind.
Using the government to do our good deeds is essentially being generous with someone else’s money.
I see no basis in the Scriptures for Christians to condone or participate in such a methodology.
Even in the ‘theocracy’ depicted in the Old Testament, there is little evidence of a nationalized, socialized, approach to charity. An approach to charity is on display, though! Consider Leviticus 19:9-10
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 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. (emphasis mine)
Here you see that even God did not demand that the gleanings be gathered up to him for re-distribution, but called on the land owner himself to be charitable directly. There is some irony, perhaps, that the very next verse reads:
“Do not Steal.” Lev. 19:11a
You see, while the Scriptures are very clear that everyone- not just the wealthy- should be generous and be concerned for the down trodden, they are also clear that people have a right to their own personal property (see, for example, Acts 5:4).
I cannot see how it is moral- according to the Scriptures- to take resources from folks, by coercion, to achieve the worthy charitable end. This seems to me to be stealing no matter how you justify it, and seems to have no blessing from the Bible.
Similarly, as much as it feels noble and compassionate to do so, I cannot see how it is acting noble and compassionate to compel others to do what God calls us to do ourselves.
For saying as much, I was defriended on Facebook by a prominent, conservative, Christian. I suppose my position can be construed as extreme as a great many government programs ostensibly seem supportable, even by conservative Christians who are on the political ‘right.’
But the Scriptures are my authority, as they are to the intended audience of this post. If I can be shown from the Scriptures where I am in error, I’d be pleased to see the passages. I should like to think that that sentiment is mutual.
A final word is necessary.
What I am saying would probably entail the rejection of a great many government programs and would certainly entail rejecting communism and socialism and variations on them. It does not follow, however, that this is an endorsement of capitalism.
Also, though this is a redundancy since I already said as much, none of this means that I- or any other conservative minded Christian- think we should just let the poor and downtrodden folks among us drown in their circumstances.
It is simply to say that doing the immoral to accomplish the moral is of questionable morality. If we cannot conceive of a way to accomplish the moral while behaving morally, then I submit the problems run far deeper.