“Will you pay a little faster?“ said the liberal to the saint.*
“You can’t be very Christian if you’re pushing for restraint.
You can’t be sweet and loving if you’re interested in facts.
We’re waiting with the IRS – won’t you pay the tax?
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you – won’t you pay the tax?
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you – won’t you pay the tax?”
So am I often chided by my liberal friends and relatives who think my conservative opinions contradict what they think my Christian beliefs ought to be. These are well-meaning people, but people who are ignorant of both the Bible ‘s teachings about money and the realities of modern day economics.
And I doubt that the Marxio-Christians amongst us have ever read Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2nd Thessalonians 3:10) -- not that the average leftist puts any store in what Paul had to say – after all, it was Paul who wanted women to obey their husbands. But that’s another issue.
Yes. We Christians are to help the poor, visit the sick, feed the hungry -- those general caring activities, motivated by our gratitude for the Savior’s noble giving of Himself to pay for our sins. Matthew informs us of Christ’s attitude about Christian charity -- “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me,’"(Matthew 25:37-40).
Notice that He said nothing about the government doing good things for people. He was talking about “the righteous” – individuals doing individual, spontaneous gracious acts, church members working together, voluntarily, to help others. He didn’t say anything about petitioning the Romans for more bread and circuses. He said we should pay our taxes – “render unto Caesar,” but He kept that distinct from “rendering unto God.” He doesn’t ask us to conflate the two; He makes clear that government and God are two separate entities.
I understand why liberals make this mistake – they seem to think government is God. They appear to be under the impression that those people in government – legislative, judicial, executive or bureaucratic – live on a higher plain than the average person, that those folk will never be tempted by the availability of power and other people’s money, that there could never be a Judas in Washington.
In fact, the Judases in Washington are one of the reasons the poor will always be with us. No matter what schemes we cook up to “help” the disadvantaged all we accomplish is the opening of another coffer to be stolen from. Our big cities are full of “projects” -- low-income housing developments that were shoddily built by some bureaucrat’s uncle, poorly maintained by some mayor’s campaign contributor, and often policed by cops on the take. Meanwhile, back at the poorhouse, the destitute are still destitute and Obamacare is waiting in the wings.
The food stamp program, once designed to make sure that the desperate had access to good nutrition, has been absorbed, and heavily promoted by big banks (J.P. Morgan Chase), big agriculture (Cargill, General Mills), and big business (from Walmart and Kraft to Pepsi and Xerox). Are there really 49 million of us who would starve without SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)? Is that what Christ meant by feeding the poor? And feeding them what? Pepsi? Mac and Cheese?
Another reason we will never eradicate poverty is that all of us have a tendency to be greedy. Healthy self-interest can decay into greed in no time at all. The left likes to accuse the rich of avarice and some I’m sure are stingy and grasping –note the examples above, but greed ruins all of us. Who wastes their money on lottery tickets? It’s not the rich. Who is demanding that their incomes double without offering any additional production? Answer -- people who harbor more greed than common sense, than economic understanding, than awareness of reality.
Which gets us to the one reason for relentless poverty that no one wants to bring up: the poor often make really bad financial and personal decisions. Most of the poor in this country are single moms – women who chose to marry (or not) irresponsible, or abusive men who chose not to support their children -- usually people who did not take advantage of the educational opportunities presented to them. Commonly, they themselves are the offspring of parents who also made disastrous decisions. I taught in public high schools for nearly thirty years and I saw hundreds of families who were caught up in this descending spiral. No amount of charity or government assistance is going to change that.
I remember one young man in my remedial reading class. He came with his father to open house – I was amazed since parents of lower level students rarely attend such events. The boy slouched into the room, collapsed into a desk and propped up his feet on the writing surface. He stared off into space as his father, wearing a filthy tie-dyed T-shirt, harangued me about the dangers of his son getting “caught up in the military-industrial complex.” It still strikes me as funny since the chances were so small, but I occasionally wonder who has been supporting his less-than-ambitious son. I just can’t imagine him being productive.
I know the left loves to accuse conservatives of being anti-social misfits who want to keep everyone barefoot, pregnant and poor; they like to believe their own propaganda. All we really want is realism, truth, policies that actually produce positive results, as opposed to a whole nation that ends up looking like Detroit. But, as long as Americans want more than we’re willing to work for, as long as we expect our government to be more charitable than we are, as long as Judas is handling the purse strings, the poor will always be poor and you can’t hold Christians responsible for that.
* A "saint" in biblical terms (hagios) is a person set apart for special blessing -- blessing which he did not earn or deserve, blessing that comes to him merely because he has believed in the work of Jesus Christ. All believers are saints.