WITH A BIG ELECTION around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about people who need help.
I’ve also been comparing notes with my Christian friends about how best to help those needy folks. People such as:
- The sick who can’t afford healthcare or health insurance
- Young adults who can’t afford college
- Homeless and hungry people, many of whom are mentally ill, and nearly all of whom want a home of their own.
Some of my Christian friends argue—loudly—that charity begins at home, and that we should each do our part to help the needy around us.
But these friends of mine say they don’t want the government setting up programs to help these needy people.
One of my Christian friends said programs like that amount to using the government to steal people’s property and redistribute it to others.
He said poverty is most effectively addressed when individuals are asked to take care of their own families, friends, and neighbors—not demanding that a guy in Ohio pay for a guy’s healthcare in Oregon.
Maybe we should ask the needy how that’s working out for them.
A few questions come to mind.
Is it using the government to steal when we tax people to:
- Build and maintain interstate highways that some people don’t use at all?
- Build and maintain schools when some folks don’t have kids?
- Field a worldwide military that fights in wars that many taxpayers don’t approve of?
A set of follow-up questions might be that if these taxes are OK, then are we admitting that:
- Roads are more important than sick people
- A college education is a luxury
- Killing enemies abroad is more important than feeding and housing citizens at home.
The arguments I hear in opposition to setting up nationwide systems to help the helpless seem to boil down to money and a lack of confidence in the representatives we elect.
Yet from the friends I have abroad, I know that many other nations provide excellent and free healthcare, a free college education, along with food and housing for people who can’t work. Which, many argue, is why the US of A has dropped way down the international list when it comes to healthcare, education, and quality of life.
Why can’t we amp up the compassion?
And why aren’t Christians doing a more compelling job of leading the charge instead of lobbying against it? We’ve got the commission:
“Love the Lord your God….Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31, New Living Translation).
From the Bible’s point of view, what’s the argument against a majority of the people in a nation deciding on its own to help its helpless people?
I’m not looking for the money point of view. I hear that a lot. But I’m not hearing much of an argument from a biblical point of view. And I’d like very much to hear that.
I’m really quite curious about it.
I have another question for you. Does me giving more in taxes change my heart? I’m not saying that I’m against government help for people who need it, just that Jesus was so hands on. He fed people. He didn’t give someone else money so they would feed them. (Of course that argument only works if individuals actually follow the commandment of loving their neighbors, which obviously isn’t actually happening if people are still needy. So I totally see the conundrum.)
So basically if everyone did what Jesus asked of us, then we wouldn’t have to worry about government assistance programs. 🙂
Stephen M. Miller
I think you’re right, Mandy. If people did what Jesus said, we’d have no problem. But they don’t. I don’t even think most Christians do.
Some problems are so big, though, that it seems to require a nationwide group effort–maybe among Christians if no one else. The problem of housing the homeless, for example. That’s a biggie.
David H. Hagen
I agree with you 100% Mr. Miller! I’ve met countless people who don’t want our government to help anyone, yet when I ask if they give money or assistance to help those in need they say firmly, “No! Those people just need to find a job!” Nothing about this attitude is Christ-like. I know several people who had drastic things in life thrown at them—health issues, they’ve been downsized, mental issues and can’t afford medicine to help them, etc.—that need to love of Christ, not a judgment. If followers of Christ don’t help these people, who should?
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks, David. That’s pretty much what’s on my mind.
This is not true. Jesus tells us the poor will always be with us. If everybody does their part, as you say, there will still be poor people. There are poor people in every nation. The questions are: what economic system produces the fewest poor and highest standard of living for them. I’ll leave the answers to this to the imagination.
*The federal Gov’t is in fact stealing money whenever they use funds for things they are not chartered to do under our now dusty, and largely ignored, Constitution. Article I, section 8 defines the role of the Fed gov’t. A review of this article will address several of the bullet points you mention “is it stealing to spend money on” bulletpoints. If folks don’t like the limited role designed here, they are free to amend it…but not choose to ignore it and do whatever they want.
There are thousands of non-profits in this country in addition to all the individual chartity that exists even after 40-50% of our money is taken from us. This argument that conservatives don’t care about the poor is a red herring.
One big problem I note is that liberals fail to acknowledge, that as humans, we all tend toward the path of least resistence. Recognizing this fact, one must conclude that if you provide unending handouts to fix every thing that could possibly go wrong in life, many people will take them. They will also continue to vote for people who offer them. Not because they are bad people, but because that’s what humans do.
Finally Christians on the Right are not lobbying against compassion. We are lobbying against people inserting their own definition of “compassion” and what that means. The Church can’t even agree on what it means to follow Christ effectively (endless denominations and variations) let alone demand our non-Christian citizens be forced to be compassionate as we see it.
Good people can disagree on how best to help those in need. I know Steve is one with a big heart for helping people. Guess what, I’m a conservative and I give lots of my time (mentoring), talent (working in Christian Publishing where our words feed the very soul of man), and treasure (giving to church, hurting friends I know, family members etc.
Unfortunately, I find that many on the Left only believe in “choice” and “compassion” if it meets their definition of it.
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks Tom. I worked a few weeks ago on repairing homes of needy people in our community…mostly elderly people or sick. Including 1 lady on chemo and a senior gent who shuffled with baby steps when he walked–sad to watch.
I’d ID most of our group of a dozen volunteers as politically conservative. I know they care as much as I do about folks in need. We might disagree over the role of government in helping the people, but I think we agree that if we’re going to do any good at all, we need to get our hands dirty.
Thanks for your take on the matter. You represent the beliefs of a lot of Christian people.
Very well said Steve. There is simply nothing left to be added.