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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Does Christianity Support a Welfare State?

I just read the parable of the Good Samaritan. The people who were considered to be righteous by society ignored a man who had been beaten and robbed. The Samaritan who was considered unrighteous in the strict Jewish society acted with kindness by taking care of the man. Jesus commanded those who heard this story to do likewise. Why would anyone believe that this supports a welfare state.

People think that the man who was beaten and robbed deserved and was entitled to the kind treatment that the Samaritan gave him. They believe that all of society must do this or we are evil. But I ask this: How virtuous is a person if he is forced to be benevolent? What righteousness does he have if he is forced into his acts? I say that he has none for he is merely looking after his own personal interests.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 (ESV) 
10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 

The Bible teaches personal responsibility in daily living. It does not preclude helping someone who is hungry but disdains idleness. The person should take responsibility for their own lives. Yes, there are times when people go through tough times. We must be those "good Samaritans" who help them. That is something that comes from our love for the Lord and our love for others. It is our responsibility but cannot be forced upon us by governments and have any meaning in our faith.

John 3:16 (ESV) 
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The Bible teaches us personal responsibility in salvation. The "whoever" is the person who trusts in Christ for salvation. It cannot be forced upon him. It is something that is freely done or there is no true "trusting." I know that salvation is a gift but each person must decide to receive that gift. He cannot make an appeal to the Lord later saying that he did so much better than what the Lord has required in receiving Him. In other words, no amount of work will take the place of trusting in Christ.

Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV) 
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. The work that follows our faith comes from that faith. 

We do not work for our salvation but we surely work out our salvation. We take responsibility by allowing the Lord who has come to live within us to work within us. Many believers quench, grieve and resist the Spirit when He seeks to work within them. All of us have a responsibility to let Him work.

2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV) 
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 

The Bible teaches us personal responsibility in the judgement. All of us will stand before Christ in judgement. Yes, those who are believers are given entrance to heaven but that entrance comes with a judgement in what we have done with our salvation. Have we squandered it or have we been faithful with it? I believe the Parable of the Talents will be very vivid as we are all judged. Each owe is judged for what he has done. Some have been given more than others to invest in the Kingdom.

God, Himself, does not force us into faith or obedience. He does not force us into love for love can never be forced. It can be wooed. It can be caressed but it cannot be forced.

The Bible tells the individual that he owes love to his fellow man but it does not tell the ones being loved that it is owed to them. Each of us must see love as a gift that someone has given us. Yes, they may be compelled by their faith. They may have to work at it. That is their responsibility but it is not something we are entitled to.

So, no, the Bible does not support a welfare state. It supports a loving people meeting the needs of others by taking true responsibility. Yes, that means I give to those who are less fortunate but never because I am compelled to do so nor do I believe that I can be forced to do and claim any virtue.

The welfare state wants to entitle those who have less without any merit. It wants to require that these "less fortunate" receive.

This week someone stole one of the rims and tires off of our Minister of Music's old pickup truck in broad daylight. They left it on blocks. Maybe the person who stole the wheel really needed it. Maybe he couldn't get to work without another wheel on his truck. So, why is it different if the government takes that wheel from our Minister of Music (through taxes) and gives it to that man who claims to have a need? Why do we call one act theft and the other a lawful act of government?

Maybe the person who stole the wheel reasoned that he was entitled to it.


Anonymous said...

If Christians acted in the way Jesus directed His followers to act, there would be no gap for the government to fill with welfare.

The government is trying to do that which Jesus never meant for them to do--so it is doing the job badly.

We, not government, are the ones who have failed. Simple s that.


Prentis McGoldrick said...

Of course, that is the way it should be. God working in the believers to love those who are in need. It is not coercion into benevolence but loved into it. And I believe it would be done much better by believers who would be careful to avoid co-dependency. This is the government's plan to keep people under their thumb. The people believe they must depend upon the government because they have become addicted to the candy the government passes out.
Yes, we as believers should help unfortunate people. There is no doubt about that but it cannot be done by coercion. It is an act of love.

Anonymous said...

Ps Prentis, I want to give you praise for an entry well-written. Not only it correctly point out that the Story of Good Samaritan is NOT pointing to support of a welfare state, your write-up have many gems of truth, many believers have NOT internalized into themselves, and have NOT lived by them.

You unfolded it so nicely that, indeed, the Word advocates personal responsibility.

In addition, if we think about it, having good personal responsibility is actually loving our neighbours. When we exercise personal responsibility, we reduce the occasions we need the assistance from a neighbour, and so, in that way, it frees that neighbour to devout his time and resource to another, who truly, through unforeseen circumstances, is caught in need of help. Another thought, which can be developed further is that, there is NOT equality but justice, with God. Broad-stroke welfarism of trying to equalize, is NOT necessarily, the prescribed way of God.

I like this para., that you have in your entry:

“The Bible tells the individual that he owes love to his fellow man but it does not tell the ones being loved that it is owed to them. Each of us must see love as a gift that someone has given us. Yes, they may be compelled by their faith. They may have to work at it. That is their responsibility but it is not something we are entitled to.”

At times, I referred to this as “we are to read God’s email to us, and NOT we don’t do that, but instead read God’s email to the other person”. Some people cannot accept this; to them it is a kind of double-talk. But those of us who understand it, it is NOT.

For example, must we forgive a person, regardless? Even when the person is NOT repentant, i.e. he does NOT want to say sorry or say that he was wrong? The answer is “Yes”, yet it is NOT that God is saying, we can just expect Him (God) to forgive us, for the wrongs or sins that we commit, without us, needing to repent or confess our sin or wrongdoing.

God is saying to you, who have been wronged, that you have to forgive, in your heart, the person who wronged you, even though the person has NOT come and say he is sorry. It does NOT follow, since God is saying that to you, it means that He, all the more, got to be forgiving you, even though you have NOT wanted to confess or repent of your sin or wrongdoing. God can be telling you to forgive, but He can also be telling the wrongdoer that he has to repent, and NOT that, he, the wrongdoer, does NOT need to repent.

It is NOT double-talk that you are asked to forgive regardless (without repentance on the part of the wrongdoer), and the wrongdoer, to confess and repent (Of course, one must know that there is a distinction between the command to forgive {in our heart}, and the releasing of our forgiveness. The latter is to be done guided by principles applying to the role of being our brother’s keeper; chiefly, is that we release forgiveness only when there is prima facie repentance on the part of the wrongdoer, and NOT before, for that would only mislead or confuse or even stumble a brother, for he may come to the wrong conclusion of the acceptability of his action {the wrong or sin}, if you do that – RELEASE your forgiveness before he repents. Forgive always, but you can be releasing it at the appropriate time).


Anonymous said...

COnt. from above

I know forgiveness has nothing to do with the theme of this Ps Prentis’ entry, but to continue to underscore we need to adhere to the command applicable to us, instead of preoccupying ourselves with the command applicable to other person, may I say of the incident cited by Ps Prentis, of the stolen wheel and rim, this:

The Minister of Music has to forgive the thief, and NOT be preoccupied with if the thief is already repentant or NOT. The thief, God’s directive to you, is that you are to own up and repent, and you shouldn’t be preoccupied with whether or NOT the Minister will forgive you or NOT. So what the thief will NOT repent; you, Minister, have to forgive. So what the Minister will NOT forgive; you, thief, have to own up and repent.

In the same vein, for those of us, who do NOT think it is right that government has forced state welfarism on us, we have to forgive the law-makers, regardless! Why? Because it is the command of God. Because if NOT, bitter root may grow in you, and your spiritual sensitivity and health can be affected. I am NOT saying you cannot speak out, beforehand, though.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions
PS: Though I talked much about forgiveness, as an illustration, it is by no means, suggestive of any unforgiveness, on the part of Ps Prentis, concerning the state welfarism issue.