“It’s OK! I’m a limo driver” – Lloyd Christmas, Dumb & Dumber
I firmly believe that Christians can disagree and still be Christians. Supposing those who stand on the other side of this issue (to be discussed momentarily) actually name the Name of Christ, then my theory may well be tested shortly.
The Congressional budget flails continue. Republicans are unwilling or unable to summon the political courage or decency to make meaningful budget cuts – like $500 billion. Instead, they are making minor cuts of a several billion dollars every few weeks in exchange for passage of another continuing resolution.
This time, some of the cuts appear to be aimed at aid programs for underprivileged, both here and abroad. In response, a number of left-leaning religious leaders (e.g., Jim Wallis) have signaled their intent to go on a hunger strike in protest (story here). The rhetoric surrounding the issue is pretty choice, and belies either a fundamental confusion about the nature of governance in a democracy/republic and the meaning of freedom – or – an intentional abuse of emotions to confuse the issues at hand and defend progressive elitism. Consider:
- “What would Jesus Cut?”
- “Are we saying that every piece of military equipment is more important than bed nets, children’s health and nutrition for low-income families? If so they should be ashamed of themselves. [sic]”
- “We do need to cut the deficit and get our fiscal house in order, but not on the backs of the poor and hungry”
- “We’ve talked and talked and talked. And we’ve lobbied and we’ve reasoned and we’ve sent letters and we’ve admonished. That’s why we’re having the fast. It’s time to call in God. It’s time to unleash God”
That last one is particularly nice. OK, for the disagreement part, with a touch of sarcasm. First, let’s clarify the issue here.
There are needy people out there. The world is full of them. “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them” – Mark 14:7.
It is good, right, and proper to help those in need. “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God” – Lev 23:22. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” – Matt 25:35-36.
Now that we’ve laid the simple, moral groundwork, let us consider the Wallis movement and the religious left. “I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing” – 1 Chronicles 21:24.
If Jim Wallis and his friends want to help the poor and needy, they are free to do so. I certainly encourage them to do so (Matthew 25 is coming one day). But what they want is to aid the poor and needy with somebody else’s money. They want to use the force of government to take property from some and give it to others. They want to use the force of government to appropriate a portion of men’s lives for their own religious purposes. But this is to make slaves of men, and we must soundly reject it even if it is held for a good purpose.
“But if the government doesn’t do it, these people will suffer” – then I guess you’d better work even harder to convince people to do what is right – of their own free will.
“But people can’t be trusted to step up and meet the need, people are greedy and will potentially turn a blind eye to the poor.” The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is always quite compelling – give it a whirl sometime. As for those greedy, self-interested people, has not God granted them freedom? Are you now here to undo what He has done? Are you wiser than He?
We must have confidence, not in the goodness of men, but in the faithfulness of God. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). If our outpouring of love and benevolence for the impoverished runs dry of our own resources, surely He can fill in the gap. Beyond this, He has reserved judgment for Himself, and given men room to repent. We must have faith in His sovereignty.
Then there is the wonderful close: “It’s time to call in God. It’s time to unleash God.” Wow, just, wow! First, you should have “called in God” when you woke up in the morning, He ain’t an ace-in-the-whole to be played when you really need Him. Furthermore, God is not a cosmic bell hop, “unleashed” by your command … sovereignty being what it is.
I will offer however that the fast you propose is a good idea, especially in regards to the issue you claim to defend. “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” – Isaiah 58:6-7.
We should, all of us, be doers of the law and not judges of the law (James 4:11). What God has granted you, you are free to use to bless others; to bless those that are in need and are made in His image. (“And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” – 1 John 4:21.) But don’t think to bless others with that which is not yours, with that which cost you nothing. You do not own men’s lives, apportioning them as you see fit. You may present your body as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1), but to sacrifice another is beyond the pale.
Let each man make his own choice to serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).