I will readily admit my background and training in social justice issues is weak. I was brought up during a time when most things considered “justice” was considered “liberal.” I was trained that the “social gospel” was really no gospel at all, and evangelism was selling Jesus, closing the deal by having someone repeat the sinners prayer.
I have come to believe I have missed the target on what Christians, churches, and ministers ought to be doing. Is personal evangelism important? ABSOLUTELY! But so is bringing glimpses of God’s kingdom on this earth by speaking up for those who have no voice. It is now my conviction that if I am not involved in social justice issues, I am being disobedient to Christ.
Recently, I have read some blogs, and had a few conversations with fellow Christians, where the subject of helping the poor has come up. A troubling theme I have seen in these blogs and conversations is an attitude among conservative Christians that the government has no business in creating welfare to assist the poor and disenfranchised. The belief seems to be that nowhere does God command the government to take money from those who have and give it to those who don’t. Charity, I have been told by some people, should always be voluntary and never coercive.
That attitude troubles me.
I will be the first to admit there is a lot of abuse and corruption in our welfare system at the present. But you don’t solve extreme corruption by going to the other extreme. Furthermore, I do believe the best type of charity is voluntary and all churches need to be doing more to help the poor. But some issues are so large, and so systemic, that the only way to combat them is through legislation. To say the government has no God given role to play is, I believe, naive and short-sighted.
Since the first of the year I have been reading the book of Amos. In the first two chapters, God condemns several nations. (I would assume by condemning nations God was including the governments of those nations.)
“This is what the Lord says: ‘For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because she threshed Gilean with sledges having iron teech, I will send fire…'” (Amos 1:3-4)
“This is what the Lord says: ‘For three sins of Gaza, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because she took captive whole communities and sold them to Edom, I will send fire…'” (Amos 1:6-7)
“This is what the Lord says: ‘For three sins of Tyre, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because she sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood, I will send fire…'” (Amos 1:9-10)
“This is what the Lord says: ‘For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked, I will send fire…'” (Amos 1:11-12)
“This is what the Lord says: ‘For three sins of Ammon, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because he ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to extend his borders, I will set fire…'” (Amos 1:13-14, I think this condemnation says something about abortion, but that’s a subject for another day.)
“For three sins of Moab, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because he burned, as if to lime, the bones of Edom’s king, I will send fire…'” (Amos 2:1-2)
“For three sins of Judah, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because they have rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept his decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, and gods their ancestors followed, I will send fire…'” (Amost 2:4-5).
And not the words of condemnation for Israel (including the government)…listen carefully:
“This is what the Lord says: ‘For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed…'” (Amos 2:6-16)
If you read it carefully you will notice that God’s most severe and longest condemnation is given to the nation of Israel (including the government) because they did not take care of the poor and oppressed. Even worse, they took advantage of the poor and oppressed.
How should the government take care of the poor? I don’t know.
Where should the government get the resources it needs to take care of the poor? Well, I guess from their citizens through taxation.
Are we overtaxed? For most of us, the answer is a resounding “Yes.”
Should churches and individuals do all they can to help the oppressed? Absolutely.
To pray for godly leaders in government, and then to say those godly leaders have no responsibility (at the governmental level) to assist their more unfortunate citizens, at the very least is inconsistent.
How can we expect God to bless our nation if the government does not do all it can to help those who are very near to God’s own heart?
I don’t understand how any believer can say the government has no responsibility to take care of the less-fortunate among us.
But then again, I could be wrong.
What do you think?