Charity Belongs to God
Who Should Help the Needy? Government, or Individuals?
"Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." But WHICH things belong to Caesar, and which to God?
This lens grows out of some discussions I have had with various people I know. There seems to be a lot of confusion about whether government has a right to compel a person to provide charity through force. What I find MOST frustrating about discussing this with anyone is the fact that I don't seem to be able to use reason and common sense, and get through to them. So I want to present a systematic case here, in hopes that people will understand.
As near as I can determine, the idea that the government should provide for the needy comes out of social gospel. Social gospel is a rather strange entity, taught in many liberal churches. It means, mostly, that we are supposed to provide for the needy, and the way to do it is to vote for politicians who will force the nation to fund welfare schemes.
Social gospel largely ignores the message of salvation, and favors a behavioral approach to "Christianity". Orthodox Christians regard social gospel as a heresy. By "orthodox" here, I mean Christian perspectives that adhere to the Bible in its entirety, rather than picking and choosing, and DISTORTING the message.
While I will be writing this from a Christian perspective, the perspective fits well with Judaism (and Mormonism) as well. The reason for this is that Jews and Mormons take care of their own. They provide help where it is needed, without recourse to any outside entity, particularly government. Where my perspective parts company with Judaism is with respect to the many Jews who see no problem with compelling OTHERS to provide charity through government force, and where it parts company with Mormonism is that Mormons expect the recipients to pay back whatever they have received. I would hold that true charity does not require repayment. If the person is able and wants to repay, it is graciously accepted. The same resources can then be used to help someone else.
I made the graphic image.
What is Charity?
Understanding from Christianity
The word "charity" occurs in the English King James Version translation of I Corinthians 13, where it reads, "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up." Verse 4. The entire chapter, however, discusses charity in particular.
II Thessalonians 1:3 reads in part, "the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;"
I Peter 4:8 says, "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins."
In the original Greek, "charity" is "agape". (ah GAH peh). This actually means self-sacrificing love. It is far more than merely helping the needy. It also exemplifies the love of a parent toward a child which is so great that the parent will sacrifice his own life to protect his child. And it exemplifies the love of Jesus, Who died on the cross to pay for our sins.
With that understanding, and with other references to charity in the Bible, it becomes clear that charity is a PERSONAL act toward a recipient known to the giver, an act of love, and done in the name of Jesus.
Government welfare is a totally different entity. It involves compelling someone, at the point of a gun, to turn over his money through the tax system, and then this money goes through the bureaucracy, which eats half of it, and then to recipients who are strangers to the taxpayer, whom he is not allowed to meet, and above all, he may NOT do it in the name of Jesus!
Here is what I tell people. Would you come to my home, bang on my door, and when I answer, point a gun in my face, and demand that I turn over my money? Most people would say, no. I then say, then why do you want the government to do your dirty work for you?
Some people say, you cannot legislate morality. Actually, that's not quite true. We CAN, and DO, prohibit immoral acts, and we punish those who commit such immoral acts. ALL law is legislation of morality. Thus, murder, arson, rape, assault, robbery, and many other immoral acts, are prohibited by law. What you cannot do is legislate the heart. But you CAN protect the general public from immoral acts.
Let us be a little more accurate. You cannot legislate charitable action. In other words, you cannot compel a person to perform an act of charity. The reason is because once it is compelled, it is no longer an act of charity. Charity REQUIRES love. You cannot compel people to love others.
Government welfare is when government compels a person to pay certain money, through taxes, which is then redistributed to the people the government decides are needy. There are many, many problems with this.
The first is that government is very inefficient in providing for the needy. Half of the money taken in actually goes to the system of administration. Most of it goes into the salaries for bureaucrats, and other portions go to the overhead expenses of administering the system. If any private charity used half the money contributed for charitable purposes, for administrative costs, the leadership would be in prison!
It is actually in the best interests of government to keep people dependent, because dependent people who get money from the government will vote for the politicians who provided it. Thus, government welfare is nothing but a scheme to buy votes, nothing more.
The second is that the government has no way of deciding who is truly needy. So many complicated schemes have been developed to try to make sure people don't cheat and get welfare they don't need or not entitled to. One of the major attempts involves a scheme whereby most single mothers are not eligible for many forms of welfare unless there is no father in the home. What this ultimately does is breaks up families, and encourages irresponsibility on the part of fathers. Our skyrocketing incidence of children born to single mothers, absent fathers, and serious poverty in which these children grow up, illustrates how far this particular requirement misses the mark.
In reality, no government official can determine who TRULY "deserves" help, because the government official doesn't KNOW the recipient. In private charity, the people who provide the charity DO know the recipient, and know what the extent of the needs are, if any.
It is in the best interests of government to keep people dependent on welfare. It is in the best interests of charity to put people back on their feet as quickly as possible, because charity comes at a price. It is costly to the givers, so that they will want to help the person become self sufficient as quickly as possible.
In reality, government welfare is a highway robbery scheme. Good cannot come from evil. Robbing people and giving it to strangers against the will of the victim is evil.
Foreign aid is another form of government welfare, but this time, aimed at people who live in other countries.
The problem with foreign aid is that most of the aid provided will wind up in the pockets of rich rulers. There is also a lot of politicking that goes on in deciding which nations get foreign aid. Foreign aid is often used to try to bribe a country into having policies that are desired by the donating country. However, this doesn't work. Our country is giving a lot of foreign aid to countries that are our bitter enemies, and all the foreign aid in the world doesn't change this attitude.
On the other hand, Christians often provide real help to people. Most commonly, Christians provide health clinics with doctors who donate their time, or who receive very little compensation. Christians provide the means to produce a clean water supply so that the people don't suffer so much from disease. Christians teach people how to farm and provide farming tools and seeds. It is in the best interests of Christianity to provide real help, because this is what opens people's hearts to the Gospel.
Other groups, not explicitly motivated by Christianity, provide help as well. For example, there are groups that provide micro-loans to destitute people, particularly women, so that they can start their own businesses. The people who receive this help DO establish their own businesses, which are successful, and then the money is paid back at about a 95% rate. Other groups then market the goods they produce at fair trade prices. Regardless of whether or not this is done explicitly in the name of Christ, it comes from the same motives, and the same template.
It has never worked
The practice of taking from the people with means and giving it to those who do not have much is known as socialism. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." It has NEVER worked, not any place it has ever been tried.
The early Christians tried it. They quickly abandoned it.
I have had people argue that the Apostles ratified socialism when they condemned Ananias and Sapphira for their gift to the community. A careful reading of the passage demonstrates that this is emphatically NOT true. In fact, Ananias and Sapphira were punished for LYING about their gift. The Apostle acknowledges that the land those two sold was THEIRS to do with as they saw fit. But they lied to the Holy Spirit, and thus they were condemned to drop dead at his feet.
If any nation could make socialism work, it would be Israel. After all, most of the population is Jewish, and Jews take care of each other. But it has led to hyper-inflation. The Israelis established kibbutzim to raise produce and crops. These seemed to work reasonably well, until they fell apart. They also meant that children weren't raised by their own parents, and that is ALWAYS detrimental. Having socialism for a time seemed quite necessary. Many Jews left their country of origin with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They needed help. I don't blame the Israelis for trying this system. But it didn't work.
The Soviet Union was totally socialistic, and so were the satellite states. The result was that a few leaders got filthy rich, and there developed an underground economy, which eventually became the Russian mafia. The kolkhoz, or collective farm, was also a dismal failure. Land was confiscated from the landowners and turned over to the collective. The result was that people didn't work very hard, and there was widespread famine. Central planning on the part of Stalin dictated that they should plant corn in Ukraine because he liked corn. Corn doesn't grow well there. Over a million people starved.
China still exists as a communist regime. Their only redeeming feature is that they have introduced a lot of capitalism, and foreign trade has boosted their economy. But they also instituted the brutal One Child policy, which forces most families to have only one child. Since it is traditional for the son to take care of the elderly parents, many girls are viciously murdered, either through abortion, or in infancy. Millions of mothers have been FORCED to submit to abortion because they dared to get pregnant a second time. Socialism and human rights don't mix.
Nazi Germany was a form of socialism, called National Socialism. We all know what happened there. Hitler was defeated, and his Thousand Year Reich was no more, after only a few years.
The only place I know of where socialism has worked wasn't a government system at all. I am thinking of The Farm in Tennessee. This is a group of people who VOLUNTARILY live together and share alike. To make such a system work, you need WILLING people, a religious viewpoint, and a charismatic leader, in this case, Stephen Gaskin. His wife, Ina May Gaskin, also runs a very successful midwifery program. Why does it work? Because it is VOLUNTARY.
All government socialistic systems are compulsory.
Taxes and Supply Side Economics
The first thing most leaders of socialist regimes seem to want to do is tax the rich. This is about as shortsighted a policy as you can have. It is RICH people who provide jobs. No matter WHAT they do, they provide jobs. If they hire people directly, they provide jobs. If they buy a yacht, jobs were created to produce the materials and build the yacht. If they invest their money, it is used to provide jobs, through loans to other businesses. Every tax dollar taken from a rich person is one less dollar that will go toward creating jobs.
"Supply side economics", popularized by President Ronald Reagan, creates MORE tax revenue than raising tax rates. Here's why.
Suppose a person has a million dollars. He is taxed at a 30% rate, so $300,000 of that goes directly to government. When that money gets into the hands of government, it doesn't tax itself. There is no further tax revenue from that money until it is once again out of government hands. The remaining $700,000 is spent in a way that it will be taxed, eventually, usually sooner rather than later. The government raises additional revenue from that money as soon as it is spent. The recipient then spends the money and it gets taxed again. The more times the money circulates, the more taxes are collected. If you raise the tax rate, less money circulates in a way in which it can be taxed. If you lower the tax rate, the money circulates more times, and there is more tax revenue. Studies have shown that if you lower tax rates, the government will receive MORE taxes, while if you raise it, it will receive less. The practice of raising taxes to "spread the wealth around" doesn't work. Since the rich already pay more than 50% of tax revenues collected, you will not be able to raise the rates of the rich significantly and get much more revenue, plus the fact the rich will simply move the money offshore, and then it is totally out of reach.
You have probably heard the saying, "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime."
Which practice upholds the dignity of the needy more: giving him welfare, or giving him a job?
If we use our charitable giving wisely, we will easily care for those who cannot work for some reason, without breaking the economy. But as Jesus said, "He who does not work shall not eat."
Any policy which encourages the increase of the needy is self-defeating. All socialist schemes encourage the increase of the needy. There is incentive to stop being productive. You stop getting plundered, and you actually GET money.
What Happens to the Needy?
Ultimately, what happens to the needy when the government does "charity"? Simply put, the weakest among us are thrown under the bus.
We have thrown 55 million unborn babies under the bus. And there are millions of mothers whose spirits have been seared and broken. They are among the needy, too, people who need help being allowed to have their babies, not to have their own spirits and flesh and blood viciously ripped from them.
We have thrown an uncounted number of elderly and disabled people under the bus by denying them care or actively killing them. New government policies will multiply the number of victims manyfold.
People who can't vote are at risk.
And what happens to the nation when everyone is reduced to penury? I don't even want to think about it!
Violates the First Amendment
Given that as a Christian, I am required to help others, IN PERSON, WITH LOVE, IN THE NAME OF JESUS, all welfare schemes that take the money I would give to charity violates my religious faith.
I am not allowed to know the recipient. I am not allowed to show love. I am not allowed to mentor the person. And I am most certainly NOT ALLOWED to mention the name of Jesus!
The government needs to stop violating the First Amendment rights of Christians.
Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Caesar has the responsibility to protect the nation from violence within and without. He has a right and responsibility to maintain a military that will protect us from foreign aggression. He has a right and responsibility to maintain a police force and courts to protect the citizens from internal violence.
Render unto God what is God's.
CHARITY BELONGS TO GOD. It doesn't belong to Caesar. We are under no obligation to tolerate a system that results in GOVERNMENT getting the praise for helping the needy. That praise belongs to GOD ALONE. But when government helps, government gets the praise.
It is time to put a stop to this travesty! No more welfare. Turn the responsibility back over to the Christian community, where it belongs.
Jesus said the poor would always be with us. No scheme, no matter how well designed, will ever get rid of the poor. We need to stop trying. It won't work.
We can simply do the most efficient thing possible. Give this to the Christian, Jewish, and Mormon communities, and get the government out of it.
What Happens When Government Steps Outside Its Bounds
I have seen some examples up close and personal, of what happens because government has no judgment.
Case one is a young couple, not married, who have a child. She is from another country, here legally, intending to pursue citizenship. For a few months after the child is born, they both live in the same household, and both take care of the child. Then the mother hears from friends from another country about a course of action she initially despised. She wants benefits, and the only way she can get them is to drive the father out of the home. For six months, she cuts off the father and his family completely. They don't even know if the child is still alive, let alone how the child is doing. But the father fights back. (How many fathers will do that these days? It's just too heartbreaking, and fathers have been pushed to the sidelines for so long that many don't even try, or maybe lose interest altogether, which of course reduces the status of women.) After awhile, the father takes the mother to court and gets visitation rights. The mother threatens to take the child and leave the country, but the court won't step in and order her not to, or provide any protection. The child is an American citizen by birth. In desperation, the father keeps the child past the time he is supposed to return her. The court imposes a penalty that costs the father $700 he doesn't have (family members pay it). He has to have supervised visits for awhile.
The situation actually causes the mother to realize how important the father is in the life of their daughter, so she changes her attitude, but it is still very difficult for a number of years afterward. She grew up without a father in her life, so why does her daughter need one? The daughter desperately wants the parents to be together as a real family. Father knows it, but mother won't consider it.
This all started because the government steps in where it doesn't belong.
The story has a happy ending, so far. Progress toward making a real family is being made. But precious time as the child of two parents who cherish each other is lost to the child. She is already four years old.
The second case involves a middle class family, comfortable, has a nice home and cars and furniture, no debts except the mortgage on the house, able to contribute 10% of their income to charity. The mother is greedy, and father doesn't always have work because he is a contract worker, but in spite of intermittent income, they are stable and doing well. Hey, I lived in a situation with intermittent income for 30 years and I simply do NOT understand why a woman would act like she does.
She divorces him, and does everything in her power to drive him away. She demonizes him, and she's cruel to the children at home. She gets the government to mandate that the father has to contribute significant child support, and the government takes it upon itself to take more than the legally mandated amount, taking EVERYTHING the father earns, even the money he has set aside to pay income taxes. He loses his job, and becomes unemployable. For several years, the mother hounds him for child support, and the government is very happy to ASSUME he has income he doesn't have. They accumulate child support payments until they amount to over $100,000, a sum he has no hope of ever paying. His credit is ruined. He gets food stamps and a couple hundred from his parents every month to pay for gas and other necessities. He barters for a room in someone's home by doing yard and fix up work. The government orders him to look for work, and he actually finds over 200 possible jobs, none of which will work because he is either not qualified for the work, or he's over-qualified, or because of the stress causing disability, he couldn't do anyway. The government continues to tell him that if he gets work, he won't be able to keep the minimum amount for his own expenses; they will take everything. I have known this man for a long time. He is gentle, and devoted to his children, and still loves his ex.
This family is doomed to live in poverty for the rest of their days, and the children have been severely harmed by all of this. I see at least one disaster waiting to happen. There is no guarantee it won't, and could cost one of the children his life.
In each case, the government's intervention turns what could have been salvaged into an impossible nightmare. This is because the government has no CLUE how to deal with these kinds of cases. It isn't the government's JOB to provide for families in this way. It is the job of the church, the family, and the individual.
Helping Your Understanding of Economic Issues
Books Available on Amazon
Economics in One Lesson is an excellent book, short and to the point. I haven't read the other one, but will do so soon. The book on Reaganomics reportedly need proofreading rather badly.
Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics
by Henry Hazlitt
Reaganomics in Plain and Simple English
Please use your vote to restore our right to First Amendment protection of our obligation of charity. Please!
The current situation is not sustainable. You will be helping yourself by helping to undo this abominable system that currently exists. Ultimately, the prosperity of the nation depends on ending the plunder of the productive and increasing the level of responsibility of the needy.
Please vote out the robbers!