In part one of this series I made
clear, from the words of Jesus and the New Testament, that ministering
to the poor and the needy among us is the work of Christian individuals
and the church, not the secular government. Jesus said, “The Spirit of
the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the
Today’s religious left wants to change that to, “He has
anointed the federal government to preach good news to the poor.”
The Christian gospel is a message
of salvation, not a message of income redistribution and raising our
neighbor’s taxes. Jesus said that the way to serve the poor is by giving
generously of our own resources. “But when you give a banquet,” He said
in Luke 14, “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and
you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be
repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
The religious left is very
generous—with other people’s money. In fact, I believe the founder of
the religious left was none other than Judas Iscariot. When Mary, the
sister of Lazarus, anointed Jesus with costly perfume just days before
the crucifixion, Judas lectured her and said, “Why wasn’t this perfume
sold and the money given to the poor?”
Notice that Judas put on a show of
caring for the poor—even though the money was Mary’s, not his! The
motives of Judas, John 12:6 tells us, were corrupt and self-centered—and
Jesus responded with a stinging rebuke.
At least one of the Lord’s
disciples was a “social action Christian” in the Sojourners mold: Simon
Zelotes (Simon the Zealot). Just as Sojourners President Jim Wallis was
once president of the Michigan State chapter of the militant Students
for a Democratic Society (SDS), Simon Zelotes was a young political
radical who attached himself to Jesus because he thought Jesus would
lead a revolt against the Roman Empire.
Simon saw Jesus as a political
Messiah who would topple the powerful while lifting up the poor and
oppressed. But Jesus was not a political Messiah. He didn’t attack the
Roman Empire. He did battle with the Evil Empire of Satan himself.
Jesus didn’t tell the Roman
government what its budget priorities should be. Why? Because His agenda
was much larger than the agenda of Simon Zelotes or the religious left.
His eyes were fixed on eternity. He said, “My kingdom is not of this
The religious left has missed the
meaning of that statement. Yes, there is a place for Christian social
action—but that place is in a personal lifestyle of generosity and
compassion to the poor. Jesus didn’t tell the rich young ruler to become
a political activist and affect public policy. He said, “Go, sell your
possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”
It’s true, there’s poverty in
America and some of the poor can’t lift themselves out of poverty
without help. Some are physically or socially disadvantaged. Some are
down on their luck. They need and deserve Christian compassion and the
good news of the gospel.
But a huge number of people
receiving government assistance are substance abusers, welfare cheats
or chronically lazy. Doesn’t the Bible tell us, “If a man will not work,
he shall not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10)? Why must the “makers” of
society support the “takers” of society? That’s not compassion. That’s
theft. Wouldn’t it be more compassionate to encourage the takers to
develop self-respect by becoming productive citizens?
Would Jesus endorse government
policies that encourage and enable addiction, indolence and welfare
fraud? Certainly not. The religious left should read His parables,
especially the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30), the Parable of
the Vineyards (Matt. 20:1-16), and the Parable of the Tenants
(Matt. 21:33-46). In those parables, Jesus blesses hard work, personal
responsibility and the freedom to achieve.
Government programs can’t separate
the truly needy from the welfare cheats—but private Christian charities
can. Private charities are far more effective than government at meeting
needs, changing lives, eliminating fraud and waste, and dispensing
compassion. Our stance as Christians should be pro-compassion, not
The place for compassionate
Christian social action is in the church, and in the lives of individual
believers. When the church becomes a political pressure group, telling
the government, “Confiscate more wealth from those who earned it and
give it to those who have not,” then the church has formed an unholy
union with the kingdoms of this world.
Income redistribution is not
Christianity. It’s Marxism—and mixing the two only pollutes the Gospel
and betrays the Great Commission.
Stay tuned for Part 3: Is America a “fallen nation?”
Dr. Michael Youssef‘s expertise on the Islamic
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