Christianity, Politics, and Giving

Posted: 22nd February 2010 by Scott @ The Right of a Nation in General Politics, Religion

So far my blog has basically been about politics from my conservative point of view.  However, as I say in the About section of the site, I’m also a Christian.  A lot of the time, despite the oft-mentioned “separation between church and state,” religion does play a part in politics in America, and the two topics will indeed intermingle in this post.

From the polls that I have seen, up to 75% of Americans consider themselves to be Christians.  I can’t seem to find a study on the number of conservatives that are Christian, but considering the 75% number above, I don’t think this post will apply only to a small minority.  If you are reading this and aren’t a Christian, don’t fret, in the end much of it applies to issues such as taxation, size of government and their involvement in American’s lives, government assistance programs, and so on.

A lot of the time, religion/Christianity/”extreme” religious beliefs is seen as a characteristic of conservatives/Republicans, hence the term the “Religious Right.”  That obviously is not always the case though, as many Democrats/liberals are Christian believers and so forth.

However, on the other hand, these same conservatives who call themselves Christians are often against social programs, “government hand-outs,” “entitlement programs,” etc. that are meant to help the poor or needy in America.  But when you read the Bible, and read the words of Jesus, you may start to wonder if that is a contradiction.  Are conservatives who are against these government programs being hypocritical?  Are they being “bad” Christians?  Are they disobeying Jesus?

These are not rhetorical questions here; I’m not claiming to have an answer to every question I pose in this thread.

When you look at Jesus’ words in the Bible, at face-value, this opposition to programs intended to help the poor certainly seems to be against the instructions that Jesus gives his followers in the Bible.  Let’s look at a few verses…

Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

Deut. 26:12. When you have finished paying the complete tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and the widow, that they may eat in your towns, and be satisfied.

Lev. 19:9-10. Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God.

Luke 12:33. “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys.”

There are many more verses like this, but I don’t want to just put up a big block of verses all in one section so I’ll try to intersperse them throughout the post.  But it is beginning to be obvious that God demands that his followers help take care of the poor.

Luke 3:11. And [John the Baptist] would answer and say to them, “Let the man with two tunics share with him who has none, and let him who has food do likewise.”

Mt. 5:42. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

But does the Bible say anything about the government of his followers helping the poor through assistance programs (which are often convoluted, wasteful, and inefficient)?  If a Christian lives in a country where some of his tax dollars are used for these programs, does that count as helping the poor as outlined in the verses I’ve shown so far?  On these questions I’m definitely going to answer no.  To “give to the poor” in that way does not at all seem to be the level of sacrifice that is called for in the Bible.

Prov. 19:17. He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed.

In addition, the Bible has something to say for those who do indeed give to the poor, but are open about it in a way that draws attention to themselves.

Mt. 6:2-4. “When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

Luke 14:12-14. “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

There are also words for a more worse-case scenario – that you have money and yet do not help the poor.

Luke 6:24. “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.”

Ezek. 16:49-50. “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.”

A lot of times when people think about the destruction of Sodom, they immediately think of the sexual immorality as the reason why it was destroyed.  But this verse seems to suggest that another main reason was their lack of sharing, despite their riches.  Many folks rail against the sexual immorality in our country (which certainly is not doing anything beneficial), but some of these same people might be surprised to realize that God places a lack of sharing riches with the poor on a similar level as sexual immorality.

To sum up,

Luke 16:19-25. “Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs would come and lick his sores.

Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.

And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’

But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony…’”

Mt. 25:31-46. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on His left.

Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite you in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’

Then they themselves will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’

Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Basically, if you consider yourself a Christian, you are called to help the poor.  If you don’t, there will be punishment.  If you do, and you do it in a way that calls attention to yourself, you have still done a good thing, but the good feeling that you get when other people recognize what you have done is the reward that you will receive for you good deeds.  If you help the poor in a secret way, you will receive your reward in Heaven.

Despite that, I don’t think that the Bible calls on us to have a government that forces people to give to the poor through taxes.

The Bible doesn’t say “don’t try hard to make money and become rich and provide for your family.”  That is the American dream and part of the American lifestyle and I certainly believe in it.  But it does say that if you have been blessed with success that has provided you with a comfortable lifestyle, you are to help out people that are less fortunate.  That really is the bottom line, and I don’t really see another way to read the verses that I posted above.

Many Christians, including some politicians, when speaking in support for some type of government assistance program, suggest that the bill or law they are trying to get passed is supported by verses in the Bible like the ones above.  On the surface that may look to be accurate, but I really believe that those verses are demands of the Christian individual, not of their government.  None of the 10 commandments (or the other thousands of commands in the Bible) are written for a government, they are instructions for the individual person.  And like I said above, I personally don’t think it is going to be acceptable if on judgement day (as the verse from Matthew mentions above) God asks “what have you done to help the less fortunate?” and we respond, “well my government taxed me and used a portion of my money to give to the poor.”

  1. Monica says:

    Yes, I understand what you are saying and I had been very distraught regarding the fact that I was against government programs that help the poor but then I was thinking that that is a forced method of taking care of the poor and it is not on an individual method of helping the poor. I like that you put this into some kind of perspective.

    Thank you~

  2. Rob says:


    This is a great job of what I have said for years.

    I believe that the church is at least somewhat culpable in this whole kerfuffle.

    Looking from a positive angle, the church was so anxious to help people, that it carelessly accepted government first as a partner then as the leader/controller.

    From a more cynical view (my own I am afraid), the church simply got lazy and was happy to hand off the responsibility for the less fortunate.

    This of course is oversimplification. The real problem is the individuals and their behavior. Allowing the church to care for folks is already incorrect.

    A more jaded view and one towards which I now lean is that the seminaries (and eventually the church membership) have been infected with progressivism and its foundation, evolution.

    No, I am not trying to argue Creationism vs. Darwinism here. I am specifically pointing to the belief in the perfectibility of man. Progressives (and much of the modern church) do not accept the total depravity of man, which is taught in scripture.

    Time and time again the Bible states that man is and absent G-d’s grace will remain totally fallen. Progressivism against all contrary evidence believes (or wants to) that man can be fixed, improved, EVOLVED. When that fails through social programs he is controlled.

    Scripture and experience clearly point out that this is a fools errand and Darwin must be spinning, whereever he is. Darwin’s system takes generations and DOES NOT KNOW where it will end up. The organisms do not purpose a direction for their evolution, they respond to externals. Progressives want to be those externals, forgetting that they themselves are stuck inside the experimental box and cannot rightly judge a goal, a method or the results.

    Never underestimate the power of the Fall.

    Get your OWN hands dirty – help some body who needs it.

    Spend your treasure where it will do good.

    Do not align with those who would steal to play Robin Hood. They do not know from whom they are stealing nor to whom they are giving assistance.

    Once charity becomes impersonal it is useless,even dangerous.

    Sorry, quite a rant there. One of my personal hot buttons.

    Remember, the government cannot give that which it has not first taken.

  3. Thanks, I appreciate the great comment. Don’t worry about it seeming like a rant just because of its length, it’s definitely one of the best comments I’ve received on the site.

    Hope you’ll stick around.

  4. Sergei Maximov says:

    If the rules regarding social programs only apply to the Christian individual, and not the society they live in, couldn’t the same be said for any law that contradicts Christian values? Homosexual marriage, for example? As long as the individual Christian does not marry someone of the same sex, they have not been erred by such a policy. Abortion is a similar concept. As long as they are not undergoing the procedure, the individual Christian has no place to point fingers at those that do, at least not if they plan to use religion as justification.

    Unfortunately, these verses you mention would not even inspire thought in most people, as in modern times religion acts as a contradictory device through which social hierarchy is established. The true rules of the religion in question will typically only be followed until they inconvenience the tenant, at which point they’ll be discarded so the religious tenant may stay in their comfort zone.

CommentLuv badge