In last week’s blog, Was Jesus into Social Justice? Jonathan raised to assumptions that would seem to, as Jonathan put it, “are indeed hiding behind the furniture at Sojourners.” We had some great responses to the blog but I thought I would revisit the assumptions as we look at the politically incorrect Jesus.
1) Jesus would approve of redistributing wealth to create fairness.
2) The second assumption I find hiding in social conscience of the Evangelical left is that government is a neutral tool for securing social goods.
On the first assumption, we don’t really find Jesus being overly concerned with financial or material fairness. His concern seems to primarily be about man’s (and woman’s) heart for God. “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND” (Matt. 22:37) is the Great Commandment and from it flows the next, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”
Our love for and devotion to God informs our actions toward others. Money and material stuff fade to being a means to an end not an end in itself. This comes out perhaps most clearly in Luke 12:13-24. One young man asked Jesus to “tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” Here we have redistribution of wealth as the focus of the discussion. Jesus response was to tell a story of a man who vested his hope in and focus on his wealth, ultimately to his destruction. He concludes His discussion with “where your treasure is, there is where your heart will be also.” Fairness, social justice, redistribution of wealth were not of real concern to Jesus but a proper focus on God and our life with Him new and eternity was what He spent His time addressing.
This places the responsibility on the individual to use their earthly treasures in a way that would glorify God and that will vary from individual to individual. Some will be more focused on the poor, others will be more focused on the lost (evangelism), still others will be more focused on growing disciples, serving and supporting the church. As God gives each one a love for something or someone that is dear to His heart it happens that there is suddenly no amount of money, material possessions or time they won’t invest to reach or serve in that calling. The key here is that it is the individual’s choice with no command or expectation that others decide to take from them and redistribute their property. We see this played out in early Acts where none of the believers “had need.” In Acts 5 we see that Barnabas, a wealthy land owner, sold a piece of property for the benefit of those who needed assistance. It was his choice and he kept his wealth apart from what he chose to donate. Another couple sold a piece of property and gave a portion of the proceeds. They lied about how much they gave and when Peter confronted them he said,
While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.
Notice, there was no compulsion of expectation. It was theirs to do with before it was sold. The proceeds were theirs and could be used in any way they chose after the sale. The issue was their heart toward God and on that count they chose to lie. The result was quick, they both died. This will be kingdom judgment when that time comes by the way. We don’t find anywhere that Jesus approves or commands redistributing the wealth for fairness.
The Apostle Paul weighs on the question of giving in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Notice, it is to be done as the individual decides not under pressure from others or taken from them. However, it should be noted that you can tell more about someone’s true belief by where there money goes than nearly anything else.
What about the second assumption of the Evangelical Left that government is a neutral tool for securing social goods. While it is true that all governments which exist are set up by God (Romans 8), it is not true that all, most or even any governments are benevolent and or neutral tools for social change or securing social goods. Sometimes God sets up governments to punish or correct His people. Other times to protect or reward His people. For example, Joseph served Pharaoh which resulted in the preservation and protection of God’s chosen people in time of severe famine and yet the government wasn’t a neutral tool. The government took grain each of the seven years of plenty and then sold it back to the people during the seven years of famine. The result was the population sold themselves into slavery to the government. This is decidedly not neutral.
Jesus did tell His followers to pay their taxes. He told them that if they were compelled to go 1 mile to go two (Matt. 5:41). This had to do with Romans soldiers (the government) and the right they had to force a non-Roman to carry their gear for a mile. Jesus told His followers to serve the oppressor twice what they are legally required to do. So far from shaking off the oppressor and demanding equal treatment from the government Jesus assumes the government is not neutral, is unfair and we serve in spite of those issues. We actually address a fair amount of the issues between government and the church in The Rise of the Evangelical Left.
Secondarily, from Scripture that charity extended from individuals to others in the family or in the faith first and outsiders who came to them and were open to knowledge of the true God. One of the commenter’s on last week’s blog pointed this concept out as well and are absolutely right. We are under no obligation to feed and care for unbelievers who are opposed to the faith. I am not saying we can’t, some may feel called to that very thing. I am saying there is no biblical mandate requiring us to make such provision. Government taking and redistributing if forcing believers to do something, by theft, which they are under no obligation to do. In addition, trying to use the government to be the tool to carry out some concept of Christian social justice would be forcing non-Christians to carry out or fund a supposed Christian mandate. Again we find no biblical warrant for that and it is clear that governments are not neutral tools. They are run by fallen men and women. Some are altruistic but most are caught up in the power and use it in evil ways. Neutrality is not something which comes to mind regarding the government.
Both of the above assumption are false and demonstrate something else. Jim Wallis and others on the rising Evangelical Left seem to be biblically illiterate and use the Scripture in an attempt to give credibility for their Marxism.