The Poor Will Always Be With You…Meaning What?

A malnourished and ill-clothed Congolese child“The poor you will always have with you…”  So said Jesus according to the accounts of three of the four Gospel writers (Matt. 26:11, Mark 14:7, and John 12:8).  He said it in the context of someone objecting to a woman pouring perfume on his feet, when the value could have been given to the poor.  (aside…Matthew says the disciples objected and doesn’t identify the woman; Mark identifies neither; John identifies the woman as Mary, sister of Lazarus & Martha, and the objector as Judas Iscariot).

Anyhow, I have run across this verse abused by conservative Christians, who were objecting to liberal Christians’ attempts to actually fight poverty, particularly using political means.  The argument seems to go something to the effect that if Jesus said we’d never get rid of the poor, it’s foolish for the liberals to try.  Of course that’s specious; Jesus finished that very sentence by saying “and whenever you want, you can do good for them.”

But I just discovered something that I had never noticed before.  Jesus wasn’t just making a random commentary about life when he said “the poor you will always have with you.”  I didn’t realize this, but he was quite probably referring to the Law of Moses…specifically Deut. 15:11:

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

Whoa, what’s that?  Because there will always be poor, God always expects his people to be generous to the poor!  Not because we can ever “cure” poverty, though the reset-buttons of the Sabbath Year and Jubilee would certainly reduce the generational effect of poverty (see Deut. 15:1 and Lev. 25).  But no, the reason we are to treat the poor with kindness is in verse 10:

You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.

Hmm…how’s that for an economic stimulus plan?

69 thoughts on “The Poor Will Always Be With You…Meaning What?”

  1. Linda

    I do not think the government forcefully taking money from a person (through taxes) and giving it to another person is considered giving “freely”.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Not. The. Point. If the church was holding up its end of the bargain, less would be asked of government. Interestingly I just read a historical account in “When Helping Hurts” by Corbett & Fikkert, who make the case that the church in America started pulling back from its previously-held responsibilities to help the poor, around the beginning of the 20th century…well before the New Deal and similar programs.

      1. Armando

        Dan, thanks. I often think of what Jesus told the patron, what should I do to go to heaven? Jesus replied to the affect, give all your belongings to the poor and follow me……… sadly the wealthy patron preferred his wealth than to follow Jesus. Ironically, in our short stint on earth, we are born with nothing and when we die we leave with nothing. One of my favorite Saints as a boy and even still is San Martin De Porres. His was a strange relation with God, yet he was, in my opinion, favored by God. Martin, served the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised in the humblest of terms. I believe we all have a calling, but like the wealthy patron, is the now more important than the eternal? We have a choice……… 😇

        1. Dan Martin Post Author

          While true, I submit that unless you are Roman Catholic, that’s not your affair. The money American Protestants spend on our own comfy clubhouses would *also* feed multitudes.

          1. Suzie

            I agree; these “comfy clubhouses” could also feed many people, however, those buildings do provide a meeting place for Christians more than an opulent palace for millions of dollars in art, etc.
            if Jesus himself lived so humbly, why would men deserve anything more? I am speaking of all religious sects, not just the Roman Catholic Church. The wealth of the Mormon church is enormous too…my question is why is all that opulence necessary? Who deserves such lavishness? Certainly not any man walking this planet! Don’t preach to people about giving their last penny to the poor, and then rest your own head on silk pillows in a golden fortress…but that’s just my humble opinion.

      1. Dan Martin Post Author

        I cannot envision how that could be remotely possible, Kathy. Scripture repeatedly blames poverty and suffering on the oppression of the wealthy and powerful, not on the poor themselves. Proverbs might provide a few exceptions, but the prophets, the gospels, etc. are pretty clear on our own responsibility to the poor, which would not follow if that poverty is the result of disobedience.

        1. Kathy

          No, not directly. But indirectly, possibly so. God works in mysterious ways. Bottom line is to obey all His 10 Commandments and keep Him first in your life, then love your neighbor as yourself and help other people in their time of need. Praise God all day long, thank Him for the singing birds, the little rabbits hopping around, the flowering trees in the spring, and the beautiful leaves in the fall. He created this for our enjoyment. Enjoy it and THANK HIM all day long for it. Don’t take it for granted! Then blessings will come to you and then He wants you to use these blessings to flow from you to other people in their time of need. “Be quiet and know that I am God” and listen to the Holy Spirit who guides you. Don’t grieve Him. Forgive … don’t hold grudges against people. Consider the 3 angels message in Revelation 14. Seventh-day Adventist is AWESOME!

          1. Dan Martin Post Author

            Kathy, there is no question God wants us to obey him, and that in obedience there is blessing. But to tie wealth to obedience, and conversely poverty to disobedience, is to fly in the face of Scriptural teaching (particularly New Testament teaching). Perhaps more insidiously, such a perspective tends to create a false sense of security, even self-righteousness, among those with means, and a false and unjustified sense of self-blame among those without. All too frequently, it also gives the wealthy a wholly-ungodly excuse to bypass their duty to give to those less fortunate, on the rationale that their poverty is a punishment (or at least withholding of blessing) from God due to their spiritual state.

            The gratitude to which you admonish us is, of course, always appropriate.

            By the way, I edited the last bit of your comment. I’m happy to have links posted in comments when they are germane to the discussion, but generic ones such as a whole website devoted to SDA prophecy do not fit my definition of “germane.” And I would push back against your (common in SDA) claim that following the law as interpreted by Adventism is demanded or even desired by God. I’m quite familiar with the teaching, being a proud Loma Linda alumnus myself. Nevertheless, while I consider Adventists to be fully brothers and sisters in Christ, I grieve a church that seems (at times, and among some members; by no means all) to be more interested in converting other Christians to Adventism than in ministering to a world still in need of Christ. Those who wish are welcome to research Adventism on their own. And you are welcome to post specific links to specific articles germane to the OP (in this case, on Christian responses to poverty and to the hermaneutical approach to the passages referenced therein). Hope this clarifies the rules of the comment section … and welcome!

        2. gerri grijalva

          Yes, also how we use are money. Jesus taught about the prodigal son who was not oppressed by the wealthy, but was one. He foolishly blew through his inheritance on wine and women. Then he ended up slopping pigs and eating what they ate till he came to his senses.
          Also the old proverb a fool and his money are soon parted. In a perfect world maybe the government would supply all the needs of the poor. But it is our duty as Christians to help the poor. And there is a reciprocal to that in that not only does helping someone make you feel good you also receive blessings from the Lord. In Matthew 34 Jesus also gives a good example of serving the poor without thought for reward.

    2. Lee

      I know it seems strange and arbitary- but you see, that’s the point! if you and I were giving our meager portion, we would give to those we knew ; people we cared about … people who are easy to love and care for. Sadly the others- the different, the addicted and those who were “invisible” and unlovable to polite society. Jusus- and hopefully the state does not see needy people in that way but just see that there is a person in need. That is why someone like myself – all good and fine as I might be, may not be the best person to judge,… and give!

    3. Guillermo Perez

      Socialism is certainly not the answer.
      Statistically, Conservatives are alot more generous with their money than liberals. Liberals seem to like to be generous with other people’s money. That’s the problem with socialism. Tackling the problem of (sin) is the first order of business in addressing poverty.

      1. Dan Martin Post Author

        Guillermo, please don’t play the strawman game. Nothing I have written advocates socialism. Nor, frankly, does much which conservatives call socialism … the word seems to have become a shorthand for “not Western Capitalism,” as if those two are the only alternatives. But to your point … I do think that whatever the answer is, capitalism is decidedly NOT God’s approach. I suggest you take a look at this post on Jubilee and pay particular attention to the second half of the article, “Jubilee and God’s Economics.” Following God’s law in these matters would turn our present market capitalism on its head in some important ways — but these are NOT hallmarks of socialist governments either. God’s way challenges and condemns both socialism AND capitalism.

        To your second point, that “conservatives are a lot more generous with their money than liberals.” The only evidence I’ve ever seen for that comes from Albert Brooks’ book “Who Really Cares?” Is that what you’re referring to? If so, then I refer you to my critique of that book. Short version: Brooks did sloppy statistics, and furthermore made statements in his book that were unsupportable by the statistics he used.

        Your final sentence “Tackling the problem of (sin) is the first order of business in addressing poverty” is, in fact, true … but not the way you’re thinking. Biblically, it’s the sins of the wealthy and powerful that need tackling, not those of the poor.

  2. Jules

    Love that its not just me that’s noticed this. But go back in dutoeonimy a little furthur and you will find it says “there will never be poor amount you”. This is a fun contradiction at first but really Moses first lays down a perfect law where no poor would be amoung us, but because we are fallen and won’t listen, we will always have the poor with us. So Jesus is actually being ironic when he says it.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Yeah, the point that there are poor primarily because of the disobedience of God’s creation, and those who name themselves as God’s people, is Biblical, I think. Of course it flies totally in the face of those who loudly protest that the government ought not aid the poor because charity shouldn’t be forced . . . if for no other reason than how little UNforced charity they do.

      You’ll note I referenced the Jubilee law at the end of this post. I think that obedience to Jubilee would go a long way toward ensuring that no one is stuck in poverty for generations, at least.

  3. Jules

    I think your right, the jubilee and other laws attatched is exactly why moses says ‘there will be no poor among you’, but we are fallen and wont follow it as we should. therefore ‘there will always be poor with you’. I think there is a lot of charity done but not always of the right caliber, but as you say, maybe not enough. also I must say, I think that forced charity is wrong. For starters, it’s forced; dispite the fact it is effective or not, or enough or not. It’s wrong because of the force. Christian should not use force, nor use thretenings, nor use coercion, in my understaning of the bible. This is a small summation of what I’m taking about:

  4. Dan Martin

    With respect, Jules, I think the whole “forced charity” argument is a giant red herring. Taxation to provide education, a safety net, or other things is not “charity,” it is a society deciding that it benefits as a whole from a populace that is educated, has no one destitute, whatever. While “charity” may have similar effects, if society decides it’s citizens are less likely to be victims of crime, for example, if all of its citizens have sufficient education to get decent jobs, and if we remove the threat of starvation when one falls on hard times. then society can tax (coerce, if you will) its citizens to ensure that these goals are accomplished…not for “charitable” ends, but highly self-preservational ones. That’s the secular answer.

    The biblical answer is that the forgiveness of debts and the reversion of land rights (IMO the capital of the day, as land is the means of production in an agrarian society) are not commands (or invitations) to “charity,” they were law. The fact that the nation of Israel never enforced the law doesn’t make this any less true…and in reality their failure to enforce these laws is one of the oft-repeated sins blasted by the prophets as they warned of Israel’s destruction.

    Libertarianism of the “what’s mine is mine, I do what I please with it, and you have no business telling me I’m wrong” form is categorically not a Biblical stance.

    1. Rich J,

      Do not confuse giving out of a good conscience to the poor with taxation done by the force of law (at the point of a gun) is cannot be considered giving. It is at best misplaced intent, and a worst case it is appealing to covetousness (i.e. “make the rich pay”). Libertarianism is correct in attitude in reference to government, not in conscience to God and His laws. I think that is what applies to Jules comment.
      Yes it can be a form of refusing to help the poor (the red herring you describe), but it is correct in respect to Man’s laws. A government not guided by the morals and principles of Scripture, as clearly the Left is not, is also not capable of making the morals distinctions between someone who is too lazy to work or someone who is incapable. That is why it is the Church’s job not the government’s.

      1. Dan Martin Post Author

        The utter repetitiveness of these comments from conservative/libertarian Christians continues to astound me. But I think one sentence in your comment is telling:

        “A government not guided by the morals and principles of Scripture, as clearly the Left is not, is also not capable of making the morals distinctions between someone who is too lazy to work or someone who is incapable.”

        Where, I must ask, does Scripture give you the freedom, let alone the mandate, to make the ‘moral distinction’ you propose? And if you say 2 Thessalonians 3:10 (as I rather suspect you will), please take a look at the context. St. Paul is stating that dictum very specifically within the Body of Christ, and in fact using it to justify his own insistence on working for a living even while he preached the Gospel. To apply that verse to the church’s command to minister to the poor is simply not supported by the text (a text which, by the way, *also* includes the admonishment in 1 Thess. 3:13, not to grow weary of doing good). And of course Deut. 15:10-11, which I cited in the original post, applies no such conditions to giving.

        Finally, though, I reiterate once again that I have never “confuse[d] giving out of a good conscience to the poor with taxation done by the force of law (at the point of a gun)…” In point of fact I said precisely the contrary in response to Jules’ comment to which you alluded:

        “Taxation to provide education, a safety net, or other things is not “charity,” it is a society deciding that it benefits as a whole from a populace that is educated, has no one destitute, whatever. While “charity” may have similar effects, if society decides it’s citizens are less likely to be victims of crime, for example, if all of its citizens have sufficient education to get decent jobs, and if we remove the threat of starvation when one falls on hard times. then society can tax (coerce, if you will) its citizens to ensure that these goals are accomplished…not for “charitable” ends, but highly self-preservational ones.”

  5. Tim

    Just happened upon your website and it just happens I was thinking of this very topic. In a post above you write, “Anyhow, I have run across this verse abused by conservative Christians …” Would you post the website or source where you ran across this? I would like to read it for myself, know who said it and understand the context in which it was written. Was the speaker or author representing some mega-church or a pastor of some tiny, little church? More to the point, did this author have authority to speak for conservative Christians? I did not authorize anyone to speak for me and I am a conservative Christian.
    As written, your post clearly applies this view to all conservative Christians and the verb tense indicates you have run across this abuse more than once. Broad generalizations of any kind are rarely true. In my 48 years as a conservative Christian, I have never encountered any Christian, conservative Christian, properly trained pastor or any pastor at all propose or endorse such an interpretation of scripture. Such a view is not congruent with any form of Christianity I have ever encountered. Your generalization bore a false witness to your readers of millions or billions of conservative Christians. Do not be fooled. I am an equal opportunity defender. I defend liberals from false accusations as well as conservatives. Consequently, my conservative friends believe I drink the liberal cool-aid and my liberal friends believe I drink the conservative cool-aid. I have witnessed falsehoods destroy people so I like to defend people who are defenseless whether because of their absence or weakness.
    In addition, I am surprised you did not dismiss this view as that of a crank. It troubles me. It means this view fits in with your view, knowledge and understanding of conservative Christianity. Wow! You must have had some terrible experiences to foster such a view. There may in fact be some group whose teachings and actions are congruent with the view wrote of but please accept my word that such a group is not conservative Christianity.

    Consider an unrelated but similar situation, the Westboro Baptist Church. The WBC has been in the news the past few years for their anti-gay protests at military funerals and other events likely to get media attention. WBC is a loud voice getting a lot of media attention, sometimes claiming to speak for conservative Christianity, and at other times, the media presents WBC as a church representative of conservative Christianity. So of course, some of my friends believe WBC is some mega-church with thousands of members and representative of Conservative Christianity. However, WBC does not represent Conservative Christianity. WBC is not some huge mega-church with thousands of members but a tiny little church with around 35 members, (most of them are the pastor’s family or his near relatives). WBC is not affiliated with any known Baptist conventions or associations…” and as such does not submit to any doctrinal over site. Furthermore, numerous conservatives and Christian groups have publicly renounced the WBC. Read the Wikipedia article at However, people outside of conservative Christianity believe WBC is typical of conservative Christianity. Later, when some other crank spouts some ludicrous ideas and claims to be a conservative Christian, that crank and his ideas fit into peoples’ worldview of conservative Christianity and the distortion continues and even grows.
    I ask you to replace the word “conservative” with “some” in your original post. It would read, “Anyhow, I have run across this verse abused by some Christians, who were objecting to liberal Christians’ attempts to actually fight poverty, particularly using political means.” Your statement would still be correct, the thrust of your point does not change, and the discussion can continue as is. If however, part of your purpose is to present all of conservative Christians, or at least a significant portion of them, as ones who hold to the abusive view, then you have axe to grind and no amount of reason will stop you from bearing a false witness against millions of Christians.

    Thank you for reading.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Hi Tim, and thank you for stopping by. I think you may be over-interpreting my statement. The phrase “I have run across” this abuse hardly implies that I believe, or suggest, that all conservative Christians believe this way. For the record, I don’t believe this to be true…in fact I know plenty of conservative Christians who believe quite strongly in helping the poor. However, I have universally encountered this attitude (verbally in conversation; I’m sorry I can’t give you a reference), rare though it is, among people who style themselves conservative, and consequently I would be reducing the accuracy of my statement if I were to delete the adjective.

      That it was a fringe attitude, I don’t dispute. That wherever it occurs it’s an abuse of Scripture, I hope you don’t dispute. I do deny your charge of false witness, though.

    2. Helen Williams

      Why not use the BIBLE if you have a question that you need answered. It’s all there ! Don’t debate, Read the Bible. They have study Bible’s that explain everything you have to know.

  6. Tim

    Hi Dan,

    Thank you for your response. Like you, I reject the abusive application of Christ’s words that you encountered. Like you, I believe we are to help the poor. You have not written or implied otherwise, I just thought I should make a clear statement on my position. We are of like mind. With that said, I would like to clear up a few things from my post above.

    My only reason to comment on your use of the verb tense of “I have run across” is that it indicates you have run across this view more than just once. I do not know if you had two encounters or hundreds. My only point here was that you indicate it was not just one isolated incident. In hindsight, I should have left this comment out of my original post. It added nothing to my main point but was a distraction from it.

    Your thesis is that all conservative Christians believe that since we’d never get rid of the poor, it’s foolish for the liberals to try.” I arrived at this conclusion by your wording “I have run across this verse abused by conservative Christians, …” and then you explain the logic as “…if Jesus said we’d never get rid of the poor, it’s foolish for the liberals to try.” My challenge is that assigning this view to conservative Christians is wrong and that it bears a false witness of conservative Christians. Your thesis may be true of some small isolated fraction of conservative Christians but that is most your observations can conclude. At the very least, the wording is loose enough that readers could understand it as I indicate.

    In your last post, you write, “… I know plenty of conservative Christians who believe quite strongly in helping the poor. However, I have universally encountered this attitude” It seems you want to have it both ways. You know plenty of conservative Christians who to help the poor and yet you have UNIVERSALLY encountered those who do not want to help the poor. (Capital letters for emphasis) This contradiction perplexed me; however, I think I recognize the problem. Sometimes a writer wants to write all items in group A are also in group B, but incorrectly writes all items in group B are in group A. Imagine I was studying the plant life in some particular soil/moisture/climate type A and make a the observation that all the plant species in soil/moisture/climate type A also happen to be in vegetation classification Omega. Although this fact is clear in my mind, I incorrectly write that, all vegetation of class Omega grows in soil/moisture/climate type A.

    If I am correct, you encountered Christians who believe that since we would never get rid of the poor, it is foolish for the liberals to try. Furthermore, these Christians universally identified themselves to you as conservative Christians.

    With this, I must end my comments. Thank you for the dialogue, I have enjoyed it and look forward to reading your response. Please use or discard my comments as you see fit. I doubt, however, I will post anything more. My postings take hours for me to think through and I have already taken too much time away from my duties.

    Best regards,

  7. Dan Martin

    You’ve teased out the distinction correctly, Tim. I have heard the justification “the poor will always be with you” multiple times from different Christians, all of whom would have (accurately, I think) identified themselves with the label “Conservative.”

    My thesis is not that “all Conservative Christians” believe anything at all. My thesis, in fact, had nothing to do with the labels “conservative” or “liberal.” It had rather to do with the fact that a prooftext that I had previously heard used (as it happened, by conservatives) to defend the pointlessness of helping the poor, when taken in context actually meant the complete opposite.

    If you read around other articles on my blog, you’ll see that appropriate interpretation of Scripture is a central tenet of much of my writing and thought. As it happens, many of the *inappropriate* uses against which I argue come from those who claim most loudly, their belief in the literal words of the Bible…that is, those who style themselves “conservative” Christians. But it’s this point – right use or abuse of Biblical texts – not any parsing of conservative/liberal, that drives this post as well as the larger bulk of my writing.

    Peace, and come back soon!

  8. Heather

    Hi. Thank you for the above. I came looking for this information as my church pastor (wife of the head pastor) AOG told me they wouldnt support me showing the LIVE58 movie as it claims to show we can end extreme poverty in our lifetime and she believes that Jesus said the ‘poor will always be among us…” inferring like you say that we shouldnt be too concerned to want to help the poor. I was heartbroken by this response. My heart is for every person to be given equal dignity and a life with Jesus.

  9. Hope Forti


    We at Live58 are also saddened by responses like this and are grateful for perspectives like Dan’s (though we do have a following of both conservative and liberal Christians and we do not do this primarily through political means).

    In case you haven’t seen it already, I’d love to direct you to this video which speaks to your pastor’s concerns.

  10. John Carney

    I couldn’t agree more that we are called by Jesus to care for the widows and orphans, and the thirsty and sick and otherwise impoverished. But what I think secular liberals and “Reform” (for want of a better word) Christians tend to overlook is that Jesus, unlike Judas, was not primarily a social reformer. He was (is) primarily a humanity savior. I think that the purpose of His Crucifixion and Resurrection was to reverse the death sentence under which we all live thanks to the trickery of Satan. All the other evils in the world, like slavery and unbridled greed, stem from that. (Parenthetically another thing that secular liberals and reform Christians tend to resist is that “Yes, Virginia, there is a Satan clause.”)

    We ARE called to bring as much heaven to earth as possible for as many people as possible, but I believe that an even higher priority for Jesus was to bring earth to Heaven.

    IMHO, John

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      With respect, John, I think you’re setting up a false dichotomy. Look at the ways the Bible describes sin; most of them are behavioral, and a surprising number of them involve specifically how the people of God treat other people. The idea of setting up soul salvation as somehow of a different category than salvation of human relationships (and societies are nothing but human relationships on a larger scale) is completely foreign to the Jubilee way of Jesus. See my post on Jubilee and Advent for more …

  11. John Carney

    I also want to echo one of Tim’s comments by saying that it’s disheartening to me that so often when the words and actions of groups like the WBC are presented by the media, the impression is left – by the omission of any disclaimer to the contrary -that all Conservative Christians believe what they believe. For example, out the hundreds of conservative Christians that I know personally, I can think of only one who has ever said anything that impugns the character of homosexuals.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      You associate with an odd collection of conservative Christians then, John. I have attended fairly normal Evangelical churches for most of the last 25 years and have heard anti-gay screeds from dozens if not hundreds. Not sure what that has to do with a post on the poor though …

  12. Laura

    Let us remember, Jesus was addressing Judas, who was in charge of the treasury, and also happened to be a thief and a betrayer…I wonder If Our Lord was more concerned about the motives of the heart and judging others?

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      I’m not sure I follow your meaning, Laura. Whether Jesus was addressing Judas or all of the disciples is indicated by the fact that the “with you” in the original is plural, not singular. Since Judas was only one guy, we have to presume he was not the sole object of Jesus’ comments. And certainly the passages in Deuteronomy are addressed to all the people.

  13. Laura

    I always thought Jesus was admonishing in this passage the lack of spiritual poverty He was witnessing, after all the disciples must have known by this time the importance Jesus placed on giving to the poor. ‘The woman’ was only demonstrating her understanding of the ‘Jublilee’ that was about to take place in the upcoming Passion and Death of the Lord and his disciples missed the point. If we give to the poor apart from God aren’t we missing the point as well?

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      I think that is true, Laura. He’s definitely putting the disciples’ objection to the woman in perspective. However, the purpose of this post was to respond to the conservative abuse of the passage to diminish Christian duty toward the poor. You have already acknowledged Jesus’ teaching about the poor, so you’re clearly not in that camp. I don’t disagree with your interpretation; this post was merely to point out the erroneous interpretation of others.

  14. John Carney

    Dan, I have to say I didn’t express my intent very well, thank you for revaling it to me! :- ) I agree with everything you say. I didn’t mean that we shouldn’t take care of the poor, and I think that Jesus is our Lord as well as our Savior and He makes it very clear in several places that it’s at least as important that we do the things he asks of us as it is for us to proclaim our belief in him as our Savior. And despite the fact that I often tell people that the best Christian I know is a Jewish lesbian in the San Fernando Valley (since she does the things that Jesus asks of us better than anyone I know) – despite that it’s still important to Him that we recognize Him as our Savior. Actually … despite what I JUST said … I’m not convinced that will look any less approvingly at non-believers who love the way we are supposed than he does on professed believers who do the same.

  15. Karl

    Dan, like Tim I am a conservative Christian, have been for well over 40 years. I ran across your site in preparation for my high school Sunday School class related to serving. I’m interested in motivating my young men to a life of service, but also want to warn them of the “arguments” they may hear or fall into to take them away from serving. I love your presentation and support it. What I find missing in all the similar discussions, and the political activity, is avoidance of the extensive discussions against the sluggard. I agree there are the orphans and fully disabled whom we should do everything we can to help as they can’t help themselves. However, those capable of working, even if it is sitting at a computer and answering phones, should do so and not be on the charity rolls. Since society has changed and many women are in the workforce, this applies to widows as well. Our efforts should be directed towards taking care of these people through their transition, but they are to take a roll of standing on their feet. Even well intentioned Christian charity can establish a culture of dependency, like any other drug (yes money is a drug), which we should do everything we can to avoid. If those people we help choose to not take whatever work they can find (not just what they believe to which they are entitled) then we need to “shake the dust off our sandals” and leave them.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Hi Karl and thanks for your comment. I’d have several thoughts in response:

      1) My audience for this post was not the poor, but those who use Jesus’ statement to defend their refusal to help the poor. So admonition to the poor wasn’t really germane…we need to be confronted with our own sin, not lulled into complacency by a reminder of the fact others are also sinful.

      2) While the slothful poor do exist they are, at least in my experience, less common than the American conservative narrative suggests. More of the poor I have known work harder, longer, and with less security than the middle class and wealthy.

      3) While there are biblical admonitions against sloth, they pale both in quantity and force, in comparison to those condemning the comfortable for failing to care for the poor. So I guess in this case I find no need to be “fair and balanced…” ;{)

  16. Paul

    I believe turning over the responsibility of caring for the poor to the government is both unwise and un-Christian. Jesus said to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s. The poor belong to God and not Caesar. In the practical sense, feeding the poor is a valuable tool in getting their ear to preach to them the Gospel as Jesus did when he fed the multitudes. Government leaders also recognize feeding the poor is a tool, but not to preach the Gospel but to spread all manner of wickedness and deceit against our Lord and his Church. In addition, the Lord commanded his people to care for the poor. Forcing others to do it at gunpoint is not only disobedience to God but common thievery and is a self-deception. How nice to be able to fulfill the command to care for the poor simply by voting for politicians who jump at the opportunity to put the poor into dependence on them and their political party. How painless to be able to drive a nice SUV and have the latest big screen tv while forcing others to care for the poor. When Jesus encountered the rich man who had lived a exemplary life and obeyed the commandments and who asked Jesus what he must do to enter into heaven Jesus told him to sell all he had and give the money to the poor and to follow him. The rich man walked away sad because he was unwilling to give up the cares of this world. It is the same for those who are unable to give up the cares of this world and care for the poor and follow Jesus with a true heart but who choose instead to force others to care for the poor and conveniently take credit in their deceitful hearts because they voted for a politician all too willing to devour the poor for his/her own selfish purposes. It is well known that conservative Christians are much more generous in giving to the poor out of their own pockets than liberal Christians who have come to believe the state is their church. By getting involved in charity the state has usurped the responsibility that rightly lies with the Church for caring for the poor. We often hear the left sound the alarm of separation of church and state when a town puts up a manger scene at Christmas or posts the Ten Commandments at the courthouse but where is the cry of the hypocrites about the state taking over the province of the Church in caring for the poor? The reality is we live in a left-wing church/state today that seeks to bring the children of God into captivity with it’s cradle to grave entitlements. Who needs God anymore when the government is there to care for you, indoctrinate you with a different gospel, and to make you by your vote, a participant in the holocaust of the unborn which the left has wrought on God’s creation.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Paul, you’ve trotted out a lot of familiar conservative bromides, but your assertions could use some examination. Let’s look at them in order:

      1) Nobody here is advocating “turning over the responsibility of caring for the poor to the government.” In fact I have made the case pretty strongly that Christians ought to be known for their care for the poor. Unfortunately, we aren’t…in fact quite the contrary. But since you’re advocating a conservative position, I’ll assume you believe in market forces of supply and demand. If the church were so fully committed to serving the poor that they were all cared for, I assure you the government would get out of the business. Government programs for the poor are merely filling a demand gap that the church has failed to fill.

      2) You said “In the practical sense, feeding the poor is a valuable tool in getting their ear to preach to them the Gospel as Jesus did when he fed the multitudes.” The implication of that statement disgusts me. You seem to be implying that our aid to the poor must have conditions on it … “listen to my sermon or I won’t feed you.” Christian charity — if it’s really Christian — contains no such provisos. We are to feed the poor because Jesus commanded us to, not because it’s a foot in the door for our “evangelism.”

      3) “Forcing others to do it at gunpoint” is a bullshit argument. I’m sorry, but there’s no kinder way to say it. Nobody is forcing anyone to give at gunpoint. I know, you mean that the force of government is what provides for tax collection, which you are claiming to be theft. But go look at the federal budget … the vast proportion of which goes to defense, agriculture, business, and only a tiny fraction of it goes to help the poor in any way. Your argument, if it holds any water at all, applies far more to forcing me at gunpoint to support corporations whose business I wouldn’t buy in the free market, and forcing me to support wars of choice in countries that don’t affect me, than it does to forcing you to support the poor.

      4) You said “It is well known that conservative Christians are much more generous in giving to the poor out of their own pockets than liberal Christians who have come to believe the state is their church.” I challenge you to support this statement with facts. If you’re referring to Arthur Brooks’ book “Who Really Cares?”, I’ve read it and critiqued it at length (I need to dig that up and post it on this blog). He made a massive statistical case and then drew conclusions from it that weren’t in the data. In summary, Brooks’ data showed a strong correlation between religious practice (liberal or conservative) and giving, not between conservatives and giving. His interpretation didn’t match his numbers.

      Unless you have dedicated your life to caring for the poor, and challenging all your conservative Christian buddies to do the same, you have no business complaining that the government is stepping into the hole you refuse to fill. Render government aid unnecessary, and it’ll go away.

      But in the meantime, don’t yell about it being unchristian to advocate for the poor. I support and advocate for *anyone* whose actions make the poor’s life better, and oppose any actions that make it worse. That includes government programs. You want them cut, then replace them with with other supports first, not later.

      1. RichJ

        Dan, You are wrong in that one point, maybe more but this one caused me to react. For people unwilling to pay taxes regardless of the legitimacy of that reason, taxation is indeed carried out by people with guns. Force, by necessity backs up man’s law. That is why government should not be involved in the business of helping the poor. Continue reading that passage (John 12-:1-8). It becomes perfectly clear that Jesus is saying that what Mary is doing is preferable to “helping the poor.” There is a right way and a wrong way to help the poor. Pretending to care about helping the poor so that one can maintain control of carrying the purse and the ability to steal from it when desired is not a right way. (In case you missed the Democrats were just described)

        1. Dan Martin Post Author

          Asked and answered above … I guess I can thank you for illustrating the rigidity with which certain Christians refuse to consider the possibility that the Scriptures challenge their politics. I will let your comment stand, but will not allow this thread to devolve further into a left-right American political tirade. Please consider this if you wish to comment further.

  17. Paul

    1) Your answer is bullshit. I’ll use that term since you decided to use it (When in Rome, do as the Romans do). A committed Church is perfectly capable of feeding the poor but instead involves itself in silly and nonsensical politics, the business of building buildings, and in many churches a get rich quick scheme (the more you give the more God will bless you). Contrary to your answer the government is quite happy to be involved in charity as your political party uses it as a legalized bribery scheme to garner votes. It is clear for all to see who want to see. Every electuion year the democrats start talking about new aid and entitlements for everything from student loans to birth control. Your contention the Church would not be committed if government were to stop being involved in charity is simply speculation and an attack on the Church and nothing more.
    2) The fact you are disgusted by what many charities like the Salvation Army do; feed the poor but also use the opportunity to give the “meat” of God’s word and the “Living Water” of the Gospels as they are much more important than food and drink disgusts me but doesn’t surprise me. There is no implication of forcing anyone to listen to the Gospel. Apparently you have a reading comprehension problem as a “tool” and an “opportunity” are positives and not to be compared to forcing others to care for the poor by the force of government. You simply read into that what you wanted it to mean. But in fact preaching the Gospel is more important than food or drink. What do you think Jesus meant when he told Peter to “feed his sheep”? Do you really think he was speaking of food and drink alone?
    3) Comparing the amount of money spent in the federal budget for defense or agriculture or whatever to charity is absolutely irrelevant and a diversion. If God wanted to force us to give to the poor he is capable of doing it without the help or corruption of the government, but nice try. In fact God made it plain he wanted charity to be done both voluntarily and with a joyful heart. As far as your point about corporations I totally agree. I don’t think the government should subsidize corporations, period. A good example of this is now the government is forcing American to buy health insurance from large insurance corporations but you probably support this. As far as wars are concerned; there will never be a war fought that has the support of all of the people so we rely on the Congress to make this decision under our Constitution but regrettably both political parties have abused this and I don’t believe we should enter into any war without a declaration of war by the congress.
    4) You critiqued Arthur Brooks’ book. Okay you win then. Great argument! Refute the central premise with facts. Simple, right? Do it.

    In closing I guess I can answer your statement the same way you give it. Unless you have dedicated your life to caring for the poor, and challenging all your liberal Christian buddies to do the same, you have no business forcing others to provide charity and stepping into the hole you refuse to fill. Do this and legalized government bribery will go away and so will the monster that has cause the holocaust of millions of God’s children.

    But in the meantime, don’t yell about it being Christian to force others to do what Jesus commanded the Church to do. I support and advocate the free will God gave us in all things and abhor government programs that rob from one and give to another; even the next generation that is being buried in a mountain of debt which I find exceedingly evil.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      OK Paul, I responded like a jerk and you returned what I dealt out. I can’t criticize you for that, and I apologize.

      I do think that it’s still reasonable for me to protest that churches aren’t remotely close to addressing the need gap we have even with government aid, and that anyone who advocates for reducing such aid should see to it that churches belly up to the bar and demonstrate that they give a hoot about poverty before raging at the government for doing it. While I grant many conservatives believe government is merely trying to create entitlement dependency, I have to respectfully disagree on that point. We have nothing but each other’s word for that, but I can at least tell you, as one Christian liberal, that my analysis is a very simple “does this program (or eliminating this program) help or hurt the disadvantaged?” Having answered that question, I feel my support for or opposition to it is decided.

      I may have misunderstood your comment about ministry as a “tool” to promote the gospel. When you said “The poor belong to God and not Caesar. In the practical sense, feeding the poor is a valuable tool in getting their ear to preach to them the Gospel,” I heard an implication that the church should force the government (and maybe non-Christian charities as well) out of the business of helping the poor because somehow they’re muscling in on the church’s turf … as though (for example) the hungry should have to choose between starving or listening to us. That may not be what you meant, but I would certainly find that idea offensive in the extreme. While Jesus definitely taught the word as well as healing the sick and feeding the 5,000, there is no evidence that he conditioned the latter on hearing first. You said “But in fact preaching the Gospel is more important than food or drink,” and in one sense I agree, but this all hinges on one’s definition of “the Gospel.” If by this you mean what Jesus said in Luke 4:17-18 I’m all for it; if rather you mean the Four Laws I couldn’t be more against.

      I think we have a point or two of agreement in (1) a lot of other places federal funds are spent inappropriately and (2) the lavish spending people in churches do on their own buildings and programs and infrastructure. I still think that considering governmental programs that help the poor “forced charity” fails to take into account a myriad of other factors: one, as I already said, the tiny fraction of government spending that’s actually targeted at the poor (it ain’t much proportionally); and two, the fact that many such programs (e.g. education and public health) are done mainly to benefit the larger society in that educated and healthy people are less of a danger to us than poor and sick ones. So while I oppose cutting a government program whose primary target is the poor, unless and until the much-more-expensive programs that benefit the rich have been cut, I do not think it’s a question of charity so much as justice.

      As for Brooks’ book, I posted my review here so you can take a look at it if you wish. The short summary is that if Brooks’ study were a project in any serious statistics course, he’d get a C- or worse for sloppy math and sloppy inferences. His data are interesting … and if examined without his unfortunate conservative lens, I think they suggest strongly that the real divide between people who give and people who don’t is whether or not they adhere to some form of faith, regardless of whether they self-identify as “conservative” or “liberal.” That’s not actually so surprising, as with faith comes some sense of a morality and a responsibility greater than to oneself.

      In closing I apologize for my manner in yesterday’s response. I hope that having addressed you in a more civil manner, you’ll return the favor.

  18. Paul

    Dan, my beliefs are based simply on my understanding of Jesus Christ and what he preached. My politics are shaped by my faith and not the other way around. Therefore I reject the practices and beliefs of both major political parties to varying degrees. I am not interested in democrat or republican talking points. Nor am I interested in argument based on the federal budget, pointing to one bad behavior to justify another, or in fact any vain philosophy of man. I am a simple man and my profession is the same as my Lord’s was. I am a carpenter. I guess I fit the label; the working poor although I reject all such labels for myself other than “child of God”. My argument is a simple moral argument that I base on my understanding of what Jesus said and did. It seems to me Jesus was never concerned with outcomes when talking about giving and the poor. If he were, perhaps he would have offered the young rich man entry into heaven if he sold half of what he had once he had rejected the Lord’s instruction to sell all he had and give it to the poor. Certainly half would be better than nothing if Jesus was concerned simply about feeding the poor. What I take away from this is the desire Jesus has for our hearts to be pure and our willingness to follow him at all costs. I think this is evident again in the parable of the widow’s mites. Jesus again puts the focus on the condition of our heart. Did he criticize or call on the government to force more charity for the poor? Perhaps Jesus was teaching us outcomes would naturally follow the circumcision of the heart. God created us with a free will. I believe anything that perverts this is enmity with God. And of course I am not speaking of all government. To me, good government is one that protects the nation and individual from violence, is not predatory itself, and fosters the most liberty amongst the people. I don’t believe we should allow the government to make ANY decisions about social justice benefitting the rich or poor. Questions of charity and it’s proper role is the province of the Church and not the government. This is why I said ceding the care of the poor to the government is un-Christian. The poor belong to God and not to Caesar. the government is spiritually unfit to make such decisions. Your argument the void must be filled first can also be turned around; the government must be removed first before the Church can fulfill it’s proper role. I don’t worry about outcomes as my Lord sits on the throne. I try to be as true as I can to Jesus and what he taught us, stay away from entanglements with wickedness, and let God deal with the big matters over which I have no control. Did you know the Nazi Third Reich had one of the largest social welfare programs in history? It was also based on forced charity. I think God hated the filthy corruption of that regime and God judged it accordingly and I believe the same judgment may be underway for those today who corrupt and distort the Gospel of Christ and who share in common the murderous spirit of the Third Reich.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Paul, I think your reasoning contains several major flaws, where you believe you’re being influenced by the way of Jesus when in fact it comes out like secular Libertarian/Republicans (which doesn’t make the philosophy anti-Christian so much as simply “not Christian,” that is, not derived from Jesus). First of all, the discussion of influencing government is one we really can’t extrapolate at all from Jesus … he lived under a government that didn’t even have the illusion of accepting guidance from the people, and further made no claims about establishing freedom. In that setting, Jesus argued for ministry to the poor. He did not address the government simply because it was not open for addressing.

      On the other hand, the levitical law of the Old Testament has very radical legal controls (i.e. “government”-imposed) and regulations on finances (see this post on Jubilee for details). That’s the closest indication to what a God-designed government would look like economically, that we have. And IMHO it’s far closer to socialism (not the atheist 20th-century kind) than it is to capitalism.

      But finally, I really must protest your repeated claim of “ceding” the care of the poor to the government. I do no such thing, nor do those who have commented on this blog. It is the inescapable duty of every follower of Jesus to minister to the poor as he encounters them, and to frame his life so as to benefit and not harm the poor. All I’m arguing for is that we have no business opposing government efforts toward the poor–and, in a democracy, I think we have the right if not the obligation to support those efforts unless and until we have balancing efforts on offer that render those government programs irrelevant. Until then, if our politics (deliberately or not) causes one more person to go hungry or without basic human care, I believe we’re culpable. This is clearly a point at which we disagree. OK … go and do thou what thou can.

  19. Paul

    In the early Church Christians were tightly knit together and of the same heart and shared their possessions loosely, meaning they were not coerced or forced. In Acts 5 we see the sad story of Ananias and Sapphira who held back a portion of the profit of land they sold and lied about it. In addressing them Peter said; ” 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

    4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

    In this we again see charity as a voluntary endeavor and not forced upon the people and this is within the Church and not the government. But we are somehow to believe Jesus would approve of forced charity by a secular government?

    I’m perplexed as to why you believe free will is a Libertarian/Republican philosophy? It is perhaps Libertarian as they believe in free will but hardly Republican as they also support forced charity by the government but maybe to a lesser degree than the democrats.

    Non-Christian? That is pretty funny considering God created us with a free will.

    As to the government that existed in the time of Jesus; the Sanhedrin enjoyed semi-autonomous authority granted by Rome and this included taxing authority. Jesus advised the Pharisees and Sadducees on numerous matters but I can’t find him calling for a government solution in caring for the poor.

    Regarding your post about a Jubilee Kingdom; I’m all for it! But with a secular government capitalism is probably the best option.

    There is no need to protest my statement about ceding the care of the poor to the government as I am not speaking of individuals but rather the Church as an institution. I believe the Church should have fought government efforts to involve itself in what traditionally was the province of the Church. I believe the dwindling attendance is caused by the lack of zeal by young people to raise money to build another building and other silly things the Church is involved in now that a major part of it’s mission has been usurped by the government. The Church is vibrant and growing in places like Africa and China where it’s mission and work is still vital in people’s daily lives.

    Finally, you say; “if our politics (deliberately or not) causes one more person to go hungry or without basic human care, I believe we’re culpable”. Do you also believe if our politics (deliberately or not) causes the slaughter of 50 plus million unborn babies we are also culpable?

  20. Pingback: Sacred Treasures | Older Eyes

  21. Sharon Knox

    I agree wholeheartedly with Paul…above poster. The Church has numerous organizations that minister to the poor and thousands of individuals who give through their churches to organizations where 100% goes to the poor..”Bishops Famine Relief Fund” with my church…as well as helping with soup kitchens in their communities and giving one on one/face to face as those needy cross our paths. The government squanders money in myriads of ways…even through our public school system…but here is an insightful article of which you can find many more. BIG GOVERNMENT = BAD IDEA.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      I approved your comment, but deleted the link, Sharon. If you look carefully at the original post, it has nothing to do with whether “government” should have poverty-control programs or not; it has to do with what Jesus meant when he said the poor would always be with us. I do not reject all links, nor all that disagree with my own opinions, but I am not willing to have this blog become a place for advertising purely-political diatribe. I would appreciate if you would respect the house rules in this regard.

  22. James Waghorne

    I don’t know if this thread continues, but I would like to offer up another explanation. In Deuteronomy 15:4 God clearly states that the Hebrew Nation coming into their new land, not a one would be poor among them. No one. Yet just 3 verses later in verse 7 we see that changes and gets even more drastic by verse 11. Why is it that God went from everyone living abundantly in the promise land to the poor (even brothers and Hebrew) will never cease in the land? I find the answer in what is recorded during this anointing of Jesus. In John 12:6 Judas is immediately identified for his greed and thievery and only wanted the money for himself if they had sold the perfume. In both Mark 14:10-11 we see Judas leave and go to the Chief Priest to betray Jesus for the thirty pieces of silver as we do in Matthew 25 14:15. God has always known mans temptation of greed That even in the promise land given unto the Hebrew Nation, they could not live abundantly with each other in economic equality but that greed would lead poverty. Even when the Scriptures speak of a mans laziness,(sluggard or slothful) this in no way absolves us from doing what is asked of us. Isn’t being a sluggard in our compassion and giving, just as wrong if not more? For certainly there are many verses referring to this very thing and far more then Proverbs referring to a sluggard. Matt 25:35-40

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Welcome to the blog, James. This thread continues as long as anyone wants to discuss it.

      You have a point, I think. Deut. 15 starts out with the command to cancel debts every seven years, so that sets the context. Debt is certainly not the only factor that leads to poverty, but it’s absolutely a major factor. I can imagine God is saying “follow my way and nobody will be poor, but even if you slip up and somebody becomes poor, follow my commands and they won’t get stuck there. Either way neither the Israelites then, nor we now, have obeyed, as you have pointed out.

  23. chefwes

    The whole point being, Jesus Christ gave a huge example to his followers (and especially to the Apostles) about how to take care of and to care for the needy. This was manifested in Acts. Never, NEVER was it implied that by “taxation from the government” was to take the place of that giving and caring for, In fact, what we have seen is that “giving” to charities, or whatever, has been replaced by Taxation. People feel that they have “given” through their “taxation” (thanks to idiotic Liberals like you!) so they don’t “need” to give up of their hard earned fruits, because the “government” takes care of that for them! Of course, whatever the “government” largesse hands out is ONLY after all of the Bureaucratic salaries have been taken out (after all, the Bureaucrats work Hard for their $$ They have to count it all and they deserve it more than the poor do, for ALL their ” Hard Work”!) Yeah, I can just imagine Jesus Christ going through the US Government, overturning the tables of the “Money Counters” today, just as he did in the Temple, berating those who steal from the poor, as he did back then! You, sir, are no Christian, you are a Socialist! “Giving” when forced, is not “Giving” it is taxation, or more properly “Theft by Government”. It is no better than the Mafia’s “protection” rackets. In order to “give” it has to be done, freely, out of one’s own heart, NOT forced, as you seem to think!

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      I think perhaps you ought to re-read the OP, friend. If there is any place in this country (or any *other* country for that matter) where the church is so well known for “opening its hand” and “giving to the poor freely” I don’t know of it and would invite you to provide an example. Look at the old-fashioned notion of supply and demand … if Christians anywhere were to reduce the demand by really taking responsibility for helping the poor at a level and volume proportional to the need in their community, I’m sure the governments in those areas would be happy to focus their efforts elsewhere. Most surveys I’ve seen suggest that Christians average maybe 3% of their income for all giving, a large part of which funds their own worship centers, preaching/worship staffs, etc. No Christian dare raise the objections you’ve raised until his/her faith community steps up to the plate at a level heretofore unseen.

      Second, if you think that the debt-forgiveness envisioned in the Levitical law was strictly voluntary and not coercive, you’re a more optimistic observer of human nature than I am.

  24. Richard Jackson

    Dan, Thanks for the thought provoking article.
    I have seen evidence that indicates the Church (visible church) started turning away from devotion to Jesus around the turn of the 20th century maybe the late 1800s. Replacing this devotion to the Lord with various good works – mostly helping the poor. This of course is the road to apostasy. However, I do agree with you that it is the church’s job to help the poor not the government’s. Where I disagree is with your projected outcome. (Founding Fathers agree with me on this one) The government is not capable of doing this job and was not designed for it. (I remember reading where we were warned specifically that gov. should stay away from it). I also remember that one of the more recent Popes stated words to the effect that for the government to do the work of the Church it must become evil. He nailed it. Also the passage in question John 12:1-8, we are provided with a good and inspired analysis by the Apostle himself into the motives of those who would force others by law (gun point), to give to the poor. “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bore what was put therein.” If the politicians who promoted themselves by claiming to be helping the poor and disenfranchised actually cared about the people they claim to care about, they would abandon their various, badly failing, wealth redistribution programs and support a revival of Churches returning to their “first love” and the promotion of Christian-influenced free market capitalism.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Richard, I think you’re missing my point if you think I agree with you. First of all, I think the church en masse started turning away from the way of Jesus a lot sooner than the late 1800s … more like the second and third centuries when they started adopting authoritarian leadership in contradiction to Jesus’ notions of power (cf. Matt 20:25 and others); and even moreso when they adopted the power of the state in the fourth century and beyond.

      And your statement ” I do agree with you that it is the church’s job to help the poor not the government’s” completely misses my argument, as I hold that the church’s responsibility does not for one moment obviate all humans’ responsibility, whether in church, in government, or in their own personal lives. It’s not a case of either/or, but rather of both/and … and if you are serious about the church’s role then I say to you, as I said in the original article and as I say to my conservative friends all the time: get about the business of taking care of the poor with sufficient volume that the government’s intervention is unneeded. Until you have eliminated the problem without government, shut up about government’s role.

      Finally, if you’re opposing “wealth distribution” you’re taking the way of the rich young ruler, not the way of Jesus. God’s pattern for handling socioeconomic equality (see Leviticus, debt forgiveness and Jubilee) was far more redistributive than any Communist government, let alone any social program in the United States.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Not sure I agree with that … sounds dangerously close to prosperity gospel. I happen to have known plenty of faithful Christians who were materially poor — and biblically I think that says more about their wealthy brothers and sisters than it does about them.

  25. Allen Henninger

    Jesus was not talking about the Government feeding the poor, He was talking about the Church doing so. I think your confused on this point. Granted the Church has not obeyed this admonition well. But we can’t reinterpret Scripture because it’s not being obeyed.
    Particularly now that Marxist have taken over the Democratic Party, seems that serving Jesus in this way, or any other way, is definitely antithetical to their atheistic beliefs.
    I’m glad your investigating Openness Theology, hopefully through that you will get straightened out!
    Come back home to JESUS, MY FRIEND!

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Alan, I can only say that your point has been asked and answered repeatedly above. But for those who don’t care to read through the (lengthy) comments, I’ll repeat myself:

      1) If you want government out of the business of helping the poor, challenge the churches to be so obviously and prodigally generous that government’s help is redundant.

      2) Taxation to provide education, a safety net, or other things is not “charity,” it is a society deciding that it benefits as a whole from a populace that is educated, has no one destitute, whatever. While “charity” may have similar effects, if society decides it’s citizens are less likely to be victims of crime, for example, if all of its citizens have sufficient education to get decent jobs, and if we remove the threat of starvation when one falls on hard times. then society can tax (coerce, if you will) its citizens to ensure that these goals are accomplished…not for “charitable” ends, but highly self-preservational ones. That’s the secular answer.

      3) The biblical answer is that the forgiveness of debts and the reversion of land rights (IMO the capital of the day, as land is the means of production in an agrarian society) are not commands (or invitations) to “charity,” they were law. The fact that the nation of Israel never enforced the law doesn’t make this any less true…and in reality their failure to enforce these laws is one of the oft-repeated sins blasted by the prophets as they warned of Israel’s destruction.

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