“Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” – Matthew 25:45
Brian McLaren and many of the emergent persuasion (whatever THAT happens to be today!) are very fond of quoting this particular verse to justify their social Gospel (née liberal politics, which all of a sudden has become ok to discuss since it's not us right-wing conservative Christian Coalition nut jobs! But I digress!). But in order to accomplish that noble aim (at least it is on the surface), does it not take some sort of fiscal and economic responsibility in order to properly fund the efforts? And who is ultimately responsible for taking care of the poor anyway? As with everything in life, the first place we need to go for the answer is the Bible with a good understanding of Biblical theology. Next, we need to gain a firm grasp on the principles of economics and how they interact with theology.
While there are those who through no fault of their own have great disabilities, such as handicaps, illness, and temporary setbacks of all sorts, the primary responsibility for each person's well-being is ultimately their own. “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). But beyond this, the Bible does teach in Matthew 25 that we should give as though we are giving ultimately to Him. This is a solid case for benevolence ministry within the church (and every church should have a benevolence ministry).
Where most of the left-of-center brethren miss the mark is when they assume that government should be involved in benevolence. (I also find it interesting that the same brethren who created the Matthew 25 Network are the same ones who would downplay the encouragement to investment (Oh no! Not CAPITALISM! OH THE HORROR!) in verses 14-30 and the references to a place of eternal torment referenced in verses 30 and 46) According to the Constitution of The United States, the federal government is instituted primarily to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Notice that it does not “provide” any welfare, just “promote” the “general” welfare. Welfare is not the job of government because once that Pandora’s Box is opened (as it now fully IS open!) people realize that they can obtain basic sustenance from the government and then there is no incentive to get off of the dole. It is a catch 22 because many who attempt to get off the dole end up making less money at a job than they were on the government program they were on previously. This is a true disincentive to finding work and gaining independence from the government.
Also, when the government tracks programs by how many people are on the program, there is also no incentive to actually help the beneficiaries get off the program and fend for themselves. Ultimately, these welfare programs, while they may have had some who pressed for them with a pure motivation of compassion for those in need, end up as a source of power and control for those creating and running them. With economic education so inept in our schools and universities, it’s no wonder that so many people fall for the lie that government can actually do it better than the private sector. The information is available, however, in works by Thomas Sowell (Basic Economics), Thomas W. Hazlett (Public Policy Toward Cable Television), Friedrich Von Hayek (The Road To Serfdom), Ludwig Von Mises (Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis), Adam Smith (The Wealth Of Nations), and Milton Friedman (Capitalism and Freedom).
But how are charity, economics and theology reconciled? There is a book that has just been released (it is definitely on my wish list) that appears to fill the bill. Author Jay Richards has authored “Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem.” and was interviewed by one of my new favorite authors, Kevin DeYoung, co-author of “”Why We're Not Emergent, by Two Guys Who Should Be” (By the way, I highly recommend this book!) and quoted on the “Between Two Worlds” blog (one of my favorites!). Here is a direct quote from the interview:
“KD: On page 35, you write “Spiritually you're better off a little mixed up about economics than indifferent to human suffering. Economically, though, only what you do is important, whatever your reason.” This seems to be a very important point for the book. What are you trying to say in these two sentences?
JR: When I wrote: “Spiritually you're better off a little mixed up about economics than indifferent to human suffering. Economically, though, only what you do is important, whatever your reason,” I was trying to balance but capture Gilson's “Piety is no substitute for technique.” To me, this is one of most important points I've tried to make. Motivation IS important when we're considering our spiritual state before God. It's just that our motivation for a policy has nothing to do with the real world effects of the policy. I think that Christians often weight our (and others') motivations far too heavily on economic matters. It's as if we think feeling bad about poverty is more obligatory than actually doing something that helps the poor. For instance, several times in churches I've pointed out why minimum wage laws don't really help the poor in the long run. I've never had anyone try to debunk the argument, but several times I've received the complaint that my argument shows that I'm not really concerned about the poor. It doesn't of course. But even if it were evidence that I weren't concerned about the poor, the argument's validity (or lack thereof) would remain the same.”
This is a great point. I have struggled with the motivation question all of my life. “Why” do we do anything? As Christians, we should be concerned for the poor and help in any way we can. But this will take fiscal discipline that is glaringly absent from the minds of most Americans today (especially politicians, from both sides of the aisle, I might add!)
“Money, Greed, and God” promises to be a beneficial read, at least from the reviews that I have read. I am looking forward to it!
>I just read an excellent series of blog posts by Cameron Buettel at The Bottom Line with 5 observations on witnessing to atheists, using the “Atheist” debate on Nightline in 2008 and the third chapter of both the Gospel of John and Paul’s letter to the Romans. It captures the emotion that many evangelicals were feeling after the debate (including me, I’m sad to say!) that Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron failed to “go for the jugular” and decimate their opponents.
But wisely, Ray and Kirk had no interest in just “winning” the debate. Honestly, what would that accomplish? Our calling as God’s chosen is to “preach the Gospel to every creature,” (Mark 15:16) so if we go in with a “Commando Christian” attitude, all we are going to do is cause those on the other side to hunker down in their position even further. Let’s face it. When it comes to “debate,” people already are set in their ways and are not interested in changing. Paul in Romans 3:11, makes it clear that there is none that seeks after God. If any change is to be made in the heart, it must be facilitated by God Himself and the way that happens is through the preaching of the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).
Bottom line, again apologetics is a powerful tool that is best used for those who are at least leaning toward faith in Christ and just need a little nudge or for the Christian who struggles with a lack of faith. But for the ones with whom we are sharing our faith (you ARE sharing your faith, aren’t you?) apologetics is our last card, not to win the debate, but to allow God to populate His kingdom how He sees fit.
As I have said before, I love absurd humor. There is nothing better than absurdity being illustrated by the absurd. It reminds me of a sketch that I saw from Monty Python about two Australian brothers who hunted mosquitoes for their wings (I think a fully intact mosquito wing could bring n as much as a 3rd of a penny!). They brought so much firepower to catch these little bitty insects that it was absolutely hilarious. The most memorable line was when one brother said in a thick Australian accent (which just made it funnier), “People say why don’t you just use fly spray? Well, where’s the sport in THAT?”
Anyway, this came to mind when I was cruising around YouTube and found this one guy’s channel that took aim at a number of evangelists and street preachers affiliated with The Way Of The Master, some of whom are good friends of mine. He just literally lampooned them by using outrageous video clips, none of which came from WOTM, in essence propping up his own straw-man argument. He claimed to be a Reformed Christian but in some of his videos, he used clips with absolutely vile language and when I called him on it, he not only defended his use of the clips, he actually used some of the language to describe what he thought of me! Now, I’ve been cussed out in much more creative and colorful ways, but I certainly didn’t expect to have it happen from a “so-called Christian.” In my exchange with him, I was merely trying to get a coherent Biblical foundation on which he was building his opposition to WOTM and could never get one. All I got was ad hominem attacks, circular reasoning, straw-men, and profanity. My favorite was when he called me a “spineless jellyfish!” That one was a real crack up! Talk about a coherent well-reasoned response! But, I finally cut it off after the profanity and quoted to him Proverbs 9:7-9 (ESV):7 Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. 8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. 9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
So I left him saying that it was up to him whether he was a scoffer or a wise man. Sadly, it seems to be the former and he will still be polluting bandwidth with his particular brand of hatred. But as an American, he has the right to be a scoffer. God can deal with him however he pleases, and that is more than satisfactory for me.
So what is the point of this? One thing this guy brought up in one of his videos is the use of apologetics when evangelizing and totally blasted Ray Comfort in particular for not answering direct questions regarding apologetics. Apologetics are an important part of the Christian faith and can be useful in evangelistic settings. But they must be carefully used. I view apologetics like major firepower and when used without discretion for the purpose of just winning an argument, they become like using a bazooka to catch a mosquito! Apologetics are useful when a person is genuinely interested in knowing whether or not the Bible is true, if God really exists, and if He really did create the world (in 6 literal days, I might add!). The important thing though is to get the conversation back to the conscience and to heart matters. (Romans 10:10a, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” This is the area that galvanizes a person’s convictions and worldview and is where we must spend the majority of our time.
So when you are out there talking to people about their soul (you ARE doing that right?!), keep the heavy firepower close, but don’t pull it out too soon and only use it sparingly to get the conversation back on track. Don’t blow away the “mosquitoes.” Find the sheep!
>I admire people who in the face of opposition take a firm stand on their convictions. We recently witnessed such a case during the Miss USA Pageant when a liberal, openly gay blogger by the name of Perez Hilton (aka Mario Armando Lavandeira) who served as a judge in the pageant, asked Miss California, Carrie Prejean, “Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?”
Prejean then answered:
“Well I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one way or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. You know what, in my country, in my family, I do believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there. But that’s how I was raised and I believe that it should be between a man and a woman. Thank you.”
It sounded to me like a total setup question because Carrie Prejean was not secretive regarding her Christian faith. Because of her answer, Perez Hilton gave her a zero and after the pageant went off on a sniveling little tirade that was like a misbehaving little toddler that just didn’t get his way. Now, I’ll admit. I’m not aware of everything happening in pop culture, but I had never even heard of Perez Hilton. Apparently, he is one of the most belligerent homosexual activists out there, so it’s not surprising that he would stoop this low. Canadian writer Kathy Shaidle had the best quote. “Getting Perez Hilton to judge the Miss USA Pageant is like getting Ray Charles to umpire the World Series.” Kind of helps us see a heterophobe (and I don’t use this term lightly) like Perez Hilton from a different perspective!
But on the other hand, why in the world is a professing Christian in a beauty pageant like the Miss USA Pageant anyway? I am sorry that she had to endure such an immature little crybaby and his wrath just for answering his question honestly. However, not being a big fan of beauty pageants, anyway, I was rather shocked at video footage shown on the news of the swimsuit competition and saw the suit Miss Prejean was wearing and was rather taken back. It certainly did not leave much to the imagination. A basic understanding of theology should enlighten all Christians as to the importance of modesty.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, the result was shame and they realized that they could no longer be open with each other and were now guilty before God as lawbreakers. It was then that God Himself intervened, slaughtered a lamb and covered them, both physically and spiritually in a beautiful type and shadow of the sacrifice on the cross by Jesus Christ. This is why we still need to practice modesty in public. Number one, because it is a sign of our fallen nature and that we cannot approach a holy God in our sinful condition. Number two, it is a sign that we are to keep ourselves pure for our spouse and open ourselves only to that person, which is a wonderful picture of the love that Christ has for the Church.
However, my criticism here is mainly for individuals and large ministries that have jumped on the bandwagon that Carrie Prejean is a role model for Christian women everywhere. Miss USA is not an enterprise with which a Christian woman should identify. It appears that even my beloved “Alma Mater” Liberty University has leaped aboard with abandon and even given Miss Prejean a full scholarship. I just feel that by doing this, the university could be accused of guilt by association and inconsistency regarding “family values.”
Ingrid Schlueter of Slice of Laodicea blog makes a great point (You can read her entire post here) After citing a report that six weeks prior to the pageant, Miss Prejean had breast enhancement surgery, paid for by the Miss California Pageant by the way, Schlueter said:
“Carrie Prejean is a type of the evangelical church in our culture. Simply Jesus is not enough. We augment the message of the Gospel with flesh to attract admiration from the unregenerate. The fakery that produced the body of this woman is the embodiment of the fakery of the false church in America that is in bed with the world. The church yearns for a crown from the world—a crown made of fake gold with rhinestones. The crown of righteousness from Jesus Christ is discarded in favor of the swill of this world’s corrupt system. It is right and fitting that this beauty pageant contestant is being upheld, because in all honesty, a nearly naked woman, strutting her surgically enhanced body parts in front of men while mouthing moral platitudes is the very picture of the carnal church today. Weep.”
I think we do need to weep. Is our faith in the Gospel so bankrupt that we have to have a worldly example in order to authenticate it? Why can’t the Gospel stand on its own merit? I believe it’s because we don’t have the intestinal fortitude to put our full faith behind it. We need to stand with Paul who said in Romans 1: 16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
My hope is that in the future, Carrie Prejean will turn away from the traps of beauty pageants. It just brings to mind Proverbs 31: 30 “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.” Now THAT’S a bandwagon worth jumping on!