Who’s in charge here?

On whether taxpayers have responsibility for the well-being of their neighbors, by means of government programs:

In the theocratic state envisioned by the Hebrew prophets (or even, in their critique of every nation) the responsibilities of kings was clear:  plead the cause of the fatherless and widow, demand justice for the poor.  See, for example, Psalm 82:3-4:  Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless, maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.  Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Nations were judged by how well their rulers implemented these simple principles.

In the United States of America, “we the people” (the voters and, yes, the taxpayers) are sovereign.  Therefore “we, the people” are under divine judgment if we fail to use our sovereign power to take care of the elderly, the disabled, the orphan and widows of our world.  “We, the people” as sovereign refers to our corporate role as king, which is to say, the government.  It is laudable for individual persons to do what they can by means of “charity,” but “we, the people” are not just an aggregate of individual persons.  We, together, are king, and as such are answerable to God for how well we rule.

Been meaning to say this for quite a while, but I think it is well worth bearing in mind this August as “we” (in the royal sense) debate with ourselves about health care.

15 thoughts on “Who’s in charge here?

  1. Thanks to SB, I found your blog. No, really, SB, THANK YOU!

    This is an interesting perspective; reasoned through logically, leading to the Truth. I love it!

    After spending time on a politcal forum and re-reading In His Steps recently (the last 2 chapters stir my spirit!), I am grieved. Some of the comments on the forum that allow me to see into the psyche of people who claim to be called by His Name, simply baffle me. Here is the common theme: “Healthcare isn’t a right.”, “Charity isn’t charity if it is taken by force.”, “Why should I be responsible for the result of someone else’s bad decisions?”. As a person with the gift of compassion that seems to be in overdrive lately, I am almost incapable of understanding their logic. My best “means to an end” argument to date sounds more like I am endorsing Robinhood than Jesus. Thanks for reminding us of the foundation of our constitutional republic and Hebrew law.

  2. What God desires and what you’ll be judged for is in your heart, not your wallet or your paycheck. God wants people to help the poor and needy because they truly want too, not because they’re forced too through taxation. What made King David, the author of the Psalm you quote, good in God’s eyes was that he was a man after God’s own heart, he truly wanted what God wanted. He wasn’t just a doer of the law.

    “We the people” are definately under divine judgement, mainly for the moral decline we are now in. Spending money we don’t have isn’t going to solve that problem. One of the biggest strengths America has is that our people have the ability to organize in any way we need to, to meet any challenge, be it through churches, charities, or buisnesses. And we can do those things because that’s what “We” truly want to do. Not because there’s a law that says we must. Why is it that people are so willing to give up all responsibility and power to the government? Were going overburden ourselves with our own laws and taxes. Which In turn will lead to less and less true charitable acts.

    That’s not the kind of help I want.

    “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” 1 chorinthians, 13

  3. I agree about the moral decline. Justifying international thuggery and torture in the name of safety; promoting lies in the name of security; grinding the faces of the poor in order to protect the interests if the wealthy; all these are outrageous moral failures in which “we the people” are complicit: failures perpetrated in our name by our government. I suspect, however, that the previous commenter did not have these sins uppermost in mind.

    What made David a man after God’s own heart was, among other things, his willingness to admit the truth and take his lumps when confronted with his own behavior. “We the people” are very, very good at admitting the sins of our neighbors, our political opponents, the people we would criticize others for associating with. Our own sins, and the ones we are complicit in or benefit from, not so much. Similarly, Jesus was criticized for associating with tax collectors; amazing how the favorite enemies of our present-day Pharisees are the same! But Jesus did not argue for tax revolt, even though they were under the heel of a pagan empire. How much less should we, whose government actually represents us! What if, as a matter of policy (as I have suggested elsewhere) a nation were to “do good to those who hate [us]” “bless those who curse [us]” – in other words, behave as an actual Christian nation by obeying the words of Jesus? What if “we the people”, because of the love of God that has been poured into our hearts, were to insist that our leaders do such things in our name? What if we assembled, not motivated by anger, but motivated by the very love which is so sadly lacking? What if we were to sell all that we have, and give to the poor (even if through a government agency), so we could truly follow Him? I’m dreaming, I know. Perhaps the commenter above already gives more than taxes would demand to charity, and is glad to do so. Or perhaps it is enough to have charitable thoughts, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled.” I don’t know.

    When Jesus told the rich young man to sell what he had and give to the poor, it was not because he had too much, it was because he was missing something. What he was missing, I suggest, was the ability to see beyond his own need for personal salvation. He was missing the capacity to actually care for his neighbor, so careful was he to do all the right things in order to get eternal life. When our heart is right, our wallets and our paychecks will follow. Too much concern for that wallet and that paycheck betrays something about where the heart really is. We could still learn something from David about repentance.

  4. What God desires and what you’ll be judged for is in your heart, not your wallet or your paycheck.

    But Jesus says: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

    God wants people to help the poor and needy because they truly want too, not because they’re forced too through taxation.

    Deuteronomy 15:11 “For the poor will never cease out of the land: therefore I command you, saying, You shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your needy, and to your poor, in your land.”
    Every command is summed up, of course, within the command “love your neighbor as yourself;” departure from this is the heart of our moral decline.

    (- the short version of the previous lengthy response)

  5. David, a man after God’s own heart. Selah, f’real. I truly want to understand what God desires/wants. I’ve found that the more I think I know what that is, the greater the depths of my PROFOUND ignorance are revealed to me.

    I am thinking of Matthew 17 and the temple tax. When Peter was asked if Jesus was going to pay the temple tax Peter answered for Jesus. (Hello. This is the Messiah, the Son of God, paying a temple tax, atonement money, the ransom… irony, anyone?) Jesus’ subsequent conversation with Peter leads you believe He did not feel obligated to pay this tax. However, since Peter spoke for him, He provided the means (supernaturally, of course, through Peter’s giftedness) to meet the obligation. He didn’t stomp to the temple and create a scene because He was misrepresented. He didn’t freak out on Peter because he obligated them to pay for something with money they didn’t have. He didn’t point out to everyone that they needed to pay, but He didn’t, because He was capable of making better decisions, so He didn’t need atonement. (LOL. You almost have to laugh at the attempts to make Jesus as fallible as we are.)

    So, I guess my problem isn’t so much with Binksy’s argument, because it also seems well reasoned and scripturally based – it’s the attitude I feel it is masking when I have heard it made by others. The question WWJD demands an answer when we confess Jesus as our Lord. From that moment on we are to earnestly seek and answer that question for ourselves, based on our individual situations and our personal relationship with the Lord. The above is one instance where the Lord was obliagted to something He should have not been. I ask myself, how did he respond? This is what I know about Him, therefore, I should be compelled to respond with the same attitude.

    Revr points out what should be obvious… the church isn’t doing her job. If the church were doing her job, there would be no need for the public policy demigod machine to provide the solutions for the depraved situations we find ourselves in. If the church were doing her job, people would be looking to the church for the answers and actually finding them. Why don’t they think the church has the answers and the government does? Because we don’t present ourselves as Christ did and the current government uses words like “hope” and “change”. We are about the business of the Pharisses, caught up in our religiousness, clutching our “traditions” with a death grip, condeming those who don’t measure up, defending our contradictions, and basically extincting ourselves because of our irrelevancy. We use words like “love” and “peace”, which have proven themselves to be conditional when we say them.

    If the church can pour resources into lobbying government for the rights of the unborn and the “sanctity” of marriage… why can’t we show the world we also care their health and well being using the same vessel? I need to see the contradiction. Can someone please show me why one cause is worthy and the other is not? Is it really just the means to the end?

  6. Manders, your last paragraph puts me in mind of a discussion that occurred a few days ago on another blog, where I sort of raised the same question. In the context of that discussion, I said:

    It’s obvious that many commenters here agree that governments not only cannot, but apparently morally should not, be in any sense Christian. Almost all, however, have missed my point that in the uniquely American experiment, the government is not some “them,” it is us, “we the people.” We are sovereign. We are king in this country. And kings absolutely have a moral responsibility to uphold the well-being of the most vulnerable of their subjects, to defend the powerless against the powerful.

    Methinks many on the cynical right would doubtless shout an Amen to what I just said, if and only if I were to restrict my definition of “most vulnerable” to the unborn, and exclude the elderly, the ill, the unemployed or the uninsured.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

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