By Nathan Tucker
Bob Beckel recently attacked the Republican budget as something written by the devil. Calling Republicans hypocrites, he stated: “I have always been amazed how Republicans wrap themselves around God and the Bible and they go out and vote for something that punishes the poor and the least among us when the Bible says in 2,000 different places, 2,000, that we are to help the poor and those among us who are the most needy.”
He is hardly alone in his interpretation of Scripture. Jim Wallis and other social justice leaders have issued a statement decrying the Republican budget as a “starkly immoral budget.” They continued, “the Bible confronts every Evangelical lawmaker with more than 2,000 verses which call us to defend the poor and vulnerable.” They argue that “the budget debate has a central moral dimension. Christians are asking how we protect ‘the least of these.’ ‘What would Jesus cut?’ ‘How do we share sacrifice?’”
But of those 2,000 verses, they are unable to cite a single one that commands the government to alleviate poverty. Whenever the Bible speaks of the government’s role towards the poor, it is always about what the government must not do rather than what it must do.
Isaiah 3:14-15, for instance, states that: “The Lord enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: ‘It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?’ declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.”
Again, Isaiah 10:1-2 declares: “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”
Jeremiah 22:17 rebukes the kings of Judah because their “eyes and [their] heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.” Ezekiel 22:29 condemns “the people of the land” because they “practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice.”
The only thing Scripture requires of government is the equal protection of the law. Proverbs 29:14 promises that, “If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will be established forever.” Proverbs 31:4-5, 9 declares that: “It is not for kings, Lemuel—it is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights…Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Justice in Scripture, therefore, is not defined as the government oppression of the rich on behalf of the poor, but rather as the absence of all government oppression. It is not about redistribution of wealth, but about impartial treatment. Exodus 23:2b-3, 6, for instance, declares that “When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit…Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.” (See also Leviticus 19:15.)
Even the Sermon the Mount, the passage of Scripture which President Obama said should ”guide our public policy” and in which he found a moral right to civil unions, says nothing about government coerced charity. In fact, the passage’s only reference to the poor is the admonition that, “when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”
So before the social justice league denounces Christian Republicans as hypocrites, they should take Obama’s advice that “before we get carried away, let’s read our Bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their Bibles.”
Responsibility for the poor is simply an individual responsibility, not a governmental one. Far from mandating coerced charity, Scripture prohibits any form of legalized plunder—”using the law to take from one person what belongs to them, and giving it to others to whom it does not belong.”
“Social justice,” therefore, is a perversion of Scripture; it is a religion of statism rather than of God. An oxymoron, coerced charity is nothing less than legalized greed disguised as a religion of love.
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