Should not the rich provide for the poor? The typical logic to this is, “They have more and can spare more.” What is not said is, “They have more and I want more, I want what they have.” By saying this, I am not suggesting that the rich do not have a responsibility before God to aid the poor. This is obvious because whoever “oppresses a poor man insults his Maker” (Prov. 14:31). Notice also that to take care of the poor is a responsibility before God, not government. And why does it matter that it is before God and not government? Because God has riches and power of His own He does not need to skim off the top or get “a cut.” Not so with government precisely because they only have riches and power to the extent that they receive from other humans, usually through taxation. This is why Yahweh, with our Lord Jesus demonstrating this par excellent, has always been distinguished from the pagan gods and Ancient Near Eastern gods: Yahweh is not a God in need of man’s service unlike the other gods who are, to some extent, dependent on man. So what, then, is the problem with the poor wanting what the rich have? In response to this, we might wonder if Christians have forgotten the 10th commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that belongs to your neighbor.” So then, the response, “but they have . . . and I want” immediately falls condemned as covetousness. Even the Christian humanitarian who fights for the poors’ wants has to fear the 10th command. The command says that you shall not covet anything of your neighbor. It does not say, do not covet anything of your neighbors unless you are fighting for the wants of others or unless you are coveting it in order to give it to someone else. To fight for the wants of someone else is still to be guilty of coveting someone else’s stuff, to want and take someone’s stuff in order to give it away. What is often missed is that the humanitarian is indeed wanting something: what they want is something immaterial, however it is packaged: justice, prominence, power, glory, recognition, God’s glory, the promotion of the kingdom of heaven, Christ’s fame. The last three are particularly ironic since obtaining these objectives breaks the 10th commandment: “I want God’s kingdom’s promoted by coveting the goods of one person, taking those goods away, and giving them to others” (the goods here are wants, not needs). Of course, no one would say it this way. It would rather come out like this: “We are pushing forward the kingdom of heaven by seeking equality and justice among all people. I am not saying that people cannot fight for the rights of others or the essential needs of others or for the dignity of others; I am centering my attention on fighting for the wants of others. We should, therefore, inquire, any time we have conversations of this manner, into the definitions of wants, rights, and needs. How someone trying to act like Christ would respond in conversations about these will differ significantly based on both what is talked about (wants, rights, needs) and how these are defined. I have no doubt more can be said about the role of government in its task of regulating trade and so forth and ensuring equity among people in a community but I will have to save this for later, with a lot more space.
29 Tuesday Oct 2013
Posted Christ and Culture, Christ and the Politico-Economicin
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