As part of the ongoing Patheos 2012 election coverage and commentary, I am opening up my blog for Presbyterians to answer this week’s question, “What are the key issues at stake in this election for people of your tradition?” I gave no guidance other than to keep it around 500 words and to avoid bashing and dehumanizing rhetoric. If you would like in for this week, message me via my FB Page.
Next up, Laura Garwood Meehan -
Proverbs 19:17 (look it up)
I am Christian, Presbyterian, and have been from the cradle. One of the reasons I vote the way I do is because of an issue that was dear to Jesus’s heart: the poor. So often, there is a heartbreaking callousness toward their plight in this country. I’ve been told, straight faced, by fellow Christians that if you even give “those people” food, it will “enable them to mismanage their money.” I guess I missed the lesson where Jesus cautioned against enabling the widows to mismanage their money.
Jesus didn’t seem concerned about the reason people were poor, begging, or otherwise in trouble. We just hear this, in Matthew 25:34–40:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
The King goes on to tell those on the left (ha ha, I know) that they will be cast into the fiery place for failing to do the same.
We hear repeatedly, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1). And yet we persistently judge those in need. They should have worked harder. My father pulled himself up by his bootstraps; why can’t they? Why does her family get food stamps, but here she is, buying cigarettes?
We are to take care of and love those who are weak. It’s all fine to say that that is not the government’s job. But who else can do it? Even if you want to argue for a small centralized government with few programs, the states can’t do it, especially my broke state, California. Our churches are hurting and our food closets are shutting their doors. Many who claim the government shouldn’t do it also strongly look down on individually giving to people on the streets. So if the churches can’t do it, and the states can’t do it, and the individuals won’t do it—does anything about Jesus indicate that we should just let them starve?
Does the Bible allow for “Someone else will do the right thing”?
In closing, I often hear the maxim about giving a man a fish versus teaching him to fish used as an excuse for cutting back on aid. But don’t we need to do both? Doesn’t he need a fish to get him through the crisis? Jesus didn’t hand out fishing lessons; he did divide up actual fish among a hungry crowd. But I also value teaching him to fish. I call that education. It also must be funded, and both that and feeding people may take some sacrifice on our part. But it’s the right thing to do.
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