The Christian’s Many Responsibilities

The Christian’s Many Responsibilities August 22, 2006


"The Bible instructs us to serve the needy
and the poor.  Does that mean Christians are only supposed to help people
individually and through their church?  Or are we also supposed to
support government programs for the needy?" 
  SC, Chicago

 


"The Bible instructs us to serve the needy
and the poor.  Does that mean Christians are only supposed to help people
individually and through their church?  Or are we also supposed to
support government programs for the needy?" 
  SC, Chicago

 

Voluntary charity or government programs
aren't an either/or choice. Instructions to help the poor, welcome the
stranger, and care for dependent widows and orphans are so prominent in
the Bible that people of faith should use whatever means they have
available to meet the obligation. That certainly includes voluntary
giving by individuals and religious groups (2 Corinthians 9).

 

Many of
us are also employers, managers, or policymakers in business.  Concerns
about justice are addressed to us in those roles, too, just as they
were addressed to the landowners and stewards in biblical times
(Leviticus 19:9, 13; Amos 8:4-6).

 

Finally, in the modern world, citizens in democratic societies are
in a position something like those ancient kings whom the Hebrew
prophets reminded about justice, mercy, and care for the poor (Isaiah
10:1-4; Jeremiah 22:11-17; Micah 6:9-16). We have to take
responsibility for what happens to the resources we dispose of as
citizens, as well as for how we handle our individual giving.

 

The Bible doesn't prescribe specific programs for meeting those
obligations, nor does it set up ideal ratios between voluntary charity,
workplace justice, and government programs. What it does is to shift
attention from questions about overall wealth and individual prosperity
to a concern for how the least well off are living. "Are you —
individually — better off now than you were four years ago?" is
sometimes a good political question, but it's not the main question for
people of faith. Our question is, "How are we treating each other, as a
whole society?" We should be thinking about that question in our
individual choices and our religious charities, but we ought to be
asking it of our elected representatives, too.

 

 

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