Myth #1: “Asking the government to care for the poor and weak means we are failing to depend on God.”
Not true. Most of God’s care for us takes place through the created order He has established, not despite it. “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), but our continued existence is usually a result of the forces and laws of nature that God designed to carry out His will–not because of repeated interruptions of those laws. God does, indeed, provide our daily bread, but not as unexplained manna from heaven; rather, it occurs as an effect of the natural processes by which sunlight and water are converted to food. The act of planting and watering crops is not an intrinsic statement that farmers are depending on themselves rather than God for their food; in fact, I’m pretty sure that there are few things quite as effective as farming at pointing out just how dependent we humans are on the Almighty’s care.
Does making use of the providentially predictable natural processes God set in motion at creation mean we aren’t conscious of God’s care? Well, maybe. After all, we are fallen and finite beings who couldn’t fit an adequate thought about God into our minds even before sin’s corruption broke them completely, and we humans have a well-documented bad habit of confusing creation with its Creator. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t “count” as Divine provision. In fact, only an ungrateful fool would reject all farm-grown food as not from God and stand around waiting for manna to fall out of a vacant sky. God does provide for us. But he almost certainly works through natural forces more often than he works against them. “This is my Father’s world; he shines in all that’s fair.”
How does this relate to government? Let’s turn to the end of Romans 12 (verses 17-19):
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”
The passage is unequivocal: It is God’s job, not ours, to take revenge; we are to leave room for His wrath. Now turn the page to Romans 13 (verses 1 and 4):
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God….They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
Didn’t we just read that God would handle revenge? Then what’s government doing in the picture…except for the fact that God delegated this authority to part of his created order–in this case, human government.
There’s no necessary contradiction between trusting in God while relying on his creation–not at the dinner table, and not in politics.
Does this mean that social services are best handled by the government? That’s a prudential question rather than a moral one, and one deserving of its own post.