Buttprints in the Sand: Christians & The Role of Government

I adapted the more famous version of this poem for a sermon a few years back, and it seemed like a good (and hopefully fun) anchor for a post on the role of Church and Government and factors Christians should weigh when voting and picking political sides:

One night I had a wondrous dream
Two sets of footprints there were seen,
My Lord and I walked hand and hand
And left our footprints in the sand.

But as I watched our tracks progress
Suddenly, to my great distress
Only one set of footprints I did see
And I wondered where my Lord’s might be.

So I asked him why, when I needed Him most
I would be abandoned by the Lord of Hosts?
He said, “My precious child, I thought you knew
That was when I carried you.”

But then some stranger prints appeared
And I asked the Lord, “What have we here?
Those prints are large and round and neat
But Lord, they are too big for feet.”

“My child,” He said in somber tones,
“For miles I carried you alone.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait.”

“The Least of These–they needed care,
But you were selfish and wouldn’t share.
You focused on money and bedroom rules,
Forgetting love and forgiveness are my primary tools.”

“You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk of faith, you would not know,
So I got tired, I’d had enough,
And I dropped you there right on your duff.”

“For there comes a time when you can no longer ride
Where, if you’re to walk in faith, you must decide
Whether to rise and take a stand,
Or just leave butt prints in the sand.”

That poem provides a nice context to tackle one of the biggest questions in this election: the role of government. It’s one of the clearest differences between the two parties. And it’s one of the most important questions Christians need to deal with. Many simply do by saying, “the Church could do a better job than government,” or “caring for the poor is an individual responsibility and shouldn’t be left to government.” I think the Church could do a better job (in most cases) of caring for the poor than government…if it actually answered Christ’s call and did the work. The problem is we’re not.

If only weekly church-attending Christians tithed, the Church would have more new money coming in than the entire U.S. domestic budget. Again though, we’re not. You may be, but the Church isn’t and we’re leaving huge gaps that struggling families are falling through.

The problem in America isn’t that government is doing too much. The problem is that Christians are doing too little. And this is the political question: Where should our energy and resources be focused? What witness do Christians want to make in politics? Should we focus on tearing down the only safety net that exists for the working poor, or on lifting them up so they don’t need it anymore?

Rather than focusing on cutting Medicaid and school lunches and Section 8 Housing—thereby leaving families depending on those programs to make ends meet with nothing—Christians should be working to make those programs unnecessary. We wouldn’t need free school lunches if we had enough food pantries. We wouldn’t need Section 8 Housing if we built enough Habitat Homes.

Jesus made it quite clear that faith is about more than ourselves. As the Book of James says when talking to the early Church about the sin of giving special privileges to the rich and ignoring the poor, “You believe in God? Good for you! Even the demons believe in God…and they shudder.”

Faith requires relationship with God, which is then reflected in our relationship with others. There was only one time in the NT where Jesus lays out the criteria he would use to judge the world: Matthew 25, the story of the sheep and the goats, “whatever you do unto the least of these.”

In a Democratic system where our government represents us and should reflect our values, Christians need to ask if the right way to vote is for the Party wanting to cut support for the least of these and increase government support for the wealthy? There are ways to justify such a decision with Ayn Rand and trickle-down economic theories, but it’s really hard to do with the Bible (if you haven’t seen it already, check out our Guide to Scripture, Politics, & the Budget).

Twitter: @SappEric

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  • Frank

    The answer is to challenge the church not surrender to the government. Not to mention the waste and mismanagement of the government.

    Thanks but given that and the fact that the Dems support unrestricted killing of unborn children, I cannot as a Christian vote Democrat. That and Obama is a disaster and we cannot afford another four years of the same

    • Jennifer

      Frank,you obviously missed Christ point,which is the point. As a Christian,I cannot vote Republican. Saying that Obama is the problem for the last 4 years is like saying the coach is responsible because the player dropped the ball! I’m sorry you are not pro-life you are pro fetus,which means that after the child is born you do not support any programs to help that child live a quality life. Jesus didn’t talk about abortion,he talked about “the least of these”,meaning the poor,sic,elderly. So you as a Christian will support Atheist ideology instead of Christian ideology.

      • Frank

        No it’s you that missed Jesus’ love for all children unborn or born.

        And you only weaken your position by claiming that those against the killing of the most innocent do not work for or care for the poor born. It easier to maintain your position by throwing out this mischaracterization but in no way can you justify supporting killing unborn children. You will have to answer for that.

        • Lisa

          Frank, I might actually BUY INTO what you’re saying, except for the fact that so many on the right seem to want to not help provide a TEMPORARY safety net for the poor people of this nation. I am a Democrat but tell you this now: being a Pro Choice Democrat does not mean that I am just JUMPING UP AND DOWN with glee every time someone considers or goes through with an abortion…..I’m just not going to stand here and tell them what to do and EXPECT them to do it. And, too, just an FYI, Pro Choice means that there is indeed more than one avenue available. If someone were to actually ASK me what my opinion was re. what to do, I’d so make sure and mention the adoption avenue, as well as abortion. In the meantime, I think the main point of this particular sermon is not even remotely abortion. It’s about giving a helping hand to those who ARE here, and in need. I for one am NOT a one-issue person – there’s too much going on all around us at once, and to focus just on abortion is not answering ANYTHING. Maybe you think that God’s gonna punish this nation over abortion. But don’t you see that it runs much deeper than that one thing? Those who suffer the most from poverty are the children that ARE here. What do you do for THEM???? That, my friend, is where you, me, and the rest of this country will be judged. Don’t you remotely believe that is where God is watching us???????????

          • Frank

            Keep trying to justify the unjustifiable while over 6000 unborn children are killed each week, only 3% due to rape, incest or the life of the mother. Jesus was talking about the “least. “There are no more “least” than the unborn.

  • kalim

    I want to share this sentences From Risalei Nur collection by Said Nursi

    Be certain of this, that the highest aim of creation and its most important result are belief in God. The most exalted rank in humanity and its highest degree are the knowledge of God contained within belief in God. The most radiant happiness and sweetest bounty for jinn and human beings are the love of God contained within the knowledge of God. And the purest joy for the human spirit and the sheerest delight for man’s heart are the rapture of the spirit contained within the love of God. Indeed, all true happiness, pure joy, sweet bounties, and untroubled pleasure lie in knowledge of God and love of God; they cannot exist without them.
    One who knows and loves God Almighty is potentially able to receive endless bounties, happiness, lights, and mysteries. While one who does not truly know and love him is afflicted spiritually and materially by endless misery, pain, and fears. Even if such an impotent and miserable person owned the whole world, it would be worth nothing for him, for it would seem to him that he was living a fruitless life among the vagrant human race in a wretched world without owner or protector. Everyone may understand just how wretched and bewildered is man among the vagrant human race in this bewildering fleeting world if he does not know his Owner, if he does not discover his Master. But if he does discover and know Him, he will seek refuge in His mercy and will rely on His power. The desolate world will turn into a place of recreation and pleasure, it will become a place of trade for the hereafter.

  • donna

    Frank, we will all give an account– including you. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed in our name– America — and according to your logic you and i will be held accountable for that. Perhaps we will. Or perhaps God holds us accountable to our PERSONAL choices. Regardless, i will leave the judging to him. He’s much more qualified.

  • Lynne

    I find so many mind-boggling things in your blog. My first impression is that you, Eric, are not a church member/goer and have possibly never been affiliated with a church because if you had, you would know that churches are very much involved in their communities and provide help for the needy. I don’t know a church in America that doesn’t help or refuses help to the poor. I don’t know a church in America that isn’t affiliated with some type of Mission work. Matter of fact, I live across the street from a church and have had absolute strangers approach me to get contact information for the church so they could ask for financial assistance.

    All churches that I’m aware of DO have food pantries within their church or at least have a food pantry fund. But I fail to see how those food pantries can prevent free school lunches. Do you REALLY think parents are going to get up early and fix their children lunches made from food pantry items rather than take the “free lunch”? Come on, Eric, you have to be kidding.

    And about those Habitat Homes. Just who has the money to build millions of free homes? That’s a good utopian thought, Eric, but let’s be realistic. Please.

    If you ARE affiliated with a church that doesn’t help the poor, maybe you should become a church leader to help the poor? Or maybe find a new church?

    You state, “Christians need to ask if the right way to vote is for the Party wanting to cut support for the least of these and increase government support for the wealthy?” Please provide proof that “the Party” wants to cut support for the poor and wants to increase government support for the wealthy? It sounds like you’ve been reading the Democrat “Talking Points” book.

    It really bothers me that you are a blogger who doesn’t use facts to back up your allegations. But of course, that’s exactly what the liberal left does. No facts. No logic. Just emotions. No credibility.

    • Eric Sapp

      Lynn, I’m trying to figure out if you are agreeing with my underlying points or not. I think you are disagreeing, but your arguments are only supporting the basic assumption. If churches, no matter how much they do, can’t solve the problems for poor children and working families that government programs are addressing, why in the world would we try to kill those programs? If you are looking for proof, pull up a copy of the Ryan-Romney budget. The budget is all about cutting programs that help the poor to support the rich. One can hardly accuse the Catholic bishops of being liberal or Democratic stooges, and they condemned it as immoral. Finally, if you think the American Church is truly living up to Christ’s call for what we should be doing for the least of these, I’m sorry to hear that. Lots of churches do lots of wonderful things. But we aren’t doing enough to say the poor don’t need government help too.


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