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2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Care for the Orphans and Widows… How?

Many authors have aimed to tackle the question regarding the intersection of biblical theology and economic philosophy. It is unarguable that Jesus Christ makes many fervent pleas to his disciples, encouraging them to assist those who are less fortunate, however, Jesus does make it clear that poverty is a persistent problem saying, “The poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11, NIV). So the question still remains; to what extent should Christians, “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble” (Isaiah 58:10, NLT)?
Jared Ruark presents his perspective in his article titled, “Jesus, The Bible, and Food Stamps: Can a Christian Be Against The Welfare State?” In this article, Ruark presents the key aspects of both sides of the argument. While this may not be a well-known piece of writing, Ruark does a thorough job dissecting a very complex argument that is not often assessed from a Christian perspective. Due to the nuances of such a topic, Jesus never addressed it directly, however, this does not negate the fact that the Bible is full of key advice on how to treat the poor and needy. Using this in-depth article, many Christians may find comfort in knowing that this is a complex and common debate.
One cannot deny the general good intentions of those supporting government-provided services, however, the biblical principles surrounding this argument place many layers of complexities. Ruark elegantly presents both sides of the argument in a way that is persuasive and fair. He first dissects both arguments in an adequate manner. He describes the conservative Christian approach saying, “Of course we should provide poor and sick people with charitable assistance, but Jesus gave those commands to individuals. You’ll destroy the possibility of charity if the government starts supplying everyone’s needs through coerced extraction” (1). His summary allows for the reader to fully understand major points of the theology surrounding this topic. When the government forcefully removes money to provide to those who are in low-income situations, this places a monopoly on charity and makes it a struggle to find individuals who wish to start charities or donate to charities.
Ruark then describes the liberal argument with similarly adequate summary, as he writes, “Jesus was very clear in his commandment to care for the sick and poor among us” (2). The liberal argument in favor of governmental welfare truly encompasses the core argument in this issue. When Jesus commands us to care for those in less fortunate circumstances, did he intend this to be directed towards governmental organizations, or towards individual citizens? Ruark aims to unpack this reality by providing historical context of the Jewish occupation by the Romans.
Ruark gives context surrounding Jesus’s commonly quoted phrase when Jesus says, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” (3). Ruark provides historical context to this writing, “The Romans were known to tax their subjects at a rate of up to 80%. Certainly, plenty of 1st century Jews did not feel it was God’s will that they have their earnings extracted by the Roman imperial tax” (1). Conservatives who push for legislation opposing government welfare are not advocating for a society where poor people are left on the streets, but rather a society where individuals can trust each other for financial assistance when hardships arise. We have an obligation to assist our fellow man, an obligation that is innate.
A saying uttered by many people who criticize economically libertarian Christians is that they want people to, “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.” While this may be a sentiment used by those who support a *laissez-faire* economy, many Christians disagree with such a statement. Christian libertarians argue that under the current welfare system, inefficiency and bureaucracy clutter a system designed to assist those in poverty. In an article by Mary Ruwart, she cites that, “Using government data, Robert L. Woodson (1989, p. 63) calculated that, on average, 70 cents of each dollar budgeted for government assistance goes not to the poor, but to the members of the welfare bureaucracy and others serving the poor” (4). In contrast, “administrative and other operating costs in private charities absorb, on average, only one-third or less of each dollar donated, leaving the other two-thirds (or more) to be delivered to recipients” (2).
While these statistics seem absurd, the bureaucracy in Washington D.C. makes it difficult to trust the intentions of politicians. As Christ tells us to pay our taxes in an orderly manner, we must continue to do so, while also caring for our fellow man. Perhaps humanity is unprepared to have a society where each man is reliant on the free-willed assistance of their fellow man, but perhaps one day we will reach such a reality. Similarly so, it is our duty to use our money wisely. In donating to such organizations that have a passion for low-income homes, children, and single mothers, we are aiming for such a society where forceful governmental welfare will become a thing of the past and the efficiency of the free market will take over.
(1) Ruark, Jared Hillary. “Jesus, The Bible, and Foodstamps: Can a Christian Be Against The Welfare State?” State of Formation , 2 Nov. 2012, www.stateofformation.org/2012/11/jesus-the-bible-and-foodstamps-can-a-christian-be-against-the-welfare-state/.
(2) Ibid
(3) Mark 12:17 (NLT)
(4) Ruwart, Mary. “How Effective Is Government Welfare Compared to Private Charity? – The Advocates for Self-Government.” The Advocates, 11 Dec. 2017, www.theadvocates.org/2013/06/effective-government-welfare-compared-private-charity/.