We are in the season of budget cuts.
Our governor just presented a budget that includes some tough cuts.
Our president also just presented a budget that includes some tough cuts.
In both cases, those impacted by these cuts will be disproportionately the already under-resourced poor, elderly, unemployed, disabled and children.
(For the record, I have also just presented a personal budget to myself, and it also includes some tough cuts… but that is another story.)
At the same time, non-profits, churches, faith groups, and charities are all trying to operate within the confines of reduced giving by both individuals and foundations.
So here is the question: WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CARE OF THE UNDER-RESOURCED AND AT-RISK IN OUR SOCIETY?
Some say: THEY ARE. It is all about personal responsibility. Others say: GOVERNMENT. It is the role of government to care for them.
So what do you think?
As a Christian, I always approach these ethical questions the same way: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
I want to suggest three principles that emerge from the scriptures: (1) Individual Responsibility; (2) Corporate Responsibility; (3) Family Responsibility; (4) Primacy of the Church
1. INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY
We cannot escape the reality that inidividuals are responsible for their own decisions, mistakes, etc. The wisdom of Proverbs certainly points this out — especially as in regard to money. For example, “The debtor is slave to the lender” (Prov 22:7). In other words, if you get into debt (credit cards, car payments, student loans, etc) and end up bankrupt and owing everything to Capital One… YOUR BAD. And really throughout the Bible, we are never let off the hook for personal responsibility. While no one lives in a vacuum and not everyone gets an equal shake in our society, we cannot play the victim card and should not shirk our own responsibilities.
2. CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY
However, the Bible also frames economics in terms of justice and injustice. God has a preferential option for the poor. Don’t believe me? Read the Old Testament prophets. Read the Gospel of Luke. Watch who Jesus spends time with and what he does. Listen to his words.
As theologian Abraham
4. THE PRIMACY OF THE CHURCH
I fully believe that the local church is the hope of the world and is the primary agent God uses to build his Kingdom and bring forth peace, justice and reconciliation in the world. Not only must the church be on the frontlines of these issues (fighting corruption, poverty, pandemic disease, illiteracy, etc), but we must be the pace-setters for others including government and business. The church should be the catalyst and the clarion voice for the cause of justice. And we must provide the hands, feet, heart and soul of a movement committed to economic justice — that is the call of the scriptures and the model of Jesus.