When the Hand that Feeds You, Bites You

Remember the giddy, pre-COVID days when Christians could argue with and insult one another over whether immigration laws should be enforced in our country or not? Such simple times, weren’t they?

But a popular argument by many Christians at the time (but not exclusively at that time) was to equate government aid with the Biblical call to charity. In other words, if government programs help people, then Christians can’t in good conscience argue against such programs and are really bound by God to support and expand them, without any clear limitations or even guidelines. Mercy is mercy, and Christians must not only sanction but actively support any allegedly merciful program, period.

But God isn’t the only one who giveth and taketh away, and certainly by comparison He’s a lot more patient and inclusive than human institutions. After all, He daily sends sunshine and rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45) – his faithful and his sworn enemies. But we’re likely to be a lot less forgiving and giving with one another. Certainly attitudes and tactics employed by a small group of people bent on recasting our national history through the largely arbitrary destruction of public property are an example of this.

But there are examples aplenty where government aid programs are shown to be what they must inevitably be at some level or another, a means of purchasing the loyalty or at least obedience of some recipients. And when recipients fail to respond in the expected ways, aid is withdrawn. Consider the situation in at least parts of China – Christians dependent on government aid are being told to remove their religious symbols from their homes and replace them with images of Chairman Mao.

Undoubtedly it might be argued that China is not the United States, and that’s true enough. But the demands are being made even of members of the Protestant, State-approved Three-Self Church. And certainly our own country has demonstrated shockingly in recent years just how quickly things once taken for granted as cast in stone can be changed and discarded. Socialism was once a pariah concept in our nation, mocked and denounced in comparison to the far greater opportunities of capitalism. Now we have avowed Socialists running for President, and Socialist ideas and agendas are actively promoted as the right future for our country. The idea that religious freedom could ever become an obstacle to State assistance shouldn’t be shocking to us.

Some level of State assistance to the needy is a good thing and I support and understand that. That doesn’t mean I think our current programs are doing the best job they could, and it doesn’t mean I don’t believe there is a great deal of waste, theft, and other forms of abusing the system that should be eliminated, potentially by recreating the whole system from scratch. But it does mean I reject the simple-minded and Biblically erroneous assertion that Christians are required by the Bible to support secular aid programs carte blanche. The Bible never allows Christians the option of outsourcing mercy and love for neighbor, and expediency is not often a Biblical metric.

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