I think there is ample evidence in the Bible that Christians should care for the poor and needy, although that is not our primary mission in this world. As Christians, then, should we also demand our governments (local, state, or federal) to care for the poor and to do it without setting conditions? As a representative of the people (the majority of whom still call themselves Christians), should the US government carry out such Christian ideals as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and caring for the sick?
The battle between caring for people’s needs with more government and preserving their freedoms with less government has been waged for decades in this county, and I don’t want to get in the middle of that political battle. But let me try and settle one small piece of the argument about what we should expect from our government.
Just last week, a terrible event at a community college in Oregon led to a heated debate over which will keep Americans safer—more gun control or more people with guns? We all want to live in a place where we are free from the threat of violence. We would like to see an end to hunger and poverty. We want to have no more sickness, no more sorrow, no more pain, and no more tears, and we look to our governments to solve all these problems for us. It seems like a Christian thing to do, to try to alieve suffering and fear—but is it?
I have no problem with asking our governments to work on the difficult problems of poverty and violence and find the best answers they can, but I’m not looking for a perfect place to live here on the earth. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:3). The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are “foreigners and strangers on earth” but that God has prepared a city for us—“a better country—a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:13-16). In Revelation we see “a new heaven and a new earth” where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:1, 4).
Today, we still live under “the old order of things.” We are separated from God by sin and we live with its consequences—violence, sickness, poverty, suffering, and pain. As difficult as it is to bear with these things, they are the very things which cause us to turn our eyes heavenward, to look for God, and to accept his offer of forgiveness and redemption. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). He also said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit …Blessed are those who mourn …Blessed are the meek” (Matthew 5:3-5). Are they not the ones most likely to find their comfort in God rather than in the things of this earth?
Please don’t think I’m being callous and saying we shouldn’t be concerned with the poor or needy in our land. As Christians, we should have the same heart of compassion and love for others that Jesus had. It was Christians who started the first hospitals in the nations where they lived. Christians started schools not just for the rich but for any who would come. Christian organizations today continue to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and rescue the addicts, the prostitutes, and the victims of modern slavery. In doing so, they point to a better ending to all suffering—one that comes from God, not the government.