Dan Popp
Safety nets and other snares, Part 2
By Dan Popp
July 17, 2012

We're continuing to look at why government almsgiving should not be done, before we move on to why it may not be done and cannot be done. In the first essay I dealt with passages of Scripture often used to support government giveaways. But there remain a few word-pairs that are neither arguments nor complete scriptures, though they're often used as if the speaker imagined them to be scriptural arguments.

Golden Rule

As children we learned, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." That's pretty close to what Jesus said: "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12, NASB) Obviously if you wish neither to rob nor to be robbed, the Golden Rule won't justify government "redistribution."

We also have that pesky phrase, "...for this is the Law and the Prophets." As we saw in Part 1, upside-downers want the Law to apply as it pertains to helping the needy, but not as it condemns wicked behavior. Well, which is it? Are the divine commandments still in effect, or not? If the moral law still enjoins us to do good, then it still forbids us to do evil.

But the main point to be made here is that we shouldn't try to apply to government what Jesus said to individuals. I personally can "turn the other cheek" when struck, but if the government turns my cheek for me, it condones injustice and invites further injustice. I can "go the extra mile," but whenever government goes beyond the minimum requirement, it wastes resources, harming taxpayers. I can treat people as I want to be treated; government cannot.

People generally don't want to be arrested or tried or jailed or fined or forced to pay restitution or executed. So the government must treat people as they do not wish to be treated, or it is not a government. Another way to say that: Force is only necessary when there is unwillingness. If we're using government to accomplish something, then someone is being forced, and we know for a fact that we are not employing the Golden Rule.

Good Samaritan
    But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

    Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

    "But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?"

    And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same." (Luke 10:29-37)
The Samaritan didn't petition the Roman Senate for massive new taxes disguised as a healthcare program. He felt compassion...[he] bandaged up his wounds...he put him on his own beast...he took out two denarii...and said...I will repay you. There's no government here. Except, of course, the civilized kind protecting the Samaritan's God-given right to accumulate property and dispose of it as he saw fit.

But the very sharp point of the story lies in Jesus' choice of protagonist. A despised Samaritan is cast as the hero (and home boys as the goats) precisely to show that a "neighbor" is a person who looks past group identity to help another person. If you see the world in groups, you're one of the people Jesus was rebuking with this story.

Brother's keeper
    And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

    So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. And Abel, on his part, also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.

    Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it." And Cain told Abel his brother.

    And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" And he said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:2b-9)
It was not a prophet but the first murderer who coined this scripture snippet. Cain's impious snort, "Am I my brother's keeper?" had nothing to do with government, or even with Abel's supply of bread. It was a response to the Lord's question, "Where is your brother Abel?" Cain accuses God of unjustly requiring him to monitor Abel's whereabouts.

Interestingly, two different words are translated "keeper" in this passage. In verse 2 we read that "Abel was a keeper of flocks." This represents the Hebrew word raah, associated with feeding, grazing, pasturing. Cain protests that he is not his brother's shamar — a person having a duty to watch, guard, and preserve. (Source: Online Bible) Someone who turns Cain's negative question into a positive commandment and then misapplies it to government, has done a double U-turn and is unwittingly arguing for a guard in Washington, not a feeder.

What's left?

We've looked at the scripture passages and snippets usually trotted out to put a Christian veneer on the un-Christian idea of provider government. Next time I hope to examine some verses that will make it clear what God instituted government to do.

© Dan Popp


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