Over at his blog on Forbes, Doug Bandow says that, when it comes to balancing the budget, the religious left’s question of “What would Jesus cut?” — and its implied answer: nothing — does no good in actually helping the poor.
First, he points out that forced giving isn’t the same as charity:
There’s nothing in Scripture to suggest that charity is supposed to be coercive. Real charity requires voluntariness. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said “As you did for the least of these brothers of mine,” not “As you forced others to do.” (Matthew 5: 40) In his second letter to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul refused to command his readers to give, “for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 8: 7) Paul laid on a thick guilt trip, but he refused to order his readers to act, even to aid the Jerusalem church.
As Marvin Olasky has written, compassion once meant to suffer with. That meant more than providing cash. It meant forming community. Over the years compassion turned into writing a check. Doing so is a good act. But it less fully reflects the love of Christ.
What’s more, Bandow says, the government’s waste in running the social services programs we do have is so extravagant as to often be counterproductive:
Many of the abuses are at the Pentagon, an appropriate target of the “What would Jesus cut” campaign. But the evangelical left’s favored social service agencies do no better. For instance, there are some 80 “economic development” programs. Alas, government redistributes than creates growth. Especially given the endless duplication: 52 programs for “entrepreneurial efforts,” 39 for “plans and strategies,” and 35 for “infrastructure.”
There are 100 different transportation programs and 17 different transit preparedness programs. As for welfare, the GAO cites 18 food and nutrition programs, 47 employment and training programs, and 62 transportation for the disadvantaged programs. There are 56 programs to teach financial literacy and 82 programs to improve teacher quality.
Surely Congress could make cuts in this spending without “devastating” the poor. To the contrary, like welfare reform, reducing or eliminating some of these programs would prove to be the most charitable and sensible thing to do.
Bandow isn’t arguing that government should discontinue all social services, of course — only that we Christians should take a hard look at where and how the government spends our tax money, and not simply presume that more money equals more charity. We “need to be … skeptical of schemes to seize power in order to promote social justice. Government may be a tool of God, but it will never act like God.”