Someone wrote to me offended by what I had written about Colorado C & D tax increases. This post is adapted from my reply.
The individual who wrote me is a MD who did not feel he could do what he does to care for the poor without the taxes that C & D would bring in. I replied:
It is the height of irresponsibility to pick the programs folk feel are most vital and threaten to cut their funding in order to try to blackmail the taxpayers into paying more taxes. It is not as though the state has been enduring economic hard times.
C & D are excuses for the legislature to not have to make real decisions about what is worthy of funding and what is not. I can't see how it benefits the residents of Colorado to reward legislators who refuse to do what we hired them to do with even more money with which to act irresponsibly.
This MD further correctly pointed out that we as Christians have a mandate to care for the poor. He felt I needed to temper my "rhetoric to include a Biblically based concern for the poor". I replied:
Concern for the poor has nothing to do with this situation (raising taxes at a time when there is a surplus).
Yes, as Christians we have a mandate to care for the poor. Both as individual Christians and as churches we are commanded to care for the poor.
However, we can't rob someone by force and claim God's blessing on what we do just because we happen to use some (very small) portion of what we take to fund what God commands us to do.
What if the Good Samaritan had setup a toll booth on the highway and charged everyone who wanted to use the road a fee to "help the poor man who was robbed and beaten". Instead of binding up his wounds and paying for his care and treatment himself, he made up posters with the likeness of the wounded man and told everyone the poor man would die if they did not pay the toll. Of course part of the money collected went to pay for a nice house for himself, a really nice toll station, assistant toll collectors, and armed guards for the toll facility. Even though he was collecting tolls there were still robbers attacking travelers so there was a never ending supply of new wounded folk to use for the posters to convince folk they should pay the toll. Those traveling the road knew they had paid a toll "to take care of those attacked" so they no longer felt they needed to take personal responsibility for those robbery victims they might happen to see. After all the "toll collector" was taking care of them. Thus their hearts were hardened and turned from God.
This is the dilemma of raising taxes to "do good". It is intellectually dishonest to use the commands of scripture to Christians to justify governmental action. Sorry it just will not wash! Government can only get the funds to do anything by taking those funds (by force if required) from the governed. You can look at it at best as "Robin Hood" and at worst as "Highway Robbery". In neither case can you justify this by quoting what scripture commands Christians to do, as not all the governed are Christians (and today very few are), and even God does not compel Christians to obey him. Government however compels obedience on pain of imprisonment or death.
This does not mean I am opposed to all governmental welfare programs, but it does mean I believe they must be justified to the taxpayers on their own basis as good things to do, without trying to twist scripture into supporting such programs.
I believe that caring for the poor and sick must start with the individual:
1) Christians must do what God leads them to do as individuals first.
2) Christians then should do what the Lord leads them to as families.
3) The local body of Christians must work together to follow God's commands.
4) Larger groups (state, national, and international in scope) of Christians should work as lead by God.
I truly believe that if Christians did all of the above there would be little left over for other groups to do.
In particular I believe governments should be cautious in what they do to "help folk" because of the danger of unintended consequences. The dangers of governmental action are the least when the control is local since folk can see what is going wrong and take action to fix things with the least bureaucracy. Therefore what can be done at the town or city level should be left for this most basic governmental unit to deal with. Only when things absolutely must, should they be bumped up to County, State, or Federal levels.