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« Keep Jesus Out of Your Socialism (Part 2) | Main | Islamists and the American Media »

Keep Jesus Out of Your Socialism

The headline of the full-page ad asks, "What Would Jesus Cut?—A budget is a moral document." The text continues, "Our faith tells us that the moral test of a society is how it treats the poor."

 The ad was produced by Sojourners, a self-described "evangelical" organization whose slogan is "Faith in Action for Social Justice." The ad was signed by Sojourners president Jim Wallis and more than two dozen Religious Left pastors, theologians, and activists. They urge our legislators to ask themselves, "What would Jesus cut?" from the federal budget.

 How would you answer that question? My answer would be, "It's a nonsense question. Your premise is faulty. Your priorities are not His priorities."

 Jesus had many opportunities to confront the Roman government about its spending priorities. It was, after all, one of the most brutal regimes in history. If the question "What would Jesus cut?" has any biblical relevance, we should be able to cite instances where Jesus lectured the Roman oppressors the same way the Religious Left lectures America.

 Just compare ancient Rome with America today. Rome sent its armies out to conquer; America sends its soldiers out to liberate. Rome demanded tribute from other nations; America sends aid and emergency relief around the world. Rome enslaved nations; America rebuilds nations.

 If the federal budget is a "moral document," what does it say about America? It suggests to me that America may be the most moral nation on earth! Name one other country that has spent $15 billion fighting AIDS in Africa. Name one other country that has provided more disaster relief, that has built more schools and water treatment plants, that has supplied more food aid around the world, that has sent more doctors, teachers, and technical advisers to developing nations.

 Even America's military budget—much of which is being spent to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan—reflects the basic compassion and unselfishness of the American people. Clearly, America hardly deserves any scolding from the Sojourners soapbox.

 Did Jesus ever lecture the Roman Empire about its budget priorities? In Matthew 8, when the Roman centurion approached Jesus in Capernaum, our Lord could have said, "How dare you, a Roman warmonger, come to Me asking favors? Change your priorities! Tell your bosses in Rome to stop buying chariots and start funding welfare programs!" But Jesus didn't lecture the centurion. He said, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith!"

 In Matthew 22, when the Pharisees asked if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar, the Lord could have thundered against Caesar's misplaced budget priorities. Instead, He said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

 In John 18, Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect, a friend of Caesar. Why didn't He give Pilate an earful about the injustice of Roman rule? If ever there was a time for Jesus to "speak truth to power" and become the "social justice Messiah," that was it!

 But Jesus didn't preach the social gospel to Pontius Pilate. Oh, he spoke truth to power, all right. He delivered a profound message to Pontius Pilate—and to you and me: "My kingdom is not of this world."

 Now, I'm not saying that Christians are never called to confront their government. God bless Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church for standing against Nazi genocide. But that's not the situation here.

 And I'm not saying there isn't a social and compassionate dimension to the Christian gospel. There certainly is! Jesus had great compassion for the poor.

 He preached in Nazareth, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor." He sent word to John the Baptist, "The deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor." Jesus presented the obligation to help the poor as an individual responsibility, a Kingdom responsibility—not the duty of the secular government.

 Both the religious and secular Left in America seem to want government to replace the church in ministering to the poor and needy. One of Barack Obama's first proposals as president was a plan to slash tax deductions for charitable donations by high-income taxpayers. President Obama reasoned that a tax deduction "shouldn't be a determining factor as to whether you're giving that hundred dollars to the homeless shelter." Maybe so—but since private charities do so much good for the poor, why eliminate incentives for charitable giving? Could it be that liberals see private charities as competing with the big government welfare state?

 In Romans 13, Paul tells us that we pay our taxes and support the government so that we will have a just, orderly society in which law-abiding citizens are protected from wrongdoers. But the responsibility for mercy and compassion belongs to the church—not the government.

 What would Jesus cut? When He stood before the Roman Empire, He didn't suggest cuts. He received cuts. His flesh was cut by Roman nails and a Roman spear. He was bruised for our transgressions, and with His cuts we are healed. That's the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 Stay tuned. In Part 2, we'll see how Jesus dealt with the "radical leftists" among his disciples.


Reader Comments (19)

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June 9, 2011 | Registered CommenterMY

Thank you Michael... you make so much sense. I get so angry when Christians use Bible to justify governmental tyranny. Ugh.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlioness

I love reading your page and listening to your radio show on Moody Radio. I have to admit, you r my favorite!!

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertamyra

Dr. Youssef, Thank you for presenting the facts, Biblically and historically. See this link for Glenn Beck's interview with Jim Wallis. It's all here: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,589904,00.html

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRoseanne

Thank you, Dr Youssef for speaking the truth. I'm looking forward to part two.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDoug
June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRon Wells
Thank you. I am so thankful that when you post something like this you always reference the Bilbe and post the scripture to support what you believe. If there is a question I can look at the scripture and read the whole section to understand and ensure the context in which it was written. If an article or a person is quoting from the Bible and doesn't list the scripture from which it is taken, I am very sceptable on the context that is being quoted. Again thank you and may God Bless You!
June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarb
Every law we make is a value judgment. How can you say it is not? Every law we fail to make is a value judgment as well. That is why we so often experience the conflation of religion and politics.

Are we to presume, from your rationale, that abortion laws do not stem from moral judgments -- that Jesus would not endorse anti-abortion laws? That He didn't get INVOLVED in those kinds of arguments? His entire LIFE was an argument ( as in a statement of principles ) of one sort or another. It is as fair to ask what Jesus would say as it is to ask what Gandhi would say or what Moses would say, or what Glen Beck would say or what Michael Huckabee or Martin Luther would say or what the Pope says or what Khameini says or Michael Youssef says. What is your point, exactly?

Jesus did much MORE than lecture Rome on its budgetary priorities: He threw the moneyichangers ( who could just as easily have been rjip-off artists masquerading as charitable organizations ) out of the temple as a statement far beyond dollar allocations.

Jesus' comments about giving to Caesar what was Caesar's was NOT about endorsing a way of governing. It was about being clever enough to avoid being caught in a sophisticated trap that was being laid for Jesus. In fact, Jesus, among many other ultimates, may well have been the ultimate politician. He was in fact a political threat to Rome.

Historical perspective ( the Roman Ti mes, etc. ) is helpful but incomplete as an explanation. It ignores that for centuries the Church was the only arbiter of political practice. Right or wrong, religion and politics were one and the same.

How can you claim to ignore what Jesus would say when it doesn't suit you, and yet climb on His back for every law that DOES suit you?

Oh, and by the way, government doesn't see charities as competition. Government would love it if charities would do more. There just don't seem to be enough charitable sorts in the ranks of the wealthy to fill all the gaps. This is as true today as it was when there was 100% deductibility for that gift-box cd set that you receive as a thank you for your donations to whomever your favorite non-profit may be. If private non-profits were sufficient, there wouldn't be any need for homeless shelters in the cities. There wouldn't be any need for medicaid or public schools or policemen or firemen or teachers. God, what a thought. Your privately-run police department. Abu Graib, anybody? Haliburton instead of The Salvation Army? Gee, let me guess who might be behind THAT one. Remarkable.

Who is getting in the way of Private Charities? No one. They are as encouraged as the law allows. In what way would you change the laws so that private charities could perform WHAT functions more efficiently than the state? Let's hear some specifics. And who decides what's adequate? Who rations charity? Needs Panels financed by Rupert Murdoch?

Can't you see what's happening here, people? Such disingenuousness masquerading as free-market, free-will-run-riot.

Please keep Jesus and all the others either completely in or completely out. If it's ok to want public school prayer then its ok to ask Jesus what he thinks about it. Don't you think?
June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Tipton
I think decisions and their resulting actions are or do become moral issues as based upon personal values. On this point I agree. But does everybody who asks a question and generates a decision truly realize that? Do folks realize that either life or death is involved in every decision and action taken? I honestly don't believe that is the case, people generally blinded and led by the god of this world, by social customs, popular opinion, politically correct attitudes, etc., not fully realizing the eternal importance of what they are thinking, saying, and doing. This is something Jesus knew, of course, and that those He lived among couldn't help themselves, not bothering to involve Himself in human government and its political processes -- His Kingdom not of this Earth, just as He stated. He wasn't religious or political, coming to Earth for an entirely different purpose. When He was angered by the money changers, it wasn't Rome He was offended with and scolded. Jewish citizens who should have honored the Temple as a 'House of Prayer' were at fault, Jesus jealous for the honor of His Father. Jesus didn't need 'cleverness' to escape Roman traps, solely dependent upon His Father's wisdom and leadership. If He obeyed Roman law and paid the tax, it was because His Father instructed Him regarding the right thing to do, Jesus always obeying the voice of His Heavenly Father. If people would only hear and obey God as Jesus did, the world's moral issues would be correctly settled, no schism between religion and politics. We shouldn't have to ask Jesus regarding his moral stance on any issue, the Bible plainly stating God's will for all to read.
June 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMoe
I agree with you that our Messiah didn't involve himself with political agendas. You patriotic zeal borders on idolatry though. Liberate countries, how pure it sounds, do a little research on depleted uranium weaponry and the long term harm. We are causing major suffering. Our motives are not as pure as you make it sound. Believers should stand for the truth and against killing in the name of liberation.
June 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Klim
The REAL question should be, "What would the founding fathers cut?" (Hint: an awful lot.)
June 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDana
"Believers should stand for the truth and against killing in the name of liberation." -David Klim

First, what does this have to do with the budget?
Second, oppose killing in the name of liberation? So in other words, you oppose the US's involvement in the Iraqi war, simply because we had to kill people to liberate others? You would say that it's wrong to go after terrorists world-wide when they intentionally flew two planes into two building full of civilians? Talk about the killing of innocents. The Bible even says in Romans 13 that God has given the sword to the government in order to punish evildoers. Why then, should we as believers "stand for the truth against killing in the name of liberation" if God tells us that He has given the sword to the government to punish evil doers? Why is it wrong for us to go and kill the terrorists in the Middle East if we are killing the evil people in order to liberate the average, everyday Arabic citizen? Punishing evil doers is exactly what the government is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as believers, we should actually be staunchly behind it, seeing as how God tells us BELIEVERS that He gave the government the sword in order to punish evildoers.
Our military is the most efficient and powerful force on the planet, and they hate the killing of innocents just as much as you do, as seen in several instances. For example, in the late episode of Osama Bin Ladin's death, there are some details that you might find interesting. When Osama was trapped in his bedroom, he shoved two women in front of him, trying to defend himself. The Navy SEALs, instead of just blasting their way through the two people like the terrorists would have done, shoved them aside and shot Bin Ladin. Our military as a whole tries to avoid the killing of civilians more than any other military force in the history of man. In that same setting, when one of the helicopters that delivered the SEALs crashed, and they had to destroy it for security reasons, they first guided all of OSAMA BIN LADIN'S wives and children out of the blast zone, so that they would not be hurt. You call that the killing of innocents?
I suggest that before you again accuse Dr. Youssef's patriotism, or anyone else’s patriotism, as idolatrous, that you actually listen to what they say in regard to our government. Dr. Youssef does not whole-heartedly endorse the government, or whole-heartedly oppose it, but rather criticizes it where it needs to be criticized (the budget) and applauds it where it needs to be applauded (its staunch defense of freedom). One of the most frustrating things that a person can do is to take one line and run with it, while at the same time trying to drag another person's name through the mud.
June 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJonny Crumly
Just cme accross this post. If you don't believe that America is in trouble, please check this out.

Liberal Christian Group Says You Must Choose: Ayn Rand or Jesus; http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0TxCWbTqz9s

My heart just dropped. I have not seen this before. This is not good.
June 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarb
How can you reduce the morality of an issue to Jesus' explicit commentary, or lack thereof, on the issue? By this same standard, many Episcopal clergymen seek to vindicate homosexuality, another issue that Jesus never speaks of in the gospels. And I know you disagree with their conclusion.

Jesus' explicit commentary is not the yardstick by which we measure the morality of a decision. The whole counsel of the Bible must be taken into account and then applied to a specific issue with wisdom and tact. And from this view, why isn't a budget cut a moral issue? As Christians, shouldn't we prioritize some government programs over others? Also, you defend Obama's tax deduction cuts. Isn't this a double standard --namely, the condemnation of governement intervention in issues of social justice, but the defense of goverment intervention to motivate the private sector towards social justice? Where does one end and the other begin?

To conclude, Dr. Youssef, I honestly respect your conclusions regarding economics, charity, and the poor. And I love how you articulate the Gospel of Jesus Christ clearly in your articles and sermons. I really do. My only request would be that you do not present laissez faire capitalism as the only Biblical economic model. That's a very heated topic that I don't think there's an easy answer for, and I respect people coming from both sides of the debate. Also, I have seen members of my only family alienated from the church due to economic commentary coming from the pulpit. If you do not make the distinction between your economic commentary (your ideas), and the Gospel (God's truth), you will alienate listeners and draw attention away from Christ.
June 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterQuestion
Please continue speaking the truth, Dr. Youssef, in spite of the naysayers. Lies and deception are rampant. Thank you for being willing to stand. This is an informative article on the religious left, including Jim Wallis and Sojourners:

June 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Taylor
I agree with everything except the claim that it is a nonesense question. It is a very relevant question to a legislator who cares about his duty and cares about Jesus. Let me offer my analysis:
Whose job is it to feed the hungry, heal the sick, educate the youth, and care for widows and orphans? I expect most of us would agree that it is first the responsibility of the individual, and if that fails, the family. But what then--the Church or the State or compassionate individuals? This is a critical question in our culture at this time, and we Christians should have a ready answer.
You have probably heard many times that God is a God of order. One can see it in the laws of Physics, in the structure of the Temple, the Priesthood and the nation of Israel. In the creation work, He separated the light from darkness, the water vapor from the surface water, the seas from the land, and spent most of the 6 days forming and organizing things. In the Law of Moses, we see great care to keep things from mixing, even where we don’t see the reason. You couldn’t develop hybrids, mix field crops together, nor weave wool and cotton together (Lev.19:19). We see most of it as an illustration of holiness and how it would not admit the least bit of corruption. But I think there is more to learn from such careful separations.
Martin Luther taught that there are two great pillars of Christian doctrine: the Law and the Gospel. The Gospel is everything to us, but it has little meaning without the Law. And if we do not keep them separate, we destroy them both. Ever since Paul’s day the Church has struggled to keep the Law out of the Gospel. If the Gospel includes some element of Law that we must observe for salvation, then it is no longer a saving Gospel; if the Law includes some mercy where God is lax about the “small” sins, then most of us would never turn to the Gospel for salvation. God’s law is Justice, which is absolute, and His Gospel is Grace, which is extravagant beyond our comprehension. But if you mix one with the other, the whole system crumbles.
One of the ways God illustrates this great principle is in the separation of the two great social institutions, the Church and the State. Both are established by Him, both get their authority from Him, and humanists notwithstanding, both are to serve Him and are accountable to Him. So why didn’t He just prescribe only one institution and avoid redundancy and conflict? Some think that He did that with the nation of Israel, but if you look closely, there were boundaries between the Civil and Ecclesiastical authority structures, which were not to be crossed (2Ch.26:18-19). I believe that God’s reason for the two institutions is to illustrate to the world the Law and the Gospel. I can hear some saying, “Where does it say that in Scripture?” I’m glad you asked.
Let’s start with the Church. Descriptions of its functions and activities are seen throughout the NT, but the place where its authority is described is in Mat.16:19, where Jesus says it will have the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. They were always to be used in the will of the King; as Jesus explained, “anything you lock (or unlock) on earth will have been locked (or unlocked) in heaven.” It did not mean that the Church should have jails to lock people in; rather, if a servant has keys, he has access to his master’s storehouse, and the authority to dispense the goods in it. There is no hint in the Bible that the Church has any coercive authority. It can teach the Law and preach judgment, but it cannot dispense the Law. Its authority over individuals is invitational, and its maximum “punishment” is to withhold some aspect of Grace.
The State, on the other hand, is charged with dispensing God’s Justice, instituted in Gen.9:6 for the purpose of avenging murder. That is why Paul says (Rom13:4) that the State does not carry the Sword in vain. Nearly everyone understands that the State’s coercive authority includes protecting people from crimes by fellow countrymen or foreign nations. This is God’s design, and He will hold civil authorities accountable for their obedience, just as He will the ecclesiastical authorities. Furthermore, I think we all agree that the State should not try to dispense God’s spiritual grace. It should not lead worship services, offer God’s forgiveness, or in any way restrict people’s access to it. It was not given the Keys, but the Sword. Its mission is Justice.
But now comes the controversial part, even in Christian circles. Our cultural paradigm is so different that this may take some getting used to. Whose job is it to help out the weak or unfortunate? It would seem to be a component of Grace rather than Law, but few people accept this conclusion. The Right usually claims that neither institution is responsible; it is entirely up to individuals. The Left claims that the State had to take it over because the Church was not doing it well enough; but ask the folks struck by Hurricane Katrina whether they got the best help from the Church or the Civil government. Ask the fragmented inner-city family if the Civil welfare system has made them better off. I suspect the underlying agenda is to marginalize the Church.
Does the Bible answer this question? Some things are clear and some not so clear.
1. You will search in vain for Scriptural evidence that responsibility for the poor belongs to the State. Indeed the State is not even allowed to offer mercy to a criminal; that is the prerogative of the victim. The State must make sure the poor receive the same justice as a rich, but the State is never to favor them. (Exo.23:3,6, Lev.19:15).
2. The Bible says much to individuals, not just warning not to oppress the poor, but commanding us to actively help them: loan without interest, leave grain for them to glean, and forgo your harvest every 7th year. NT examples are the story of the Good Samaritan, relief for the saints of Judea (Acts 11:29), and the generosity of the early church (Acts 4:32-37).
3. Also there is some ecclesiastical institutionalization of care for the poor: every third year the tithe in Israel was retained at the local village to be distributed to the poor. (Deu.14:28-29) Some scholars say this distribution was supervised by the Levites. In the new Church in Jerusalem, the Apostles supervised the distribution to the needy (Acts 4:35) until the function was delegated to the Deacons (6:1-5). Also it is clear from Titus 5 that other churches were caring for widows.
4. Finally, before the Church represented the Kingdom of God, Jesus Himself, cared for the poor. Mostly He healed all kinds of diseases, but He also fed hungry people. Significantly, He commanded His disciples feed the 5000 (Mat.14:16, Luke 9:13) and He commanded the evangelists to heal the sick (Mat.10:8, Luke 10:9). He said to “give freely”, with no strings attached. One can view these ministries as part of the mission of the soon-to-be-born Church.
In summary, the obligation to the poor is primarily individual, sometimes ecclesiastical, and never civil. As a matter of history, the idea of the State dispensing gifts is relatively recent one. In fact I believe it is a phenomenon of post-Christian culture. The moral obligation to care for the poor lingers among those who have left the Church. But now they find it hard to part with their wealth, so they want to use the State as a convenient means of “outsourcing’ that moral obligation. The heavy lifting of international relief is still done by Christian organizations, such as Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision. Even the Red Cross was founded by Christians.
For another historical example, it is no accident that hospitals were invented by Christians, and even today Christians lead in “healing the sick” in many parts of the world. There are only three hospitals in a province of Rwanda. With so few, all are many days walk for most citizens. Vehicles wouldn’t help since they don’t have roads. Two of the three facilities are run by local churches. There are 18 clinics, perhaps only a day’s walk for most people. Without the 16 church-run clinics, there would be only 2. The Church was doing comprehensive healthcare long before the State, and it was all voluntary.
The usurping of the Grace functions by the State is not all the fault of those who hate the Church. There are many who love the Church and wish her to confine herself to spiritual issues. They take this position as a reaction to the “social gospel”, which says the primary mission of the Church is dispensing physical and social grace. It’s a legitimate concern; when the Church takes on the whole realm of God’s Grace, she must remember that all aspects of human restoration were purchased at the Cross and that the forgiveness of sins, the spiritual part, is always primary and infinitely superior to all the rest.
This brings us back to the spiritual aspects of the separation of the institutional functions of Law and Grace. Nowadays, we don’t have concerns about the Church usurping Justice functions, but we see the State diving headlong into the Grace functions. The potential for spiritual damage was reviewed in this forum a year ago in a discussion of Socialism. Here is a review:
1. As already mentioned, it promotes moral outsourcing in its citizens and desensitizes their hearts to nearby needs.
2. State relief is centralized and impersonal. Individual or Church charity will provide spiritual or emotional help along with material help. The State can offer food stamps, but not love stamps.
3. When the State dispenses relief, the recipients see it as part of Justice; thus they think they have a right to it. Indeed, it is called “entitlements.” The attitude can also blind them to the reality that they are “poor in spirit.”
4. Whether or not recipients see the State gifts as entitlements, they begin to depend on the State just as Christians depend on God, and they are in danger of idolatry.
5. Eventually, and inevitably, a State that dispenses God’s Grace as well as His Justice will begin to look at itself as God.
June 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVic Tripp
Mr. Vic Tripp, thanks for your comment, well written and well presented. It has given me much food for thought,

In response to Dr, Youssef's post, it was interesting as well. a friend of mine were discussing over the weekend and I took on Dr. Youssef's position about America usually being the first country to offer help and how abundant its help is. His comeback was that it's also the one country that is quick to exploit country's that have resources that will benefit it and that America's help is just a cover for its thievery.

In addition, it has always amazed me how much help, in billions of dollars, goes out to help ailing people and countries and it is still never-ending. Yes, these issues are huge and widespread but really, how much does it take to dig a bore-hole or teach people how to earn a living. I've lived in West Africa and know first hand how little it costs to make a huge difference in poor people's lives even to the next generation.

So is it possible that all America's help is on paper and the funds just go through a "help" route" for the purpose of enriching greedy business owners.
June 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTutu
I would suggest turning off your comments. I agree with you, but I have found that those who disagree enough to post an argument won't be won over- at least not in a forum like this- as they already have their minds made up. Maybe some will read your blog and have a change of mind- but they can do so without commenting. As for those of us who agree with you and would like to encourage you by our comments- we can live without doing that, and I hope YOU know how many of us out here appreciate you and the stand you're taking even without us commenting. I just hate to see you put so much effort into answering critiques by people who won't be changed.
July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Tryng to find post on the KJB and why it should be the only bible.I read this and did not save web page.
my email is alex6500@gmail.com
November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

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