Does God support any government effort to redistribute wealth?

Person 1:

Leviticus 19 (Moral and Ceremonial Laws)
– ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.
– And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather everygrape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the LORD your God.
– ‘You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.
– And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.
– ‘You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning.
– You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the LORD.
– ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.
– You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.
– ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.
– You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

1). Does the verse in the passage below suggest that we should (to some degree) “Distribute wealth”?
2). If the Government enforces some of the laws in the passage below (not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him) is it therefore wrong for the Government to enforce subtle acts of the “Redistributing of wealth”?
For the record, I am not advocating all perceived forms of the redistributing of wealth by the government, I just wanted some thoughts on the highlighted verse below and it’s relevance to the “Redistribution of wealth”.

James:

Of course the people of God (i.e. Christians, covenant Jews) are to redistribute wealth, that is what giving is all about. The issue is when some else one takes the liberty to distribute your wealth for you without your permission, this is called stealing and it is a violation of the 10th commandment. So, yes, it is utterly wrong for the Government to either redistribute wealth or enforce the redistribution of wealth (in any form) since this is stealing in God’s site. Of course, God even warned His people of what would happen when they informed Samuel that they wanted to replace God’s installed government with one after their own liking. Amazingly, instead of heeding God’s warning, they effectively said ‘thanks but no thanks’; and according to God’s prophecy, the man-made governments became the thieves that God knew they would be; read for yourself below:
And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king. And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
(1 Samuel 8:10-19 KJVR)

A good article to read that goes into much more detail is:
The Ethics and Economics of Health Care (http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=266)

As to your second question, the passage you site does not indicate that the government is to enforce the punishment of this evil doing (i.e. robbing or cheating your neighbor), however Romans 13:3 does tell us that one of the permissions assigned to our man-chosen (albeit God-ordained as a recompense for our desires) government is to punish evil doers. Also, your question, paraphrased seems to go like this: Since the government enforces the tenth commandment (not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him) why can’t the government break the tenth commandment (redistribute wealth). As you can see, an affirmative answer to your question would make God contradict Himself and we all know that God is not the author of confusion.

Person 2:

I think the verse in Leviticus is more about helping the poor. As in Ruth, Boaz followed God’s law and the poor / widows were able to glean the corners for food. Unlike our government, the poor had to work for food. God did not say, glean the entire field, prepare it and then give it to the poor. Secondly, it was up to the individual to follow God’s law — not enforced by the government. Lastly, by putting the government in the picture it gives the people an excuse not to help, follow God’s commandment or demonstrate God’s love — I paid my taxes.
Unfortunately, the government is managed by sinful men who will be inclined to pursue their self-interest. Wealth distribution is an excuse to tax and help themselves. If the government really wanted to help, it would make opportunities for people to advance themselves. It’s job should be to make an even playing field.

James:

A really excellent response from Person 2. Fully concur. In fact, I’m actually surprised (because I know Person 2 had previously extolled the merits of welfare). The only caveat I would have is that if “making an even playing field” includes affirmative action (at least in its current implementation) then I would object; I think that as long as the government achieves an even playing field solely by punishing evildoers then it is within its God mandated rights.

Person 2:

Welfare has in merits when governed the right way – assistance that promotes self development and sustainment. The same goes for affirmative action — not hand outs but hand ups. In historical Israel, affirmative action may not have made sense but in America it has its merit. God sets the baseline rights / laws. A society can augment God’s laws and it not be a bad thing. For instance, defining child labor laws.

James:

My friend, all that I can say is good luck trying to find justification for that (i.e. government-run welfare administered in any way, affirmative, action) in the scriptures. You use words like “make sense” as if that is how we decide which laws are just. Just because something makes sense (at least in your eyes) doesn’t mean its in line with the word of God. And besides, if any law does not have its foundations in scripture then why is there any moral compulsion to follow them? After all, it would just be an arbitrary rule that has no moral authority behind it (since the government is not a valid moral authority). And where does scripture say that society can augment God’s laws without this being a bad thing? The only person who can augment God’s laws are God Himself. Besides, society is also not a valid moral authority, in fact, since it is merely an abstraction, society can’t do anything. The individual people in the society perhaps but once again there is no scriptural backing for that conjecture.
Nowhere in scripture is child labor at any age deemed sinful so perhaps you need to get more specific otherwise your point is unproven. Lastly, there is no way to get around your inevitable support for the government breaking the tenth commandment. When the government takes my money in the form of compulsory taxes and uses it for ANY type of welfare (contrary to my original intent for the usage of those funds) then theft has just occured. This the whole idea behind limited government. Despite the current norm, the government never had the biblical right to take money for any kind of welfare no matter how meritorious its implementation.

I’ll leave you with the following excerpt from the article I referenced earlier:

Crockett, as a member of the House of Representatives, once voted to give $20,000 to the homeless victims of a fire in Georgetown. One of Crockett’s constituents, Horatio Bunce, told Crockett he would not be voting for him in the coming election because of that vote. Crockett objected, “Certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing treasury.” Mr. Bunce proceeded to explain why the vote was wrong:

It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes…. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man. While you are voting to relieve one, you are drawing money from thousands…. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other.
No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual Members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose….There are about 240 Members of Congress. If they had shown their sympathy for the sufferers by contributing each one week’s pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of wealthy men in and around Washington who could have given $20,000 without depriving themselves of even a luxury of life. The Congressmen chose to keep their own money, which, if reports be true, some of them spend not very creditably; and the people about Washington, no doubt, applauded you for relieving them from the necessity of giving what was not yours to give.
So, you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people.

Person 2:

I’m not trying to justify affirmative action with scripture. At the end of the day, people have to vote or choose leaders that represent their desires or what “make sense” for them. As long as scriptures does not speak against the policy, it is an area of choice or Christian liberty. Augmenting God’s law is not always bad. Clearly setting a speed limit is not a bad thing and the bible does not talk about maximum speed limit for roads. Should be not define a speed limit? As for government taking your money, Jesus did not say render unto Caesar what is Caesar if you agree with the policies of Caesar. As for the Mr. Brune, what money is the government giving for affirmative action?

Person 1:

Person 2, thanks for your input, you beat me to the punch on many points, such as on James’ slippery slope assertion in stating that because “No where in scripture is … deemed sinful so perhaps you need to get more specific otherwise your point is unproven”. Remember one of your church’s Eternal values (I think its eternal value #3), “Where the Bible is clear, we will be emphatic. Where the Bible is silent, we must allow people freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17, Romans 14:1-4”. The Bible doesn’t mention anything about the legal age to drive, does this mean the Government is wrong for imposing a minimum driving age? Is the Government wrong for imposing minimum wage, or emission standards or regulations on “drill baby drill”? (Dick Cheney and Halliburton – I had to through this in there … J).
James, you keep making reference to the concept of Government imposed compulsory taxes and uses it for ANY type of welfare as “breaking the tenth commandment”, at least you seemed to have “backed down” from your initial assertion that all Government imposed taxes are in divergence with scripture. If you still feel this way, I direct you to the two passages below (try and make some sense out of them).
Mark 12: 14-17
[14] And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?
[15] Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.
[16] And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s.
[17] And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.
Mathew 17: 24-27
[24] And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
[25] He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
[26] Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
[27] Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
In order not to go off on a “left of the center” rant about social injustices and how the Government has imposed laws (some which I agree with) to bring order to social issues that would otherwise enable practices such as big companies paying the cleaning crew two bucks an hour each because they are illegal rather than hiring legal residents and paying them (what the Governments deems) a fair wage, I will conclude with the following statements.
My friend, I admire your knowledge in various Biblical-related topics and I am fascinated by your scholarship in these areas, but at the end of the day you sometimes make statements that perhaps make you seem (for lack of a better word) hypocritical when you match them up your life experiences. I know this is a rather strong statement but check these points out:
1). You denounce (as a violation of the tenth commandment) the very same system that you had the luxury of using on your way to where you are at today, you did and I did. Your family at one point in time was in desperate need of financial support, and I thank GOD for the system (this system you now want to defame) for proving the food and shelter you needed at that time. Sure, we can look back and say that if there was no welfare that God would have certainly made another way (and I sincerely believe that), BUT it just so happened that GOD used this system (that we now want to defame) as the means to get your family through the years of hardship you experienced …When you individualize these issues it puts a different spin on things, doesn’t it!!
2). You condemn affirmative action as if it’s a lousy excuse for hand-outs to blacks yet the organization you are an alumni of, an organization that you were affiliated with (and still are a member of)… made its relevance off the benefits of affirmative action. It was an organization whose main focus was to empower minorities through its connection to cooperate America, this connection that was/is a direct result of Affirmative action. For you to denounce this practice now is akin to an NFL player being the #1 anti-steroid advocate after making it to the NFL through the use of steroids.
3). You “tea party” people crack me up with this talk of “This is the whole idea behind limited government” and “we need small government, not big government” yet they are indirectly employed by this very same bureaucracy that is “too big” with “too much government” and “too many government jobs”. Dude, if the government was as “small as you imagined as ideal” you wouldn’t have the luxury of spending company time filling your blogs with “bad government talk”, you would be too busy dressing up your resume for monster.com.

James:

Yes, but the problem is that scripture speaks both against welfare and affirmative action albeit indirectly. Both of these actions involve the commandeering of a person’s property to fulfill the government’s sinful desires. My point is further demonstrated by the following excerpt:

“One cannot legally or morally give away that which one does not own. Giving is the voluntary transfer of a property title by one party to another, without receiving title to other property in return. (That is why government charity is a contradiction in terms: Government forces taxpayers to fund the welfare programs. There is no voluntary transfer of property titles.) If one takes property from the person who possesses title to it without his consent, one is stealing.” – Dr. Robbins (Biblical Principles of Giving)

That affirmative action is ungodly (in as much as it forces employers to cede the management of their own property or perform involuntary transfer of property), is not as obvious a sin as stealing probably because many people don’t realize that property theft is occurring. Stealing, according to the bible, is wrong. Furthermore, affirmative action is a transgression of the Romans 17:12 mandate that we do not repay evil with evil. Opponents may try to argue that affirmative action’s counter discrimination has a different intent than the original discrimination that necessitated affirmative action and therefore such a response is not really discrimination. Unfortunately, only God can authenticate this claim since He is in fact the only One who can look into men’s souls to discern intent. Notwithstanding the problems with this rebuttal, affirmative action would still fall under the category of retribution and thus violate the Romans 17:12 mandate.

You mentioned the following: “At the end of the day, people have to vote or choose leaders that represent their desires or what “make sense” for them.” Where is this maxim found in scripture? Actually, your suggestion, according to my understanding of scripture (Proverbs 3:5) is strongly discouraged. Using stronger words, the bible calls this a foolish technique (Proverbs 28:26).
In regards to augmenting God’s laws, once again I think that perhaps you are choosing the wrong term; God’s laws are only augmentable by God. To augment (according to the dictionary) means to “enlarge or increase.” The government creating a speed limit law in no way augments God’s law nor can it. The speed limit law is an example of a man made law. The best one can hope for manmade laws are that they conform to (or have as their foundation) greater laws found in the scriptures (Hebrews 7:7). Entitlement programs such as welfare and affirmative action do not conform to the tenth commandment, nor are their foundations rooted in scripture.

You mention that it is “clear” that enacting a law regarding the speed at which vehicles are allowed to travel is not bad even though the topic of setting speed limits is never specifically broached in the scriptures; so I must reply, if it isn’t addressed in the scriptures (as you claim) then how then do you know that this action is not bad especially since scripture alone is our only arbiter for what is good and bad? Also, if creating a speed limit law is “not bad” because of the notion of Christian Liberty then its converse (not setting a speed limit law) is also not bad since the premise behind the Christian Liberty notion is that there is a range of behavior that is not legislated in scripture one way or the other as long as it is not precluded by scripture and one’s conscience does not object to the action (i.e. observance of “holy” days, eating meat previously sacrificed to idols etc). Moreover, if the persons that author these speed limit laws aren’t Christians then how do they know what is good and bad since such terms (good or bad) are arbitrary and meaningless outside of a Christian worldview?

It surprises me that you qoute Matt 22:21 presumably in an attempt to claim that Jesus is justifying the collection of taxes (I must presume this since you do not include any further details as to why you provide this presumed prooftext); He isn’t. In fact, Christ in Matthew 17:25-26 defines the paying of government tribute as bondage; so, it is difficult to see how anyone can posit an argument justifying the collection of taxes as a moral act. The two questions one should ask in regards to Matt 22:21 are; (1) – Is the collection of taxes by the government a moral act? and (2) – Should we as Christians pay taxes? The biblical answer to the first question is no, the biblical answer to the second question is yes. I believe that to grasp the true meaning of what Jesus intends by His response we must look at the clarifying question He asks right before He delivers His response.

Matthew 22:17-22
Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. 22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

If I may paraphrase, what Jesus says here is: since it’s Caesar’s image and description on the coin then render unto him this coin that is his. The things which are Caesar’s includes that denarius (a silver coin) because unlike a talent (currency which originated from merchants and not from any government), a denarius was manufactured and distributed by Rome and was thus a product of Rome.

The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge puts it this way:
[Christ’s] conclusion is drawn from their own maxims and premises. They held that “wherever the money of any king is current, there the inhabitants acknowledge that king for their lord.” Now, by admitting that this was Cæsar’s coin, and by consenting to receive it as the current coin of their country, they in fact acknowledged their subjection to his government, and of course their obligation to pay the tribute demanded of them.

All of the above is mentioned to underscore the take-home message which is; when governments decided to manufacture money and control its value by manufacturing more or less based on the government’s prerogative to do so, they overstepped a boundary that is implicit in Romans 13:2-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17, namely, the boundary that only ordains government for the purpose of punishing evil doers. Dr. Robbins writes:

“This historical argument from the Old Testament, an argument that supports the idea that the origin of money was the market, not a government decree, is complemented by a moral argument from the New Testament. In the thirteenth chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul gives one and only one purpose of government. He writes: “He [the ruler] is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoers.” Paul does not regard government as provider of income, health care, education, national parks, money, or any of the other services common to our modem welfare states; its function is quite simple: to punish wrongdoers. Exactly which wrongs to punish and which punishments to impose must be settled by appeals to other Biblical texts, but it is clear that Paul has something like the much despised night watchman state of 19th century liberalism in mind. This is a major teaching of the Bible about money. The Bible is our oldest and most reliable history book, and it indicates that money did not develop, at least in Israel, from government action but from the market. Second, in the New Testament this lack of participation by the government in furnishing money is reinforced by Paul’s failure to include management of monetary policy as one of the purposes of government.” – Dr John Robbins (Money, Freedom and the Bible)

It is interesting to note that when Peter also talks about government (in 1 Peter 2:13-17), he too only brings up the idea that we are to regard Government as persons ordained by God for the punishing of evildoers; nothing about welfare, money management or national health care is mentioned in Peter’s description of Government.

“Notwithstanding, lest we should offend [the Government]”
According to Matthew 17:26 and Romans 13:2-7 we don’t pay taxes because taxes in themselves are just; they aren’t (as we have discussed earlier), we pay taxes because God commands us against civil resistance (offending the government) especially in the area of paying a tribute or tax. That God requires us to cooperate in this area should not alarm Christians. There are many occurrences in the bible where God mandates that we endure wrongdoing. For instance:

Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Romans 12:17-19 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord

Finally, Mr.Brune does not talk about affirmative action, his dialog is actually in regard to welfare. However, affirmative action as I have demonstrated is akin to property commandeering which is essentially theft. As Dr.Robbins notes: “Biblical law follows the principle of punishing wrongdoers rather than trying to regulate everyone in the hope of preventing wrong doing.”
The bible does not say that it is the government’s job to maintain an even playing field, in fact, achieving an even playing field, as an aspiration, is not even mentioned anywhere in scripture. The bible does however state (in the book of proverbs) that government should not practice partiality; since reverse partiality is a virtue of affirmative action it is not possible to harmonize this particular government response with scripture. Once again (and despite where we are as a country), the only role of the government according to the scriptures is simply to punish wrongdoing.

P.S. I will not officially answer Person 1’s entire email. Person 1’s diatribe, apart from employing name calling, incoherence and numerous (logical) fallacies, seems to really posit only one reply-worthy theme; namely, that Christians should adopt the “Stockholm Syndrome.” Allow me to illustrate my point by using a biblical analogy. The term “Back-to-Egypt Club” (coined by Lon Solomon in one of his sermons) referred to the liberated Israelites journeying through the wilderness, who, in discontentment with their plight, would always bicker and complain that God’s way and His plans for them were inadequate. Based on their perception that God had led them into the wilderness to live a life of misery, the Israelites would long for the prior days of captivity, claiming that the crippling and atrocious slavery suffered at the hand of the Egyptian Pharaoh was much better than being under the guidance, providence and wisdom of the Almighty. Members of this club were willing to overlook all the evil that was accomplished at the hands of the Egyptians merely because they thought the conditions in Egypt were better than their current state (of freedom and protection afforded by the Almighty).

Person 1 is like a member of the “Back-to-Egypt Club” but he is a bit more radical; in his mind he appeals to a law that claims it is wrong to call something sin if you have or are benefiting from it. He says: “After all, the Egyptians did feed us (every now and then) so despite the fact that they murdered our male offspring, dishonored our God and subjected us to slavery of the worst kind, we would commit great hypocrisy to criticize them in light of their “generosity” that has gotten us this far. He sings the chorus: “Had it not been for [the kindness of my oppressors in feeding me since obviously this is the only way that God could have brought about my sustenance] tell me where would I be, where would I be?” I mean, how else would I have been fed? Do you think that God is simply going to drop bread and meat right out of the sky? Of course not! So drop your criticism dear conscience; embrace unrighteousness! It can’t be wrong if it has gotten us this far!”

I suppose rapists, kidnappers and hostage takers occasionally feed their victims, how dare their victims open their ungrateful mouths in criticism. All of this reminds me of a scene in the (excellent if you haven’t seen it yet) movie “Luther” where Martin Luther is threatened by Prince Frederick’s secretary Georg Spalatin not to criticize the Prince’s amassing and adulation of holy relics since it was the adoration of these (17,443) relics that paid for Martin’s seat at the University of Wittenburg. “Do not bite the hand that feeds you, Martin. Our prince pays for your chair in this university. His relics pay for your chair.” Aren’t we all glad that Martin Luther didn’t heed that foolish advice, after all, what would the reformation have looked like without Martin Luther?

So the next time someone says: “You would not be where you are today was it not for the government!” Simply reply: Have you ever heard of Statolatry?

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