Imagine that you are a student in your freshman year at college and you are among a group of high achievers called the ‘A group’ that are consistently earning straight As in all of your course work. You are the envy of the freshman class and all the college professors marvel at how you and this group of high achievers are able to effortlessly, it seems, attain to these consistently high grades while the majority of the class is struggling to get by with some Cs, but mostly Ds and Fs. It doesn’t matter that some of the folks that are in the A group are naturally gifted while others just have a ridiculously efficient work regiment, all members in this group always achieve high grades and it is very evident to all onlookers. Then suddenly, in walks the President of the college declaring:
I’m going to take a portion of those in the A groups’ grades and give it to those at the very bottom who need this help to survive academically. After All, you guys should be willing to give something up as people who’ve been extraordinarily blessed academically, you should be willing to give up some of the good grades that you enjoy, and, I actually think this is going to make academic sense. But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’ teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.’
What would you do? Is this a sound argument? What right does the President have to muck with your grades, after all, he didn’t earn them, did he? He does not own your grades, does he?
This analogy may not be a perfect representation of the “wealth redistribution” argument; in fact, all analogies break down at some point; however, I believe it is a good illustration of the difficulties that lie in the belief that one entity has the right to exact “social justice” on behalf of whomever they deem to be society’s victim. (see Did God give the government the right to redistribute wealth)
In a recent news article (Obama says his policies are extension of his faith) President Obama claims that the biblical God endorses his attempts to redistribute the wealth of those that are “extraordinarily blessed” to help those that are poor. One of the methods that he has proposed to achieve this goal is to implement “fairness” in the tax code. The president claims that his “fairness” agenda which aims to enact punitive policies against the wealthy, stems from the biblical passage that states: ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.’
Of the many problems that arise from this article, one of the most glaring is President Obama’s unapologetic eisegesis of the Luke 12:48 (But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more) bible verse. He completely takes the verse out of context to make a point that is not mentioned or supported by the text. The particular idea that President Obama would have us believe is supported by this verse of scripture is: there is a biblical mandate for the government to force those with more money to pay more taxes. That the President would dare suggest such a thing without studying to ensure that such a conclusion is approved by scripture underscores the glaring disconnect between our president’s policies and the intent of God’s word. This verse has nothing whatsoever to do with taxes or money. Furthermore, God isn’t into forcing people to do anything, let alone, paying taxes. The bible is clear that the involuntary transfer of a property title from one party to another, without receiving title to other property in return (i.e. paying taxes) is not a good thing. This is deducible from biblical passages such as: 1 Samuel 8:10-19, Matthew 17:25-26. However, the bible commands us to pay taxes so as not to offend those in power (Matthew 17:27). Similarly, in Matthew 5:44 we are told to do good to those that hate us, but no one would argue that it is therefore perfectly fine for those persons to hate us.
Anyway, for those that care to know the truth, the context of the Luke 12:48 verse that President Obama quotes is not about taxes or wealth management; it’s about the judgement that occurs when Christ returns. Specifically, this verse’s purpose is to convey that there are different degrees of punishment (for the unbeliever) which are based upon the knowledge of God that each one has received. Therefore, this verse has absolutely NOTHING to do with how governments should calculate taxes and everything to do with what a person does with the knowledge of God that their lifetime has afforded them. According to Dr. Henry Morris of the New Defender’s Bible Commentary, in the Luke 12:48 parable: “[b]oth servants represent lost sinners, and both are punished, with neither saved. The intensity of suffering, however, is inflicted in accordance with degree of sinfulness in relation to degree of light received or truth known.” For example, “those born in Christian homes, in Christian lands, with abundant access to Bibles, churches, and schools, as well as other privileges, will be evaluated more critically than those” unbelievers who perished without such advantages.
Of course, Romans 1:18-20 conveys the idea that the innate knowledge of God possessed by each and every person is sufficient to condemn that person at the judgement should they decide to do nothing with that knowledge. There are no exemptions for the blind, deaf, dumb, or the mentally challenged, so this knowledge is not a knowledge that is gained through the senses, rather, it is already implanted into our minds at birth. This knowledge is what renders all men inexcusable should they choose to leave this world in a state of ignorance or unbelief (disobedience). Consequently, if all (of the unsaved), by default, are subject to condemnation for this innate knowledge, of how much more condemnation shall they be thought worthy of, who in addition to this innate knowledge were immersed into a society inundated with churches, bibles, Christian schools, Christian organizations, Christian friends, Christian neighbors and Christian websites? Therefore, to whom much is given, much is required.
One may ask in response, can’t we extrapolate a generic principle from this saying of Christ and apply it to financial stewardship? The answer is NO! We do not arrive at principles about financial stewardship by extrapolating verses that have nothing to do with financial stewardship. For Christians, the bible is our unreformable starting point; therefore, if God doesn’t explicitly mention a similar principle (i.e. to whom much is given much is required) in regards to financial stewardship elsewhere in scripture, and if this principle cannot be deduced by good and necessary consequence from the verses that comprise the Luke 12:48 parable, then we haven’t any justification for arbitrarily extrapolating a financial principle from this verse in scripture that is tethered to an entirely different context. Scripture is not a wax nose. We could just as easily require the reader to extrapolate a Luke 12:48 principle that applies to those that are stewards of excellent class grades or excellent health. Neither of these extrapolations would have scriptural warrant.
Of course, one could easily use President Obama’s own hermeneutics to demonstrate the absurdity of his hermeneutics, in fact, I’m fortunate in this quest since the verse that he chose to take out of context has a counterpart somewhere out there just waiting to be equally misused. For instance, in Matthew 25:29 (For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath) it appears that I have found all the justification I need to argue that the bible supports taking from the poor and giving to those that are rich. This, of course, is not the intended context, but there is no way President Obama could ever accuse me of taking this verse out of context without incriminating himself. Therein lies the problem with being fast and loose with the scriptures. I guess when the President takes time off from accusing God’s word of being inferior, it’s only to twist those same words to support his unbiblical ideas of social justice and wealth redistribution. Incidentally, I find it ironic that on the one hand, Obama scoffs at the idea of using God’s word to influence policy, then on the other hand (i.e. Obama says his policies are extension of his faith), he claims that his fairness policy is the result of scripture. That this unfortunate propensity to flip-flop should befall President Obama will not surprise those that are familiar with his other about faces (i.e. he was against homosexual marriage but now his views are “evolving”, letting Sudan off the hook for the Darfur genocide after promising sanctions as a candidate, redefining his grounds for abortion under public duress etc). I also consider it ironic that the other bible verse that President Obama quotes; Proverbs 31:8 (Speak for those who cannot speak; seek justice for all those on the verge of destruction), is one of the most galvanizing verses for those that espouse the rights of the aborted babies (who incidentally cannot speak for themselves and are ever imminently on the verge of destruction) yet it’s being used as a proof text for taxation and wealth distribution by arguably the most pro-death president in our country’s history. If you want real social justice, just wait until Christ returns to enact justice on all those that have ignored or disobeyed His word (2 Thessalonians 1:8). It is only then that you will see true social justice. Until then, President Obama needs to stop handling scripture in such a sloppy manner; otherwise, folks will keep doubting whether his profession of faith is genuine or just socially/politically convenient. Of course, if the idea of social justice had any merit, one would wonder why Christ has to come back to straighten up the world, in the first place.
Regarding Obama’s plans of wealth redistribution, according to Dr. John Robbins of http://www.TrinityFoundation.org:
“No one can seriously deny that private property is one of the basic values of both the Bible and American society. It has been under heavy attack in the twentieth century by atavistic and criminal collectivists who wish either to abolish it or to redistribute it by political means. “Thou shalt not steal” applies to all, both rulers and private citizens. Rulers routinely violate the commandment by taxation, expropriation, and inflation.” – The Ethics and Economics of Health Care
As a result of the above, I strongly believe that President Obama’s ideas amount to theft. You may have the right to be jealous but you do not have the right to steal from the rich in order to enact the justice that your jealousy demands. If the rich have violated some law then the President has the authority to punish them for whatever wrong that they have committed but he does not have the right to alter their status by removing some of their property no matter how small. If the president wants to quote scripture he should start by adhering to the ten commandments, specifically the one that states “Thou shalt not steal!”
In conclusion, I have no problem with individual citizens giving to the poor and Christians should instinctively know that to do such is our (and NOT the government’s) prerogative and duty; however, I object to an immoral government (that thinks it is OK to kill babies but it’s not OK to have poor people) stealing other folks money under the guise of “fairness.” Of course, if the government were really concerned about fairness, the tax rate would be the same across the board and all persons would be required to pay taxes regardless of socioeconomic status. If we as a nation implement inept, socialistic laws that are doomed for failure, when things start falling apart, we do not have the right to start targeting the affluent merely because they are affluent. Besides, there exists no objective, non-arbitrary, definition for the word “fair” outside of a moral lawgiver who owns everything (and thus has the authority to enact standards); to date, the only moral lawgiver that fits this criteria is YAHWEH, the Almighty God of the Bible.