Jesus and the Federal Budget?

We continue to find ourselves in an environment where Christians of various stripes insist that the Bible gives us very specific commands for how the government should be run

“One of the clearest examples of this at the moment is last week’s announcement that over 100 evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders made a joint statement challenging the proposed budget set forth by the Executive Branch of the U.S. government.”

 

One of the interesting aspects of Scripture is that it doesn’t tell us the precise way in which moral principles should be implemented in the civil sphere–even while it contains ironclad moral commands and lasting principles for the lives of God’s people. This makes sense for quite a number of reasons.

In the first place, it is important for us to note that the Old Testament was written in the context of a theocracy–a situation far distant from our own. Today, the theocratic nation of Israel is a matter of history and no longer in existence. The Westminster Confession of Faith even goes so far as to say that that “sundry judicial laws…expired together with the State of that people” (WCF 19.4).

The New Testament was written in the context of an underdog atmosphere where the ability of Christians to have any influence on the laws of Rome would have seemed laughably absurd. The New Testament doesn’t envision a scenario of cultural/political conquest for Christians, but instead assumes that the readers are powerless minorities who need to learn how to live as a minority in the face of opposition.

In spite of these realities, we continue to find ourselves in an environment where Christians of various stripes insist that the Bible gives us very specific commands for how the government should be run. One of the clearest examples of this at the moment is last week’s announcement that over 100 evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders made a joint statement challenging the proposed budget set forth by the Executive Branch of the U.S. government.

The letter, which is addressed to Paul Ryan, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, and Nancy Pelosi, states that America has a moral responsibility to not reduce its International Affairs Budget. One might wonder whether the Bible instructs governments as to how to set their budgets. According to the letter in question, it is found in Matthew 25, where Jesus says “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

These are words, of course, which Jesus directs to His disciples in which He is telling His people how to live in the world and to love other believers. These are words directed to the church of Jesus Christ, for sure. It’s hard to conceive of the disciples standing before Caesar and talking budget cuts. My suspicion is that they felt they had a more important message to share.

I am not suggesting that the United States government should or should not seek to assist the poor. However, as a pastor and a minister of the Gospel, I would be out of my depth to suggest what a wise or unwise use of the federal budget would be in this regard.

Some Christians are adamant that the federal government should have little to no budget. Some think that we should have a massive budget that protects every citizen–not only of the U.S., but also of the world. What troubles me most of all is the idea that we should baptize our political preferences and make them the law of the land. This happens all the time, but in this case it’s especially sanctimonious and troubling.

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