Matthew 25.org: On "The Least of These"
I started a series a couple of weeks back on a website called “Matthew25.org”, a “community of Christians” that has come out in support of Barack Obama for president. Here’s the next installment:
“Caring for the least of these” is next on Matthew25.org’s list of values. Again, the value is one upon which we all ought to be able to agree. The question, as is true with so many of these, is, “what policies are likely to result in the protection of “the least of these”? But there’s another question that is intertwined with this one, it seems to me, and that involves the question of whose role is it to tend to “the least of these”? Liberals tend to believe that it is the role of government to perform this function, and thus tend to support all sorts of government programs that they believe will accomplish this purpose. My questions, and the topic of this blog post, are three:
1. Is it the province of the government in general, and the federal government in particular, to try to help the poor?
2. Do the government programs that purport to do this actually accomplish what they set out to do?
3. Do the particular candidates demonstrate that they are themselves concerned with the poor by virtue of their own willingness to give of themselves to help them?
I find this last question to be quite a telling one. See, it doesn’t seem to me to be a particularly virtuous thing to try to do good with other people’s money; I’m more impressed by the willingness of an individual to care for “the least of these” voluntarily with his own money, his own efforts, his own time. Fortunately, we are able to find out how committed the candidates are to “the least of these” in their own personal finances…and the answers are telling.
Barack Obama is a stingy individual. Joe Biden, his running mate, is an astonishingly stingy individual.
I’ve written before on this blog about the stinginess of Barack Obama. This is a bit dated article on the Obamas’ charitable giving, and since it came out, we’ve learned that the Obamas made over $4 million in 2007, mostly due to book sales. Giving $240K sounds pretty good until you put it alongside $4 million-plus in income, and then it sounds, particularly for a professing Christian, unimpressive to say the least. I’m not tooting my own horn when I say this, but I’d like to think that I speak for most committed Christians when I say that, if I were to suddenly earn $4 million-plus next year, I’d be deciding how much of the second million, and maybe the third, to give to charity, to help “the least of these” in some way. Is that even a hard call? Was for Obama the Stingy.
But he’s a regular free-hearted individual compared to his Veep candidate. Here’s what Joe Biden gave to charity for the last ten years:
Both of these men would profess some allegiance to Christian faith. While Biden (with good reason!) hasn’t attempted to wear his Catholic faith on his sleeve, Obama has spoken openly of his relationship with Jesus Christ. But the proof is in the pudding, and followers of Christ are called, not first to the enacting of laws and legislation that abscond money from others to help “least of these”, but to personal involvement. Biden fails this test spectacularly, and Obama fails it by a wide margin.
The fact of the matter is that higher taxes—ostensibly to fund programs to “help the poor”—have the effect of preventing sincere Christians from doing all that they otherwise might to personally obey the call of Christ, not even to speak of the fact that the government’s unwillingness to hold people accountable for their actions means that much of the money going to help the poor is going to help undeserving poor people (yes, you read me right: not all the poor are deserving of our financial assistance simply because they are poor!). Individuals can, should, and do discriminate, donating money to charities that make judgments as to the worthiness of the individuals to receive support. Churches do this (and should!); we get calls all the time from people wanting a handout, but many are people who are making foolish choices and then want the church to bail them out. Some, on the other hand, are people who for one reason or another have legitimate needs, and prove themselves willing to work to try to get themselves out of their situations. There is all the difference in the world between the two—but the government can’t make this distinction very easily. This is why charity is always better left in the hands of private agencies, agencies that could receive more funds to help “the least of these” if the federal government weren’t sticking its infernal paws into our wallets.
And it’s a particularly egregious thing when the very politicians who’ll readily stick their hands into your pockets to grab your money—and then sanctimoniously suggest that it’s the “patriotic” thing to do to roll over and allow them to do this—are the same people who, when it comes to voluntarily giving their own money, prove themselves anything but concerned for “the least of these”.