Monday Morning Insights

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    Agree or Disagree?

    Agree or Disagree?

    Do you agree or disagree with this statement from Jerry Falwell, Jr. (Jerry's son... now president of Liberty University):  "If we all did as Jesus did when he helped the poor, we wouldn't need the government"

    I realize this is just one sentence from a larger conversation Jerry Jr. had with USA Today (talking about social justice).  In the interview Jerry also said this:

    Pastors that preach economic and social justice are "are trying to twist the gospel to say the gospel supported socialism... Jesus taught that we should give to the poor and support widows, but he never said that we should elect a government that would take money from our neighbor's hand and give it to the poor."

    What do you think?  If we all did as Jesus did when he helped the poor, we wouldn't need the government.  True or untrue?

    If it's true... why aren't churches stepping up to do this?

    I just left an elder's prayer meeting this morning where we 'prayed' for people who needed work and money to make ends meet.  But, to be honest, we'll never do more (or at least we haven't in most cases in the past).  That's a matter of personal responsibility and the unemployment system (government), right?  (insert sarcastic tone here).

    You see, I think it's one thing to say that we wouldn't need the government if we acted like Jesus.  It's totally another thing to act like Jesus.



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    1. Jesse @ Catalyst on Tue, March 16, 2010

      - I agree that if just us Christians acted like Jesus & did as he commanded us, we wouldn’t need the Govt’s social programs. But it would cost us a lot & take a lot of sacrifice. This is one of the reasons I feel we’re wasting our money on buildings & programs, b/c those things are not commanded while caring for orphans & widows, helping those in need, loving our neighbors (being good Samaritans), letting men see our good deeds so that they glorify our father in heaven, is explicitly commanded.

      - and I agree that it’s one thing to say it & another thing to do it (I’m a perfect example of that hypocrisy).

    2. Jesse @ Catalyst on Tue, March 16, 2010

      Todd, I always appreciate your questions. You have such great insight into the Church. Thank you.

    3. Art on Tue, March 16, 2010

      I’ve heard that line before, but I’m just not buying it.  For certain, if Christians (including myself) lived within their means (I haven’t always, and I’m paying a heavy price for it), and could take care of their elderly parents when they were older, it would certainly cut down on the cost of social security and medicare. 

      However, the larger social issues of poverty and the destruction left by natural disasters couldn’t be tackled by The Church alone.  We can most definitely do more if we weren’t building huge church buildings and such, but we couldn’t do it alone.

    4. Adam Lehman on Tue, March 16, 2010

      Agree. I think that’d be a case where “every knee shall
      vow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

      I think that’s a picture of heaven.

    5. Leonard on Tue, March 16, 2010

      This will disintegrate quickly is were not careful.  The reason the church is not more actively involved in helping the poor is NOT buildings but rather the debt, lack of margin and disobedience of Christians when it comes to being generous. 

      If Christians gave generously, there would be much more resource for the church to do more.  The churches I know with large buildings are also the most generous to the poor and those in need.  Smaller churches do much less. 

      I read a couple years ago that the average person in this country spends between 8 and 12 bucks a day on peripherals. (things not necessary to existence)  Coffee - $2-$5, candy bar, $1-$2, soda $1-$3, chips, sunflower seeds, a lunch or dinner out… it adds up.

      Pretend for a moment that there were 100,000,000 Christians in America and if we were skipping some of these things…  well you can do the math.  Did you know that people actually pay more interest on their cars and credit cards than they give?  Did you know the average person in the church gives less than 3%?  Did you know that the overwhelming majority of people today DO NOT go to a church of over 1000 people. 

      Make no mistake people, this issue is not a mega church issue, they are by far more active in helping the poor.  This is an issue of hundreds, thousands, millions of Christians in this country doing nothing.

      By the way I do not pastor a mega church.

    6. Dennis Pierce on Tue, March 16, 2010

      It doesn’t make sense that the government should exist to protect our security, subsidize almost every aspect of our lives, yet not make sure poor people (or middle class in a lot of cases) can eat or go to a doctor. Maybe we should all be on our own as far as education, too. Why should poor people get the right to go to school for free? 

      Mr. Falwell’s argument is typical and sad.

    7. Pastor Shelton on Tue, March 16, 2010

      I live and Pastor in a city, Waco, TX, that has a poverty rate of twice the national average (national average 13%, ours is at 26%).  The median household income in our city is only $19,000.  That is insanely low.  Yet the city lives in the shadow of the world’s largest Baptist University, Baylor University (of which I am a graduate), and has over 140 baptist churches alone in a city of only 100,000 people.  That is excluding the 100s of churches of other denominations or non-denominations.  To me the math does not add up.  The city council is constantly bickering about how to allocate funds and our school system is in shambles.  If the Christians that comprise these churches were truly “imitators of God and lived a life of love just as Jesus loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2), then these numbers would be much different. 

      All that being said, many of these churches and Christians do try to give to meet needs.  The problem is that we are throwing money at symptoms rather than being creative enough to go after some systemic problems and/or evils that are causing such poverty.  This type of approach would require large funds and support, which ultimately would require churches to collaborate and work together.  In my estimation, this seems to be one of the largest obstacles facing true ministry to those in need in our city.  I’m interested to know if some of you see similar problems within your community or if you have had success in actually working together to effect change in the systemic causes of poverty within your neck of the woods.


    8. Richard on Tue, March 16, 2010

      Leonard, I hope I’m being careful here.  Taking money from my pocket to pay for programs that someone else thinks will help and is perhaps the solution to problems of poverty, disadvantage, etc., is an act of injustice.  What has been the result of all the money confiscated?  Is it justice to make people dependent on government?  Just wondering…

    9. Jesse Phillips on Tue, March 16, 2010

      Leonard, it depends on how you define “more generous to the poor” - I think it should be defined as a giving percentage. My little church of 20 people gives 100% of our gifts to serve those in need. And we give more than 10% of our income.

      The mega church down the road of 10,000 people gives thousands, yes, but less than 10% of their budget. - who is giving more?

      I am ready to agree with you. I’d like to see budget statements, where those dollars actually go, because it’s too easy to assume that since the mega church is giving thousands that they’re giving more. I used to work at a 10,000+ member church and I saw TONS of waste of money - waste like, let’s remodel this building we have for 80K, and a year later abandon it.

      I’m not against mega churches, I just think we can use our money very efficiently & I believe we should if we can. If some churches aren’t, I wish that they do, or if we disagree on what’s efficient, ok fine. i love them anyway.

    10. sgillesp on Tue, March 16, 2010

      Neither did Jesus say NOT to use government to meet the needs of the poor, needy or marginalized.  We are a government of, by and for the people - if a majority of people vote for government programs, there is no biblical warrant that means they can’t have them.  Personally, I’m thankful for SSDI that meets the huge needs of the disabled in our small congregation - we pick up the difference, but we would be unable to support them totally.  I’m thankful for SSI and SCHIP for the children of the young man we know who just died - he had six months salary in the bank, but his youngest child is three months old.  One of the ways our culture has decided to help one another is through programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Those programs could be run better, they could be paid for more honestly - but it is silly for us to carry on now as though they are unbiblical.  Most of all, I cannot understand how Christians who carry on about these social programs as though they are evil, expect others to understand that their Lord is love and that their community is about good news.  (Especially if what you are saying is, we need to deny people government-funded medical care so that they will have to come to us for it - it seems to me if I were needy I would resent that enormously.)
      The church could have solved health care problems a long time ago, if we thought we could, but we didn’t - so why now is it “Christian” to oppose solutions?  (I will stipulate that it is not the same thing to oppose a solution you think is badly crafted or won’t work.)

    11. Leonard on Tue, March 16, 2010

      Richard, the government takes your money from you not the church… you give money to a church… big difference.  I don’t want to take anything from you. 

      I am saying the problem isn’t the mega church.  It isn’t big buildings either.  It is our own greed and entitlement.  it is our own lack of generosity.  It is our unwillingness to live on less and share more.

      Jesse, I think it is true some that many places do not use their resources wisely…  But my experiences with Mega churches thus far, (been on staff, worked closely with and attended) have all been that they are more generous than small churches even percentage wise.  This is my experience. 

      The point is not the mega church but rather the willingness we have as Jesus people to let others do the job while we spend $5 on a mocha.  The issue lies in the hands of people not the big church and its buildings. 

      The issue as I see it is we want something to be done for the poor but are unwilling to sacrifice to see that happen.  We are not willing to eat only 2 meals a day so someone else can have one.  We are not willing to give up coffee 2-3 days a week so someone else can have an education… 

      We decided to sponsor compassion and to do so we needed to stop some other things we spent money on.  In my experience, most who do this just add it without any adjustment and when life gets hard, the first thing to go is generosity…

      That being said, I am grateful to you for what you and your church are doing.  Thanks.

    12. Vito on Tue, March 16, 2010

      This is an excerpt from a book called “When Helping Hurts”. It may shed some light on the topic and prompt some more discussion.
          The idea that the church should be on the front lines of ministry to the poor is not a new concept in the North American context. As numerous scholars have noted, prior to the Twentieth century, evangelical Christians played a large role in ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of the poor.* However, this all changed at the start of the twentieth century as evangelicals battled theological liberals over the fundamental tenets of Christianity. Evangelicals interpreted the rising social gospel movement, which seemed to equate all humanitarian efforts with bringing in Christ’s kingdom, as part of the overall theological drift of the nation. As evangelicals tried to distance themselves from the social gospel movement, they ended up in large-scale retreat from the front lines of poverty alleviation. This shift away from the poor was so dramatic that church historians refer to the 1900-1930 era as the “Great Reversal” in the evangelical church’s approach to social problems.**

          It is important to note that the Great Reversal preceded the rise of the welfare state in America. Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty did not occur until the 1960s, and even FDR’s relatively modest New Deal policies were not launched until the 1930s. In short, the evangelical church’s retreat from poverty alleviation was fundamentally due to shifts in theology and not-as many have asserted-to government programs that drove the church away from ministry to the poor. While the rise of government programs may have exacerbated the church’s retreat, they were not the primary cause. Theology matters, and the church needs to rediscover a Christ-centered, fully orbed perspective of the kingdom.
      Excerpt from: When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves. P.45, Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009. Corbett, Steve, and Brian Fikkert.

      *Olasky, Marvin. The Tragedy of American Compassion. Leicester, England: Crossway Books, 2008.
      **Marsden, George M.. Fundamentalism and American Culture (New Edition). 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2006.

    13. CS on Tue, March 16, 2010

      My thoughts:

      -There will always be poor people, according to Deuteronomy and the words of Jesus Himself.

      -Christians should be charitable and give to the poor.  This should be done in combination with giving the Gospel always.

      -Not everyone who calls themselves Christians really are, which is why so many areas, like Pastor Shelton’s above, suffer so badly in economic hardships.  Or, like to Leonard’s point, the average person tithes less than 3%.

      -Since the government is a non-Christian entity, it should not be trusted to make decisions in line with a Christian worldview.  Therefore, the amount of money that should be given to it, at least compared to levels of personal benevolence, should be as minimal as possible.

      -And using the government to make up for the shortfalls described two points up, in an effort to solve the problems of poverty (which will never go away, as described in my first point), is not the solution.

      -There is a word typically used to describe it when money is unwillingly taken from one person and given to another—theft.


    14. Peter Hamm on Tue, March 16, 2010


      The problem with the statement in the Gospels (that is a quote from Deuteronomy) is that people use that as an excuse to not help the poor. I’ve heard it argued more than once that we shouldn’t worry so much about the poor, because Jesus said they will always be with you.

      But if you look at the passage in Deuteronomy in context, it’s more like “There will always be poor among you, and therefore you will always have an opportunity to be charitable to them” not “There will always be poor among them, just forget about it.”

      btw, I agree with a lot of what you just wrote, just wanted to point that out…

      Discussing the question as a political issue is a smokescreen for most of us.

      The real question isn’t “What should the church do about the poor”? It’s “What can I do right now today about them?”

    15. CS on Tue, March 16, 2010


      “The problem with the statement in the Gospels (that is a quote from Deuteronomy) is that people use that as an excuse to not help the poor. I�ve heard it argued more than once that we shouldn�t worry so much about the poor, because Jesus said they will always be with you.”

      I hate when that gets used in that way, too, and agree with your assessment.  We would never say something like, “Well, houses always burn down, so there’s no need for a fire department.”  That’s why I immediately followed with, “Christians should be charitable and give to the poor.”


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