Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Christ on the Political Stump

Two acquaintances of mine were arguing online recently about which political party Jesus would belong to today.

“Republican,” one said, “because he essentially instructed people that they are ultimately responsible for their actions.” Well, he did tell people to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt 4:17)

“Democrat,” the other replied, “because he told people they should take care of the poor.” Jesus did tell the rich man that to enter heaven, he should give all he owns to the poor. (Matt 19:21)

They are both correct in their paraphrasing of Christ’s words, but they miss the point of Christ’s teaching.

Jesus did not preach a ‘group’ mentality. He was speaking to each of us as an individual. These are choices we must make on our own—not by a governmental decree. After all, he told the rich man to make his own decision about his possessions.

He didn’t advocate that the government—in Jesus’ case, the Romans—should ensure that all the rich would give what they owned to the poor. What good would that do, as far as eternal salvation is concerned? Is a good deed still a good deed if we are forced to do it?

No, I don’t think Christ wanted any social structure to declare by fiat, that self-sacrifice was the preferred way of life. He wanted that to be an individual decision. Of course, I believe he wanted every individual to decide that charity was paramount in their lives.

What kind of a place would you win in heaven if the only reason you gave to the poor was because you were forced to? I think compulsory charity violates the Divine gameplan. Whatever we decide to do, we have to each make that decision individually. I somehow don’t think that God can be fooled into seeing philanthropy as anything that is mandatory.

When Christ suggested that we “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” he was sort of indicating straightforwardly that such an action would take care of only our administrative responsibilities. I guess that’s why he included the second half of that admonition—that we must “Render unto God the things that are God’s.” That’s where he gets to the meat of his message.

Altruism isn’t altruism if it’s legally binding. How much do you think most people would give to charity if it wasn’t deductible on their income tax?

No, I don’t think Jesus would have been either Democrat or Republican. I think he would have been a registered Independent. Over here in Jersey, we call that Unaffiliated, which sounds like a word that would be used to describe somebody that doesn’t want to get involved.

But we all know that Jesus wanted everybody to get involved in their neighbor’s well-being. He just didn’t want us to be forced to do so. He wanted it to be our choice.

Just like it’s your choice whether or not you want to visit my Web site:

And like Jesus, I want it to be your choice. I would never force you to do anything against your better nature.

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