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With all the back and forth discussion in our nation these days about reshaping our government, it makes us wonder what the real role of government should be.
The Bible doesn't say a ton about the proper role of government; but it is not totally silent on the issue either! It seems clear from the Old Testament that one of government's proper roles is to protect its people from foreign invaders.
The other major role of government is to oversee the criminal justice system: to apprehend, charge and fairly try those accused of crime and then punish those who are convicted proportional to the reprehensibility of their conduct and their personal responsibility at the time they committed the crime. (See Romans 13:1-7; I Peter 2:13-14)
But how about government's role in meeting the needs of the poor and disadvantaged? While this sounds like a very benevolent activity, it is NOT the primary job of government! Rather meeting the needs of the poor and hurting is the proper role of the Church and we followers of Christ!
I could go on at length on this subject, but let me summarize why this is true: Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" in 1964 actually produced more poverty in our nation. Why might that be? Because we humans are sinners by nature and will tend to move toward any option that seems easier rather than one that requires us to work harder.
As Marvin Olasky points out in his great book, "The Tragedy of American Compassion," the poor often need to be challenged with "tough love" whereby they are rewarded more in the long run by getting a job than by continuing to take handouts from government.
Olasky explains how, when years ago, religious organizations WERE the "welfare system" in America, people quickly moved into the middle class! The reason was that churches required poor men to chop wood for other poor folks and poor women to sew clothing for other needy people. They were also required to take the first open job that became available. If they refused to do these things, they were not financially helped until they submitted to the requirements.
And, even more importantly, Christian welfare agencies were able to minister to the heart needs of people--to share the Gospel so that people began to change from the inside, a role which government, obviously, cannot do.
But over time, we in the Church have allowed government to take over our job of helping the poor. Tragically, the consequences have been very costly: we now have more poor people and, along with that, unsustainable (and growing daily) national debt. So sad!
God help us to pray and be willing to do our part to turn this around! Yes, it will truly take a miracle. But nothing is too hard for our God!
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He is the executive director of The Grand Awakening.