Scripture never suggests that civil government is the curing institution for poverty. And, closely related, Scripture does not support the idea of governments taking from the rich to meet the needs of the poor. That’s right, my friend. The responsibility to provide a societal safety net falls to God’s other ordained institutions. God’s Word has much to say about all manner of issues, and that includes the matters of government and economics. This week’s Bible study, “The Rich and the Poor,” reveals through the Scriptures God’s blueprint for helping the poor — and, to be sure, the biblical solution lies not in the government-driven redistribution of wealth, i.e., socialism. As fallen human beings, we have a propensity to feel like we are superior to others, and believing that the wealthy are crooked is a convenient way to fulfill our superiority quotient. Such prejudice against wealthy individuals leads to many politicians believing it is morally right to take their wealth from them and give it to the poor. In more specific terms, prejudicial conclusions lead to the governmental justification of taxing the rich at higher percentages. Those who have wealth are treated differently than those without. Common statements such as “it’s time for the wealthy to start paying their fair share” illustrate this bias. But what is actually fair and just is for all citizens to pay the same rate — no matter their lot in life and no matter their income. Lady Justice is supposed to sport a blindfold. A wealthy person should not have to pay a higher percentage in taxes because he makes more money any more than a poor person should have to pay a higher percentage because he makes less. Think about it: When civil government becomes compassionate it becomes prejudicial. Whereas other God-ordained institutions can manifest compassion, the civil government cannot because it is supposed to equally and justly represent every citizen. Scripture tells us that those who create wealth should be praised and incentivized to create even greater wealth — perhaps with tax breaks! Such leads to more job creation and employment — and more wealth for individuals, families, churches and businesses to give to the less fortunate. To excuse the disproportional taxing of a resourceful individual with a dismissive comment like “they can afford it” or “it won’t hurt them” is to cast aside the consideration of justice. These kinds of comments, in fact, display prejudice and partiality. Much more often than not, the reason wealthy people are wealthy is that they have been willing to take more risks when they saw an opportunity and/or because they worked harder and had more character and perseverance. Such honorable attributes are worthy of praise — not penalty. To give a poor man a lower tax rate is for government to show partiality when it is called by God to be impartial. Notice Exodus 23:3 in this regard: “Nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute.” In context, this passage relates to a courtroom matter, but the principle is applicable to economics as well. Proverbs 17:26 states the same principle as Exodus 23:3, albeit in the opposite way: “It is also not good to fine the righteous, nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.” To unjustly tax a wealthy person is for government to fine the righteous. It is to strike an innocent person for no biblical reason. Again, civil government needs to be just and impartial to all citizens. God does have a plan to help the poor, but note what is missing from these passages:
- “But now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem” (Romans 15:25-26).
- “They only asked us to remember the poor — the very thing I also was eager to do” (Galatians 2:10).
- “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)
- “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).
- “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).