OpEd: Keep Jesus Out of Your Socialism

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The headline of the full-page ad
asks, “What Would Jesus Cut?—A budget is a moral document.” The text
continues, “Our faith tells us that the moral test of a society is how
it treats the poor.”

The ad was produced by Sojourners,
a self-described “evangelical” organization whose slogan is “Faith in
Action for Social Justice.” The ad was signed by Sojourners President
Jim Wallis and more than two dozen religious left pastors, theologians
and activists. They urge our legislators to ask themselves, “What would
Jesus cut?” from the federal budget.

 How would you answer that
question? My answer would be, “It’s a nonsense question. Your premise
is faulty. Your priorities are not His priorities.” 

 Jesus had many opportunities to
confront the Roman government about its spending priorities. It was,
after all, one of the most brutal regimes in history. If the question
“What would Jesus cut?” has any biblical relevance, we should be able to
cite instances where Jesus lectured the Roman oppressors the same way
the religious left lectures America. 

Just compare ancient Rome with
America today. Rome sent its armies out to conquer; America sends its
soldiers out to liberate. Rome demanded tribute from other nations;
America sends aid and emergency relief around the world. Rome enslaved
nations; America rebuilds nations. 

 If the federal budget is a “moral
document,” what does it say about America? It suggests to me that
America may be the most moral nation on earth! Name one other country
that has spent $15 billion fighting AIDS in Africa. Name one other
country that has provided more disaster relief, that has built more
schools and water treatment plants, that has supplied more food aid
around the world, that has sent more doctors, teachers and technical
advisers to developing nations.

Even America’s military
budget—much of which is being spent to rebuild Iraq and
Afghanistan—reflects the basic compassion and unselfishness of the
American people. Clearly, America hardly deserves any scolding from the
Sojourners soapbox. 

 Did Jesus ever lecture the Roman
Empire about its budget priorities? In Matthew 8, when the Roman
centurion approached Jesus in Capernaum, our Lord could have said, “How
dare you, a Roman warmonger, come to Me asking favors? Change your
priorities! Tell your bosses in Rome to stop buying chariots and start
funding welfare programs!” But Jesus didn’t lecture the centurion. He
said, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such
great faith!” 

 In Matthew 22, when the Pharisees
asked if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar, the Lord could have
thundered against Caesar’s misplaced budget priorities. Instead, He
said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” 

 In John 18, Jesus stood before
Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect, a friend of Caesar. Why didn’t He
give Pilate an earful about the injustice of Roman rule? If ever there
was a time for Jesus to “speak truth to power” and become the “social
justice Messiah,” that was it! 

 But Jesus didn’t preach the social
gospel to Pontius Pilate. Oh, he spoke truth to power, all right. He
delivered a profound message to Pontius Pilate—and to you and me: “My
kingdom is not of this world.” 

 Now, I’m not saying that
Christians are never called to confront their government. God bless
Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the confessing church for standing against Nazi
genocide. But that’s not the situation here. 

 And I’m not saying there isn’t a
social and compassionate dimension to the Christian gospel. There
certainly is! Jesus had great compassion for the poor. 

 He preached in Nazareth, “The
Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good
news to the poor.” He sent word to John the Baptist, “The deaf hear, the
dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” Jesus
presented the obligation to help the poor as an individual
responsibility, a kingdom responsibility—not the duty of the secular

 Both the religious and secular left in America seem to want government to replace the church in
ministering to the poor and needy. One of Barack Obama’s first proposals
as president was a plan to slash tax deductions for charitable
donations by high-income taxpayers.

President Obama reasoned that a tax
deduction “shouldn’t be a determining factor as to whether you’re giving
that hundred dollars to the homeless shelter.” Maybe so—but since
private charities do so much good for the poor, why eliminate incentives
for charitable giving? Could it be that liberals see private charities
as competing with the big government welfare state? 

 In Romans 13, Paul tells us that
we pay our taxes and support the government so that we will have a just,
orderly society in which law-abiding citizens are protected from
wrongdoers. But the responsibility for mercy and compassion belongs to
the church—not the government. 

 What would Jesus cut? When He stood before the Roman Empire, He didn’t suggest cuts. He received
cuts. His flesh was cut by Roman nails and a Roman spear. He was
bruised for our transgressions, and with His cuts we are healed. That’s
the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

 Stay tuned. In Part 2, we’ll see how Jesus dealt with the “radical leftists” among his disciples.

Dr. Michael Youssef‘s expertise on the Islamic
culture and the Middle East in today’s post-modern world is actively
sought by hundreds of thousands of followers around the globe. With a
Ph.D. from Emory University in social anthropology, his Egyptian
heritage gives him particular insight into the cultural and religious
entanglements of international affairs. ? It is estimated that over 10
million viewers/listeners around the world are tuned in every week
through an international Christian media ministry founded by Youssef,
www.leadingtheway.org. It broadcasts via radio and television to over 200 countries and in
over 20 languages. Follow Youssef, a common sense intellectual and
renowned author of 24 books, on twitter @michaelayoussef and through his
news blog, www.michaelyoussef.com.

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