If you missed Part 1, see it here.
What is redistribution?
Redistribution is a process by which income, wealth, and/or property are transferred from those who have more to those who have less. One can voluntarily give out of one’s own substance, which would be a charitable form of redistribution. Most often, however, the term is not used for voluntary giving, but instead for the involuntary seizing of assets by a governmental authority, who then proceeds to redistribute them to others. This is done — in theory — to “level the playing field” or to “reduce income inequality” or to “promote social justice”. These are all euphemisms for government subsidization of those it considers poor or otherwise underprivileged, using money extracted via taxation from those it considers rich or privileged. It could also be viewed as a mechanism by which politicians increase the likelihood of their continuing in elective office by taking from some voters to line the pockets of others.
What is socialism?
Socialism is a form of social organization where the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned communally. That is, the resources of a geographic area (a nation or even the whole world) are owned collectively, rather than by individuals, families, or businesses. There would be no individual incentive to work diligently to provide for one’s needs, to increase one’s standard of living, or to accumulate wealth to pass on to one’s progeny, as one would have access to draw from the common larder. Buying and selling would be abolished and work itself would become voluntary, according to one socialist website. As can be imagined, this very likely would result in a great deal of “taking” and not a lot of “producing”. It does, however, provide a large means of control over the masses to the governments who will take “from each according to his ability” and distribute “to each according to his needs”. When one is beholden to a government for one’s daily bread, one is effectively a slave and is very likely to vote for one’s masters to keep the bread coming in the future.
Under the U.S. Constitution what should be the response of the federal government to the needs of individuals?
The U.S. Constitution defines the current form of government for our nation, whose birth certificate is the Declaration of Independence. In addition to setting out a list of grievances against an overreaching central government and affirming the right of the people to representative self-government, the July 4th, 1776 Declaration acknowledged that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Governments are instituted to preserve and protect those God-given rights, but they do not give the rights nor can they take them away – they are a part of our birthright, as we are created in the likeness and image of God. Our Constitution is a compact among the states, defining what specific powers are delegated to the national government, and reserving all other powers to the states and the people.
Among its eighteen enumerated powers in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, the national government has no capability for responding to the financial needs of individuals. By not being enumerated in the original 1787 Constitution, that power was implicitly reserved to the states and the people. And, if that wasn’t clear enough, the Tenth Amendment was added four years later to state explicitly that all powers not specifically delegated to the national government are reserved to the states and the people.
The biggest need of individuals that can be met by the national government is the need to have their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness preserved. Their financial failures and successes are neither to be prevented nor guaranteed by the government, but their God-given rights must be secured.
One good example on the limits of government charity can be found in Davy Crockett’s “Not Yours to Give” speech, where he emphasized the value of personal charity and the injustice of the government taking from some to redistribute to others, regardless of the worthiness of the need.
What biblical principles would help the state formulate a proper response to the needs of individuals?
As we saw above, there is no Constitutional power at the federal level to meet the financial needs of individuals. I would argue that the same principle applies to states. Exacting revenue from some to then give to others violates God’s commandments against covetousness and theft, as noted above, and encourages slothfulness.
What then are the duties of a government to the people it governs?
• to not oppress the people (Ezekiel 45:8)
• to neither be violent nor spoil the people (Ezekiel 45:9)
• to execute judgment and justice (Ezekiel 45:9)
• to ease the exactions (taxation) upon them (Ezekiel 45:9)
• to use a system of just weights and measures (Ezekiel 45:10)
• to not be a terror to good works (Romans 13:3)
• to be a terror to evil, to bear the sword against evil, and to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil (Romans 13:3-4)
In contrast, let’s look at I Samuel 8. As Israel was considering moving from rule by judges to rule by a king – to be just like the heathen nations around them – God sent Samuel to warn the people of what a king would do to them:
• draft their sons into government and military service (verses 11-12)
• draft their daughters into government service (verse 13)
• take their fields, vineyards, and oliveyards and give them to his associates (verse 14)
• take a tenth of their seed and their vineyards to give to his associates (verse 15)
• take their servants and livestock and put them into his service (verse 16)
• take a tenth of their sheep (verse 17)
• make the people his servants (verse 17)
Given a set of principles for rightly governing and a set of warnings against an unjust government to come, our civic leaders would do well to model the former wherever possible and avoid the latter at all costs. That is, whether in city hall, in the state house, or in Washington, DC, our leaders would be well advised to enact just laws, to punish evildoers, to move toward a system of sound money (just weights and measures), and to roll back big government giveaway programs while allowing individuals, families, and churches to resume their roles as the supports to the needy in their communities.
Can God meet your needs?
Yes, absolutely and without question. Psalm 50:10-12 reassures us of God’s ownership of all resources on the earth He created, and Philippians 4:19 reminds us “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” As Creator and Sustainer, God has access to all we could ever need and has a willingness to provide for us.
How God chooses to meet our needs, however, is entirely up to Him. Most often, it involves our faithful service in the work to which He calls us. We have a responsibility to provide as well as we can for our own household (I Timothy 5:8), and we must also have a keen awareness of the needs of others and take advantage of opportunities to help (Galatians 6:10). And then there are times when God chooses to miraculously provide, as with manna for the children of Israel (Exodus 16:11-15), bread from ravens for Elijah (I Kings 17:1-6), and meal and oil for the widow of Zarephath (I Kings 17:8-16).
We must not neglect our responsibilities or our opportunities, simply assuming God will provide even in our slothfulness, as Jesus said, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” (Matthew 4:7) Yet we can rest in the assurance that as we walk with Him, He will be sufficient for each of our needs.
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