There is nothing in life or death that is separate and apart from your decision to walk with Jesus Christ or to walk away from Him. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded. God is either in everything and above everything or there is no God. This rule is true even in the fiscal aspects of your life.
The movie, Being There, is the story of how the simplicity of a gardener schooled a bunch of wealthy business men with his clear comments about planting, pruning, reaping, watering, and weeding. The gardener was literally talking about the garden, but the wise thought he was someone else and assumed he spoke by analogy. Christians don’t have to seek any new source for truth about our fiscal realities - we have God’s Word to guide us.
Jesus speaks to the issue of how you spend what you earn as well as honoring the commitments you make. The decision about how you spend, save, or give away what is yours is not subject to the opinion or doctrine of others. In this day it is important that you know why you believe what you believe.
Here is a concise review of relevant scriptures. While not exhaustive, this brief overview paints a clear and consistent picture. Compare the message of the Bible to what you hear in the media then decide which you will follow.
Jesus Speaks about Taxes
As citizens of a nation or community Christians are required to pay legal taxes. Jesus spoke to this issue in both Matthew 22:17-21 and Matthew 17:24-27.
The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
When the matter of the Capernaum temple tax came up Jesus reminded Peter that taxes are required of strangers and not “sons”. He then instructed Peter to go catch the first fish in the sea and, “when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”
Taxes are a commitment agreed to under the terms of citizenship. The political system establishes what is a legal tax. If you wish to change the tax, change the politicians. Do not, however, buy into the rhetoric about what kind of and how much tax Jesus would require. Any opinion of this sort is anti-scriptural and intended to manipulate the audience.
Jesus Speaks About Employment Contracts
Jesus addresses terms of employment and compensation in Matthew 20:13-15. When vineyard workers complained that they did not get their fair share compared to what others received Jesus reminded them of the contract they agreed to.
“Friends, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?”
There is no scriptural support for paying more than what was agreed to or for working less than what was agreed to. The worker did not have to work in the vineyard and has no basis for crying foul when paid what he willingly agreed to.
Jesus Speaks to the Right to Spend What is Yours
In the parable of Matthew 20:10-14 here is what the vineyard owner responded to the worker who complained about what he was given:
Jesus said, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?”
Charity is a free gift given out of love, not law or guilt. Entitlements are not charity. Entitlements are 100% politics. Just because some good things come from entitlements, one could argue that more suffer from them than benefit. Supporting the able-bodied who will not work is anti-biblical not an example of Jesus’ teaching.
“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat”. – 2 Thessalonians 3:10
So what does the Bible say about charity?
The Bible Speaks to Charity
Entitlements are not charity. But how is the word used in scripture? 1 Timothy 1:5 illustrates the Biblical definition of “charity.” Here are two translations. In one the word used is “love” and in the other, “charity.”
1 Timothy 1:5:
“Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:” - (King James)
“Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,” - (New King James)
Charity and love are obviously so closely related in definition that the original word may be translated as one or the other. Entitlements are politics; charity is love.
The Bible Limits on Entitlement
Read what 1 Timothy chapter 5 says on the topic of who is a real widow that may properly be supported by the church or society.
3 Honor widows who are really widows. 4 But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.
8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 9 Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number,
11 But refuse the younger widows
16 If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.
These verses tell us that the responsibility of caring for family belongs within the immediate family. If no family members are willing then the church may step in to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves. The operative word is CANNOT, not those who don’t want to.
There never has been enough to care for everyone who would like to be cared for. Never has been and never will be. God’s Word addresses the issue and is pretty clear. You help those who are helpless lest all be spent on those who are able but unwilling to provide for themselves. As for those who choose not to support their own, verse 8 tells us they are worse than unbelievers.
Old Testament Entitlements
Jesus told us the poor would always be with us. There were entitlements in the Old Testament. The Jewish law included this limitation to farmers:
‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.’” Leviticus 23:22
Ruth encountered Boaz while gleaning in his field. Ruth was a widow but young and able-bodied. The error of a society that ignores God’s Word idolizes entitlements. The law in Leviticus required that the means for the poor and widowed to gather food be available.
Entitlements in 2012 require the farmer to reap, glean, and clean the corners of his fields, and to package and provide home delivery to those on the dole at his own expense. There are some who believe that the “fair share” of the entitled must cater to their preferences lest their dignity suffer. If the poor or widowed doesn’t want to grind and bake the grain then the farmer is required to provide something more to their taste.
Christians Will Be Known By their Love – Charity
Christians are to be known by their love (and charity) for one another. Do you care for those in your immediate family? Do you know any Christian who does not care for his or her minor children? For elderly parents or grandparents?
There is no issue or concern that God somehow overlooked or forgot. His Word is open to you in the Bible and through relationship with Jesus Christ. Even on issues of employment contracts, taxes, entitlements, and charity – God speaks.