4 responses to “IS SOCIAL JUSTICE A COPOUT?”

  1. Whit Brisky

    Rob, I couldn’t agree more with your post. It is our duty as Christians to roll up our own sleeves, and reach into our own pockets, to help the poor. But there is no virtue in paying your own taxes, nor is there any charity in using the coercive power of the government to take money from another person and give it to a third.

    There is a great quote from William Graham Sumner, quoted by Amity Shlaes in her excellent book, “The Forgotten Man”:

    ” . . . [W]hen we come to the proposed measures of relief for the evils which have caught public attention[,] . . . we reach the real subject which deserves our attention. As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine what C shall do for X or, in the better case, what A, B and C shall do for X. As for A and B, who get a law to make themselves do for X what they are willing to do for him, we have nothing to say except that they might better have done it without any law, ‘but what I want to do is to look up C. I want to show you what manner of man he is. I call him the Forgotten Man. Perhaps the appellation is not strictly correct. He is the man who never is thought of. He is the victim of the reformer, social speculator and philanthropist, and I hope to show you before I get through that he deserves your notice both for his character and for the many burdens which are laid upon him.

    “Such is the Forgotten Man. He works, he votes, generally he prays — but he always pays — yes, above all, he pays. He does not want an office; his name never gets into the newspaper except when he gets married or dies. He keeps production going on. He contributes to the strength of parties. He is flattered before election. He is strongly patriotic. He is wanted, whenever, in his little circle, there is work to be done or counsel to be given. He may grumble some occasionally to his wife and family, but he does not frequent the grocery or talk politics at the tavern. Consequently, he is forgotten. He is a commonplace man. He gives no trouble. He excites no admiration. He is not in any way a hero (like a popular orator); or a problem (like tramps and outcasts); nor notorious (like criminals); nor an object of sentiment (like the poor and weak); nor a burden (like paupers and loafers); nor an object out of which social capital may be made (like the beneficiaries of church and state charities); nor an object for charitable aid and protection (like animals treated with cruelty); nor the object of a job (like the ignorant and illiterate); nor one over whom sentimental economists and statesmen can parade their fine sentiments (like inefficient workmen and shiftless artisans). Therefore, he is forgotten. All the burdens fall on him, or on her, for it is time to remember that the Forgotten Man is not seldom a woman.” — William Graham Sumner, 1883 (The Forgotten Man)

    And further, I think the biggest losers from govenment welfare and redistributionist policies are not the forgotten men and women, but those who are the supposed objects of the “benefits” who are encouraged to abandon the virtues of hard work and self-reliance for a “plantation” mentality. I think the real beneficiaries are A and B who get to assuage their own guilt at the expense of C – and perhaps get a government job in the bargain.

  2. MarkSpizer

    great post as usual!

  3. Rich Vermillion


    I saw your discussion thread on LinkedIn and popped over to read the post. Well done.

    I agree completely with the main points of your premise: Namely, that is the church’s job to help the poor (not the government playing god, as in Communism); that “redistribution of wealth” through taxation (and inflation) is THEFT, even when taking from the “wealthy” to take care of the “poor” (and thus, it cannot be biblical); that is is up to EVERY Christian (regardless of their financial status) to do their part. Paul said it best in 2 Corinthians 8:

    “We want to tell you further, brethren, about the grace (the favor and spiritual blessing) of God which has been evident in the churches of Macedonia [arousing in them the desire to give alms]; For in the midst of an ordeal of severe tribulation, their abundance of joy and their depth of poverty [together] have overflowed in wealth of lavish generosity on their part. For, as I can bear witness, [they gave] according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability; and [they did it] voluntarily… For if the [eager] readiness to give is there, then it is acceptable and welcomed in proportion to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For it is not [intended] that other people be eased and relieved [of their responsibility] and you be burdened and suffer [unfairly], but to have equality [share and share alike], your surplus over necessity at the present time going to meet their want and to equalize the difference created by it, so that [at some other time] their surplus in turn may be given to supply your want. Thus there may be equality, As it is written, He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little did not lack. (Amplified)

    So the Bible makes it clear: Almsgiving to help the poor is a duty of ALL believers, but only according to one’s ABILITY. No government (or even religious) coercion should be used against anyone to force them into helping anybody, for “God loves a cheerful giver” not a subjugated one.

    Let me not quickly that I also support your secondary thesis regarding labor as well. A quick look at Israel’s “welfare system” as given by God shows that the poor were required to harvest their own food left in the “corners” of the field for that purpose (see Leviticus chapters 19 and 23). In the NT, Paul wrote that for a widow to qualify for the church’s support, she must be “well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds” see 1 Timothy 5:10). So in both OT and NT, we see that biblical “welfare systems” (including church-run systems) require labor of those able to work.

    Thus, the principle you cited within your article is laid out for ALL those in need (excluding those who are physically or mentally unable to work, of course): “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

    Labor is the key scriptural component to producing wealth (i.e. accumulated goods) even if it is only enough “wealth” to feed oneself. Anything else is not really biblical, and in many cases, actually perpetuates poverty by removing the incentive to labor. Solomon said it this way by the Spirit, “The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on” (Proverbs 16:26). Limited church resources could be better utilized if the leaders would ensure that they are truly following biblical guidelines.

    Keep up the great work, Rob.


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