Socialism in the Church of GodStudy No. 139
Even as state socialism becomes more and more discredited in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, socialism in the western world continues to make decisive gains. In the United States, we have, as Chuck Colson reports, become obsessed with "rights." Today, people feel that they have a "right" to government handouts. With each new "right," people actually lose more of their freedoms. For example, if convicted murderers have the "right" to infinite appeals and can get off on a legal technicality, then the victims in society lose the freedom to safely continue normal living.
The Wall Street Journal of January 8, 1992, reported that forty-four religious groups have launched a campaign for free, national health care for every citizen, citing their religious commitment to universal health care. Before the onslaught of state socialism, it was commonly believed that health and welfare should be the function of religious charitable organizations. If this socialistic concept succeeds in America, we will lose much of our freedom to be philanthropic and provide one-on-one assistance to others, because the ensuing crushing tax burden will leave little for private acts of charity. With the demise of religion as a force in society, the state has usurped the role that the Bible clearly places in the community of righteous believers and faithful individuals.
And so it is in the Church of God, that state socialism is being accepted with open arms. In addition, church administration is being patterned after the socialistic model. Rather than condemning mindless atheistic socialism in our government today, and avoiding socialism in church administration, the Church of God, as a whole, has welcomed each advance of socialism and gullibly surrendered its proper role to provide for the poor and needy of its own, and the community as a whole. Here is some of the evidence of this sad trend:
Years ago, one large Sabbath-keeping organization had a third tithe fund, collected locally and administered by local church deacons, to assist the poor, widows and orphans of the church. Later, they centralized this function to "headquarters." When I was employed by this organization, I saw, from official church administration records, that much of this fund for the poor was going to provide "perks" for wealthy church officials, such as purchase of expensive carpet and drapery for their luxury, church-provided homes. I was disgusted at this gross misuse of funds. This is a result of socialism and centralized control.
Can the Government Fulfill Our Obligation to Help the Poor?
Recently, another Sabbath-keeping organization abandoned Godís laws for helping the poor, and states that socialistic welfare systems supersede Godís Law. Writing in the November, 1991 issue of The International News of the Church of God, International, pages 12-13, Ronald L. Dart says the following:
The third tithe was, in fact, the welfare, or social security system of ancient Israel. The ministry of the Church of God, while affirming the first and second tithe, decided long ago [mid-1970ís, when doctrines were liberalized] that the governments of most modern nations have taken over the third tithe. . . . A modern equivalent of the third tithe system is the social security and welfare system of the United States. . . . The decision of the ministry was, since the government was taking far more than a third tithe from us and spending it on the widows and fatherless children, that there was no need for us to pay another poor tithe to the church. . . . the third tithe, as such, is not applicable today in any society with a tax based program to help the poor. It has not been abolished or repealed, it is just that the government is doing it, however badly.
Such a belief in the efficacy of government socialism and welfare programs follows John Maynard Keynes dictum that "the government is god." Before pointing out the fallacies of government welfare in place of Godís laws for the poor, let us observe the simple Bible law on third tithe:
At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest, Deuteronomy 14:28-29.
Many other Bible statutes tell us to freely give to the poor, including the following verses:
If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. . . . For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land, Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 11.
Let us contrast todayís social welfare system with Godís laws regarding assistance to the poor.
State Welfare System
Forcibly taxed on all, even the poor.
Centrally administered with huge, inefficient government bureaucracy, doled out by bureaucrats according to rules and regulations futilely designed to prevent corruption.
The taxpayer does not have to think how to help others, he lets the government do it for him. This system makes the giver (taxpayer) lazy.
Often, funds or aid is given to individuals who do not deserve it, and there is lots of waste and inefficiency, but thatís the way human governments operate!
If the poor are not helped, the government can claim lack of funds; itís nobodyís fault.
Often establishes a cold, emotionless relationship between the recipient and the government bureaucrat.
Godís Laws For the Poor
An individual, private matter between each person and their Creator
Locally administered, small effort, mainly doled out by the individual at his personal discretion.
The individual has to exercise discretion and effort to help the most needy in the best way, to honor his Creator. It takes work!
If undeserving "bums" are helped, or funds are wasted, the individual is responsible before God.
If the poor are not helped, the individual is responsible before God. It is our fault.
Establishes a warm, personal relationship between the giver and the recipient, even when the giver wishes to remain anonymous.
State Welfare System
Results in the curse of high taxes, graft and corruption, and the ultimate downfall of our nation from debt money. Creates welfare cheaters who get for themselves, and often leaves the deserving poor without adequate assistance.
Godís Laws for the Poor
Results in a blessing from God on the giver and the one receiving assistance. Doesnít eliminate all poverty, but results in personal involvement of all in helping others, thus fulfilling the Golden Rule, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
For anyone to say that the government is fulfilling Godís laws for helping the poor is tantamount to blasphemy. God is not the author of confusion, I Corinthians 14:33. If the government can rightly take over our personal responsibility to help the poor, then it can also usurp our role to teach our children religious and moral values, it can keep the Sabbath for us, it can decide if our marriages are bound or unbound, it can obey God for us, because we have shown by our belief and actions that "the government is god."
The ultimate in apostasy in the Church of God recently, has been the general trend for organizations to encourage their poor members to maximize their benefits from the government welfare system, so as not to "burden" the church. Helping the poor is not a "burden" for the church. It is a divine responsibility. Those who loosen Godís laws, or justify turning them into a vain, empty, badly-executed, inefficient system of corruption, are robbing the poor, and robbing the giver of blessings from God.
Socialism and Godís Law
Rousas John Rushdoony, author of numerous books on Biblical Law, says that "Statist taxation is revolution against God: its purpose is to supplant Godís order with manís order. The function of Godís tax, the tithe . . . is to establish Godís order" (Institutes of Biblical Law, Volume II, page 219).
Unemployment tax in the United States is levied upon businesses for the purpose of assisting laid-off workers until they find their next job. Recently, when I lost my job due to a corporate reorganization, I faced the prospect of drawing unemployment for the first time in my life. When I discovered the conditions of receiving unemployment compensation, I became angry. The maximum benefits I could receive would barely meet our modest monthly house payments. What really irked me was that when drawing unemployment, I would not be allowed to work part time, even at a low-paying job. Unemployment compensation laws prevent a recipient from working on another job! As one who is required by Godís law to work to provide for my family, I became outraged by this socialistic slavery. Since unemployment compensation is at or above the minimum wage, this system encourages people on the dole not to work! What an evil system! But, no matter how evil our government system of taxation is, the Bible tells us to obey the government and pay our taxes, Romans 13:1-7. Tax revolt is not justified by the Bible.
Socialism, and its cousin communism, is based on the belief that manís law can save society. Liberals and socialists believe that the answer to manís problems is to change the environment by legislation, state action, or social planning. This is the result of Phariseeism or legalism. The Bible says to give a third tithe every three years, Deuteronomy 14:28-29 (years three and six out of every cycle of seven) to help the poor via individual acts of charity. However, Socialistic governments add an immense, costly bureaucracy and forcibly tax its citizens much more than the Bible requirement, and claim that this humanistic system will alleviate the condition of the poor. In fact, it puts the poor in bondage, and the taxpayer in slavery.
Biblical law is very different, for Godís law was never intended to save society, but to be obeyed from the heart as the result of free choice by the individual, thus having a much more limited role than state socialism. On the other side of the spectrum is antinomianism, those who are against law, and akin to anarchists. Religious antinomians eschew Godís law, and as a result surrender to civil authorities to do what they wish, thus contributing to the further decline of law and order. Those who throw away Godís law and say the state is fulfilling our charitable requirement are, in fact, antinomians. As Rushdoony says, "The road of pseudo-security, of pseudo-liberation in slavery, socialism, welfarism, is forbidden to the Christian. The Christian sabbath is not the slavery of socialism" (The Institutes of Biblical Law, page 137).
There is no blessing in socialistic welfare programs, not to the receiver and not to the one forced to give. Socialism results in slavery for all. Godís laws for the poor result in blessings to all.
What We Can Do NOW
The economy of North America, and many other nations, is very sick, and there are numerous individuals who desperately need assistance. The central Bible principle in helping the poor is that it be done individually, locally, and personally. We should help those of our own household first, before helping others. With so many scattered brethren, and fellowship of dedicated believers becoming rare, many, such as ourselves, do not have enough opportunities to respond to the needs of others because we are so isolated.
For those who have third tithe and other funds to give to the poor, I recommend that you get to know other Sabbath-keepers so that you can respond to the needs of poor brethren. The Feasts are especially suited to this. Help others to attend the Feasts of the Almighty with your excess second tithes. Then, at the Feasts, give third tithe and other charitable assistance to help them out, so fulfilling Deuteronomyís laws of helping the poor.
For those who need assistance, please let us know. We will do what we can to meet you at the next Feast and personally assist you, or provide the opportunity for others to do so.
Matthew 25:31-40 is not fulfilled by paying oneís taxes, but by personally caring for the poor.
Letís quit being bashful givers or receivers, and start acting as brethren in the Messiah! For a further discussion of helping the poor, see our article, "The Problem of Giving to the Poor," Study No. 121, in our book, Bible Studies. W