Normally, I will do my best to avoid “using” scripture to score a political point, but I must confess that I see the world through the lens of scripture and I feel that I would be denying my faith in Jesus Christ if always refrained from sharing my “religious” perspective. I would be happy to discuss that perspective with anyone interested. With that in mind, I would also be interested in discussing differing perspectives on this verse, or any other verse, as it relates to politics or life in general. And lastly, before I get to the topic at hand, there has been a moderately successful movement in this country to marginalize all religious thought when it comes to the so-called “secular” political arena. This is a tragedy on so many levels, but for now I intend to keep religion in the public discourse (for my faithful few readers) because it is as much a part of the life of this nation as our “secular” institutions (which are hardly devoid of religious overtones, but thats another post…).
So, Ephesians 4:28:
He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
This really ought to concern the individual and not the corporate, but it certainly has implications for the corporate body of Christ as well. It is perhaps important to note that Paul is speaking to believers in Christ, so arguably, this admonition would not apply to people who have not put their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. However, one of the common things I hear coming from professed Christians is that our government, as an extension of its citizens, has the obligation to be Christ-like. Or put another way, helping the poor is something that the government should do because that’s what Christ instructed His followers to do. The government, no matter how much of, for, and by the people it is, is still not an individual capable of making a decision to have faith in Christ. (Again, maybe that should be another post.)
If you consider members of our government to be believers in Christ as many of them profess, then this verse ought to shame them right out of office. First, they are thieves of the worst kind. They take peoples money without (willing) consent and they do it with the “blessing” of being from a government charged with the welfare of the very people from whom they are stealing. No matter what the intention is with the money, taking it from others without consent is stealing. Men and women of congress who profess to be followers of Christ ought to pull out all the stops to “steal no longer”. Secondly, they should get back to work doing something useful. This may be hard to imagine, but I suspect that there is some work in Congress that can be done that would be considered useful (I confess to not being able to think of anything at the moment). Congressmen and women should focus on that which is useful for our government to do.
If members Congress kept their hands off of the citizens’ money then we would be able to realize the potential of the last part of Paul’s statement. Only in the hands of individuals is “something to share” going to get where it most needed and in the right manner. An individual should not be compelled under a legal obligation to give to those in need. Rather, an individual ought to give as he is compelled by compassion, mercy, and love for his neighbor in need.
You could argue that Christians should do this anyway regardless of whether Congress takes their money or not and regardless of how much they take. Yes they should, but I believe there are studies that demonstrate that those individuals are giving to those in need beyond what the goverment takes from them under the auspices of meeting those same needs. I know that my family and I have been the recipients of many blessings that have come from the hands of individuals who are compassionate and willing to help us meet our needs. I have looked at government options for meeting our needs and for the most part, I have decided against using those options for many reasons (another post idea?) not the least of which is that givers receive as much of the blessing as the receivers and denying people the opportunity to be blessed through giving is selfish and not honoring to God.
So, to sum it up: tell the members of Congress to stop stealing your money and do something useful. This could take many forms, the most appealing of which would be just to vote them all out of office at the earliest possible convenience.