The provocative title for this post comes from a segment off of the satirical news program The Colbert Report. Take a moment to watch this 4-minute clip.
I delight in the fact that Colbert points out Jesus’ propensity to help the poor while He fails to lobby for a tax cut to the wealthiest 2% of Romans. In that sense He is a “liberal democrat.” He is unquestionably interested in the poor being provided for by the rich (Mt. 19:16-22). In fact, that is precisely why He came to earth: the wealthy King of the Universe gave up His wealth and status for His spiritually impoverished subjects thereby making them rich (2 Cor. 8:9). The error that the Left makes is to then assume that Jesus wants the government to mandate wealth redistribution. The Messiah certainly never advocates for that. He is interested in so affecting people’s hearts that giving their wealth away is natural and joyful. In God’s Kingdom, the government wouldn’t need to force its people to help the poor, the rich would do it anyway as they desire to emulate Christ. But alas! Our sinful condition keeps us from being like our Maker.
As you can probably tell, the disdain for the poor which comes from today’s Conservatives is troubling to me as a Christian. Fortunately there are a number of people, even the likes of Stephen Colbert, pointing out that modern, American conservativism is, in some ways, incongruent with Christ-exalting, Biblical faith. One inconsistency is the oversimplification which asserts that poverty is mainly the result of laziness. Now don’t get me wrong, Biblically speaking laziness is a cause of poverty. Proverbs 10:4 confirms it by saying “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” But, it’s grotesquely incoherent to broadly blame laziness for poverty when there are a host of other factors. For example, the Bible also identifies oppression as a cause of poverty (Prov. 22:16, Mk. 12:40, and Lk. 10:25-37). So God is just as opposed to the “job creators” who exploit their employees as He is to the poor person who’s manipulating the welfare system. As a result, Christians should be supporting legislation that makes manipulation – whether by the rich or by the poor – difficult while promoting aid to the needy and appropriate freedom to the entrepreneur.
Colbert makes a number of exceedingly strong points in this segment such as how Christ is unconditional in His sense of charity. The best one being his devastating and very accurate critique of right-wing Christianity:
Because if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.
That quote is spot on. The bottom line is that Christians need to be deeply compassionate towards the poor. There just isn’t a way to get around our call by God to be advocates for those suffering from lack of basic necessities. The Bible is overwhelmingly instructive for God’s people to be involved with the poor. The nuance comes when you ask the question: So how should we express that call? There are a myriad of ways. But at the very least, as a collective group, we need to make it abundantly clear to our nation that we are totally in favor of alleviating the suffering of the poor.
Let me wrap up by offering a few suggestions for us Christians as we consider how to relate to this particular political issue in our current, cultural setting:
1. Turn off the 24-hour news networks
Condition yourself to restrain exposure to channels like Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, and the like. Whatever your political alignment may be, develop it intelligently. The yahoos that rail on these shows fail to help us in that regard. They exist to push an agenda and to polarize. They’re a waste of our precious time. If we spend more hours in a day listening to voices on these networks than we do in prayer, fellowship, service, and time in God’s Word something is wrong. We will be much more content if we re-work our schedules and, as we grow more in Christ, we’ll become better citizens.
2. Understand that Jesus does not have a political party
Even though the title of this post is Jesus is a Liberal Democrat, I hope you’ve figured out that I don’t actually believe that. There is not one political party, candidate, or policy that embodies the politics of Christ. A huge take away point of the “render unto Caesar” passage, Matt. 22:15-22, is to demonstrate Jesus’ nuanced relationship to human government. Tim Keller, in his sermon Arguing About Politics (which I HIGHLY recommend you listen to), states that Jesus “resists political complacency, political primacy, and political simplicity.” He’s not inactive in political issues, he doesn’t seek political power, and he does not simply land in one political camp. Neither should His followers.
3. Focus on gospel proclamation and service
God does not intend for us to conquer America’s moral depravity through political means. Should you stand up for the truth? Of course. But you stand up against sin by first bending low and serving sinners. Practical service is our avenue into people’s lives which gives us opportunities to tell them the good news. The gospel is the matter “of first importance” and we witness to it through word and deed. When people are touched by God’s grace in your service and proclamation of the gospel then things will change. Hearts will be revived and God will be glorified as the Spirit moves.
May God richly bless our nation through the presence of His Church as we witness to both His holiness and His unfathomable grace.
For His glory and fame,