In my Jackson Free Press column of Feb. 18, "It Starts at Home," I wrote about how the nation's reprioritizing for prosperity needs to begin in our own back yard. I pointed out that "every major religion says that as part of the human family, our purpose as human beings must include caring for that family."
For Christians, that shouldn't be a big surprise. Taking care of the "least" in society is part of Jesus' instructions to his followers.
Eric Sapp, senior partner of the Eleison Group, brings the issue further into focus. Writing on Faithful Democrats, in part two of "The Primer on Scripture and the Budget for 2009," Sapp says:
The prophets in scripture are not calling for individual piety and charity but for systemic societal/governmental reform. And they specifically challenge government leaders to remember that the nation's leaders are called to help the powerless and those in greatest need, not those with the most power and money.
Isaiah clearly states what God expects of leaders: "Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow" (Isaiah 1:16-17). [note: he does not say, "cut federal funding for state child services"]
Sapp pulls together numerous quotes from the old and new testaments that reinforce the notion that a nation's leadership is responsible for ensuring that the least of us are fed, housed and clothed, and that even business leaders are responsible for not exploiting their workers.
Scripture sets a very high bar for public morality as well as for private behavior. Although we can easily rationalize why alternatives to the commands of Scripture might be more "sensible" and "realistic," if people are going to insist on applying scripture to the bedroom, they must be willing to apply it to the boardroom as well. The Bible leaves no room for trickle-down economics. Jesus and the Prophets do not say, "Help the widow and orphan by supporting businesses in an effort to prop up the stagnant economy"! On the contrary, when a rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit the Kingdom of God ("go to heaven" in today's terminology), "Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Matthew 19:21note Jesus says this is what the man must do before he can follow Christ). The Bible's call repeated throughout the Old and New Testament is for direct action by government leaders on behalf of the least of these
You may not agree with it, but it makes for thought-provoking reading. It's also worth remembering that we are responsible for our government: "of the people, by the people, for the people." That's "us"; not "them."