Governments Accountable to God for Poor's Care

April 22, 2013

Ethics Daily today ran a great piece by Jim Hill, who is the Executive Director of Churchnet (where I serve as Editorial Assistant), which is titled "Governments Accountable to God for Poor's Care." He notes in the piece that he recently co-authored a column with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on "Standing in the Gap for Working Missourians." Hill then reflects on a negative response from a former Missouri state senator about the way scripture was quoted in that column. Here are a couple of highlights from his piece today:

I believe in the separation of church and state, and I believe faith should be neither coerced nor inhibited by the state. However, this does not mean the state has no moral or ethical responsibility to care for its citizens. Nor does it mean the government is not accountable to God for its actions.

... Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, God's judgment is repeatedly pronounced on both Israel and her neighbor nations (most of which were not theocracies) for their oppression of the poor. It is wrong to have a state tax code that allows the wealthy in the state to pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than the poor. It is unfair to offer corporate tax credits and tax loopholes for the wealthy, and then to pay for this corporate welfare by cutting basic human services to the most vulnerable in our state. It is unjust to build a healthcare system primarily focused on corporate profits, and then to decide hundreds of thousands of working poor are not worthy of access to basic health services. It is immoral to keep the minimum wage so low that families must remain trapped in a cycle of poverty and then blame them for their failure to lift themselves out of poverty.

The former state senator said, "It is the church and individual Christians that are responsible to care for their neighbors." I would certainly concur that Christians individually and collectively are responsible for caring for their neighbors, but this does not negate the responsibility of a government and a nation to care for its citizens. Nor does our failure to accept these responsibilities free us from our accountability to God.
Amen! It is imperative that we think carefully about critical matters of faith and politics. And so it is great to see Missouri's governor partnering with a faith leader to speak out on important public policy matters.

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