How Should Christians Vote? 1 of 10: Care for the Poor
Since this is an election year, I thought it be would pertinent to address issues that are of concern when deliberating which candidates for whom to vote. In the next ten weeks I hope to take a biblical look at issues such as religious and political freedom, stewardship of earthly resources, war, and personal and social sin to name a few. In these posts I will not endorse any candidate or political party, I am simply going to endorse ideas that I think are biblical and need to be taken into consideration when listening to political debates and deciding the best candidate for any political office.
I also need to give this caveat. I am not a biblical theologian, I have very limited training and ability to exegete the passages of scripture that I am using. Rather I am an aspiring theological ethicist and political philosopher that takes the bible to be normative in making moral and political judgments. My hope for these upcoming blogs is twofold, 1) to get the readers of the twocities blog thinking about these issues in preparation for the elections this coming November, and 2) to start a cordial and loving discussion amongst those who love Jesus. This week’s topic is on caring for the poor and needy within society.
It is the case that nearly every page of scripture says something about taking care of the poor and that God has a strong concern for justice regarding poor and oppressed. From the wisdom literature to the Prophets all the way through to the Gospels and the Epistles, there is a constant inciting of God’s people to love and take care of the poor. Scripture talks about the poor in a number of ways, 1) as a metaphor for those who depend on God (Ps. 40.17; 86.1), and 2) those who find themselves on the fringes of society thus leaving themselves vulnerable to exploitation (Ps 10.2; 72.12; 109.31). This blog is concerned with the latter.
Scripture goes so far as to say that the nation that does not care for the needs of the poor will receive the judgment of God. Judicial systems especially are criticized for their lack of care for those in need (Is. 5.8; Ezek. 22.29; Mic. 2:1-3; Hab. 2.5-6), and the wealthy in society have a responsibility to the poor providing them not only with work, but provisions (Is. 5.8; Ezk. 22-9; Mic. 2.1-3; Hab. 2.5-6). God commands that His people have a deep compassion for those who are on the fringes of society. Christians are even instructed by Jesus to sell their goods and give the profits to the poor (Mat. 19.21).
A genuine sensitivity to the poor and a strong commitment to seek justice for them ought to be a central concern of all Christians in political office. OT prophets condemn the Israelite legal system for being corrupt announcing Gods judgment on those leaders who created poverty (Is. 1.21-6; Am. 4.1-4). If America, United Kingdom or any other nation desires to flourish, they must take care of those in need. Proverbs 29.14 clearly states that, “if a king judges the poor with equity, his throne will be established forever.”
The church is not off the hook. The community of Christ, as well as the government, has a responsibility to the poor. The Christian should not leave social justice issues strictly up to secular government. Christians should be fervent in paying taxes for government programs as well as giving out of their own pockets for those who are in need in their own community. This is a both and situation. Verses that state that the “poor will always be with you” (Mat. 26.11; Mark 14.7; John 12.8) are not cracks in God’s system to get out of helping the less fortunate in a community. These verses need to be read in the wider context of scripture where God clearly says that “there should be no poor among you” (Deut. 15.4).
Nathaniel Warne is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Durham University U.K. where he is studying theological ethics and political philosophy. He is currently studying under Christopher J. Insole and Alec Ryrie. Nathaniel received a B.S. in Art (painting and drawing) and minored in Biblical Studies at Biola University. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Nathaniel spent three years as a professional session drummer. He then received an M.A. from Talbot School of Theology in moral and historical theology. He wrote his masters thesis on 16th century Geneva and its political influence on John Locke. Nathaniel was also a minister at Grace Evangelical Free Church, La Mirada before moving to Durham. He has been married to his beautiful wife Charissa for five years. Nathaniel’s primary academic interests are: theological ethics, political philosophy, intersection of metaphysics with ethics, especially with regard to haecceity and modality, Puritan’s doctrine of calling, theology of work, history of natural law, Aristotle, and Søren Kierkegaard. He also enjoys reading: John Locke, Karl Barth, Philosophy of Aesthetics, and Literature of all sorts. Some hobbies of Nathaniel’s are playing and listening to music (jazz, folk, rock, hip-hop), cooking, enjoying foreign and domestic beers, and watching Fringe, 30 Rock, Big Bang Theory, and The Cosby Show with his wife.
Nathaniel can be reached at: n.a.warne at durham.ac.uk