Imagine if the Obama administration proposed a new federal law that required everyone to give Christmas presents to every member of his family, to at least 5 poor people in the community, and to at least one public official.
Wouldn’t most everyone be offended? Wouldn’t most Americans say, “It’s no business of government to be telling me who I should give Christmas presents to. That’s my decision. If I want to give presents to my family, to the poor, and to public officials, I’ll make that decision. I don’t need the law to force me to do it”?
Yet, a statist might respond: “But many people might not give Christmas presents to their parents or to their siblings or even to their children. Many others won’t give a present to the poor. And most people won’t even think of giving presents to public officials — the group in society that does the most good for others. What could be more wrongful than that? Anyway, for those people who are already giving to these groups, the law won’t matter. It’s really for those people whose selfishness, greediness, and self-centeredness prevents them from demonstrating genuine Christmas spirit.”
My hunch is that most Americans would nonetheless reject that statist position.
Yet, why is that that most Americans continue to support the welfare state? Isn’t it based on the same philosophical principle — that people need to be forced to help others? Isn’t Social Security based on the notion that young people should be forced to provide financial assistance to their parents and other senior citizens? Aren’t Medicare and Medicaid based on the same principle? Food stamps, public housing, bank bailouts, education grants, farm subsidies, and community grants? Indeed, isn’t foreign aid based on the principle that Americans have a moral duty to provide financial help to foreign regimes, including dictatorial ones?
If it’s wrong to force people to buy Christmas presents for others, why isn’t it equally wrong to force people to give money to others through the political process? If people are going to be left free to decide for themselves who to give Christmas presents to, then why not also leave them free to decide who to donate their money to?
When the young rich man asked Jesus what else he could do to follow the Lord, Jesus responded by telling the man to sell everything he had and to give it to the poor. Unable to let go of his attachment to earthly riches, the young man rejected the counsel and walked away. Jesus did not call on Caesar to force the young man to give his riches to the poor. That would have constituted a violation of God’s great gift of free will. That would have meant rendering something to Caesar that rightfully belongs to God.
The story of the young rich man is one that every Christian should reflect upon, especially when it comes to laws that require people to give Christmas presents or welfare to others.