Lead Stories

Beyond the welfare state

"Beyond the welfare state" Continued...

WorkFaith President and CEO Sandy Schultz accepts the 2012 Hope Award for Effective Compassion from Marvin Olasky.
Photo by Christina Darnell
WorkFaith President and CEO Sandy Schultz accepts the 2012 Hope Award for Effective Compassion from Marvin Olasky.
Going beyond the welfare state requires us, individually and all together, to choose a different path. We need what’s called civil society—non-governmental institutions where people can work together to help their communities and cities flourish. My magazine, WORLD, is having for the seventh [now ninth] year in a row a contest to find some of the most effective compassionate ministries in the country. We get nominations from our readers, then investigate them, then send reporters to them to investigate more and tell their stories.

These are phenomenal groups that help children, homeless adults, ex-prisoners, ex-hookers, but not ex-human-beings—even in depravity, we are made in God’s image. The problem is that the state, with its power to mandate and to tax, tends to crowd out its civil society competition. Every tax dollar the government takes is one dollar that cannot go to charities and churches. Every person who has to work a second job to get money for his family because taxes are so high is one fewer potential volunteer: He really does not have the time. Every mother who would rather stay at home with her children and volunteer part time, but instead needs to go out to work, is one less pair of helping hands.

So we need to shrink government so people have more time and money to contribute, but that won’t happen until we shrink government. Right now, government taxes more, people have less time and money, government responds to needs or creates new ones, people have less time and money. … What can break that downward spiral?

Our 19th century predecessors learned from reading the Bible. I’ve learned from that as well. In Chapter 5 of the Gospel according to John, Christ talks directly to a man who had been an invalid for 38 years and was used to spending his days by the pool at Bethesda. Jesus asks him, “Do you want to get well?” The man responded, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred.”

Jesus loved the man by giving him not what he expected, but what would radically change his life: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” He told the invalid to become a responsible member of society.

The biblical emphasis is on giving the needy opportunities to select real change, not collect spare change. In Chapter 3 of Acts, a beggar in the temple wants alms, but Peter tells him “silver and gold I have none, but what I have I give to you.” Peter shows his love by giving him the message of salvation, in the way that he might offer living water to a man dying of thirst. To meet a person in the desert, far from any water supplies, and offer him not a full canteen but a $1,000 bill is an act of hatred, not love. He would die of thirst. So do others.

Public policy is important. Political change is crucial. But the kind of policy and change that works is tied up in five words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The rest is commentary.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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