Sunday, October 19, 2008

Feedback on My Last Post

Please allow me to pass along some thoughts from Jack Mitchell. Jack is probably the most brilliant person I know who allows me to call him a friend. I met him over 16 years ago at the church that we both still attend. As you will see from his commentary, Jack is a very clear thinker and effectively dissects the dilemma that we face with regard to our responsibility to our brothers and sisters in need.

Jack writes:

The guy who conducted the interview of Sen. Harry Reid regarding taxes being voluntary does a great job. He doesn't allow himself to become angry or agitated. Instead, he just keeps coming back to Reid's claim that America has a voluntary tax system and asking straightforward questions that clearly show the absurdity of Reid's position.

I wish all Americans would take the time and effort to think through issues like this.

The fundamental question is this: Where do I (and where does the government) get the moral right to forcibly take the property of one neighbor, who in my opinion has too much, in order to give it to another neighbor, who in my opinion does not have enough? Note the importance of the phrase "in my opinion" as the sole justification.

Unfortunately, many Christians support the confiscation of private property on the grounds that it shows love and compassion and that it results in social justice.

But the eighth commandment given by God to Moses says: "You shall not steal" Exodus 20:15). Webster's Universal Collegiate Dictionary defines "steal" as "to take the property of another or others without their permission." This seems rather clear. If God meant to endorse modern socialism, he could have modified the eighth commandment to" "You shall not steal, except when you intend to give the stolen property to someone in need." But that is not what God instructed.

When you debate this issue with liberals, they will ultimately argue that government has the right to forcibly take property from some and redistribute it to others because the legislative system has bestowed that right through the process of law and that the public has affirmed it through the electoral process. Two points need to be made in response to this argument. First, we need to concede that government has the legal right to forcibly take property from its citizens, as this has indeed been conferred by our legislative branch and upheld in various court decisions. But there is a major distinction between legal right and moral right; the two are not synonymous. Many things are legal but not necessarily moral. So the fact that the government has the legal right to confiscate property from its citizens does not answer the question about the source of the moral right.

Second, and equally important, no citizen has the moral right to forcibly take property from another citizen, no matter the purpose to which the confiscated property is to be put. Now, if I do not have this moral right, how can I possibly convey the moral right to the government through my vote? I cannot give something that I do not myself possess. Government derives its powers from the people, and the only just powers possessed by government are those first possessed by the people and conferred upon the government (see the Declaration of Independence). So the liberal argument that the moral right for wealth redistribution comes from a vote of the people does not stand up to scrutiny.

Bottom line, both arguments offered by liberals fail to answer the question about moral authority.

The Bible clearly teaches that we are to help the needy. But over and over again, help for the needy is presented as a voluntary act. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the Samaritan voluntarily comes to the aid of the injured man. He does not flag down a passing caravan and forcibly take some of their property in order to render aid. The beauty of this story is the selfless act of the Samaritan, who used his own resources to assist a person in need who lay outside his normal social circle.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets...But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving may be in secret." (Matthew 6:2-4). This clearly seems to portray helping others as a voluntary act and one that should be done without fanfare.

Leviticus 19:18 tells us to "love your neighbor as yourself." Again, this seems to portray an individual obligation whereby one uses his own resources to provide for his neighbor. It in no way confers the right to take from one neighbor in order to give to another.

In Romans 13:9-10, Paul writes, "The commandments, 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not covet,' and whatever other commandments there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to its neighbor."

The concept of putting a gun to a neighbor's head in order to forcibly take property that I will then give to another neighbor does not seem consistent with Paul's views. Substituting government force for a gun does not solve this problem.


John "Jack" A. Mitchell III

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great tutorial, Jack. Working Americans have become too complacent and it is coming back to haunt ALL of us. Great read.