As the title indicates, this is the fifth post in a series. What is it about? We will discuss the nature of agape love and charity. Why? The Social Gospel would have us believe government should provide charity, that this is loving and just. What does scripture suggest? Well, it doesn’t say anything about government-run charity, but it does talk about agape love. There are over two hundred references to agape love in the New Testament (see What is the meaning of agape love? (compellingtruth.org) and 100 Bible Verses about Agape Love (openbible.info)).
So what is agape love? Why is agape love relevant to charity? Well, let’s consider the fact the Bible is quite particular about love.
The Greek language, used in the Bible, has at least four words to describe the various aspects of love. Three of these four were used to write the New Testament. Phileo is a brotherly affection toward someone we really like. Agape, which is the deepest love, means doing good things for another person. Storgay refers to loving one’s relatives. It is a relatively unknown term that is used only two times in scripture and only as a compound. Eros, used to describe a sexual or romantic type of love, is not found in Holy writ. (from Love in the Bible (biblestudy.org))
Agape love does not come naturally to us. In fact agape love can be sort of scary.
The point is that agape love is not simply an impulse generated from feelings. Rather, agape love is an exercise of the will, a deliberate choice. This is why God can command us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44; Exod. 23:1-5). He is not commanding us to “have a good feeling” for our enemies, but to act in a loving way toward them. Agape love is related to obedience and commitment, and not necessarily feeling and emotion. “Loving” someone is to obey God on another’s behalf, seeking his or her long-term blessing and profit. (Four Kinds of Love (truthortradition.com))
Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. Think about that. Who wants to do that? Can you imagine the reaction of His audience? Ponder His words.
Matthew 5:43-48 New King James Version (NKJV)
Love Your Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 [a]But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your [b]brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the [c]tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Because Jesus demanded perfection, The Sermon on the Mount (biblegateway.com) is one the most frightening passages in the Bible. Here Jesus explains what it means to be perfect, to love our neighbor as we love our self, to love God with all our heart, mind, strength and soul. No honest person reads who reads The Sermon on the Mount comes away thinking “I can do that”. Instead, we think about the scribes and the Pharisees.
Matthew 5:20 New King James Version (NKJV)
20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
If the scribes and the Pharisees, who devoted themselves to obeying the Law were not going to enter the kingdom of heaven, what about the rest of us? Well, that’s another post. The point of this post is that government-run charity has nothing to do with agape love. Jesus spoke of charity as a personal act.
Matthew 6:1-4 New King James Version (NKJV)
Do Good to Please God
6 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you [a]openly.
So why won’t government-run charity work? Honest to goodness charity is an act of agape love. Government-run charities are driven by political considerations, not love. They may begin with good intentions, but good intentions are not enough.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
( from The meaning and origin of the expression: The road to hell is paved with good intentions ( phrases.org.uk))
What is the basic problem with government-run charity? The idea violates one of the commandments.
Exodus 20:15 New King James Version (NKJV)
15 “You shall not steal.
Consider what Socialism, redistributing the wealth involves. We use the force of government, the threat of punishment, to take from one person and give to another. That’s stealing.
What are the practical problems?
- Allowing politicians to take what belongs to one person just so they can give another person what they want creates a dangerous conflict of interest. We end up giving the same people responsible for protecting our property rights the power to arbitrarily take our property away so that they can give it to someone else.
- Our Constitution doesn’t authorize Congress to spend money on charity. Read the Constitution. It is not in there.
- Given the obvious conflicts of interest, we don’t have the moral capacity to make government-run charity work without corrupting our nation. Voters have trouble resisting the temptation to use the government to get something for nothing. Politicians have trouble resisting the temptation to use other people’s money to buy votes.
- Government spending is out of control. The defense budget is not the problem. Most of the Federal Budget goes to health, education, and welfare programs.
Consider how James Madison described the issues involved.
But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. — James Madison from The Federalist No. 51
Because we are not angels, agape love does not come to us naturally. So we must have government. Otherwise, none of us will have any rights. To protect each others rights, we must force everyone to participate in the maintenance of law and order. Because men are not angels to do otherwise would be to allow a greater evil.
Nevertheless, when we create a government, we take a huge risk. We give our leaders power over us. When we put government in charge of charity, we give our leaders enormous power. That’s why both the Nazis and the Communists demanded Socialism as a core feature of their regimes. We are making the same mistake. We have given our leaders too much power, and they are demanding more. That is why our leaders and our people are embroiled in feuds. We are fighting over the power we have given our government. We are also fighting the demands for more power.
- What is Agape Love? (And What Does it Mean for Me?) (crosswalk.com)
- King Solomon, Addictive Drugs Wisdom of Medicare Compelling Truth (rudymartinka.com)
- What is agape love? (gotquestions.org)
- Agape (en.wikipedia.org)
- GOVERNMENT, LOVE, AND CHARITY (citizentom.com)
Here are the previous posts in this series.
- WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? / WHAT DID JESUS DO? – PART 4 November 16, 2018
- WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? / WHAT DID JESUS DO? – PART 3 November 15, 2018
- WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? / WHAT DID JESUS DO? – PART 2 November 10, 2018
- WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? / WHAT DID JESUS DO? –PART 1 November 8, 2018