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The National Debt: Does it Matter What Christians Think?

Paul Dean
Paul Dean
2011 10 Mar

Where do you stand on the national debt and what we should do about it? Christians should have an informed opinion on these issues.

Christianity Today” reports that The House of Representatives is working to cut $60 billion from the federal budget. While it includes deep cuts for environmental agencies, education, and foreign aid, it makes modest reductions for defense, homeland security, and police. That’s a paltry amount considering the debt crisis upon us. We as a nation, and indeed the church, find ourselves in a serious situation.

The good news is that these cuts are in line with the spending priorities of most American evangelicals. Further, a Pew Research Center survey found that evangelicals were more likely to favor reductions in federal spending over other Americans.

But here’s the bad news, like other Americans, many evangelicals wanted most areas to remain the same or increased. A large percentage of Christians favored spending increases in a variety of areas including public schools, health care, Medicare, social security, agriculture, energy, college financial aid, the environment, and scientific research to name a few. In many of those areas, a higher percentage of evangelicals favor increased government spending than non-evangelicals.

This dynamic is cause for alarm. Practically, it’s cause for alarm in that we can’t sustain our current level of debt accumulation: there is a pay day some day and that pay day could be catastrophic. It’s cause for alarm morally in that taxing the citizenry to pay for things the market could better provide only contributes to the financial burden laid upon us.

But here’s the larger issue for evangelicals: their desire to increase government spending is cause for alarm philosophically in that the role of government is that of protection, not the provision of goods and services that the market, again, could much better provide. When I say philosophically, I mean biblically. Christians, of all people, must look at the world through a biblical lens. Government does not exist to provide our every need and it certainly doesn’t exist to provide our every whim. Government is simply necessary (among other options) to maintain civil law in a fallen world.

By way of simple illustration, to forcibly take money from one group of individuals (taxation) to provide for the needs/desires of other individuals is not rooted in gospel freedom but in force. That is not to say that we shouldn’t be compassionate toward others and give to those in need. But that’s different. Would you think it right if someone came up to you on the street and held a gun to your head and demanded you hand your wallet to the homeless man lying on the bench beside you? Of course you wouldn’t. But you might voluntarily help him or anyone else. Force and volunteerism are two different things.

Laying aside legitimate purposes for taxation (and there are some), one might say that the people have voted for certain government programs and that makes them legitimate and the illustration fails. But, not all have voted for them and are therefore coerced to give to the cause of others. That’s one reason our founders rejected a pure democracy and opted for a Constitutional Republic. There are many things the majority would vote for in connection to their own interests that would not be right for the country as a whole or that would violate moral principles that are foundational to the proper role of government (think abortion for example). The programs in question go beyond the biblical role of government and those who vote for them are not taking into account gospel principles.

The Scriptural formula for financial security is hard work, saving for the future, and compassionate, voluntary gifts for those truly in need. Those principles apply to nations as well as individuals. It matters what we Christians think on these things. It matters so we may be more rightly related to God and so that we can influence our world in this area as ambassadors for Christ. The gospel is a comprehensive view on all of reality including government debt and spending. May we do our part in training fellow evangelicals in the ways of God? Perhaps then, we can influence our culture a little better in this area and have more opportunities to turn the conversation to Christ as people want to know where we get our ideas.

Dr. Paul Dean invites you to discover more about yourself, God, and others . . . and develop a Christian worldview. Dr. Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. Receive a FREE commentary and learn more at http://www.trueworldview.com

Publication date: March 10, 2011