How would the disciples vote?

I mentioned last week in our chapel service at World Vision's U.S. headquarters about a recent Christianity Today article I read that I can't seem to get off my mind.

In the article, a recent survey (pdf) by the Pew Research Center showed that American evangelicals were more in favor of cutting federal spending to "aid the world's poor" than any other area. Second and third to cutting foreign aid were "government assistance for the unemployed" and "environmental protection."

As World Vision urges Congress right now to reconsider its possible budget cut that will greatly affect foreign disaster assistance by more than two-thirds, I wonder how Christians in Jesus' day would poll in a survey of this same sort.

From Polling Evangelicals: Cut Aid to World's Poor, Unemployed on Christianity Today:

The top choices among evangelicals for the chopping block are economic assistance to needy people around the world (56 percent), government assistance for the unemployed (40 percent), and environmental protection (38 percent).

In each of these categories, evangelicals were more supportive of decreasing spending than are other Americans. In fact, evangelicals were more supportive of funding cuts in every area except military defense, terrorism defense, aid to veterans, and energy.

Cutting foreign aid and support for the unemployed while favoring increases in defense and police are not priorities of all evangelicals.

Robert Zachritz, government relations director for World Vision in the U.S., said in a statement that U.S. programs help save lives worldwide.He said 8 million children die each year — lives that could be saved with low-cost aid programs to provide malaria bed nets or child immunizations.

"World Vision recognizes the need to make tough decisions addressing the present fiscal crisis, including budget cuts, but these should not fall disproportionately on the poorest of the poor," Zachritz said. "Congress is considering an overall budget reduction of 8.8 percent from the FY2011 presidential request, with cuts disproportionately made to the most cost-effective humanitarian programs saving children's lives."

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For more from World Vision on U.S. Budget Cuts that threaten the poor:

    Comments

    The U.S. government spends about $78 per U.S. citizen on humanitarian aid and $2,361 per citizen on the military. The proposal from Congress to reduce the deficit would cut about $8 from humanitarian aid and *increase* military spending by about $47 per person. World Vision seems to be asking us whether this is a decision that we, as citizens, would like to make. Much of the world sees us as a Christian nation. What will they think about our character and values if they see us asking our government to expand our military and reduce our humanitarian assistance in the name of balancing our budget?

    There is a different side to this issue - those looking for cuts in these areas of assisting the needy and so on are not necessarily lacking in or acting without compassion. In fact it could be to the contrary. Government is a most inefficient way to get aid to where it needs to be and so much is wasted. We should not be depending on the government to do what should be and used to be done by the Church and parachurch organizations. World Vision, World Relief, Habitat for Humanity, Samaritan's Purse, Mercy Ships, and so many others along with the Church could get it done better and share the good news of Christ along with it - and be more obedient and pleasing to the Lord.

    @Ethel Pajao - Like you, I am personally learning much through the dialogue happening here. Great question and challenge you posed for us all to think about. Blessings to you.
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    @Greta - The last part of your post has really moved me to say that prayer over and over and really try and understand if I can say it with a clear conscience. Thanks for posting, very challenging in a hopeful way.
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    @Jonathan - I am saddened to hear of your decision. May God continue to bless you and I hope that our common desire to help those in need helps us to meet again in the future.
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    Thanks @Marcia for your thoughts.
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    Thanks also to everyone else. I assure you that each one of your comments as been thoroughly read and thought about by myself and several of my colleagues, although my comments back to you are representative of my own thoughts only. You all challenge us to think deeply and consider many opinions, views and values. I hope that you find World Vision does the same for you.

    I am learning a lot from the exchange of comments here.

    I got one picture in mind right now... what if one day all sponsors and donors not just to World Vision but to other charitable institutions who looks after the needy pull out their support altogether. How will the world out there looks like?

    I am still processing my thoughts after reading the differing comments below.

    :)

    Rich, I share your disappointment over the apparent apathy for the world's poor. However, living beyond our means and not paying our bills seems as ungodly as neglecting the poor. How would you have preferred to see this poll turn out?

    It's nice if government can lend a helping hand to the poor. But it's not an essential function of government, and I don't recall reading any of Jesus's teachings that say it is. It's something we should be doing individually. That's why I make contributions to World Vision. Their priorities are much more in line with mine, and they're probably much more efficient as well.

    Jesus would tell us not to rely on our governments to do charitable work. He would tell us to give of ourselves without being asked, and to give without counting the cost.

    The government should not be in the business of supporting the poor. That is our individual calling and I would rather make contributions to organizations that I believe in than to our government.

    If we as a nation don't set our budget straight, none of us are going to be able to help any other country. You can't give what you don't have. If the United States does not show some fiscal responsibility, it is going to be the richest 3rd world country in existence. I believe that it is the work of the church to provide love and care for the poor, and that comes from each individual stepping up and doing their part. If the church would do that, we wouldn't need any government assistance to feed and clothe the poor. The constitution provides for protection and liberty, not for social services to others....it creates bondage to all involved when it is legislated. Thanks for letting me share.

    My family has supported a child through World Vision for many years. We have done it voluntarily because we have agreed with the ministry's objectives and have felt reassured about the integrity of the ministry. However, I am convinced that our federal government spending is unsustainable. Where would you have the Congress cut the budget? It is unreasonable to say continue to spend money on any certain program without offering other solutions to our Nation's fiscal problems. If this ministry becomes an advocate for increased federal spending, we will find other ministries to support.

    Jesus said "There will always be the poor" - not as a surrender to the fact, but certainly not to "force" people's contributions, as the disciples were trying to force the woman using her oil. My family makes the bulk of our contributing (after to our church) to World Vision. Were it NOT for taxes being charged us - taxes that go for ABORTION, AID that benefits only the country's highest echelon, and AID that is unaccounted for such as all the MILLIONS poured into HAITI - we would give more to our favorite charity, World Vision. You cannot FORCE generosity. Obviously, God is not blessing that way of supporting the World's poor. It is a silly question because the disciples were fallible and actually not too bright until they were given their powers of the Holy Spirit. Maybe ask what JESUS would think about taxes to benefit the world's poor and I believe He would counsel that people should be allowed to make their own decisions with their tithes, not some govenment!

    I understand where u r coming from. But it is the responsibility of the church (the BODY of Christ) to help. And that is also why I give to world vision. It doesn't help when statistically we also over spend in the institutional church also. Statistically only 20% of tithes goes to the needy, the rest goes to salaries, building expenses, and programs. Maybe we should also evaluate where our money goes in the church an then we could give more to the needy and they won't need the government to help them. The Church can help them.

    Maybe the problem is that you look at the US federal budget as a bottomless resource for money. It is not. The federal budget has included many things that are blatantly unconstitutional for years. Where does the constitution give the federal government the authority to be a charity? No where that I can find, and I've studied it carefully. You seem to have adopted the socialist view that it is government's responsibility to take care of everyone. It is not. It is a personal responsibility. Jesus didn't tell the Roman government, nor the Sanhedrin to take care of their neighbor, he told individuals to do that. The Good Samaritan didn't lobby the government to take care of the man by the side of the road. He took care of him out of his own pocket. So much foreign aid hasn't actually reached the poor. It has only enriched corrupt individuals (like Arafat for one). It is time to re-examine what Jesus actually said and did, rather than assume your worldly based ideas are correct.

    I know it probably doesn't account for much, but government needs to evaluate wasteful spending and some of the perks Congress has (discretionary spending). How about the money that is spent on political slam ads being sent to the world's poor instead? I don't think there is a taxpaying soul out there who wouldn't appreciate those commercials disappearing. One CA candidate spent MILLIONS and she lost. Imagine the impact she could have made with just a donation to a worthwhile charity?

    According to the results of the poll, evangelicals support our government spending money on things the government SHOULD be supporting. The top three are things that we, the Church, should be taking care of on our own. Reading the other comments, I see I am not alone in understanding that our government cannot continue to spend as if money grows on trees. We have a responsibility to care for the poor and needy, on the other hand, our government has been given the job of taking of our country. We as citizens are the ones that should do the work of charity.

    The world's poor should be close to the top of the list. We waste so much money here as a government. Our own poor should also be better supported. If Ron Paul had his way, our banking and money system would get overhauled and THEN major changes and improvements would come. But now we are a debtor nation, all of our money is borrowed, instead of being printed by ourselves as was the original intent. Vote for Ron Paul if he runs in 2012. If God is gracious to us, we will yet have more time.

    I am so sorry to hear these statistics but not surprised. Here's an observation from my area of the U.S. - the beach. People eat in restaraunts several times a week, fast food is the norm for the kids in my neighborhood, new cars, big homes. Life is good here but I can't seem to get ANYONE to sponsor a child for just $35 a month. I not giving up. Maybe I will pass out "clean" water at the grocery store some warm Saturday afternoon to raise awareness of the children loosing their life simply by drinking dirty water.

    Must comment here. If World Vision thinks it is the job of the government to aid the poor then I might stop my sponsorship with you and go to another agency that understands the gospel. It is not the job of governments to care for the poor. It is the job of individuals, namely Christians. Jesus never said that the government should care for the poor. He said we should as individuals.
    Stop asking the government to give more. Ask individuals to give more. I wish I could sponsor more than one child. I cannot afford it partly because of high taxes on things that I buy. But hey, if the government stopped sending that money and let us do it, we would do a better job and actually be fulfilling the commands of Christ.
    I am not anti-government or anti-tax, but I am tired of the church asking the government to do the work of the church. Stop asking the government to be a Christian. It is not. Individuals and churches should rise up and give more.
    As for the pracitcality of it all, our government is broke. If we as a nation keep giving all this aid we will soon be in the same mess as the other countries. Then where will the assistance for the poor come from?

    Kingdom Focused

    John Fulper

    World Vision shame on you for taking the taxpayers hard earned money from the federal government. You part of the problem if u are and ur making Americans poorer. Yes I dont agree with most Christians view in this poll but most are not aware of whats really going on in the world and how globalist occultists are running things. Google Bohemian Grove to see what our leaders are practicing the the redwoods of Cali.

    I read this article carefully a few times, World Vision never said that government should do the church's job. And some of you go as far as saying that you would stop sponsoring with World Vision over this article? That sounds like you have a lot of pride. It seems like the main point of the article is to outline PRIORITIES--that we would rather leave children dying of starvation before we cut military defense. I seriously doubt Jesus would vote this way. Good post World vision! I'm proud to be a sponsor with your agency.

    I agree with John Fulper. As you know, our nation is not a Christ centered nation and we cannot and should not expect the government to do the work of the church. Also, that money we are spending on foreign aid is NOT money we have. It's credit. I don't think anyone should be advocating members of the church max out their credit cards, when they can't even currently make the minimum payments, to give donations to the church. We need to be good stewards of the resources God gives us. One way we do that is to give generously within our means, not destroy our future to help one person now.

    I am happy to support World Vision, my church, and numerous other charities with a portion of the money I earn. That's voluntary charity, and it comes from the heart. I do not want my government taxing me or borrowing against the taxes of my children to support non-essential charitable programs. That's compulsion, and there's nothing charitable about it. When our $14 trillion dollar debt is under control and being paid down, we can have this discussion again.

    I'm forever amazed when conservative Christians insist that it is not the role of government to care for the poor. Just as I am when they argue in favor of the death penalty, war and the suspension of human rights for "our enemies" and "ilegal aliens" and other "criminals".

    Their stance that it's not the government's place to act on the religous scruples of individual citizens sounds like a solid argument for the separation of church and state. Until they insist that the government impose thier religious beliefs about human sexuality, science and social behavior on everyone else. When it comes to intimate matters of the bedroom, marriage, reproductive rights and the education of children, suddenly we become "Christian Nation" founded on (an Evangelical interpretation of) "Christian Principles."

    We have limited funds. Now more than ever, the way we choose to use our resources speaks to who we are as a people. Do we value war or peace? Love our enemies or kill them? Do we welcome the foriegner, or fence them out? In the end we will be judged on our answer to only one question. Did we feed His sheep, or didn't we?

    Pray that God will move people's hearts to give on their own. When God is moving in people's hearts, more can be done anyway than with the government greedily sucking in dollars from the taxpayers and spitting out pennies into charities.

    Those who would argue that it isn't "the job" of the government to help provide international humanitarian assistance to the poor demonstrate a stunning level of ignorance on numerous levels.

    First, the national debt was NOT created by foreign aid programs. It was created by our own excesses and poor policies right here at home. In fact, our international aid funding doesn't even make up 2 percent of the overall federal budget. If you want to know why we're so badly in debt, look at our health care system. Look at corporate tax breaks. But don't blame humanitarian funding.

    Secondly, I keep reading that compassion for the poor is solely an individual responsibility and not a governmental or collective one. Where is your biblical evidence for that? Show me. In the meantime remember Jesus' admonition that "whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me." Those words apply to us as a nation just as much as it does to us as individuals.

    So, you want to cut our debt? Make the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes. Fix our broken health care system. Close corporate loopholes. But don't make the poorest of the poor a scapegoat for our own misdeeds.

    Kudos for taking a stand, Rich.

    @Joseph, over and over in the Bible, both old and new testament, it talks about personal charity. Old testament - If you own a field, leave the edges unharvested so the poor may glean, etc. New testament -Give your possessions to the poor and follow me. And on and on... Jesus also says don't let your right hand know what your left hand is doing, because if you make it known that you give then your reward is the recognition on this earth and not in heaven (paraphrased, of course). Also from Jesus, you will always have the poor... But I cannot recall ONE passage from the Bible that calls for compulsory charity through the government. Not ONE! Can you? Everyone is entitled to their opinion on where government money should be spent, but don't imply that it is somehow a religious duty.

    I think we're overlooking an important point. Why do we need the government to be helping the poor and the retired. That's something we should be doing out of our own pockets, not through a middle-man. Government spending should decrease overall.

    But until we accomplish this, we cannot just cut 40% of the humanitarian aid budget. Why are people so upset about spending 1% on humanitarian aid and not upset about spending 60+% on the military!? I think this is the point that this article is trying to make. Rich Stearns isn't advocating socialism, he's making the much-ignored point that for fundamentalist evangelical Christians to accomplish a "Christian Nation," perhaps they should start by supporting Christian priorities. At present, we have an enormous contradiction:
    If you believe it is solely the Church's job to take care of the poor, then great, support a separation of church and state and get Evangelical lobbying out of politics.
    If you believe that we should be a religious state, a "Christian Nation," that that's fine too. But advocate for our government to uphold Christian values of putting people before markets, and the poor before war-aims.
    But please realize the enormous contradiction in Christianizing our government while upholding wealthy American-capitalist values (which are clearly against the teachings of Jesus).
    I respect WorldVision profoundly for having the courage to stand up against the Christian Right to support Jesus' values.

    I think Joseph and Lorraine said it very well. I do recommend others read Rich Stearns' book "The Hole in Our Gospel". The federal government gives 8 times more money for foreign assistance than Christians do. Christians on average give 2% of 2% of their income (that's $0.06 a day). Unless everyone is willing to give 8 times more, then we need the government to continue their aid. It seems it is more generous than we Christians are.

    Interestingly, also it is middle to lower income Christians who give the greater share. I don't think this is true in the congregation I am part of, however I think people with less are more likely to give to the needs of other people, while those with more give to ministry operations.

    I agree, the US govt. gives a lot... Where they need to cut spending is in all the fluff and nonsense, not humanitarian aid, as humanitarian aid was actually one area the founders did intend the US to shine.

    That said, however, I don't think the govt needs to do more, but Christians... I almost said, "the church," but we need to stop letting someone else just take our resources and dish them out. Only we as individuals know how God is calling us to give. Our family members don't even all give in the same ways.

    After receiving all of the communications from World Vision about this we have decided to drop our support and support another ministry. We have already made our thoughts known about this therefore no more comments are required. We are saddened by World Vision's decision regarding this matter.

    I really object to funding Planned Parenthood for killing unborn babies but you, the govenment, don't think twice about cutting money that saves lives.

    If Christians were totally sold out to their calling, we would give more to help others and not expect our government to do so much. In times of disaster - Katrina, Haiti - Christians and churches were the backbone of relief aid and hands-on care. Why does it surprise us when government can't do what the call of Christ motivates and compells us to do? Only we still take the easy route and only do a small portion of what the Bible describes Christ-followers would do.

    I am deeply saddened and disheartened to read the comments posted in response to these statistics. As a nation, have we no responsibility to the rest of the world? Are we only to look out for ourselves? We don't seem to think so when it comes to meddling in the affairs of other nations that "threaten" our security. Malaria, AIDS, hunger, destitute poverty--do these not threaten our security? They certainly threaten mine. Can't sleep at night over them. I believe in the separation of church and state. As a Christian, I have a responsibility to give faithfully, yes. Have I not, also, a responsibility to act, whenever and however I am given the chance, to advance the cause--to advocate for--the "least of these," wherever they reside? This is such a comparatively small amount of money. It will not noticably affect the deficit. And yet we are to cut it ON PRINCIPLE? ON WHAT PRINCIPLE? Probably the best use of any amount of money in the federal budget. Shame on us. SHAME ON US! And thank you, Rich. WORLD VISION WILL CONTINUE TO HAVE MY SUPPORT AND MORE OF IT!!!

    It bewilders me that anyone calling themselves a follower of Christ can object to spending money to feed starving children. If 100 jetliners crashed every day killing over 25,000 people we would be outraged. We would insist that the government do something to stop this tragedy. Yet that is how many children die each day of hunger and we say "that's not the governments business"! I know I don't want to stand before Jesus and explain that we needed to balance the budget at the cost of thousands of his loved ones dying. If a member of our family needed cancer treatments, would we say "nope can't afford it, got to balance our budget"? I say cut military spending, raise taxes, but don't let the children die!

    I have been reading the comments on this post and FB for most of the day and it has become fairly heated. One question Mr. Stearns asked was how would Christians in Jesus' day responded to this poll? I am afraid much differently than he thinks. Which government entity would they have expected to provide for the poor? The legalistic Pharisees who were offended when Jesus healed poor and disabled people on the Sabbath? Probably not. How about those friendly Roman leaders? Excuse me, Mr. Herod, when you find time, after beheading John the Baptist and partying for days on end, would you see fit to help out the destitute around the corner from your palace? Ummm...very doubtful. My educated guess, based on reading the book of Acts, is that the Christians is Jesus' time would have taken care of the problem themselves. They would have made sure those in need were taken care of and they would have done this without the help or interference of the government. Helping widows and orphans may be considered "radical" Christianity nowadays, but during the formation of the church, it was nothing new. Even the law of Moses demanded such action. It is not the government we need to be concerned about doing charitable work, but our churches. Giving aid to foreign countries does not make us a Christian nation. If our government was spreading the Gospel, that would make us a Christian nation, and we all know that is not happening. We must never forget that feeding the poor, although completely necessary and called for, was not the mission we were given by Christ. Our mission is to take the good news to the world. IF we do this while we teach the poor and marginalized sustainability, all the better, but any ministry that is not about bringing the knowledge of God's saving grace to the worn and weary world, well, I am afraid they cannot rightly be called a ministry.

    My family, and I personally, have sacraficed over the years so that our sponsored children could have the opportunities provided by World Vision. Indeed, I have even promoted such sponsorship to others, so that World Vision would have more funding to facilitate its ministry. However, World Vision should not equate its donors' support of private philanthropy with unequivical support of pubically funded programs. If the level of spending by the federal government and the overall debt is not reined in, the American economy will continue to suffer and American taxpayers will be sending more and more their "contributions" to the government, rather than to the charities of their choice. (And, charitable organizations tend to be more efficient at managing anti-poverty programs than are governmental agencies.) Additionally, a 501(c)3 nonprofit like World Vision should be careful about its use of advocacy like this, as it may alienate donors who do not agree with its public policy views.

    It is very unusual for me to post one comment in a forum such as this, let alone two. But I am so moved. Because these cuts are just plain wrong. They will eliminate programs that are already in place and that work. And they will make the sacrifices that you and I do make and the money we do give much less effective. They are vastly disproportionate to cuts in other areas of the budget. And, I simply do not have the boldness it takes to speak these words with a clear conscience:

    Dearest Jesus, I just want to explain to you why I support taking money away from programs around the world that are working to eliminate the things that most break your heart. I just cannot expect my government to do the work of the church any longer. You know that I have made a lot of sacrifices for you over the years. And you know that I would do more if I didn't have to pay so much of MY hard-earned money in taxes. I know that children will die, Jesus. I know that a lot of good work will be undone. I know that this amount of money will really not affect the deficit appreciably, but we simply have to send a message to our leaders about their spending. And apparently, this is the place to start. I am counting on you, Jesus, to move your church to step forward and make up the difference, to be the church as we should have been all along. And you can count on me to give more as soon as my tax bill is lowered. Thank you, Jesus. I know you understand.

    If your stats are correct, Scott, that say it all- and practically speaking, which is a better tool for gaining allies in the world, increased weaponry, or increased aid? It saddens me that evangelicals would advocate more military spending, so that we can continue to "ally" with nations for the sole purpose (oil) of our over-consuming lifestyles not being hampered- is that what Christ would advocate?

    Jesus said he likes a cheerful giver. Jesus wants us to give from our hearts. That's what charity is. That's why the women who gave the last few cents she had was worth more than the large amounts of money the wealthy gave. So my question is, how is money from the government worth anything? There is no charity in taxes.

    I find it a difficult question that I truly do struggle with, because there is an obvious mathematical difference if money comes in from the government. You can see that if there's 1/3 the amount of World Vision's income being cut, that 1/3 the amount of help will not be given to the poor.

    Is that really the case though? I look at America and see more prosperity here than anywhere else in the world. We also have the most liberty (i.e. responsibility for our own well being) of any country in the world, and we also are the most charitable nation in the world. I believe these things are inextricably linked. So when the government takes away from people who freely prospered and filter it through the government, you first get bureaucratic dilution, and second you remove liberty from those who would otherwise "give" freely, thereby removing true charity.

    Rather than redistributing other people's prosperity and chipping away at their liberty, I believe there should be more work on restoring the liberty of the poor! This will help them prosper and diminish the amount of work that needs to be done.

    I believe World Vision is very good in the area of promoting liberty. They have a Micro Finance program that helps entrepreneurs, they give people the tools they need to build farms and build schools, but there's so much more that needs to be done that World Vision cannot do. Much of the problem comes from oppressive governments. This is why I think our liberty in the US is so important, and even though high taxes is just a small step to the oppression that many other countries face, I don't want to see any steps taken in that direction - even if it's under the guise of helping the poor.

    So back to my point about charity. If charity is removed and we focus only on the money and the "numbers" we're really reducing God's sovereignty. If he says a cheerful giver is worth more than a grumbling one, then I believe He can make more from less. My question to the people of World Vision is, do you believe that as well?

    It is not the task of government to address the plight of the poor, especially in other countries. This is the task of the church, and I am sure that a similar poll of "evangelicals" vs. "non-evangelicals" would reveal similar or greater giving on the part of the former to faith-based charities (including their local congregation) to meet these needs.

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