Occupy Wall Street? An ARPA Canada Commentary
Update (Oct. 27, 2011): An Addendum has been added to this article.
By André Schutten and Mark Penninga (www.ARPACanada.ca): Mr. Warren Kinsella wrote an article on the Occupy Wall Street movement which started in the United States and moved to Canadian cities last week. He asked the question, “What would Jesus do (WWJD)” with this movement? After quoting different new testament passages, he concludes with this:
“…the Occupiers are a bit Christ-like. As noted most memorably in Matthew 25:31, when Judgment Day arrives, the ones who will be admitted into the Kingdom are the ones who have done the most for “the least” among us — the hungry, the sick, the poor.
If you strive to know Him, like some of us do, there can’t be much doubt that the rabbi named Jesus Christ was no capitalist. ….He’d be right down there with them, chanting against the bankers and the politicians who do the bankers’ bidding.” [Read all of Mr. Kinsella’s argument here.]
Is this really what Jesus would do? We think not. It is what a secular humanist would like Jesus to do.
When Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s”, he wasn’t talking to Caesar (or politicians), he was talking to the Church. He affirmed that we have a duty to honour the civil government by paying taxes. But that comes alongside the command to “give to God what is God’s.” Looking through the rest of Scripture, we can see that Caesar’s realm is very small, and God’s realm has dominion over everything, including Caesar. Sadly, in the name of “social justice,” even Christians are arguing that the State has to provide bigger welfare cheques, more free housing, more free education, more soup kitchens, more this and that for the down and out. Our society (and more and more Christians) love to have the appearance of being caring. But the reality is that we won’t actually give from our own wallets. Instead we will shove the responsibility to the foot of the state (and indirectly to the big evil corporations who fund the state).
But is that the role of the state, or is that the role of other institutions in society? One big problem with social policy in North America today is the usurping of the role of the church, family, business, and general community, by the state. Romans 13 and Belgic Confession Article 36 paint a very different role of the state. It is responsible for restraining evil, maintaining order, and protecting those who do good. Looking to the State to provide for all our needs and wants is idolatry. Allowing the state to take from the rich and give to the poor is theft. The state is not above God’s law. Warren Kinsella and co. would do well to re-read the story of Naboth’s vineyard and God’s harsh words to the king who stole private property. “‘This is what the LORD says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’”
How ironic it is that many on the left of the political spectrum lambaste Christians for applying their faith to the public square, but then interpret Christ and Scripture to legitimize their own Statist ideology. Religion is not welcomed in the public square…unless it upholds secular humanism.
What Mr. Kinsella does not quote in his article are the handful of Proverbs regarding the lazy, or Paul’s statement that “if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10). The ironic thing with the occupy movement, is that it is fuelled as much by greed as the so-called 1% is accused of. Stories abound of thievery at these occupy events. They steal from their own! $5,500 laptops, and $3,000 cameras (probably purchased on credit) and thousands of dollars of donated cash. And they look to the government to give them more, taxing the high-wage earners to dole out more and more to the lower-class. It is a sense of entitlement that seriously risks ruining our Western civilization.
There is a role for the church, family, business, and individual to play here. We need to lead by example. When we demonstrate that we are responsible for the domain that God has entrusted to us, the evidence will clearly show that the State is not the ideal institution to care for all our needs. At the same time, we can be frank and ask our civil governments to be very careful with what they are spending their money on, and to respect the other institutions in society.
Addendum: Jesus dealt with the underlying issue of greed and covetousness many times when he was on earth. One particularly telling example was when our LORD was approached by a disgruntled younger brother who demanded Jesus to “tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (Luke 12:13) It should be noted that the custom at that time was for the eldest son to receive a double portion of the inheritance; the man demanding a divided inheritance was not without an inheritance at all – he just wanted more of what his elder brother got and he what he thought was fair.
What is Jesus’ response? Instead of insisting on a “fair”, 50-50 spilt between the brothers, he says, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15). Christ then goes on to tell the parable of the rich fool who builds bigger barns to store all his wealth, but who dies the next day. Lest we be accused of encouraging corporate greed or at least giving it a free pass, we note that this parable of Jesus is instructive not only for those in the occupy movement, but also for those corporate CEOs who hoard assets and money and are driven by greed and vain ambition, who take unnecessary risks with investments in order to make more. Christ is very fair and unbiased in his application of the warning against greed and covetousness; whether committed by the indebted university student or the multi-billionaire corporate CEO or anyone else, all must be on guard.