Greetings in the precious Name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Thank you very much for your e-mail: Christian Socialists Have Good Intentions.
I do appreciate your critical feedback. Yes, we do want to see poverty ended, and people blessed. I have been a missionary now for almost 30 years. During this time I have had the privilege of delivering tons of food and medical supplies, sometimes whole containers full of medicines and food aid, to some of the most desperately needy people suffering in countries as far afield as Angola, Sudan, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The desperate plight of many of the poorest of the poor worldwide, and particularly in Africa, is heartbreaking. True Christianity is caring for widows and orphans, loving our neighbour as ourself, and doing unto others as we would want them to do unto us.
You point out that Christian socialists have good intentions. That may be so, but being sincere does not necessarily make one right. “There is a way that seems right to man but the end thereof is the way of death. Many are sincerely wrong.”
I am convinced that socialism is counter-productive. Socialism destroys incentive, initiative and productivity.
Socialists try to cut up the pie to the advantage of their supporters. However, free enterprise aims to make more pies for everyone. Price controls create an imbalanced, chaotic market. Minimum wage laws result in unemployment. Profit restrictions increase consumer costs. Enforced economic equality leads to stagnation, destruction of initiative and more poverty.
Concern for the poor has long been used as the justification for all kinds of crime. Judas Iscariot, who was a thief, was a prime example (John 12:4-6).
Envy is the greatest disease of our age. Envy is the feeling that because someone else has something, he is to blame for my not having it! To almost every problem in the world, socialism advocates state control. In this way socialists insist on un-Biblical powers for the government to interfere with, or control, prices, markets, wages, jobs, profits, population control, education, movement, etc. The inevitable end of increasing government intervention is the erosion of personal freedom.
I would direct your attention to a comparison of East Germany with West Germany and North Korea with South Korea. Here we have two textbook examples of nations with the same geography, language, people, climate, raw materials, etc. Note the contrast between the productive free market economy of West Germany and the stagnant police state of socialist East Germany. Or the vibrant economy of South Korea versus the oppressive communist totalitarian state of North Korea.
There are four broad categories under which poverty can be caused: Personal sacrifice, slothfulness, calamity (earthquakes, floods, wars, etc.) or exploitation.
The Scripture speaks about the lazy and indolent suffering the consequences of their sin: “He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great destroyer.”Proverbs 18: 9
“How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep – so shall your poverty come on you like a robber….” Proverbs 6:9-11
“Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands, the house leaks…” Ecclesiastes 10:18
Moral poverty often dooms its people to ongoing material poverty. Laziness, selfishness, greed, immorality, short sightedness, gambling, alcohol abuse, addiction to pornography, indulging in prostitution, drug abuse and other sins are symptoms of rebellion against the Law of God. Such evils inevitably lead to poverty. You can hand out millions of dollars to every person in a squatter camp and they will be poor again in very short order.
Sometime ago a study was made on nine people who had won the lottery in Great Britain. In every single case they were all worse off than what they had been before winning over a million pounds each.
Victims of self-imposed poverty need the Gospel and discipleship to free them from their lifestyles of sin.
The main causes of imposed poverty are oppression and religious error. Socialist governments have been some of the greatest causes of poverty and suffering in recent history. Zimbabwe is a case in point. But un-Biblical worldviews underlie the poverty of the Third World. The fatalism and reincarnation beliefs of Hinduism and Buddhism, where the material world is not perceived as real and difficulties are understood as a result of the deeds of a previous life (“My kharma is bad”), are paralyzing to progress. The animist worldview sees man at the mercy of outside forces and the spirits. This leads people to be shackled by superstition and fear.
The poor by exploitation need both direct charity, to meet immediate needs, and justice in the form of Restitution from those who have exploited them; and freedom from false religions and oppressive governments.
The poor by calamity (victims of floods, earthquakes, wars, etc.) are the most appropriate recipients of charity. The aim is always to help the poor become self-supporting again.
I have spent many months on the streets of Hillbrow and Durban doing street evangelism. I’ve seen professional beggars at work. I have seen ‘cripples’ letting down their strapped leg and stretching and walking unaided without their crutches. I have seen the ‘blind’ lift up their dark glasses to count up their money in their hat.
Some street children have told me how they can make hundreds of rand a day just by begging. In all too many cases casual and spontaneous handing over of some coins to strangers begging on the streets does more harm than good. Giving to beggars on the streets often goes to subsidizing drunkenness, smoking, drugs, prostitution and gambling. Some of the beggars are child prostitutes and thieves using begging as a cover while looking for opportunities.
Then there are the religious con men who know the terminology and can deceive and manipulate the unsuspecting into handing over large quantities of cash for spurious causes. Millions of rand are squandered every year by guilt manipulated Christians giving to manipulative beggars at traffic lights and at the front door and on the streets.
At the same time good ministries like the Salvation Army, The Docks Mission, The Ark, Cape Town City Mission and others are struggling for lack of support. There is a desperate need for good stewardship of our limited resources. It would be more responsible to channel our compassion to supporting Christian ministries which have proven their effectiveness in reaching out in love to help the poor. Biblical charity does not subsidize sin nor should it encourage irresponsibility. And socialism is not only institutionalized envy and legalised theft, it is also a cover for the most colossal cases of corruption and destruction of economies ever seen in history.
We are convinced that limited constitutional government, honest money, free enterprise and the Christian work ethic, are the proven best ways to produce wealth and job creation. However, it is a fact, proven time and again in recent history, that socialism is destructive – producing, as is well documented in East Germany, North Korea, Zimbabwe and all socialist states, greater poverty and corruption, unemployment and lower life expectancies than ever thought possible.
I praise God that you are willing to give all away to help the poor. May I exhort you to channel that wisely, prayerfully and carefully - through the Kingdom of God - in order to not only help people temporarily, but to help lay solid foundations for freedom from sin and oppression, a free market with a Christian work ethic.
Should you be interested in more material on this, please do let us know. You are also welcome to visit our www.christianaction.org.za website for related articles.
Have you read the Biblical Principles for Africa book?
May the Lord continue to be your joy and strength.
Yours for the fulfillment of the Great Commission
Dr. Peter Hammond