Acton Institute Powerblog

What Can the Church Do?

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

Ron Sider: “If American Christians simply gave a tithe rather than the current one-quarter of a tithe, there would be enough private Christian dollars to provide basic health care and education to all the poor of the earth. And we would still have an extra $60-70 billion left over for evangelism around the world.”

Jim Wallis: “I often point out that the church can’t rebuild levees and provide health insurance for 47 million people who don’t have it.”

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Roger McKinney

    I haven’t read Sider’s book, but I am very skeptical that he knows even remotely what adequate health care for the world’s poor would cost or how much money Christians have. I suspect he grossly underestimates the first and overestimates the second.

    It’s typical of socialists to claim that if all of the wealth in the world was equally distributed there would be no poverty, which isn’t true. Sider’s rant is just a variation on that theme.

    But outside of the math and logistics of the problem, Sider irritates me because he gives the impression that we can establish the kingdom of God on earth if Christians would just give enough money. He seems to think we can eliminate poverty forever if we were simply generous enough.

    This world will always be imperfect until Christ returns. Poverty is tightly wound around human nature. As long as people rebel against God, some of them will be poor.

    Sider appeals to our natural Protestant guilt and the false dream of creating a utopia on this planet. My approach to giving is different. The Bible says when we give to the poor we loan to God. Jesus said when we give to the poor we store up treasures in heaven. I know that I will never be able to give enough to eliminate poverty, but I also know that whatever I give, I give it to God first as an act of love and worship, and then to the poor. God remembers every good work I do and stores up for me treasures in heaven.

  • Roger McKinney

    PS, Isn’t Wallis wasn’t such an ignorant socialist, he would know that the free market can “rebuild levees and provide health insurance for 47 million people who don’t have it” if the state would get out of the way. The choice is not between the church doing it or the state doing it. The choice is between the free market doing a better job than the miserable job the state always does.

  • It’s sometimes hard to give to our fellows when we see they are drunks, smokers, flatulent, fat, cursing, liars, cheats and genocicidal racists. They have morals worse than farm animals and even less gratitude. And those are our elected officials.

    It might be good to refer to the recent post citing Thomas Sowell and Culture as determinant of economic success. I grew up in San Diego and have always been amazed that just 30 miles away, in Tijuana, there was so much poverty, not American style poverty, but the grinding, hopeless poverty one expects to see in the worst of Third World Nations.

    I recall attending a Conference about the experience of various parishes in Wichita, where basic medical clinics, in addition to schools and early college tuitions were funded from parish tithes. The principle of subsidiarity starting at the parish level, then the diocesan needs, made it possible. Recently, I’ve redirected my giving away from diocese because they seem to produce fund areas that produced votes for socialists. Frankly, socialists can be had for free, I’ll continue more focused funding of agencies that advocate life, virtue and freedom.

  • Government step aside…and….let the Pope speak.