Blog author: rnothstine
by on Thursday, August 9, 2007

While I was in seminary in Kentucky, students were required to complete a relatively extensive service project that assisted and helped the poor and marginalized in our community. My group volunteered at a teen pregnancy center, others at nursing homes, or with organizations like Habitat for Humanity. At the pregnancy center we led job training, financial classes, and other practical skills for work and the home. A different group went another direction, they passed out petitions that called upon the federal government to do more for the less fortunate.

Ryan Messmore of the Heritage Foundation, notes the obvious today when he says, “When people need assistance, therefore, the first place many think to turn is Washington D.C.” In a piece titled “My Neighbor’s Keeper?” for FrontPage magazine, Messmore lifts up the moral responsibilities we have to assist and help those among us. Messmore’s piece also strongly argues that a “hyper – individualistic” view actually leads to a more powerful and centralized government. Provided below are some common sense and convicting words from his article:

It would be a detriment to our sense of mutual responsibility for one another if the contin­ued recourse to federal programs for remedies caused Americans to view their tax payments — which fund government social service programs — as their contribution to helping people in need. Even the knowledge that such federal programs exist, regardless of their actual effectiveness, may cause some to conclude that the ball is in some­body else’s court.

One of the reasons government is thought to have so much responsibility for the well-being of citizens is that, in modern Western culture, people are viewed more in terms of their isolated autonomy than in terms of their social relationships. In other words, we are prone to think of human beings as self-standing individuals rather than as persons-in-community.

Mutual responsibility is essential within a healthy society, especially a free, democratic one. The more people feel that they can trust and rely upon each other, the less they will need to turn to government for care — or to remedy injustice.

Government does not have a monopoly on responsibility for meeting people’s needs. However, government has increasingly become the primary default setting when discussion turns to who is obligated to care for others. The result is less per­sonal and efficient care for individuals and a weak­ening of our social fabric of responsibility and sense of moral obligation to one another through a vari­ety of relationships.

For me, perfect relationship and love is modeled in the Triune character and nature of God. God’s perfect love and transforming grace is also how we should try to love and care for others. The disengagement from so much of our society from helping and serving others is not a headline grabber, but it’s a crisis of the heart and soul. Christ himself said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”


  • Vincent Penzo

    I think the distinction to be made here is that government is instituted to protect our rights, not to provide for our every need. Let us not forget that government is at root the legal use of force in society. People have free will. Should they be forced to give to charity? Can they be forced to love their neighbors? Remember also that when we turn to government to supply all our needs we open the door to power hungry politicians who are all too happy to get people hooked on their ‘social’ programs, which in the end enslave them to whatever party promises them the most goodies. Look how Catholic-majority Boston keeps voting for the party that gave us abortion, gay marriage, and closed down the Catholic Charities adoption services. Why? Because they think that the Democrats ‘care about people’ because they want to spend more (of their own tax money) on welfare and social services. In other words, they were paid off, and paid off cheap. These 30 pieces of silver were their own to begin with. As George Washington said, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force. Like fire, it makes a terrible servant, and a fearful master.” It’s time to get the government out of the business of charity. With ‘friends’ like the Liberals, who needs enemies?