Acton Institute Powerblog

Whom Would Jesus Indebt?

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Putting ourselves and our children further in debt, notes Timothy Dalrymple, is not the way to help the poor:

One of the great difficulties of this issue, for Christians, is that the morality of spending and debt has been so thoroughly demagogued that it’s impossible to advocate cuts in government spending without being accused of hatred for the poor and needy. A group calling itself the “Circle of Protection” recently promoted a statement on “Why We Need to Protect Programs for the Poor.” But we don’t need to protect the programs. We need to protect the poor. Indeed, sometimes we need to protect the poor from the programs. Too many anti-poverty programs are beneficial for the politicians that pass them, and veritable boondoggles for the government bureaucracy that administers them, but they actually serve to rob the poor of their dignity and their initiative, they undermine the family structures that help the poor build prosperous lives, and ultimately mire the poor in poverty for generations. Does anyone actually believe that the welfare state has served the poor well?

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • When we look at the Scriptures, I believe the question we would be asked by the Biblical authors is not whom would Jesus indebt, but whom would Jesus have us be most generous to and caring for. The generosity we are to have is not a luxury that comes from the freedom of choice to give, but a requirement that comes from a command based on to whom we are in debt. That person we are indebted to is God since all that we have has been given to us by Him.

    At the same time we should note Rachel Corrie’s words about how we should regard and treat the homeless (see

    Finally, we should note Martin Luther King’s challenge that not only should we be generous in our personal giving, we should change the system that produce beggars (see his A Time To Break Silence). And in this country, the system he was challenging was capitalism (see his Where Do We Go From Here).

    • Yeah, capitalism causes poverty. It lifted the West from $3/day living in 1700 to over 100 times that amount today (see McCloskey’s series on Bourgeois Values), lifted over 500 million people from starvation in India and China and many more in S. Korea, Taiwan, etc.

      Meanwhile socialism starved to death over 60 million. But to know these real world facts, you have to read something besides Marxist drivel.

      • Roger,
        For as long as you are selective with your stats, you can say anything you want.

        In the meantime, whenever you speak of socialism as a monolith, you are demonstrating ignorance.

        • They only seem selective to you because you live in a very small corner of the world populated only by rabid Marxists. The stats I presented come from the top government agencies for poor relief in the world. Only you would call them selective.

          I know. You have deemed the USSR and Communist China to not be socialist. I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t want to identify with such massive failures, either. But you demonstrate the extreme dishonesty of socialists for disowning their failures. After the fact. Pre-WWII, US socialists couldn’t praise the USSR enough.

          You claim that there are so many varieties of socialism, so tell me which of Marx’s principles any of them denounce. For that matter, which ones do you not agree with? Seems to me there is far more uniformity than not.

          • Roger,

            It’s selective because the more you go out into the world, the more you see the victims of capitalism. See, there are more stats than the cherry picked stats you offered and they come even from your own country. In fact, you will find that in China, you have combination of systems merged together. Of course what you will also find in China are sweatshops and massive environmental problems.

            In the meantime, you wish to associate what I believe with tyrannical systems that murdered and starved people. First, even if you want to fix the socialist label on the old Soviet Union and China, they don’t represent my system of beliefs. Second, there were massive problems in both countries before “socialism” arrived there. For the Soviet Union, you had massive labor abuse and impoverishment of people before their revolution and you had WWII that produced horrific losses which we’ve never seen in this country.You could say the same for China. In the meantime, how many American Indian died or were displaced because of our capitalism? And how much of our country was built on the backs of labor abuse and slavery?

            See, being selective means you are asking people to draw conclusions on incomplete information. And your continued attempts to imply that the Soviet Union and Red China represent my views are simply dishonest. And how many of Marx’s principles do you actually know? Below is a link pointing to differences between Socialists. And btw, what part of “workers control” was actually implemented by the Soviet Union and China? Watch the video and see.


          • You commit the error that most of my students in economics make: you think your personal experiences trump science. As I tell my students, that’s nothing but arrogance.

            No one has said that China is the kingdom of heaven on earth. You point to problems. Yes China has problems. What country does not? Those problems do not change the fact that China has lifted over 500 million people from starvation to relative wealth by world standards. Bringing up the environment or “sweatshops” only changes the subject, a typical dishonest socialist ploy.

            So what principles of socialism in the USSR and Communist China do you disagree with. I keep asking you what about Marx you disagree with but you refuse to answer. I assume that’s because you don’t disagree with him on anything?

            Yes, Russia had problems before it became socialist. So are you saying socialism will work only in a society of perfect people? Besides, your history is sad. The whole point of the USSR was to perfect human nature. That is the whole goal of socialism since Saint-Simon.

            You exaggerate the problems in pre-socialist Russia and China. The West had worse problems before capitalism. If you knew any economic history at all, you would know that the great mystery in the field is why China and the Ottoman Empire did not develop when they enjoyed so many advantages over the West in terms of trade, wealth, science, etc.

            BTW, I am an American Indian of the Choctaw tribe. I guarantee I know more about the history of tribal people than you’ll ever know. Capitalism killed none of them, just as capitalism did not enslave blacks. In capitalism the state has the job of protecting the life, liberty and property of citizens from abuse by other citizens. In the US, the state was the abuser. The sad history of US tribes is one of many examples of the worst failures of the state in the history of mankind.

            I know all of Marx’s principles, having read far more of his writings than you have read in economics. Since you refuse to answer my question I would guess you don’t know his principles or don’t disagree with any.

            If you were an honest person, you would admit that the USSR, Maoist China, N.Korea, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, Cuba, N. Vietnam, etc., were failed socialist experiments that socialists have learned from and revised their views. But there have never been any successful socialist experiments.

            BTW, the Soviets believed they had worker control through the communist party. The party represented the workers. Of course you could argue that it wasn’t the type of worker control you want because it failed. But you have to admit that the whole point of Marxism, Nazism, Fascism, and Communism was about control of the means of production by the workers. Good grief! That’s basic Marxism!

          • Roger,
            First, where did I cite my personal experience? I didn’t. So where was my error?

            Second, you cited an example of a worker’s co-op failing and claimed that I have referred to them before. I did refer to them before but with a note a criticism. They are worker-owned but not democratically run. There are other worker co-ops I have cited are here in the US and I have briefly referred to some in Argentina but not by name which are both. And that is the model I am referring to. The fact that they are worker owned doesn’t save them from the possibility of failure. But what makes a co-op more socialist rather than capitalist is how it is run. The socialist model is more than just worker-owned, it is democratically run by the workers rather than managerially run. But regardless of which model a business follows, all businesses can fail and their failure alone does not imply anything about why it failed. To understand why a business fails, one has to examine the details. But what a worker-own, democratically run by the workers business does do is to protect the workers from abuse by distant owners who might want to close a business not because it was failing, but because the profit margin didn’t meet the standard of those who own the company.

            Third, I haven’t refused to answer your questions about Marx. Rather, I was addressing another point showing the differences between socialists especially those who wrongly looked up to the Soviet system and people like Lenin and Trotsky and those who don’t. Did you even watch the Youtube link I left?

            Also, I have stated my disagreements with Marx before. I don’t believe in violent revolution or in violence. In addition, Marx reduced control of society to workers rather than including other stakeholders, that is wrong. But his analysis of capitalism is pretty accurate.

            Fourth, if the only way you can make your case is to put your spin on things in my mouth, you’ve already lost. What did I write? That part of the losses that Russia and China experienced were due to context and that would occur regardless of the system. Remember what countries were devastated before their form of socialism came into play as well as devastated by WWII. The question is, could we have recovered like they did? In addition, you are conflating two different forms of capitalism into one here. The US is heading toward a neoliberal form of capitalism while China has combined some capitalism with a strong state control of the economy. So the question is what has helped lift people from starvation? But another question is, at what expense both environmentally and in terms of human rights?

            Fifth, why not give the specific data on the percentage of worker-owned, democratically run co-ops that have failed and cite your sources.

            Finally, your two responses have really failed to address the points I made. And yet you seem very aggressive in trying to prove my points wrong. So your notes do not add up.

          • PS, you have mentioned the Mondragon workers co-op in the past as an ideal organization. Have you seen the reports of its imminent collapse? See this

            Of course, honest people know that worker-owned cooperatives are capitalist. Note the word “owned.” The company is the private property of the workers. Of course, very few worker owned cooperatives have succeeded. Remember the Yugo? It was worker owned. They fail because they put the needs of the employees above the survival of the business, just as unions do. Why have so many manufacturing firms left the US? Unions destroyed the companies.