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Last updated: Monday, December 07, 1998
A Web Letter To The Editor, published on the World-Wide Web 16 November 1995. URL=http://www.reocities.com/Athens/3680/gt003.htm
To The Editor:
I am writing in response to a story on page A8 of yesterday's Gazette Telegraph, "Bishops say the country is failing the poor while rich profit." The message I got from the article was that this country's Catholic bishops believe that politics is a legitimate means of ministry to the poor. They aren't alone. In my own church I once heard in a sermon that I should only feel obligated to give 5% for God's work instead of the Biblical standard of 10% (a tithe) since government is taking care of things the church used to do. The fallacy in this argument is that the Bible specifically calls the church, not the civil government, to care for the poor. I can understand how non-Christians might conclude that care for the disadvantaged in our society should not be left up to the church. But Christians are commanded to "love thy neighbor." When asked if people should pay taxes, Jesus said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's." He didn't say, "Render unto Caesar that which you are sinfully withholding from the poor so that Caesar can do the right thing for you." Come to think of it, Jesus neither condemned nor attempted to influence the civil government at all. So why are the bishops not concentrating on expanding ministry to the poor through their own church?
As an Anglican Catholic who reverently acknowledges the Biblical ministry of bishops ("overseers", as they are called in the New Testament), I am saddened and disappointed that these most reverend Christian leaders chose to criticize the government for failing the poor without first taking the log out of their own eye. After all, why did the government have to begin serving the poor to begin with? Because the church has failed to live up to that pivotal element of its own ordained purpose. An estimate for the current level of giving across Christian denominations is a mere 2% of members' income. That's only one-fifth of a tithe. I'd venture to guess that far less than half of the contributions received by churches today are used to care for the poor. So it's conservative to project that Christian charities could serve ten times as many needy people if all Christians tithed. Furthermore, the New Testament does not stipulate a legalistic number -- Christians are free to give more than a tithe. It's also worth noting that over ninety cents of every tax dollar allocated to Federal social programs is consumed by administrative costs. Many private charities operate just opposite -- ten cents or less going to administration.
And so I have an alternate suggestion to the bishops' apparent endorsement of such disgraceful stewardship. I pledge to allocate 100% of any decrease in my taxes next year to Christian programs that benefit the disadvantaged, and I urge my fellow Christians -- Catholic and Protestant alike -- to do the same.
-- Timothy B. Chambers