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Is a national welfare system even Christian?

Certain parts of the political establishment seem to have convinced a large majority of conservative Christians that a national welfare system is not compatible with Christianity. Is that really true, or is it just another political lie? To examine the truth, we must start with Christian history.

The early church was illegal for approximately the first 300 years. Over ten major series of persecutions and many minor skirmishes, various Roman Emperors killed Christians by the thousands. The New Testament was written in a time when few Christians were involved in government and Christians' relationship to human government was very bad. Thus there are naturally many times fewer instructions regarding the behavior of humans in government in the New Testament compared with instructions to kings and other government officials in the Old Testament. After Constantine legalized Christianity, and slowly became a Christian himself, other Christians across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa began to have astounding influence in their governments, from Kings to government and church officials. Failing to find adequate instructions for government in the New Testament, these Christians searched the Old Testament for principles which could be applied in spirit.

With that in mind, we turn to the question at hand. Is a national welfare system even Christian? In Deuteronomy 14:28 and 26:12 is the mention of the third year tithe. It was a tithe that was nationally mandated and locally administered. What a marvelous idea if the people of Israel had ever adhered to it. Historians question whether or not obedience to this national command was universal. So what does this tell us as Christians?

A national law is not the real problem with modern welfare systems. There is plenty of biblical precedent for it. It is not the great social evil that selfish lobbyists pretend. It is not socialism, but a biblical and also a Christian principle to care for the less fortunate even on a national scale. On the other hand, national administration of welfare is notoriously inefficient and wasteful. Perhaps the Old Testament principle of administration of a national law on a personal and local level would work better even today.

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