Notes From Babel

Christianity and Welfare

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Every now and then someone will quote this passage from the Acts of the Apostles to suggest some level of credence to the notion that Christians ought to warm to social welfare:

32And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.  34For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

Acts, ch. 4.

It would be error to suggest this passage supports the modern welfare state.  In fact, it underscores the importance of recognizing natural, God-given rights to one’s property and labor, as opposed to the positive, state-appropriated licenses to property—the approach under a progressive theory of “rights.”   The believers described in Acts do not suggest in any way that our bundles of rights ought to be entrusted to the state.   Instead, they are described as recognizing the common source of our rights—a gift from God to man.   One’s stewardship over those rights ought to be a testimony of that relationship.  Just as there is no need to appropriate parents’ property rights to their children, Acts does not in any way suggest that a Christians’ property rights ought to be entrusted in the state so that they may be re-appropriated to their fellow citizens.   This passage has nothing to do with the state’s connection with rights.  Sharing among family members, and charity among fellows, has nothing to do with organized, forced redistribution through the state.

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Written by Tim Kowal

November 9, 2009 at 11:05 pm

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