There’s a lot of talk in the United States currently about the responsibility of the government to help people better their lives. Social programs are viewed by many as the solution to poverty. I’ve traveled over 5,000,000 miles in my ministry (like circling this globe over 200 times), and as a world traveler, I’ve never seen one government which attempted to meet all of the needs of its people succeed.
I’ve just returned from a ministry trip to Romania, so these thoughts are heavy on my mind. Romania is making good economic progress but still suffers from forty years of communistic government. The main problem with the socialistic government is that people begin seeing the government as the solution to their problems and the government begins enjoying its new role as the provider of people’s needs.
There are two main problems with this viewpoint:
First, government isn’t God. Only God can meet all the needs of mankind. I know there are many who object to this reasoning because they believe we are responsible to help the poor. It’s true we should help the poor, but there’s a big difference in helping someone and in carrying someone. When we take responsibility for people’s, lives we’ve begun to play God. In my world travels, I’ve listened to socialistic leaders with lofty ideas about government elevating the poor from ignorance and poverty. The problem is there’s a big difference in talk and reality. Talk is cheap. It’s easy to talk about such beautiful ideas, but in reality, they have never worked in any nation which attempt to practice them, because government simply isn’t God. It doesn’t have the resources to meet all the needs of its people. Only God can do that.
Secondly, social programs cannot deal with the problem of sin. It’s the zenith of ignorance for us to pretend mankind doesn’t have a sin problem. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 14:1) The human heart is incurably sick with sin, and it’s not within mankind’s power to change that. Only Christ can forgive sin and redeem the sinner. Because of the sin inherent in human nature, government programs soon become bogged down in corruption. The greater control government gains over our lives, the more we find ourselves becoming slaves to the social system. And because the government officials running the social programs have the same sin nature as the people they’re trying to help, it’s not long before the government officials are abusing the very people they were hired to help. They begin treating people with contempt as though they’re in a class beneath themselves, and begin acting like they are lords above the common people. This leads to greater and greater abuse of authority.
Only Jesus Christ has the power to change human nature. Of course, Jesus cannot help everyone because everyone will not accept His help, but the good news of Jesus is the best solution to changing people’s lives. The gospel changes the way people think of themselves and causes them to take responsibility for their lives. I’ve personally witnessed the power of the gospel not only help the individual; but to also change their families. Families change communities, and communities change the nation. The power of the gospel is the power of God to change the human nature. It changes our heart from its incurable disease of selfishness to a caring heart of compassion. It empowers people to live the type of life which God intended from His creation. It gives them power over sin so that they begin to live righteous lives, and righteousness exalts a nation.
The good news of Jesus Christ not only deals with our guilt problem for the things we’ve done wrong; it gives us the ability to break free from the power of sin. There are basically two ways to live above sin: First, by serving others, we overcome selfishness. Secondly, by becoming generous people and giving, we overcome greed. When we choose to live a life of generosity and unselfishness, our lives are totally changed. We become persons of value who have the power to make our world a better place.
The good news is that, though government isn’t God, there’s a God in heaven who is ready to help us, and, no matter what problem we are facing, there is no problem too big for God. We aren’t helpless victims waiting for government social programs to give us a better life. We are the people of God living above the selfishness of sin, and by doing so, we not only become better people, we also live better lives.