I attended a meeting recently in Washington, D.C., that left me deeply disturbed. There, representatives from a number of denominations and faith-based organizations heard a presentation by a staff person from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that made it clear that the current discussions about the budget deficit in the United States may well result in substantially reduced spending for the poor.
Scripture tells us over and over that God is very concerned about the poor. For example, Deuteronomy 15:11 states, “I command you to be openhanded toward those of your people who are poor and needy in your land” (TNIV). And Proverbs 31:9 says, “Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
I believe the budget deficit and overall debt load of the United States is one of the most significant problems my country currently faces. However, I believe it would be morally wrong to solve that problem “on the backs of the poor.”
Some of the current proposals would certainly do that. For example, there is considerable support for a proposal to cut all “discretionary spending” by a certain percentage. This cutting across the board on a relatively small part of the budget will mean substantial cuts for programs that help people who have low incomes, programs such as Medicaid, SNAP (formerly food stamps), and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).
Moreover, I’ve been astonished by how little emphasis we’ve placed on helping the poor in our political discourse in recent years. Even President Obama failed to mention the poor in his latest State of the Union address; he was only the second president since Truman to do so. It seems that no one speaks on their behalf these days. Given Scripture’s emphasis on helping the poor, Christians should speak loud and clear for them!
The Christian Reformed Church’s Office of Social Justice is one vehicle that enables us to exercise that responsibility. I encourage everyone to go to www.crcjustice.org and subscribe to OSJ’s newsletter, which regularly provides opportunities to contact your congressional representatives on proposals that impact the poor.
And, when deciding whom to vote for in an election, I urge you to find out the views of political candidates on this issue.
It sometimes seems easy for Christians to become passionate about certain social issues, such as abortion. Those issues are important; yet we can’t ignore the fact that Scripture also places great emphasis on justice and poverty.