Michael Youssef | Oct 13, 2013
The headline of the full-page ad asks, "What Would Jesus Cut?—A budget
is a moral document." The text continues, "Our faith tells us that the
moral test of a society is how it treats the poor."
The ad was produced by Sojourners, a self-described "evangelical"
organization whose slogan is "Faith in Action for Social Justice." The
ad was signed by Sojourners president Jim Wallis and more than two dozen
Religious Left pastors, theologians, and activists. They urge our
legislators to ask themselves, "What would Jesus cut?" from the federal
How would you answer that question? My answer would be, "It's a
nonsense question. Your premise is faulty. Your priorities are not His
Jesus had many opportunities to confront the Roman government about its
spending priorities. It was, after all, one of the most brutal regimes
in history. If the question "What would Jesus cut?" has any biblical
relevance, we should be able to cite instances where Jesus lectured the
Roman oppressors the same way the Religious Left lectures America.
Just compare ancient Rome with America today. Rome sent its armies out
to conquer; America sends its soldiers out to liberate. Rome demanded
tribute from other nations; America sends aid and emergency relief
around the world. Rome enslaved nations; America rebuilds nations.
If the federal budget is a "moral document," what does it say about
America? It suggests to me that America may be the most moral nation on
earth! Name one other country that has spent $15 billion fighting AIDS
in Africa. Name one other country that has provided more disaster
relief, that has built more schools and water treatment plants, that has
supplied more food aid around the world, that has sent more doctors,
teachers, and technical advisers to developing nations.
Even America's military budget—much of which is being spent to rebuild
Iraq and Afghanistan—reflects the basic compassion and unselfishness of
the American people. Clearly, America hardly deserves any scolding from
the Sojourners soapbox.
Did Jesus ever lecture the Roman Empire about its budget priorities? In
Matthew 8, when the Roman centurion approached Jesus in Capernaum, our
Lord could have said, "How dare you, a Roman warmonger, come to Me
asking favors? Change your priorities! Tell your bosses in Rome to stop
buying chariots and start funding welfare programs!" But Jesus didn't
lecture the centurion. He said, "I tell you the truth, I have not found
anyone in Israel with such great faith!"
In Matthew 22, when the Pharisees asked if it was right to pay taxes to
Caesar, the Lord could have thundered against Caesar's misplaced budget
priorities. Instead, He said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to
God what is God's."
In John 18, Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect, a
friend of Caesar. Why didn't He give Pilate an earful about the
injustice of Roman rule? If ever there was a time for Jesus to "speak
truth to power" and become the "social justice Messiah," that was it!
But Jesus didn't preach the social gospel to Pontius Pilate. Oh, he
spoke truth to power, all right. He delivered a profound message to
Pontius Pilate—and to you and me: "My kingdom is not of this world."
Now, I'm not saying that Christians are never called to confront their
government. God bless Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church for
standing against Nazi genocide. But that's not the situation here.
And I'm not saying there isn't a social and compassionate dimension to
the Christian gospel. There certainly is! Jesus had great compassion for
He preached in Nazareth, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He
has anointed me to preach good news to the poor." He sent word to John
the Baptist, "The deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is
preached to the poor." Jesus presented the obligation to help the poor
as an individual responsibility, a Kingdom responsibility—not the duty
of the secular government.
Both the religious and secular Left in America seem to want government
to replace the church in ministering to the poor and needy. One of
Barack Obama's first proposals as president was a plan to slash tax
deductions for charitable donations by high-income taxpayers. President
Obama reasoned that a tax deduction "shouldn't be a determining factor
as to whether you're giving that hundred dollars to the homeless
shelter." Maybe so—but since private charities do so much good for the
poor, why eliminate incentives for charitable giving? Could it be that
liberals see private charities as competing with the big government welfare state?
In Romans 13, Paul tells us that we pay our taxes and support the
government so that we will have a just, orderly society in which
law-abiding citizens are protected from wrongdoers. But the
responsibility for mercy and compassion belongs to the church—not the
What would Jesus cut? When He stood before the Roman Empire, He didn't
suggest cuts. He received cuts. His flesh was cut by Roman nails and a
Roman spear. He was bruised for our transgressions, and with His cuts we
are healed. That's the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Stay tuned. In Part 2, we'll see how Jesus dealt with the "radical leftists" among his disciples.