Modern Judas Politicians
by Bill Lockwood
The text of John 12 is instructive insight into the distinction between true and false “compassion.” During the last week of our Lord’s life He came to Bethany where was a feast in his honor. At the somber meal, Mary, the sister of Martha, anointed the feet of Jesus with very expensive “pure spikenard.” It was a class of aromatic amber-colored oil the value of which was equal to a year’s wages for the common agricultural worker of the day (12:5).
Judas, the treasurer of the apostolic band, objected to such a lavish expenditure and queried why the ointment had not been sold for 300 shillings and the money given to the poor (12:5). John gives us this editorial note after years of hindsight, “Now this he said, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief and, being the keeper of the treasury, took away what was put therein.” Obama and company cares very little for the poor, in spite of multiplicity of speeches which portray himself as their champion.
It is easy to frame a grasp for power or wealth beneath a cloak of “compassion.” Judas’ words painted him as a one concerned “for the poor” but the reality was quite different. So also today our modern unconstitutional welfare state is driven by the same deceit. One cannot begin discussing, for example, the removing of taxpayer money from even the murderous Planned Parenthood without immediately facing the argument of “compassion” to woman’s needs which they are said to provide. How can we remove money from “the poor?”
The Democratic Party majors in this Judas-style question and the Republicans do their best to catch up by insisting that they are “compassionate conservatives.” But it is easy to be compassionate with others’ money, isn’t it? Added to that is the fact that our gargantuan welfare state, bloated out of reasonable financial responsibility bounds, is unable to even keep track of the billions of dollars flowing through the hands of bureaucrats who are the “keepers of the bag.”
There is much spoken of compassion today but seemingly very little known. Some suppose that meeting physical needs of the American populace is to be prioritized over spiritual needs; others think that giving my tax dollars to Uncle Same satisfies the obligation to be compassionate; still others talk of the lack of compassion in those who wish to return to a Constitutional government in which it was illegal to redistribute taxpayer money to various special interest groups or segments of society.
First, true compassion is to be exercised at a personal level. Government programs are no substitute for true compassion. Actually, Uncle Sam’s programs are not really compassionate at all, but destructive to society. Witness the growing minority unrest in the inner city—many of whom are recipients of government handouts provided by other people. No one watching these riots unleash on the cities by destroying private property has the impression that the rioters are thankful for the provisions that have been given them by others. What is the problem? True compassion is a personal matter. In order to discriminate between those who are truly needy and those interested in bilking the system by refusal to work, personal contact is necessary between the given and the recipient.
Sometimes poverty comes upon people through no fault of their own. Fires, earthquakes, crippling accidents, deaths and diseases injure people. Christian charity is called for (1 Cor. 13:1-3). But on the other hand, according to the Bible, sometimes poverty is the due penalty for laziness. “How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, so shall thy poverty come upon thee like a robber, and want (lack) like an armed man!” Solomon insists that work is good for the soul.
The point is, how is one able to distinguish between those truly in need and those who are taking advantage of the system? Only by exercising compassion at a personal level, where people might know. As Marvin Olasky, former professor at the University of Texas at Austin, observes, failure to “establish personal relationships with recipients” means that one cannot “sufficiently discriminate between the needy and the lazy” (The Tragedy of American Compassion, 26).
Government programs absolutely violate this major component of personal contact between the giver and the recipient. And since the nature of mankind is such that man will live of the labor of others if that is possible, government or structural poverty only grows under the oversight of bureaucracy.
Second, true compassion recognizes that man’s most important need is spiritual. At one time, when churches were distributors of goods to the needy and not the government, spiritual emphases were in place. As a matter of fact, Jesus Himself criticized the crowds who came to him interested only in food and not spiritual nourishment (John 6:25-28). Instead of feeding them, He instructed them to “work” for spiritual sustenance. This is a shock to today’s society which lauds the person or agency which provides clean needles to the drug addict or contraceptives to the promiscuous and call it “charity.” This just shows that we have forgotten the true meaning of compassion.
In the end, all government programs accomplish—for poverty rates have remained unchanged since the advent of The New Deal and The Great Society—is accumulating power into the hands of the politicians. Exactly what Judas had in mind.