So it’s become relatively fashionable for, what I’m sure are well meaning, liberals to make the claim that Jesus would be for higher taxes to help the poor, or that they are for higher taxes to the poor due to their faith. I will admit, the first time I heard it the idea does have the appearance of truth. Jesus was for helping the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and all that kind of thing. You can see how it has the veneer of truth. But I think that this misunderstanding comes from a general misunderstanding of what Jesus came for in the first place.
Most people, Christian or not, know that the Christian message says Jesus came to pay the penalty for sin. Jesus took our punishment so that we can have His life. This is very true but it’s incomplete. The second part of what His sacrifice did is make it possible for us, through His Spirit to be transformed in our lives and character (2 Cor 3:18, Rom 12:2, Gal 2:20, 1 John 3:2-3, Matt 5:16 I could list more, but you get the point). Having the government do the helping doesn’t fit this for three reasons.
First, if it’s the government helping, it doesn’t glorify God, it glorifies the state. Particularly in our society where there is a separation between church and state, the state does not seek to glorify God. So when Jesus says, “Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” it can’t be applied to our state.
Secondly, it is not charity on your part to have the government force others to help the poor. This is an important point. You can’t be generous by giving away other people’s money. That’s what raising taxes is. Especially when people rant that the wealthy need to pay “their fair share.” That’s not generosity that’s entitlement. Even when wealthier people say things like that, it’s disingenuous. Anyone can give more money on their taxes. There’s a place on the tax forms to do that. If they’re not doing that, they aren’t really for themselves paying more, not really anyway. They want others to pay more.
Thirdly, part of the reason we are told to help other people is because it changes you. If you give your money to the government and let it go at that, it does nothing to improve you. You might feel a bit more self-satisfied that you are doing your part but that’s not the transformation you’re supposed to have. When you actually help people, I mean look them in the eye as you give them food or a blanket, you can’t help but be changed by the experience. The empathy, the desire to help grows; it makes you more like Christ. You don’t get that if the act of helping people turns into just paying your taxes or even just paying tithe at church. You don’t grow as a person. That’s why government helping is not what Jesus was talking about. Of course the flip side to that is, if you’re doing the actual hands on helping purely for growth, purely for yourself, you won’t really experience it. You have to take the seed of kindness inside you and use that. I’ve seen people who do work at soup kitchens, but because it’s a chore to them, just doing what’s “required” they don’t grow. They are still look down on those they are working to help. But that’s because they’re only out to help themselves.
So that’s why Jesus’ words on charity aren’t applicable to taxation and government spending.