Sacrifice and the federal budget

Amidst the turmoil about the national debt, the budget and the political process to address the situation, Christians and Christian organizations are weighing in too - probably more than usual.

I have Jesus-following friends who disagree - strongly - about what the budget should look like. I have conflicting convictions within myself. And I’m struck that the word “sacrifice” is turning up so often. Sacrifice is a religious word! Maybe that’s why two Christian organizations - the Center for Public Justice and Evangelicals for Social Action - have issued a Call for Intergenerational Justice that addresses the ongoing budget deficit.

Again, not all Christians agree. This joint Call has already received criticism from places such as the Acton Institute and First Things.

What, amidst all of this, can your church do?

The national budget moment has powerful stewardship dimensions. Surely it’s a worthy goal to learn as much as possible about the issues and to the best of our ability help conversations stay rational, calm and helpful. I wonder about convening some evening coffee conversations where members of the congregation can discuss together, learn together, hone each other’s understanding and maybe go home grateful for faithful friends who care as much as we do about how to be Kingdom citizens. There are certainly a lot of discipleship issues to be discussed when we are making budgets.

But how is this a personal matter?

Well, I’m wondering… Does this national conversation have echoes in our churches? In our families? Are there implications for how we make our budgets? Is there an opportunity here for some fresh conversation about family spending patterns? Can we talk about the choices we make with our money and the expectations we have for the money we spend on charity?

In short, how are we shaping our family lives and our congregational lives in ways that address need in truly Christ-like ways?

Comments (3)

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In my opinion, a major part of the Federal deficit is the failure of neighbors (Christians) to take care of neighbors (Christians and non Christians alike). Our call, our duty, is to ensure that the poor are cared for. For decades, our method for doing this has been through organizations or missions. While not exactly bad, this bypasses the whole point of Christ's call for us to care for the poor: which I think is really to connect loving people with desperate and needy people.
Many poor, desperate, needy people come from communities, regions, even states that are also poor, desperate, and needy. I would assume the churches in those communities, etc. are equally in dire straits; thus greater ngos and missions from more prosperous areas are called on for help. Perhaps the need (are we including meaningful jobs? quality education? comprehensive care and services? ) is beyond neighborly hotdishes and barn-raisings; can short-term neighborly aid provide lasting solutions and sustainability? Check the need v. the total income and aid provided by non-govt. orgs, and we'll see as you say a great failure on our part. FDR's New Deal saw to it that the care of the nation's poor and resurrection of a failing economy was of national interest---not just a local or private matter, and out of reach of ngos and missions.
Counter the amount of the deficit for social programs v. the amount spent on Defense. Counter the amount proposed for cuts for social programs v. the amount proposed for cuts in Defense. There's a great imbalance of proportionality, and that to me is a great failure of neighbors taking care of neighbors.
This is a vastly complex issue. And while trying to simplify makes for good teaching, it can also complicate more then help. Some things are just complex. Here are a couple of thoughts I work through, not trying to point to anything political or this is the way it should be, just things I find to be true:
1) Debt is simply this: spending more then you take in. To pay off debt you need to spend less then you take in.
2) Public/non-profit vs private sector: If public sector investment is greater then private sector, you have the economic equivalent of a solar powered light bulb. Real world example: Fall of Rome.
4) Centralized control in human history often exacerbates the above problems.

In the past were churches the front runner for meeting needs? yes/no. 2 society dynamics changed: 1) Stronger sense of community and 2) We were a cash based society vs the current debt based.

In the case of Rome: Rome helped those in needs to its own fate. The needy were still there and society was arguably worse off for quite some time afterward. We must help, be generous and reach out as a society, but we need to be within our means as well.


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