Saturday, November 21, 2009

God's Social Welfare System

God gave us, in His Word, a blueprint for a social welfare system which doesn't cost society anything - a system which is more effective and compassionate towards the poor and yet doesn't tax the wealthy in order to redistribute their wealth to the poor.

In the system of Law which God gave to Israel through Moses, there weren't any unemployment benefits and there weren't any prisons.

But to what extent is it legitmate to apply Moses' Law to modern civil society?

Every point of Moses' Law can be summarized in one word - love. One purpose of Moses' Law was to show Israel how to apply the principle of love in all kinds of relationships: in their relationships with God, parents, spouse, children, employers/employees, the poor, criminals, foreigners and other nations.

In the New Testament, we also are commanded to love. We express our love - either for God or for our neighbour - in slightly different ways to how they expressed their love under the Old Covenant.

For example, in the Old Testament, if a person loved God, he could voluntarily sacrifice an offering on the altar; whereas in the New Testament, we show our love for God by bringing the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips offering thanks to God. The expression is different, but the underlying principle is the same. The whole point is love.

So, when it comes to things like a national social welfare system or a national criminal justice system - we can learn from the way Moses applied the principle of love to such matters, since we are also under the commandment of love - even though we may not apply it in exactly the same way.

The principle of love states that "Love worketh no ill toward his neighbour". Moses wrote points of Law which taught Israelites how to avoid harming their neighbours - whether their neighbour was their wife, child, employer, employee, a poor person, the victim or perpetrator of crime, or a foreign resident.

Part of working no ill towards your neighbour is to avoid inflicting a cost on your neighbour. You find it an ill if someone inflicts a cost on you, don't you? Of course you do. We all do.

Therefore an important observation about Moses' handling of social welfare and criminal justice is that no segment of society was disadvantaged in order to advantage another segment.

For example, in dealing with the poor, Moses never gave them a system which cost society in any way; and in dealing with criminals, Moses never gave them a system which cost society in any way. To legislate otherwise, would have been tantamount to working ill towards one's neighbour.

Compare that with modern social welfare or social justice systems which cost society a significant percentage of their GDP. In Australia, 22.5% of our GDP is spent on welfare. That's $25,370 per capita. That means, if you are a family of five, and if we were somehow able to appropriately apply Moses' social welfare system in Australia, you could have an extra $126,850 in your pocket every year.

That's not including the cost of our modern prison system. In the United States, the average cost of incarceration per prisoner in 2005 was $23,876. That amounts to an estimated cost of $60billion per year on corrections.

Whereas Moses' criminal justice system included principles which made sure the cost to society was zero. Moses' system inflicted no cost on society - it worked no ill towards one's neighbour - whereas our system does, at great cost.

Any 'social justice' system which inflicts any cost on any particular segment of society for the benefit of another segment of society is not really 'justice' at all - and it is inconsistent with the commandment of love because love worketh no ill toward his neighbour.

There is a way in which we can appropriately apply Moses' handling of social welfare and criminal justice in a way which fulfills the commandment of love - in a way which inflicts no cost at all on society.

In a future post I'll point-out some details of Moses' handling of social welfare and criminal justice, and share some thoughts on how legislators could apply it to modern society.

It's a sytem which benefits everyone - the unemployed, the employed, the employer - each at the same time.

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