We are several days now into a partial shutdown of the federal government. While many people may loathe the budget impasse in Washington, I am celebrating. However, I am not celebrating for reasons you may think. True, I tend to have more conservative political leanings, but my gratefulness is not really for political reasons.
I applaud the shutdown for the opportunity it presents for Christians. Without government services, who will help meet the needs of our neighbors? This is an occasion for churches to shine!
We are called to love our neighbors, care for the poor, feed those who are hungry, and help the afflicted. Government agencies and programs are terrible at doing all these things compared to how churches should do these things. Now there is no competition from the government, and there is no excuse for Christians to not fill this void. I’m excited.
For my liberal friends who are Christians, this should be a wake-up call that the government is a poor substitute for the church. Paul did not write in Philippians chapter four, “And my government shall supply all your needs according to its riches in the people.”
James urges us, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?”
It is God’s people who are called to serve others, and it is God who will supply what we need to serve them. Individual Christians and Christian congregations are supposed to help people with clothes, food, and even heating bills.
With no government programs, will Christians tell our hurting neighbors, “Be warmed and be filled?” Christians can do it better, faster, and cheaper than any government if we just will.
For my conservative Christian friends this should also be a caution. While you are rejoicing at the suspension of government subsidies, are you preparing to be Mother Theresa? Just because these programs and agencies are suspended are we going to miss an opportunity to excel?
Why not pray tonight and ask God who in your community you can serve? Rather than debating whether it is right or wrong for the government to provide community services, why not prove your position by getting out and serving your community yourself?
Please don’t be seduced by an out of sight, out of mind attitude. It is not just some Christian charity who should meet the needs of people. As great as agencies like the Real Life Center are, they can’t do it all alone.
Let’s be proactive. Let’s take the initiative to find the needs and meet them ourselves.
Christian brothers and sisters, let’s not miss this opportunity. Let’s excel at serving. Whether politicians in Washington ever get it right or not is no excuse for us to get it wrong.
Oh, and if you are reading these words and you have a need, don’t wait for the government. Ask your neighbors in your local church. We love you and we will do our best. That is why we are there.
[David Richardson of Peachtree City is the executive director of The Assumptions Project. He has a master’s degree from Oxford University, and is a university consultant in education and culture. He is a recognized expert on the religious attitudes and beliefs of university professors. He, his wife and children have lived in Fayette County for more than two decades.]