The purpose of civil government is to be a revenger, to protect us from evildoers by administering justice to those who break God’s laws. (Ro 13:4) With the advances of our modern military capabilities, this naturally includes providing for the common defense, shielding us from hostile foreign powers.
The primary reason for restricting government to this defensive role is straightforward: it’s the only entity which may lawfully take money from others by force (Ro 13:6), and this power to tax is very easily corrupted; limiting governmental power limits corruption.
Ensuring domestic tranquility is the one thing we as individuals or small groups are incapable of managing effectively; when we start taking the law into our own hands we no longer have a stable society, we have mob rule. So, maintaining civil order must be delegated to government, aligning us all with a code of conduct we collectively agree to follow.
Furthermore, it’s common sense wisdom to restrict government to minimal, necessary functions since government spending is the most inefficient and wasteful way to spend money. Consider the only four possible ways our money can be spent.
- We can spend our money on ourselves. This is the most efficient way to spend money, since we tend to be concerned about both quality and cost; we’re incented to buy efficiently, to get the best deal for the kind of quality we want.
- We can spend our money on someone else. This is a less efficient way to spend money, since we tend to be much more concerned about cost than we are about quality; we’re incented to buy something less expensive even if the quality is unacceptable.
- Someone else can spend our money on themselves. This is an even less efficient way to spend our money: when someone else spends our money on themselves they tend to be much more concerned about quality than than they are about cost; they’re incented to buy something very expensive even if the higher quality is unnecessary or minimal.
- Someone else can spend our money on someone else. This is the worst way to spend money because when someone else spends our money on someone else they tend to be unconcerned about both quality and cost: they’re often incented by entirely unrelated factors; they may buy something very expensive even if the quality is unacceptable.
When government spends our money it’s Type 4 spending, the very worst kind. Government tends to be more wasteful and inefficient simply because it’s never directly impacted by its own decisions; it’s very difficult to hold government accountable for waste and inefficiency.
So, God’s prescription for helping the poor isn’t government handouts: it’s found in the hard work (Pr 14:23), ingenuity (Pr 8:12), diligence (Pr 12:27) and industry of free enterprise (De 15:10): being rewarded according to the kind of value we create. (1Ti 5:18) Once our own needs are met, we are to offer person-to-person charity, where we have some idea of who we’re helping and why. (Ep 4:28)
We’re less inclined to help those who won’t help themselves, who are unwilling to work (2Th 3:10), who squander their time, energy and money. (Pr 13:23) We know that consequences are generally the best teacher; when people suffer for their personal choices they tend to straighten up; but when we reward laziness and foolishness we tend to get more of the same.
Government bureaucrats don’t know who best to help and when, over-burdening value creators and rewarding problematic behavior to achieve political objectives, promoting apathy, mediocrity, and creating self-fulfilling cycles of sustained dependency and pathology which are extremely difficult to correct.
God’s way encourages us to contribute earnestly to our own welfare, to meet the needs of our own families (1Ti 5:8), and to enjoy the fruits of our own labor. (Ec 5:18-19) Then we’re to help those who, through no fault of their own, need our help to get back on their feet. (Ga 2:10)