'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' 45. Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.
If you have failed to help the "least of these," Jesus promises, he will send you to "eternal punishment".
Can someone be considered a true Christian if the focus of their life is thwarting others and the society itself from implementing such a fundamental teaching of Christianity as Matthew 25:31-46?
It's fine to oppose government programs to help the Matthew 25 "least of these," as conservative Christians usually do. But to avoid violating the Matthew 25 injunction, conservative Christians must then propose Equivalent Alternative Solutions. Equivalent Alternative Solutions are ones which:
help at least the same number of those people who legitimately need help
provide at least the same amount of effective assistance to those people
get the help to them at least as quickly
are at least as certain to accomplish these goals
Equivalent Alternative Solutions can certainly be completely non-governmental, as long as they meet the four criteria directly above.
But conservative Christians consistently both oppose the plans of others to help the "least of these," and fail to offer Equivalent Alternative Solutions.
At every opportunity to debate a conservative Christian, progressives must suggest some specific method of addressing hunger and poverty -- for example, the UN Millennium Project, or guaranteed health insurance for all of America's children. And then when the conservative Christian opposes that plan, present to him or her the Equivalent Alternative Solution challenge:
"What about Matthew 25? If you oppose the plan I have suggested to help the "least of these," what do you propose instead that will help the same number of people, the same amount, as soon and as certainly? How does what you're espousing here fulfill what Jesus commanded in Matthew 25? In fact, isn't what you're doing -- opposing my plan without offering an Equivalent Alternative Solution of your own -- exactly what Jesus condemned in Matthew 25?"
The conservative Christian may well reply:
Matthew 25 applies only to individual acts of charity.
The response is, Matthew 25 neither says nor implies any such thing. If anything, the contrary: Jesus gathers the "nations," who speak to him collectively as "we." Beyond that, should a passage such as Matthew 25 be interpreted narrowly so as to avoid responsibility? Would anyone seriously maintain that Jesus would say it 's okay for society as a whole to let people suffer and die, as long as some members of that society give some money to charity?
Yes, you are individually held to account under Matthew 25 for your individual one-on-one acts of charity or lack thereof, but you are also individually held to account under Matthew 25 for how the actions you take influence your society in its treatment of the "least of these." As the late Pope John Paul II has written in this context:
It is a question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs through individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more just and fraternal. Ecclesia in America
Conservative Christians have plans to help the poor, and that certainly satisfies the injunction in Matthew 25.
The response: their "plans" are inadequate to fulfill the Matthew 25 mandate. Conservative Christians consistently advocate courses of action which by design do not help all those legitimately in need, or will help them inadequately, or will help them for too short a time, or are much less certain to take effect.
Similarly inadequate for Matthew 25 are vague hopes that "the free market" or "competition" will solve the problem. Vague hopes are not enough: plans to help the poor must be concrete.
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