Economist and minister David Beckmann wrote in The Washington Post that the federal budget is a moral document "that reveals, starkly and undeniably, our nation's priorities. ... When Jesus talked about how God will judge nations, he said God will focus on what we did or did not do for the neediest among us."
In these days of government budget crises and Capitol sit-ins, what would Jesus cut from our governmental budgets?
That's the Question of Faith that we posed to the Kentucky.com Faith Blog Networks. Here are some of their thoughts:
Mary Seeger Weese, Midway Presbyterian Church: If we look to Jesus for answers about politics, we will be hard-pressed to find much.
Jesus never sought public office or went to a political rally or passed any petitions to get the sewer system of Nazareth fixed or to raise the minimum wage for temple workers.
He didn't give us any guidance for politics, but he did tell us to follow him whether we are voting citizens or elected officials.
Jesus doesn't say much about politics, but he does say we should look after the least of our brothers and sisters. They seem inordinately important to Jesus: the widows, orphans, blind and lame. The ones left beside the road. The ones without any voices.
Just like the Hebrew prophets before him, Jesus tells people that hey, it's not about your politics and your laws. It's about having God's way written on your heart. It's about giving up your own way. It's about serving others.
But we need laws for our world. And we have to talk about our laws and wrestle with them. As people of faith, we can't just make a bunch of laws and think that our problems are solved.
So often we let politics be about whose idea wins and whose arguments are better and whose words stir us up. And we allow ourselves to believe these laws will fix things in God's world. If we can only make a law against hurting dogs or dumping waste or allowing us to post the Ten Commandments. If only we can get rid of illegal immigrants and punish the prisoners and outlaw cough medicine.
We need laws. We need to make rules and make our values clear. But Jesus taught that the way we live is more important. Our actions speak much louder than our words. Our actions say much more about our faith than any laws we support or oppose.
Our actions can do so much more to address the brokenness in the world if we volunteer at our schools, mentor a young person through Big Brothers/Big Sisters, become a foster parent, get to know the seniors living on Medicare, reach out to people around us rather than treat them like statistics or numbers or dollar signs.
Do our actions speak for justice and mercy? Can we make laws that do the same?
Rachael Brooks, New Hope Church, Lexington: Jesus would never have offered an opinion on governmental budget cuts.
Jesus' religious directives regarding stewardship and charity were all directed toward individuals, not governments or political entities.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus deftly avoids a trap set for him by the Pharisees and the Herodians by responding to their question regarding paying taxes with the simple and direct response, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."
However, Jesus might have chosen to comment on the hypocrisy of those who like to be generous with other people's money.
Bob Evely, Grace Evangel Fellowship, Wilmore: While Jesus lived in the midst of a government that did many corrupt things, he did not involve himself in politics.
If the Roman newspapers were to ask, "What should be cut in our budget?" I'm not sure Jesus would have even responded. He would have had many opportunities to question unfairness and inequity in the political realm, but he never did.
Instead, he went about the business of proclaiming the good news from God that he was commissioned to proclaim, and helping people one at a time as he encountered them.
He did not wait for government to properly care for people; he did it himself, and by his example, he showed his followers how they could do the same.
Roger Bruner, Mill Street Church of Christ, London: We can know for certain what Jesus would "cut" from the things that he taught. His concern as to what needs to be eliminated is in accordance with his purpose for coming to earth. He taught, from Matthew 15:11, "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."
Mike James, south-central strategist, discipleship and assimilation coordinator, Kentucky Baptist Convention: Jesus would always side on helping the poor and disadvantaged persons in our culture. He always stood up for those who were not able to stand up on their own. Jesus would not cut those programs and entitlements that directly impact those who really need help. He was passionate about the poor.
However, here is the balance the Bible teaches: in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: If a man will not work, he shall not eat. We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat."
Those who could work and choose not to work would not be enabled to continue in that cycle.
Jesus would radically change the system to make it more efficient and to ensure that real help was getting to those who needed it the most.