Welfare and the Bible (3)

“Do you become a king because you are competing in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He [Josiah] pled the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?” declares the Lord (Jer.22:15-16).

The Bible in no place legitimises the use of tax-payers’ money for charity or welfare. It is to be entirely a matter for individuals, families and churches, and church welfare is supposed to be based on the tithe. Concerning Josiah, it is impossible to legitimately claim that he was some kind of welfare king, using the resources of the community to help poor people.

Socialism purports to be for helping the poor, but it has been nothing of the sort. It has robbed the middle class and the rich through high income tax rates, and frequently harmed the poor with such restrictive policies as minimum wage laws, which make getting work more difficult for people, if they are priced out of the market.

Minimum wage laws are actually a means of abuse of job-seekers. While they purport to be  ensuring a “fair wage,” they represent a foolish intervention in the free market economy that only make it difficult for employers to provide work for employees, when the minimum (and thus compulsory) wage is too high. It is not by accident that the Bible explains that “…the compassion of the wicked is cruel” (Prov.12:10).

North puts it well:

The state has substituted itself for the family. It provides old age pensions and old age medical services, just as sons have done for millennia. It also pays for the education of children, and it has made school attendance compulsory. To pay for all this, the state has drastically increased taxes. So, sons now pay the state rather than their own parents. The inheritance-disinheritance system has become impersonal and statist. This way, politicians get credit for helping people supposedly in need, bureaucrats receive high salaries for administering the program, and ethical considerations relating to family inheritance are abandoned.[1]

It is exactly the same with government “Make Work” schemes. Yes, they give some people work, but at what price? They are really a means of redistributing (stealing) money from one group within the electorate (taxpayers), to give to another (the poor), by means of some next to useless feel-good scheme that doesn’t last.

Before long, the redistributing finishes in that area, the work ends and the poor person is back where he started from: without work. What that person really needed, is work sourced from the free-market that he can compete for, without government intervention.

Josiah “…pled the cause of the poor and needy.” He was king of Judah, and thus had a measure of executive and possibly legislative power, which he seems to have used on behalf of the poor.

And the Bible speaks much of this:

If a king judges the poor with truth, his throne will be established forever (Prov.29:14).


The king give stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it (Prov.29:4).


The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, the wicked does not understand such concern (Prov.29:7).

Rich and powerful people in any community can also be abusive, especially of those who are vulnerable (such as widows and orphans), have little social influence, or lack an advocate in court. The Psalmist himself considered this frightful scenario, when he prayed about the actions of his enemies, who were saying of him,

God has forsaken him; pursue and seize him, for there is no one to deliver (Ps.71:11).

The maintenance of contracts is a legitimate concern for legislators, going back to the original Old Testament law, in Exodus.

For every breach of trust, whether it be for ox, for donkey, for sheep, for clothing, or for any lost thing about which one says, ‘This is it,” the case of both parties shall come before the judges; he whom the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbour (Ex.22:9).

In another passage in Deuteronomy, God specifically dealt with the timely payment of wages, as an aspect of justice:

You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry against you to the Lord and it become sin in you (Deut.24:14-15).

And in the New Testament, James speaks firmly against rich oppressors.

Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed the fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (James 5:4).


The most important thing a poor person needs, is the opportunity to work and earn money. Socialists who claim that “we’re here to help the poor,” will generally do the opposite. They are promoting a lie.

The free-market represents the best opportunity for the poor person to find work, and rather than complicate it with government schemes and regulations such as minimum wage laws, and wasteful schemes providing temporary work, governments do best when they drop these foolish ideas, so employers and employees can negotiate a solution and an outcome that works for both parties.

This is an aspect of what it means to “plead for the poor and needy,” and this is why the scripture applauds Josiah as a godly ruler in Judah. We need more like him.


[1] Gary North, “Wisdom and Dominion,” 2012, p.227.