Glenn Beck stirred up some controversy this week when he made the following comments about social justice on his radio program on Monday, he said:

I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them … are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words.

Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes.

You can listen to the whole clip above.  Then yesterday the favorite spokesperson of the Evangelical Left (that still seems like an oxymoron to me) Jim Wallis, criticized Beck in an interview with CNN and is calling for a boycott of Beck’s show.

Wallis says Beck compared those churches to Communists and Nazis.

Wallis says at least 20,000 people have already responded to his call to boycott Beck. He says Beck is confusing his personal philosophy with the Bible.

"He wants us to leave our churches, but we should leave him," Wallis says of Beck. "When your political philosophy is to consistently favor the rich over the poor, you don’t want to hear about economic justice."

Wallis says he wants to go on Beck’s show to challenge the contention that churches shouldn’t preach economic and social justice.

Social and economic justice is at the heart of Jesus’ message, Wallis says.

"He’s afraid of being challenged on his silly caricatures," Wallis says. "Glenn Beck talks a lot when he doesn’t have someone to dialogue with. Is he willing to talk with someone who he doesn’t agree with?"

Beck’s remarks were careless.  As there is nothing inherently wrong with the social work that churches do among the poor.  Actually it should be commended.  Followers of Christ are to minister to the poor, the needy and the oppressed.  The are to visit the sick and those in prison; they are to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, (Matthew 25:31-46).  We are also to care for orphans and windows, (James 1:27).  The Old Testament prophets give witness to God’s concern for the poor, one example can be found in Isaiah.

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard, (Isaiah 58:6-8, ESV).

So the Church is to be involved in helping to alleviate suffering and show mercy to those in need.  Where Wallis gets it wrong, and this is likely what Beck is driving out (but missed the boat) is when he said “social and economic justice is at the heart of Jesus’ message.”  No it wasn’t.  The Gospel was.  Social Justice isn’t the gospel, and that an entirely different blog post.  It is an implication of the gospel, but not the gospel itself.

Wallis takes what is legitimate work of the Church and then applies it to government.  Demanding that our government follows the same pattern as what is laid out for the church.  What I don’t think Wallis realizes (or chooses to overlook) is that the proper biblical role of the Government, (Romans 13:1-7) and the role of the Church are separate and distinct.  But some those in Wallis’ camp that would suggest that the government tithe to poorer nations.  What should be done by the church is to reach out in compassion, what Wallis advocates is for the Church to lobby government to involve itself in the work of compassion and to bring “social and economic justice.”

That is entirely way off base.  I said in an earlier post addressing the same subject:

People, like Jim Wallis, read the prophets and see what they say about the poor, and assume that God is directing the government of the Nation of Israel to do something.  Sometimes God’s message was given directly to the leaders, but by and large were given to the people of Israel individually as well.

I would also like to point out that organized contributions for the poor came from a person’s tithe, not tax, (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

In Acts when you see the poor taken care of collectively it was through individuals being led to sell their possessions and give to the poor, (Acts 4:32-37).  In Acts 6 you see that it was the Church who took care of widows.  James tells us that caring for orphans and widows in their distress is pure religion, (James 1:27).  In Matthew 25 Jesus says, to individuals, those who help the least, the last and the lost are doing that unto Him as well.

So the responsibility ultimately is the Church’s.  No where in scripture do you find people being forced to be charitable.  We who follow Christ should give and work with “the least of these” because Christ’s love compels us.

What Wallis advocates is akin to wealth redistribution, which Beck rightly links to communism and socialism.  Fortunately political activity of that nature is not what goes on in most churches, but they are simply seeking to love others.

It was unfortunate that Beck didn’t make that distinction.  It is equally unfortunate that  Wallis used this opportunity to misrepresent what the role of the Church and the role of the government is.

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