Sunday, October 11, 2009
Government Charity, the Spirit of Judas with the Power to Tax
"Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with Him at the table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of the disciples (he who was about to betray Him), said, 'Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?' He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, 'Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me.'"
- John 12:1-8
So, the situation is that Jesus is visiting the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, soon after having raised Lazarus from the dead. While Martha is preparing the meal and Lazarus is sitting talking with Jesus, Mary anoints His feet with expensive perfume, made from nard or spikenard, then wiping them dry with her own hair.
But where I want to focus is on verse six, which describes the pretended indignation of Judas over the wastefulness of Mary's devotion, the supposed charity possible with the wasted wealth, and his own secret, but evil, intentions for the money. His hidden agenda was, of course, known both by the omniscience of Jesus Himself, and by the Holy Spirit, who inspired the knowledge in the writer, the Apostle John.
Where the passage took my mind was to our own modern bureaucratic system of government-forced charity. Not only is the effectiveness of such government expenditure questionable, so is the real motivation of the politicians that create the programs and the bureaucrats that administer them. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the overhead for government welfare averages about 70%, in contrast to roughly 5% for private charity. Ah, here we go! That leaves plenty of slush money for the pockets of a slew of Judases. In addition, such programs give politicians and bureaucrats the adulation of their allies and power over private lives. That seems like a lot of personal benefit arising from the confiscation and redistribution of other peoples' money.
Americans are very generous people, both to each other and to others around the world. No doubt this is a remnant of our Christian heritage. The impact of that generosity would be profoundly expanded by removing the government middle man from the process. The American Mary could be lavish with her wealth, if we could merely protect her from the government Judas.