A Hand Up or a Hand Out?

“He becomes poor who deals with a slack hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”

— Proverbs 10:4

In 1850, two years after a socialist revolution hit Paris, Frédéric Bastiat wrote an excellent book, entitled The Law. He said, “The law perverted! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law became the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!” Fortunately, the revolution was overthrown. But, of course, those lessons went by the wayside in the 20th century with the rise of many communist states, all of which were violent.

Bastiat said the purpose of the law is single and simple. The purpose of the law, the purpose of government is justice. It is to protect the life, the liberty, and the property of the citizens of that nation. God has given to every person the right to protect his life, his liberty, and his property. And the law is simply the collective enforcement of that right.

Now, since it is unrighteous and criminal for me to take some innocent person’s life, since it is wrong for me to enslave another person, since it is wrong for me to unlawfully, unrighteously take their property, it is equally wrong for the government, collectively, to do the same. And that is what Bastiat calls “legalized plunder.”

Tragically, in our day we are seeing much “legalized plunder” through government welfare schemes. Charity is great—when it is voluntary. “Charity” by government coercion ceases to be charity. It creates poverty, not riches.

O Lord, so often when we humans do things our way, we mess up so badly. Help us as Your people to be generous and helpful to others without condoning and voting for unlawful gain. Raise up Christian statesmen to govern us…