Christians Consistently Violate a
Fundamental Teaching of Jesus?
by Jack Clark
Several conservative bishops
have recently called for denial of communion to Roman Catholic politicians who
do not vote in line with the Church's teachings on abortion. One bishop
went so far as to say that voters who support such politicians should also be
Yet as we know, Jesus never
said a word about abortion. But Jesus did explicitly state how we should
conduct ourselves in another area that politicians deal with all the time.
In Matthew 25:31-46, the
Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus proclaims that how you treat the
hungry, the thirsty, the sick and other "least of these," is how you
treat Jesus himself:
when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in
prison, and did not minister to thee?' 45. Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I
say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to
If you have failed to help
the "least of these," Jesus promises, he will send you to
Can someone be considered a
true Christian if the focus of their life is thwarting others and the society
itself from implementing such a fundamental teaching of Christianity as Matthew
It's fine to oppose
government programs to help the Matthew 25 "least of these," as
conservative Christians usually do. But to avoid violating the Matthew 25
injunction, conservative Christians must then propose Equivalent Alternative
Solutions. Equivalent Alternative Solutions are ones which:
at least the same number of those people who legitimately need help
at least the same amount of effective assistance to those people
the help to them at least as quickly
at least as certain to accomplish these goals
Solutions can certainly be completely non-governmental,
as long as they meet the four criteria directly above.
But conservative Christians
consistently both oppose the plans of others to help the "least of
these," and fail to offer Equivalent Alternative Solutions.
Conservative Christians -- whether
voters, politicians or talk show hosts -- should be asked: "What
about Matthew 25? If you oppose my plan to help some of the "least of
these," what do you propose instead? How does what
you're espousing here fulfill what Jesus commanded in Matthew 25? In fact,
isn't what you're doing exactly what Jesus condemned in Matthew 25?"
Matthew 25 applies only
to individual acts of charity.
The response is, Matthew 25
neither says nor implies any such thing. If anything, the contrary: Jesus
gathers the "nations," who speak to him collectively as
"we." Beyond that, should a passage such as Matthew 25 be
interpreted narrowly so as to avoid responsibility? Would anyone seriously
maintain that Jesus would say it’s okay for society as a whole to let people
suffer and die, as long as some members give some money to
Yes, you are individually
held to account under Matthew 25 for your individual one-on-one acts of charity
or lack thereof, but you are also individually held to account under
Matthew 25 for how the actions you take influence your society in its treatment
of the "least of these." As Pope John Paul II has written in
It is a
question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs through
individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and
proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more
just and fraternal. Ecclesia in America
Christians have plans to help the poor, and that certainly satisfies the
injunction in Matthew 25.
The response: their
"plans" are inadequate to fulfill the Matthew 25 mandate.
Conservative Christians consistently advocate courses of action which by design
do not help all those legitimately in need, or will help them inadequately, or
will help them for too short a time, or are much less certain to take effect.
Similarly inadequate for
Matthew 25 are vague hopes that "the free market" or
"competition" will solve the problem. Vague hopes are not
enough: plans to help the poor must be concrete.
As the Pope makes clear:
words "as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it
to me" (Mt 25 :40) were not intended to remain a pious wish…Centesimus
motivating concern for the poor--who are, in the very meaningful term, "the
Lord's poor"…--must be translated at all levels into concrete actions,
until it decisively attains a series of necessary reforms. Solicitudo
Jesus didn't say to have
a government program to feed the hungry.
True enough. Jesus
didn't specify how to help the "least of these," he just insisted it
be done. So again, the reply to the conservative Christian is, if you
oppose a government program, what is your Equivalent Alternative Solution that
will help the same number of people, the same amount, as soon and as certainly?
The analysis presented in
this essay is supported by scores of Biblical passages relating to social
justice, and by the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, some of
them cited above.
Conservative Christians must
start treating the "least of these" as they would treat Jesus himself.
Then, and only then, can conservatives who claim to be Christian be truly considered
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