In my previous post, I brought up a quote from the late Dr Adrian Pierce Rogers – known primarily by this snip: “You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.” In the previous post, demonstrated how Dr Rogers’ well known quote failed on two points. The first failure was how he chooses to define “socialism.” The United States, along with ALL successful industrialized nations, has a long history of supporting a healthy mix of capitalism and socialism. In fact, isn’t is true that the two economic systems appear to support one another? Of course it is.
Second point of failure: Ministry
It is odd that Dr Rogers would try to redefine how public policy ought to serve the lower classes – the “poor” as he called it. He errs on so many levels – chief among them, his attempt to draw a line between capitalism and socialism; a line that ceased to exist (at least in this country) for nearly a century. But economics aside, his greatest failure is his contradiction against the Christian faith.
For those who are not familiar with his ministry, Dr. Rogers served three terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, was a Southern Baptist pastor, and an author of several works well-known among Christian conservatives. Rogers graduated from Stetson University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He eventually became the senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, a church with a membership of 29,000 by the time he retired in March 2005.
One would believe that a man of such esteemed pastoral credentials would follow scriptural examples of charitable giving. Instead, this man chose to tell a nation that “you cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.” We know by other writings that his intent was purely political – to defame “liberals” who support welfare policies designed to help poor. But in the process, he makes a terrible, egregious error of faith.
Having read many of his sermons, I know that he had a penchant for quoting the Old Testament. I wonder if he ever got to Deuteronomy 14:28-29:
At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”
And Deuteronomy 15:7
If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.
There are dozens of passages like that throughout the OT, but I prefer the New Testament where God leaves us with his most lasting lessons. For instance, Matthew 25:34-40, where Jesus Christ said:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Clearly, when Jesus instructs us to give to the poor, he asks that we do so willingly. Let’s give Dr. Rogers the benefit of the doubt and say that his point was that charity should not be legislated (“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 1 Cor 13:3). And yet, should we all be so cheerful in our giving that there would be any poor left to help? The sad truth is, the free market is not free because greedy humans behave badly and taxes are required by law because selfish humans would never give government a dime.
I will go so far as to say that this unfortunate quote by Dr Rogers attempts to change Christian teaching into something more convenient; something more marketable to Christian conservatives. Moreover, by the example of the feeding of the 5,000, isn’t Jesus Christ demonstrating to us that indeed you CAN multiply wealth by dividing it?
I’ll leave you with my favorite quote today:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
– 1 Timothy 6:17-18