What Role Should Government Play in Helping People?

Admittedly, my politics change a lot.  As a Christian, it should be simple enough to follow the example of Jesus, but applying the Jesus stuff to modern life isn’t exactly cut-and-dry.  Then there’s the meta-narrative of God’s love.  How do you show love?  How do you help?  Sure…we can tackle this in apolitical ways, but politics do affect these things.  I used to join the bandwagon of those that simply spoke out against poverty and oppression, but a closer look at the relationship between politics and poverty leaves me with a ton of questions.

What role exactly should the government play in helping people in need of it?

In a recent discussion with someone who works at a government-funded facility for severely mentally handicapped people, I realized that the question over the role of government isn’t as easy as the political pundits suggest.  For those that can help themselves to a certain degree, we must provide opportunity.  For those who cannot help themselves, we must accept responsibility for their welfare.  Problem is, what is an acceptable level of self-sufficiency?  What does that look like?  Where do the scales tip from compassion to enabling?

These questions go beyond political science.  When someone comes to receive help at our church, I close my eyes and sign the grocery voucher, hoping that I’m not being taken advantage of –this after recording information and having a conversation.  Truth is, I’m never really sure if I’m helping or hurting.  The role of government question is a tricky one because helping people is tricky.

But one thing is clear: I’m not about to take a hiatus from helping people just to figure it all out.


2 thoughts on “What Role Should Government Play in Helping People?

  1. As someone who is not religious- I applaud the way you are thinking about these issues. It is a tough call–when does helping ultimately become hurting? Typically- in my “fantasy” world- we help by not only investing in schools/education opportunities, but in creating jobs that pay enough for more people to be able to support themselves and their families. If this were done- very few people would need other assistance. A big problem today is many people are “trapped” in a cycle where there is extremely limited opportunities. When that is the case, can we really blame them as individuals? Or is it a larger societal problem…

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