Becoming more like Jesus is a tenet of the Christian faith. An estimated 2.4 billion Christians share the aspiration to be more like Jesus and the basis is scriptural. One example is when the Apostle John writes in 1 John 2:6, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
Following Jesus’ teachings, many Christians pray for the poor and millions give of their time and money to help end poverty. But Christians need to amplify their power and understand that democratically elected governments have a far greater ability to end hunger, shelter the houseless, and provide healthcare than people alone. Failure to do so is a political choice and not a financial restraint. Governments can be compelled to act once Christians understand the scale of poverty, confront its causes, and share the knowledge that we can afford solutions.
There are many organizations both internationally and in the United States that measure indicators of poverty. According to the United Nations, nearly one in three people in the world (2.37 billion) were affected by moderate or severe food insecurity in 2020, an increase of almost 320 million from 2019. 1 In the United States, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) 2022 Annual Homeless Assessment Report found 582,462 people were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2022. 2 In 2021, 8.3 percent of Americans, a whopping 27.2 million people, did not have health insurance at any point during the year. 3 Finally, a 2022 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 23 million people (nearly 1 in 10 adults) owe significant medical debt. Aggregate debt in the United States was at least $195 billion. Approximately 16 million people in the U.S. owe over $1,000 in medical debt and 3 million people owe medical debt of more than $10,000. 4 In a nation of such abundance like the United States, these are unacceptable numbers of people experiencing worry about the source of their next meal, living without shelter, and suffering from an inadequate health insurance system.
Addressing the causes of these problems requires us to challenge institutional macroeconomic theories that have led to such suffering. This is not at all easy given the decades of economic fallacy but the New Testament provides a different lens through which to view these issues. In his second letter to the church at Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat”. As a nation founded on individualism, work is an essential part of being. Yet the central bank of the United States, the Federal Reserve (FED), deliberately forces millions of Americans into unemployment as the only way to reduce inflation. As interest rates rise, commercial banks increase the rates for Americans to borrow while the banks legally speculate with their newly acquired virtual casino chips. The working and middle classes who remain employed are blamed for causing inflation if their wages increase despite no demonstrated correlation between increased wages and inflation. Meanwhile, rapacious corporations receive bailouts, reap record profits, buy back shares of their own stock, and wait to receive more bailouts as their greed model recycles.
The notion that our government needs to tax before it can spend is another fallacious dogma. Perhaps nothing exemplifies this better than the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In 1983, Thatcher famously said, “Let us never forget this fundamental truth, the state has no source of money, other than the money people earn themselves. If the state wishes to spend more, it can only do so by borrowing your savings or by taxing you more.” This is of course pure bunk and Christians should know better. In Matthew 22:19-21 Jesus said, “’Show me the coin that pays the census tax.’ Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, ‘Whose image is this and whose inscription?’ They replied, ‘Caesar’s.’ At that he said to them, ‘Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’” Jesus had a clear understanding of who issued the currency and that the only reason taxation existed was to create a need for Roman currency. Rome did not need to collect its own coins to issue them. Ironically, in 2018, many Brits suggested Margaret Thatcher’s face should appear on the Bank of England’s new £50 note!
Finally, in order for Christians to demand more from our elected officials, it is necessary to understand how modern money creation actually works. Christians have the moral, ethical, and spiritual responsibility to challenge systems that unnecessarily contribute to human suffering. Invariably whenever policies are suggested to end poverty, corporate media personalities will ask, “How are you going to pay for it?”. The answer is an easy one. The money to pay for the elimination of poverty is created when Congress passes legislation. The Federal Reserve digitally marks up the accounts of the payees and the FED will clear all payments. In 1971, the United States went off of the gold standard and much of the world followed. By no longer pegging the value of the dollar to a commodity, the United States became a sovereign, fiat currency-issuing nation. It cannot run out of money.
Policymakers hide behind purposely obtuse theories and models created to abdicate their responsibilities and serve the interests of entrenched power. They choose to reject as heterodox a lens with which to understand how an economy can allow for both the acquisition of wealth and the eradication of poverty. They instead choose to condemn tens of millions in America to generational poverty while hoovering wealth to oligarchs. In denying millions the ability to feed themselves they actively choose to be less like Jesus not more.
It is time for Christians to act on their ability to do more for the hungry, houseless, and sick. Christians can act to end poverty. Christians can afford to be more like Jesus.
Dr. Daniel S. Cronrath is a Professor of Political Science at Florida State College at Jacksonville.