Mandatory Generosity

In 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul makes a strong argument for cooperation among Christians. Referring to the Church of Jesus Christ, Paul makes the seemingly obvious point that our physical bodies are not simply one thing, meaning that what we call “the human body” is really made up of many individual parts. Much like a moving car, which is composed of tens of thousands of non-moving parts, the human body is composed of tens of thousands of non-human parts. When all of the “parts” are put together (in the womb), the result is a human, but the human itself is much more than the total sum of its parts.  And, to bring Paul’s analogy full circle, the church is likewise much more than the sum of its individual members. The remarkable idea of synergy—doing more together than we can apart—is on full display both in the human body and when human bodies work together.

It has been claimed—too many times—that the first century church being portrayed by Doctor Luke in the biblical book of Acts (of the Apostles) is more closely akin to communism than it is to capitalism. I have dealt with this before so I won’t rehearse it here. It bears repeating though that any apparent similarity between the teachings of Marxism and Christianity must be considered in light of its governing body: for Marx it is the state and for Christianity it is the church. Marxism may seem to be proposing something like first-century Christianity on paper, but in actuality it is something else entirely. Without the strong arm of the state, Marxism will fail—even in theory. However, true Christianity—although it is greatly enhanced and made more efficient—is not dependent upon the church for its generosity and willingness to help.

This may seem to be counter-intuitive to Paul’s earlier claim about the church being a body, but it isn’t. As with most “one or many” ideas, it is both. The corporate compassion and love from the church is only made possible by contributions and time given by individuals. The church would not be a church were it not for the people. However, the individuals can be far more productive and compassionate together than they could ever be on their own. For example, if your neighbor’s gutter falls off, you can spend some time and money next Saturday helping him to put it back up. However, if his house burns down, you will be able to help him more efficiently and effectively by involving your entire church. The greater the need, the greater the amount of help needed. If you break your nose, your body is weakened; but if you break your back, your body is crippled.

And this is precisely where state-driven Marxism cannot discriminate. Every need, no matter how small, must be run through the state bureaucracy. Not to mention that every “contribution” to the Marxist system must be demanded and forced from the “contributors.” I have always marveled at the difference between the state’s tax and the church’s tax. One is involuntarily taken out of my paycheck before I ever get my hands on it. Guess which one this is? The church teaches about the sinfulness of man but the state actually legislates it. If the state really believed in the “goodness” of man, they would make taxes voluntary. Or to think of it another way: How many of the tuxedo and evening gown wearing actors and actresses at the Oscars Sunday night do you think paid more than they were legally required in taxes last year? The answer is a round number that rhymes with “Nero.” Despite being one of the largest gatherings of political Marxists outside of Congress, the attendees of the Academy Awards are no more willing to pay an extra dime in taxes than are we. When individuals are forced to “contribute,” the body will be weakened. Freedom cannot exist in a system where individuals are treated like captives. However, as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians, a system where individuals are treated like free men will cause freedom and compassion to flourish. Generosity cannot be legislated.