I believe some of the conversation at the judgment bar between many Christians (and some Mormons) and their God could go something like this:
God: “Did you care for the poor and the needy while you were on earth?”
Charitable Person: “Yes Father. I didn’t make much money, or give a lot to the poor, but I voted for politicians who created programs to take care of the needy.”
God: “Why didn’t you do it yourself?”
Charitable Person: “I didn’t have a lot of time or money. I knew the rich had a lot more though, so I wanted to make sure they paid their fair share to give to the poor.”
God: “Did you learn from the Bible, or from my son’s gospel that other people’s charitable giving was part of your responsibility to care for the poor?”
Charitable Person: (uncomfortable silence) “No.”
God: “How did you know that the rich weren’t giving their fair share?”
Charitable Person: (uncomfortable silence, then stammering) “Um, I heard from others about very stingy rich people who gave nothing to charity.”
God: “So where did you learn the idea that taking from others to give to the poor was the same as giving of yourself?
Charitable Person: (uncomfortable silence) “…I don’t really know…I guess from people around me, the media, the story of Robin Hood maybe?”
God: “It fills my heart with pain that you didn’t ponder or pray upon this duty I sent you to earth to learn of. More than anything I wanted you to know the joy that comes from giving wholly of yourself.”
Charitable Person: “But the poor and the needy were taken care of and fed by the government…doesn’t that count for anything?”
God: “No my child. I sent you to earth to learn about the love that comes from giving of yourself according to the talents I blessed you with. Caring for the poor and the needy was the outcome of learning that love, not the prime cause or purpose.”
Charitable Person: “But I did learn about love…it was out of love and kindness for the the poor that I voted for those programs.”
God: “But instead of watching less television, or spending more time involved with voluntary charity, you took the less time-consuming path of voting to force charity on others. In heaven, where I live, the end does not justify the means. My purposes are carried out by love, not by force.”
Charitable Person: “But, I thought…uhm… I thought it wasn’t fair that the rich were stingy while others gave.”
God: “Did you really think about it? When was fairness on earth ever promised to you? And even if it had been, what ever made you think that you were charged with making sure things were fair?”
Charitable Person: “Uhmm…”
God: “I am the benevolent and all powerful God you believed in. In all your thinking did you ever consider that if forcing others to give was the correct path to love and fairness that I would have just done it myself instead of leaving it to my imperfect children?”
Charitable Person: “But what about my reward in heaven?”
God: “It will not be what you expected…heaven is not inhabited by those who outsource their charity.”
I wrote this colloquy because I hear often from Mormon liberals that they make their voting decisions based on their belief in kindness and charity. I respond by asking: “Do you think charity is a collective government responsibility or a personal one?”
My point is that Jesus Christ’s many spiritual teachings are inseparably connected with His one great political teaching: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” In this one statement the Savior makes plain that there are things best handled by government and others that belong to God.
I cannot recall one single instance in our standard works where forced charity is taught yet it never ceases to amaze me how many believe that somehow charity is associated with government programs. George Washington eloquently stated: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force.” The father of our country knew what Caesar was like and I believe it behooves us to remember that force and charity are not synonymous
What amazes me even more is the thought that some latter-day saints honestly believe that other people’s charitable giving is any of their responsibility to begin with.
When Christ stood at the temple treasury and discoursed on the contributions that were being made, he spoke about the sacrifice involved. The rich gave much more than the poor, yet he taught about the principle of charitable giving by observing:
“…this poor widow hath cast in more than they all. For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury (poverty) hath cast in all the living that she had.” (Luke 21: 3–4)
Notice also that He didn’t say a word about those who gave nothing at all.
Jesus also never told anyone to go to the rich and make them give of their wealth, yet somehow there are those who think being a liberal makes them charitable disciples of Christ.
I would posit that the belief some hold that it is somehow their responsibility to make sure others give to the poor by voting for those who promise to redistribute wealth are deceiving themselves into a false piety.
Mormons should know better since we have more information about what went on in the pre-existence. We know that forcing others is a Satan-backed technique and we rejected it. (I think it endlessly ironic that Mormon liberals who voted differently in the pre-existence when it was their own freedom on the line now seem to think it’s OK, even spiritually laudable to force others to make charitable contributions.)
If the Savior were to comment on liberals who piously tell us about how they take care of the poor and the needy with their government programs I think he would urge them to stop spending their time worrying about other people’s charity and spend more time on their own.