Fixing the Moral Deficit

Biblical Principles for Debt Reduction

Can biblical principles be applied to reducing the nation’s budget deficit? Absolutely.

Listen Now | Download

Chuck  Colson

Thirty-five years ago, my friend Ron Sider published Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, a very influential book at the time. While I haven’t always agreed with Ron, in fact, we’re poles apart politically, I have no doubt of his integrity, his wisdom and his desire to bring biblical truth to all aspects of life.

That’s why so I’m happy that Ron has turned his attention to one of the most pressing issues of our time: our national debt.

His new book, Fixing the Moral Deficit, is the result of his reflections on the issue. As the title suggests, for Ron, the ballooning national debt isn’t simply a matter of accounting. According to him, there are three “crises” operating here: the first is the deficit crisis, the result of government spending more than it collects in taxes; the second is a poverty crisis, in which the bottom 20 percent become poorer, while the top twenty percent get wealthier.

Together, he says, these add up to a third crisis—which he calls the “justice crisis”--in which we “put current expenditures on our grandchildren’s credit cards,” which Sider calls “flatly immoral.” Amen.

Having identified and described the problem, Sider offers a set of biblical principles that should guide our thinking. Again, while I don’t always agree with his specific policy prescriptions, I agree with him about these principles. Let me share a few with you:

First, we reject both radical individualism and sweeping collectivism. A truly biblical solution should take into account personal freedom, personal responsibility and our interdependence with each other in our communities.

We are also called to do what is in the “genuine long-term interest” of our neighbor, especially the poor. This is not the same thing as handouts, nor should it mask indifference.

Here’s another principle: While economic equality is not a biblical norm, we should work to ensure that everyone has a chance to “earn what is needed and be respected members of the society.”

Also, government is only one of many crucial institutions, and its power should be limited. This being said, government does have a role to play in caring for the poor and promoting economic opportunity.

Finally, “Intergenerational justice is important. One generation should not benefit or suffer unfairly at the cost of another.”

Christians can and will disagree about how best to ensure than people have a chance to “earn what is needed.” They can and should debate what the best way to promote intergenerational justice is: tax increases, benefit cuts, or a combination of both?

What they can’t disagree with is the need to fix the moral deficit sooner rather than later. If we eliminated every last bit of non-defense discretionary spending, we would still be facing trillions in additional deficit spending over the next decade. It’s not sustainable.

By describing the deficit as a “justice crisis” Ron Sider has turned our attention to where it should be: not what is “politically doable” or what I can make “someone else” pay but, instead, what is right by my neighbor and those who will follow.

Come to our bookstore at ColsonCenter.org to get your copy of Ron Sider’s new book. And while you’re at the Colson Center, be sure to watch my “Two-Minute Warning” about my dream for cutting the deficit.

Further Reading and Information

Fixing the Moral Deficit
Ronald J. Sider | IVP Books | March 2012

Fixing the Debt
Chuck Colson | Two-Minute Warning | March 7, 2012

Money, Greed, and God
Jay Richards | HarperOne | May 2010




Reading Sider: a caveat
Back in college I had a class dealing with biblical approaches to social issues. My favorite professor assigned Ron Sider's "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger". The first edition had just came out and was making an impact.

In that class, I was part of the minority that argued that Sider was wrong. I conceded that Sider was brilliant and convincing in explaining the problem of poverty. I also felt that Sider assumed the role of the Holy Spirit in convicting any Christian with cash in their pocket of avarice. I thought his solutions were wrongheaded and potentially dangerous. Sider, in my view, was essentially saying that if a Christian was truly faithful to Scripture, he or she must DEMAND redistribution of wealth.

In my view, the proofs Sider offered from scripture were at best sloppy and at worse agenda driven (aka eisegesis).

The Christianized socialism suggested in Sider's past writings and political activities would support politicization of all areas of life; something that cannot be accomplished without government coercion and even violence.

I fully agree with Sider, that the problem is a moral one. But while government multiplies moral hazards, only God's people are equipped to fix the moral deficit of which Sider speaks.

Perhaps Sider has backed off from or changed his past liberation theology driven, revolutionary (non-biblical) solutions. As for me, I am going to read Sider's "Fixing the Moral Deficit" with an eye on Sider's past works and on Scripture.