I asked an unapologetic socialist, ‘if you were about to die, would you prefer to leave your kids with a loving Christian family or leave them wards of the state?’  An honest man, he admitted he’d prefer to leave his kids with a loving Christian family.

We agreed that Christianity was probably responsible for our increased concern for the downtrodden.  But he suggested that state welfare was actually better at meeting their needs, and said he was happy to pay taxes to support the state welfare system.  Here is the gist of my reply to him:

“When you say ‘voluntary charity is not always sufficient,’ you mean it is not sufficient to meet the needs of all who require charity. While you would prefer that a loving Christian family care for your own children, rather than become wards of the state, the problem is that this spirit does not move enough people to meet the needs of all those in need.  But for Christians, care for ALL is in the hands of God; we must focus on our humble duty which is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

So when you say ‘Jesus advocated the best available option of his time – Charity,’ this is not correct.  For you, it remains a better option NOW when it comes to your own children.  The problem is not with the level of care provided by one truly moved by the spirit of Christian charity.  The advantage of state welfare is that it covers more people in need, not that it provides better care. Quality is sacrificed for the sake of quantity.  A broad tax base replaces love of one’s neighbor.

Needless to say, the care to which all are entitled under such a system is also less than the care parents naturally feel for and desire to provide their own children. This natural care has nothing to do with any entitlement and children who have lost their parents, or who have bad parents, are not entitled to receive from the state the care a good parent naturally gives.

Parental love is natural. It would lead you to seek more care for your own children if you were incapacitated than the care to which they would otherwise be entitled by the state. The care to which we are entitled is better than living on the street, but not as good as the care bestowed out of love. The love of our neighbor to which Jesus obliges us is commanded by God. What is the source of the second-best entitlement you claim for everyone? Why is anyone ENTITLED to be cared for?

To some extent, it seems to me this problem is solved by lessening the claim. You consider it a privilege and an honor to pay your taxes in support of a system designed to implement this entitlement. That's a lot easier than loving one's neighbor as oneself. Our duty is to pay the taxes that support this system, and the IRS is good at encouraging us to do our duty.  Taxes provide the resources and wages needed to implement the state’s programs.  If we didn’t pay the administrators and social workers, we would be back to relying on charity, which, nice as it may be where we find it, is found too rarely. Spontaneous care for others is very limited and ineffectual; it is not sufficient to meet the need of all who are in need. If watered down enough, there's no reason why EVERYONE cannot get what they are entitled to. The burden is indirect and spread out; all that is required of us is to pay our taxes.  This is not too onerous on anyone, and it alleviates a great deal of suffering. But, it would seem to me that it alleviates suffering in the same way that it demands individual effort or sacrifice; it does so broadly and shallowly.

Would you call a person happy who only receives care as a result of the implementation of this entitlement by the state? A person who has no other claim or merit than this entitlement, is he satisfied? A person who is extended no other care but that implemented by the state, someone who really needs this care, is he not miserable?

On the other side, is there any particular merit in happily paying one's taxes?  Or in volunteering to pay more in taxes as long as everyone else in one’s tax bracket is also required to pay more?  Wealthy advocates of the ‘Buffet Rule’ scoff when it is pointed out they could pay more in taxes right now if they wanted to; that wouldn’t be fair.  It needs to be implemented across the board.  Jesus, on the other hand, exhorted us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, without any caveat.  Our duty to love our neighbor does not kick in once our neighbors start loving.  The duty falls to us as individuals.  And when an individual, through the grace of God, excels at fulfilling this duty, he is truly a light that shines for all."