Who is General Welfare?

If we were to go “Jay-Walking” across America, randomly asking people about the US Constitution’s general welfare clause, we might get the question in return, “who?” Yet, general welfare is a ‘what’ not a ‘who’ and scholarly left-leaning individuals would quickly define the clause by linking it to social justice; a concept completely at odds with America’s founding principles and the clause’s original intent.

Social justice, which is based on equality of outcome, is a euphemism for social in-justice, because as socialism and communalism’s founding principle it violates God given rights to achieve social equality. These utopian ideas may sound good to the uninformed ear, but in order to achieve outcome equality government or some other authority within society must take property and possessions from those who have more than others and redistribute it to those who do not. Redistribution of wealth is a Marxist idea that should not have any place in American society!

When properly understood, the general welfare clause does not have anything to do with social justice or redistribution of wealth. General welfare appears two times in the Constitution, once in the pre-amble and the other in Article I Section 8. The pre-amble states, among other things, the Constitution was established to promote the general welfare and in Article I section 8 the first power delegated to Congress is, “To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to … provide for the … general welfare of the United States.”

To understand the general welfare clauses, a person must first understand the founding era definition of promote, provide for, general, and welfare. In the lexicon of the founding era and within its constitutional context ‘promote’ meant, “To encourage, advance, or help move forward.” ‘Provide for’ meant, “To make plans, preparations, or arrangements for in advance.” ‘General’ meant, “Common to all; pertaining to the entire nation,” and ‘welfare’ meant, “Happiness; prosperity; well-being.”

Putting these definitions together, the two general welfare clauses mean to encourage and make plans for the happiness, prosperity and well being of the entire nation. This limits the scope of the national government to only spend taxpayer money on things that will be common to all in which all citizens derive an equal benefit, like a common defense. General welfare is also limited by the specific powers delegated to the national government in the Constitution; if it is not expressly written then the national government does not have the authority to do it.  Neither the original definition of this clause nor any other constitutionally delegated power gives the national government authority to redistribute income, possessions or anything else to States, special interest groups, or individual citizens.

In response to this logical and legal argument, many people say it is not charitable for a nation that has so much to not provide for the poor and that the plight of the poor in America is too large of a problem for private charity to handle. Advocates of this view do not understand there is nothing charitable about giving someone else’s money away, welfare is out of the government’s biblical jurisdiction, and government sponsored welfare is not effective in helping people in need.

Charity is when a person, out of the kindness of their heart, donates their personal time, money, or other assets to those in need. Politicians giving public money away are not being charitable, because their donations do not come out of their personal possessions and they receive political support in return. This is like someone coming to your door asking for a donation and you give them permission to take your neighbor’s possessions and they give you a tax exemption receipt in return.  The donation may be for a worthy cause, but you have no legal authority to give your neighbor’s property away and neither do politicians. Without question, taking money from one person and giving it to another is called theft not charity, no matter who does it, and a worthy outcome never justifies the methods used to achieve it.

Government welfare is unbiblical when understood through the principle of biblical jurisdiction. The Bible has three major spheres of jurisdiction: family, church, and state. God has given each one of these entities specific instructions as to their area of responsibility and it is unbiblical for any one of these entities to either abdicate their responsibility or assume responsibilities from another jurisdiction. The family’s jurisdiction is found in Genesis 1:26-28, Proverbs 22:6 and includes: procreation, economics (business), education, tithing, social welfare, hospitality, model of union with Christ. The church’s jurisdiction is found in Genesis 12:3, Ephesians 4 and includes: training the saints, reflecting God’s unity, corporate worship, discipline, caring for widows and orphans, and preparing the body for spiritual warfare. The state or government’s jurisdiction is found in Genesis 9, Romans 13 and includes: punishing lawbreakers, protecting the righteous and freeing them for good works. The government taking responsibility for welfare is like a private citizen setting up a court to punish lawbreakers, which is an obvious transgression of biblical responsibility.

Government welfare has also been counterproductive; instead of helping those in need, America has now enslaved many generations on a welfare system. Welfare recipients have lost their freedom and their dignity, because in order to receive welfare they must do what their master, the government, demands of them. In spite of this, welfare has worked for the politicians who have endorsed it; people are still impoverished and they are still voting for incumbents and candidates who promise to give them more benefits.

In America’s system of government, in which all powers are derived from the people, if the people do not possess a power then they cannot delegate that power to anyone or anything else, including government. No one in America has the lawful authority to demand others give them money so they can donate it to a charity of their choice: therefore, neither do they have the authority to delegate that power. Based on this principle, redistribution of wealth by government at any level is not only a violation of America’s form of government, it is a violation of individual property rights which government was instituted to protect and at the national level it is unconstitutional.

If these reasons are not enough for someone to logically understand why special welfare, tax subsides, and many other programs for which the national government unlawfully squanders American tax payer money is wrong then here are two more reasons. 1. Redistribution of wealth by politicians is another name for buying votes with tax payer money and 2. It does not make any financial sense to give money to the national government so they can dole it back down to States, special interest groups, or private citizens.

When politicians give grants, subsidies, welfare checks or use other methods to transfer taxpayer money from one group of people to another they are buying votes with public money. If candidates promise to give individuals things they are not authorized by the Constitution to give and they receive political support in return, this is a form of election fraud that happens in plain view with tacit consent of the governed.  This form of election fraud is just as wrong as suppressing the vote or registering dead people to vote, but the American people allow it to happen.

Giving money to the national government to redistribute to States, groups, or individuals does not make any financial sense, because the national government always redistributes less than what they receive. Governments cost money to operate, so a portion of the money the national government collects will always go towards running their operation, and in this way they will never be able to give back as much as they take. It makes no sense, therefore, to give the national government money, so they can give back less and then tell us how we must spend it. It makes far more sense to resolve issues at the lowest level of government where a larger percentage of the tax revenue can be applied to authorized services. Additionally, if the national government is allowed to continue this practice they may take money from you and give it to another State. In this case, you will receive less of a percentage of your tax dollar than if the government only took their cut and gave it back to you. Even if you live in a State that receives more money than it paid in, you should understand that this system is not equitable for those who pay for what they do not receive and some day it might be you on the wrong end of that equation.

For all these reasons, America should honor the Constitution’s original intent and not spend tax payer money on things not authorized by the Constitution. If each citizen upheld this principle, America’s financial problems would go away after we finished paying for previous unconstitutional expenditures.

(Visited 26 times, 1 visits today)

6 thoughts on “Who is General Welfare?

  1. I am playing devil’s advocate. Though I agree with you (and prefer to make the change/contribution I prefer), it appears that the writing here excludes God’s precepts, though God’s will was referenced extensively in your writing on the Law on Nations.

    I support creating fishermen and believe no one appreciates “free,” but I see plenty of room for Biblical support of the welfare system, no matter its flaws. Additionally, it appears to me that your previous writing would support sustaining a welfare state, though this essay says the opposite. Please allow me to explain my reasoning.

    In your writing on the Law of Nations, you wrote:

    “In this quote Wilson explains that due to the imperfection of human reasoning, man must also reference the moral precepts or laws in the Holy Scriptures, which form a part of the Law of Nature. It is, therefore, from the Bible we can only obtain an unadulterated understanding of the Law of Nations, which is best summed up by applying the Ten Commandments at the national level via the following concepts: nations are an extension of individuals[4], God has a plan for the nations,[5] and all nations are to seek God.[6] He governs the nations[7] by His law[8] via the hearts of His people.[9] He expresses His kingdom through people groups and governments. He governs among the nations and desires no government above the nations. He expects His people to do to others, what they would have others do to them[10] by applying the second table of law[11] through love. He judges the nations in real time[12] and judgment comes through generational consequences and natural disasters. Judgment among the nations comes through self-defense, self-preservation,[13] and the condition of God’s people.[14]”

    “Due to the imperfection of human reasoning” the Constitution is not perfect and can not be the sole source of support for a line of reasoning. That said, the Bible references our obligation to the poor (“a condition of God’s people” mentioned above), in the following passages:

    Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

    Deut. 26:12. When you have finished paying the complete tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and the widow, that they may eat in your towns, and be satisfied.

    Lev. 19:19ff. Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God.

    Prov. 31:8ff. [Commandment to kings.] Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.

    Is. 58:66ff. Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

    Jer. 22:3. Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

    Luke 12:33. “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys.”

    Luke 3:11. And [John the Baptist] would answer and say to them, “Let the man with two tunics share with him who has none, and let him who has food do likewise.”

    Mt. 5:42. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

    The Word clearly states that we are to provide for the least among us. In your Law of Nations writings, you stated:

    “All nations are to seek God, because God created them and eventually all kings will bow down to Him, and all nations will serve Him. God has dominion and rules the nations with justice through the hearts of men, because His law is written on their hearts.”

    Following the reasoning used in the Law of Nations argument, it is a Christian nation’s obligation to care for the poor, whether it is “fair” or not. God’s will doesn’t have to be fair. Can it be considered theft, as you state, when it is God’s will that a share be given to the poor? Can the welfare system not be considered an extension of God’s will, despite its inefficiencies?

    If this is a Christian founded/principled country, then the government is morally obligated to enact God’s will as possible. Very clearly, God requires us to care for the poor — even to the point of being uncomfortable.

    If you accept Matthew 7:12 as the “golden rule”, and you agree that were you hungry you would appreciate being fed, you must then agree, based on the arguments you used previously, that it is the government’s job to feed and clothe the poor.

    I would like to believe that the citizens and corporations of America could be trusted to care for those less fortunate. Unfortunately, the nature of man is corrupt. I’m doubtful that would be likely without government intervention on the poor’s behalf (in some form or fashion).

  2. Josh,

    First I want to thank you for such a detailed and pertinent question. I can certainly understand how anyone could honestly make the application you have made, so please allow me to better explain. The answer to your question is found in the not very well understood principle of biblical jurisdiction. In the Law of Nations you should notice, aside from the Ten Commandments, the biblical references I used referred specifically to nations. The reason for this is because outside of His ten fundamental laws, God generally directs His statutes to their jurisdictional level. Most of the biblical quotes you referenced in your response were directed at individuals, so if it was directed at individuals it is individuals who are responsible and the statutes were not meant to be applied at any other level.

    The Bible has three major spheres of jurisdiction: family, church, and state. God has given each one of these entities specific instructions as to their area of responsibility and it is unbiblical for any one of these entities to either abdicate their responsibility or assume responsibilities from another jurisdiction. The family’s jurisdiction is found in Genesis 1:26-28, Proverbs 22:6 and includes: procreation, economics (business), education, tithing, social welfare, hospitality, model of union with Christ. The church’s jurisdiction is found in Genesis 12:3, Ephesians 4 and includes: training the saints, reflecting God’s unity, corporate worship, discipline, caring for widows and orphans, and preparing the body for spiritual warfare. The state or government’s jurisdiction is found in Genesis 9, Romans 13 and includes: punishing lawbreakers, protecting the righteous and freeing them for good works. You can search the rest of the Bible, but you will not find where God has bestowed welfare within governmental jurisdiction and it would be wrong for us to do otherwise. The government taking responsibility for welfare is like a private citizen setting up a court to punish lawbreakers, which is an obvious transgression of biblical responsibility. I wrote a little about jurisdictional roles in Fixing Public Education and I explain the jurisdictional division of the Ten Commandments in Ruled by Man not by Law.

    You do have a valid concern about individuals and corporations being trusted to care for their fellow man, because it was for this reason we now have the welfare system. Tithing is supposed to be the main source of this social spending and at the end of the 19th century; tithing was falling so precipitously that in the early 20th century well-intentioned Christians went to the government and proposed the welfare system we now enjoy. Although, it sounds good, it violates God’s order for how things are supposed to work and as you know, the ends can never justify the means.

    Instead of helping those in need, we have now enslaved many generations on a welfare system. Welfare recipients have lost their freedom and their dignity, because in order to receive welfare they must do what their master, the government, demands of them. Please see the movie Runaway Slave; CL Bryant does a very good job of explaining this situation.

    I want to make sure you understand I have made some general statements for application of biblical principles, but each verse must be examined in context to understand its true application. I hope this answers your question, if it is not clear please ask me to clarify and I will be happy to do so!

  3. Josh,

    Thank you again for bringing that to my attention, I updated the post to include my response to your comment. Also, you are correct in that although the Constitution is the supreme law of the Land it is not the highest law in the land.

  4. In response to Josh (I am aware he starts by playing devil’s advocate) all of the scripture references are instructing persons, not governments, in their care for the needy. AFP does point this out. The charge that persons or corporations are not responsible requires government intervention which can only react with taxation powers and redistribution practices. This is where the rub lies. The problem is actually one level up, the failure of the church to be the social gatekeeper has left the government no other choice but to step in with control. Unfortunately, the government has a foot on the neck of the church controlling their free speech from the pulpit with threats of losing non-profit status. At one time the church was the leader in our care for the poor, education system, hospital care, and overall moral conscience of our nation. A true awakening of our churches is the only way constitutionally and morally to right our ship. The church should practice what it preaches that complete dependence is on God Almighty alone, not the govenrment and its unconstitutional threats to keep silent. We the people must not let the government define the battlefield in which to fight. Good job AFP in provoking this discussion.

    • Staggie, I agree completely. I believe the call of both the individual and the church is to serve the least among us. If/when they fail, determining the governments role is above my pay grade. On its face, welfare appears to be the furthering of Christian principles. Buuuut, as AFP stated, the end result is generations of individuals dependent on the government.

      On one hand, we have tremendous suffering. On the other, we have a welfare system that was designed to “help” and fails miserably. We seem to have forgotten the adage “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for life.”

      With the skilled labor force in the US projected to be 10,000,000 short by 2020, sure seems to me that education and employment is the solution vs. piddly welfare checks.

      • It seems to me with 10MM unemployed there is much opportunity for these volunteers to help get society back on its social feets where they will surely earn required resources for their needs to be met. Perhaps some of these unemployed people could begin educating our youth properly outside of the influence of the education unions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *