An experiment in Christian morality


Time for a little experiment: some data gathering for ourselves that will demonstrate the extent to which Christians are willing to comply, without cynicism or irony, with their Saviour’s peculiar requirements. While the Bible assures us it is wrong to put the Lord God to the test (Deuteronomy 6.16, etc), rest assured the same does not apply to believers themselves.

Our experiment is a cruel one to be sure, but given Jesus’ command in Matthew 5.42, that believers should ‘give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you’, we would be within our rights to test their adherence to the principle. After all, Jesus specifies that his followers must oblige ‘everyone’ and ‘anyone’ who asks, which is accommodating enough to include any sceptics conducting an experiment. He doesn’t stipulate either that those doing the asking have to have genuine need; indeed the entire thrust of his teaching in this section of Matthew is about responding sacrificially to unreasonable demands. We won’t be unreasonable – so no slapping of cheeks – and we will do our best to ensure our request is designed to meet as genuine a need as we can create.

For any experiment we need a hypothesis, so I propose that for this particular one we go with something like ‘Christians will not give to those who beg from them nor lend to those who ask to borrow’. If you want to amend this to suit your own circumstances, by all means do. You can choose too whether you’re going to beg, which means you get to keep anything you are given, or to borrow, in which case you won’t and you’ll need to pay it back at a later date.

Next, you’ll need to select your subject: you can choose an individual – they must of course be a card-carding, Spirit-filled Christian – or an institution: a church, say, or Christian organisation like Christian Voice or Focus on the Family. Whichever you opt for, you’ll need to ensure they are capable of meeting your request – we’re not going to pick on Christians of more modest means – and decide what you will ask for. I suggest that if your subject is a renowned evangelist or the pastor of a so-called mega-church you could reasonably ask him or her to lend you the money to pay off your mortgage, for example, or to meet medical expenses. I’m sure he or she will agree that these qualify as truly genuine needs, though you don’t necessarily have to tell them why you want the money, given there’s no mention of the beggars in Jesus’ instructions explaining themselves. On the other hand, if you think it will go some way to help disprove the hypothesis, you can and perhaps should be clear about why you want the cash.

Right. You should be all set. Be sure to let me know how you get on and whether your Christian subject demonstrates the hypothesis or refutes it. I’ll collate the data.

What’s that you say? You’re not going to bother because it’s a foregone conclusion that most Christians, whether prominent individuals, churches, organisations or ordinary believers won’t give to anyone and everyone who asks?

You could well be right, because, although Christians do give generously to causes close to their hearts, they baulk at the idea of giving to just anybody, in spite of what Jesus says. Maybe Christian readers of this blog can explain why; why don’t you do what Jesus tells you in this and many other respects? You cannot be his disciple, he says in Mark 10.25, unless you give away all that you have and he won’t recognise you as a follower unless you obey him entirely (Luke 6.46). So how about it?

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