Ben Carson's recent comments have gotten a lot of press recently. If you missed them he basically claimed that God told him that America should have a flat tax and that poor people are not being taxed enough. It is astonishing how often the Bible is used as an excuse to make life harder for the poor. Unfortunately this can often succeed because the rebuttals to these arguments are often made in generalities. Here below I give a list of what the Bible says about how and when to help the poor and specifically deal with republican claims on this subject. Feel free to use this list and these verses regardless of your personal beliefs
"Tzedakah" is the Hebrew word for the acts that we call "charity" in English: giving aid, assistance and money to the poor and needy or to other worthy causes. However, the nature of tzedakah is very different from the idea of charity. The word "charity" suggests benevolence and generosity, a magnanimous act by the wealthy and powerful for the benefit of the poor and needy. The word "tzedakah" is derived from the Hebrew root Tzadei-Dalet-Qof, meaning righteousness, justice or fairness. In Judaism, giving to the poor is not viewed as a generous, magnanimous act; it is simply an act of justice and righteousness, the performance of a duty, giving the poor their due. Tzedakah
Poverty Prevention Measures
1. Property laws All Israelites were given land in proportion to their family size. This land could never be bought or sold on a permanent basis but had to be given back to the family in the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:23-28). Given this was an ancient culture the only way to accumulate wealth was to collect property and slaves. Given that both of these means were severely restricted this ensured an egalitarian society. Furthermore, if you always had property it would be very difficult to fall into poverty
2. Taking in the poor
If you knew a poor person you had to let them live with you free.
"If one of your fellow Israelites falls into poverty and cannot support himself, support him as you would a foreigner or a temporary resident and allow him to live with you.(Leviticus 25:35)
3. Interest free loans
The next step to prevent someone becoming destitute was an interest free loan
Do not charge interest or make a profit at his expense. Instead, show your fear of God by letting him live with you as your relative.37 Remember, do not charge interest on money you lend him or make a profit on food you sell him.38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.(Leviticus 25:36-38)
4. Work off a loan If they could not pay off the loan they could work for you for a maximum of seven years (Deuteronomy 15:12.htm) (foreign slaves get freed on the 50th year)
5. Debts forgiven
Debts are forgiven at the end of every seven years (debts from foreigners forgiven every 50 years) (Deut 15:1)
Poverty Rescue Measures
1. Festival of Shelters You would have an 8 day festival once a year where you would invite the poor and feast with them (Deutoronomy 16:13-15)
2. Gleanings You had to leave the last row of crops to the poor (also it says elsewhere you would only harvest the crops once, anything you missed was given to the poor) (Leviticus 23:22)
3. Tithe to the poor every third year Every third year 10% of your income would go to the poor (Deut 26:12)
4. Poor get 100% of what grows on your land every 7th and 50th year (exodus 23:10-11)
For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, 11 but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.
Sometimes the poor aren't all innocent victims and bad behavior can lead to poverty. The book of proverbs is full of such examples of how bad behavior such as drunkenness and laziness can do just that. However proverbs repeatedly say to have mercy on the poor (Proverbs 14:21&31). In other words we should help the poor even when they don't deserve it. Have you ever heard someone say "I will not give them money because they will just spend it on alcohol".
I wonder what they would make of this verse.
Let them drink to forget their poverty and remember their troubles no more.(Proverbs 31:7) Even in the Old Testament the Bible asks us to go beyond social justice - i.e. giving to the "deserving poor", but to give to the poor with mercy. That is, even if they don't deserve it
Claim: Work is a voluntary agreement so it cannot be wrong to underpay or overwork people
This claim would contradict this verse
"lighten the burden(Isaiah 58:6)
of those who work for you"
Only poverty matters, inequality doesn't
This claim would contradict this verse
Of course, I don't mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality.(2 Cor 8:13)
If you do not work you should not eat
The actual correct quote is
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat."(2 Thess 3:10) So the Bible does have boundaries on generosity to prevent people being used. However, notice it has the caveat "unwilling". Secondly, some context is in order. This was a church where people would sell everything they owned and distribute it to the poor and needy. These people had been with them "for a while" and were causing problems in the church as well as mooching off people "for a while" and claiming to be Christians. In this context the standard at which you limit your giving to avoid being used is higher than anywhere on the planet today.
In both the old and new testament your religion counts for nothing if you neglect the poor
In the new testament:
If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion--how can God's love be in that person?(1 John 3:17)
In the Old Testament: In Isaiah 58 God says that they act like a righteous nation with fasting and pious religious ceremonies but neglect the poor so God ignores all their religiosity
(Isaiah 58). None of this is anywhere near an exhaustive list. Literally 10% of the entire Bible is on this one subject. Using the Bible to bash the poor is about as difficult as using Das Kapital as a pro inequality source. The fact that the Bible is so frequently used this way and many are convinced by this has to be one of the most remarkable and saddest intellectual achievements in human history.