In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece that criticizes "compassionate conservatism," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) says:
Common sense and the Scriptures show that true giving and compassion require sacrifice by the giver. This is why Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell his possessions, not his neighbor's possessions. Spending other people's money is not compassionate.
Defending compassionate conservatism against Coburn's attack, Washington Post columnist (and former George W. Bush speechwriter) Michael Gerson says Jesus was no libertarian. He may be right about that, but he blatantly misrepresents two biblical passages in an attempt to demonstrate that God is on his side:
The Jewish tradition in which Jesus lived and taught demanded that just rulers make a minimal provision for the poor, including no-interest loans and the distribution of agricultural commodities. (Look it up: Exodus 22:25-27 and Deuteronomy 24:19-21.)
Here is the first passage to which Gerson refers:
If you lend money to any of My people, even to the poor with you, you shall not be to him as a creditor; neither shall you lay upon him interest.
Here is the second:
When you reap your harvest in your field, and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to fetch it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in the work of your hands. When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it after you; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.
These passages support Coburn's argument, not Gerson's. They are divine commands incumbent upon individual lenders and farmers. They are not, pace Gerson, instructions for "just rulers" to create government-run welfare programs.
[Thanks to Adamness for the tip.]