A Biblical Perspective on UBI

I think Christians should consider the UBI from the perspective that 2 Corinthians 8-9 provides.

Speaking of the Macedonian believers, Paul states, “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints – and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” (2 Corinthians 8:3-5)

Christians should be known as a people that are zealous to give generously. In a sense, giving and contributing to a UBI-like system is a matter of conscience, but the Christian faith is peculiar in that our personal preferences are involved as well.

If we are truly redeemed by Christ through the acceptance of the gospel, then the Spirit should be working on our desires so that our personal preferences gradually conform to the moral expectations set upon us by God through our conscience.

John Piper stated it quite beautifully, “There is built into the Christian faith an inner impulse by the Holy Spirit through the gospel to make sacrifices so that others have their needs met. And there is no such impulse built into human nature or the human heart apart from God’s grace. It is so vital that this kind of love and mercy and sacrifice be free and uncoerced that this is laid down as a principle by Paul in 2 Corinthians 9 and by Peter in 1 Peter 5 as he instructs the elders.”

The UBI, in principle, sounds much like the scene portrayed in 2 Corinthians Chapter 8 where Paul encourages the Corinthian believers to participate in the relief of the saints in Jerusalem.

“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.” (2 Cor 8:13-15)

One of the assumptions behind the UBI is the idea that even when some of our neighbors are working several odd-jobs at once, they still cannot make ends meet, and so they do not even meet the national poverty line.

Ideally, Christians should spearhead the effort to mobilize churches and influence the greater society to form non-profit organizations that are dedicated to supplying the need of our less fortunate neighbors.

Covenant Church already did something similar to what I have in mind: https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Local-Church-Donates-100000-Eliminates-10-Million-in-Medical-Debt-478514693.html

The Bible does describe an economic redistribution between the rich and the poor, but the key difference between what the Bible describes and what people like Andrew Yang have in mind, is that the economic redistribution in the Bible is voluntary, while Andrew Yang’s idea involves coercion.

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Cor 9:6-8)

As one can plainly see, God prefers voluntary donations from believers who want to give. Taxes, by their very nature, are coercive and compulsive, because if you do not pay them, you will face repercussions from the IRS.  Socialism is essentially economic redistribution accomplished through coercion.

Piper stated the case well: “In other words, Socialism borrows the compassionate aims of Christianity in meeting people’s needs while rejecting the Christian expectation that this compassion not be coerced or forced.”

The primary reason that God prefers voluntary donations is because such actions are a reflection of His own character:

As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” (2 Cor 9:9)

Christians should consider ways to support the well-being of their less well-off neighbors whenever possible because such actions have a missional flavor to them and bring glory to God. Voluntary generous donations also help our neighbors see that our ultimate treasure is in Christ (“confession of the gospel of Christ”), and not in our riches. Ideally, our generosity will attract them to the riches of Christ Himself.

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Cor 9:11-15)

As for 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat,” yes, this sentiment should be included in our considerations for how we help our neighbors.

There is a particularly helpful case study in 1 Timothy Chapter 5 where Paul tells Timothy to make a distinction between deserving widows and undeserving widows:
“If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.” (1 Tim 5:16)

Included among his instructions is the following statement: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim 5:8)

So we should do what we can to supply the needs of our poor neighbors, but not in such a way that we enable them to live an idle life. Just as Paul told Timothy to “care for those who are truly widows,” we should “care for those who are truly needy,” as opposed to those who are not actively searching for a job. Therefore we should have an administrative program that can effectively screen people and distinguish those who are already working jobs but still cannot make ends meet from those who are not seeking a job.

Bottom line: A UBI is one way that Christians can demonstrate their generosity as we could invest our resources into helping genuinely needy people. Voluntary donations help our neighbors see that our treasure is in Christ, reflect God’s generosity, and attract our neighbors to Christ. We need to discern between genuinely needy individuals and those who are living an idle life.

For further reflection:
Ask Pastor John podcast: “How Should Christians Think About Socialism”:
https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-should-christians-think-about-socialism

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