If You Can, Must You?

I recently saw “Black Panther” and I must admit that this is probably the best Marvel Movie in my humble opinion to date.  Many are praising this movie, and to be honest, I haven’t read one article or review by others.  These are just my thoughts that the movie brought to my mind.  I am not that deep of a guy, so I would say that this was the main question the movie was asking: If you can, must you?

The plot of the movie involves the Wakunda nation of Africa. They have a mountain of vibranium which allows the people to have advanced technologies, and the king to have the strength of a panther.  The question that continues to be asked is if the country has the obligation to help others less fortunate that they.

I am not going to spoil any more of the movie for the readers, but I want to think through the answer biblically, or at least present a biblical response.

This response flows out of Proverbs 3:27, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it,” (ESV) .  of course, this raises the question as to whom does our food belong.  Context dictates that those to whom it is due is to our neighbor.  The very next verse says, “Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it‘–when you have it with you,” (Prov. 3:28, ESV: emphasis mine).  The neighbor is to whom it (the good) is due.

The next question then is: who is my neighbor.  If you’re a believer, you know from where this answer comes. Jesus made it clear that everyone is our neighbor, or at very least, everyone in need is our neighbor.

The only question that is left is to ask if what is true for the individual is true for a nation.   This is a bit trickier, but I believe that the Bible, though not explicit, shows yes.  There is at least precident for saying it is true.

When Joshua was leading the Israelites into Canaan, the people as individuals(and as a whole) were instructed not to take anything. Scan however did take some items. An individual did the deed, but the nation was responsible  “But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel,” (Joshua 7:1, ESV).  One individual, one nation.

Another thought is that an individual must follow after Yahweh, but the nation’s are as well.  We see this in the Psalms, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage,” (33:12, ESV).  This verse comes on the heels of verses 10-11 that clearly juxtaposes nations who reject the LORD and those that do not.  Likewise, we as individuals are to receive Christ as Savior and Lord, but we are called to make disciples out of all nations.  (Cf. Matthew 28:19)

I am not so naive as to think that the answer (or at least the implementation of the answer) is so simple.  However, I still would argue for the necessity of a people doing what they are able to help those who are not: their neighbor.  These abilities must also take other factors into consideration.  A person should not be the surety of another, “Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts, (Prov. 22:26, ESV).  A nation should not go into debt for another nation.  However, should one sacrifice for the good of others?  Though we are not under Israelite law, we can learn and apply principles from it.  The landowners could not harvest from the edges of the field and could not pick up anything that was dropped in the field. It was left behind for the poor and hungry.  They had to sacrifice their abundance for those in need.  Should we not as well?  There are still more things that need to be factored in as well.  More than any of us I am sure could imagine.

Let’s say a nation was overtaken by famine and the people were starving. The British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs received the report, but ignored it.  The U.S. Secretary of State received the same report, and thus ignored it too. But North Korea’s minister received the report and sent aid to help fill the hungry people.  Which one of these is the neighborly nation?

I simply go back to Proverbs 3:27, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it,” (ESV) .

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