Here at the Right Wire Report, we run a chat room where though primarily conservative-leaning, we welcome all political persuasions to come in and debate the political issues of the day. You are welcome as well – we have regularly 40 to 60 chatters each and every day. Recently we had one individual come into our chat room to challenge Christians and their support for Trump in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
The chatter’s assertion was that to be a Christian; one can not support Trump for president because he is rich. To be a Christian, one must divest all one’s wealth and follow Christ. There are many Biblical texts on the rich man entering the kingdom of heaven. However, to support his assertion, the chatter focused and quoted the following Biblical text:
Acts 2:42-45 – 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
At first glance, one may think that this Biblical verse and others seem to support a more socialistic, even communistic form of an economic system. However, other verses in the Biblical text that would counter this argument referring to laziness, theft (via coercive tax schemes), and jealousy (of other’s possessions). Further to this, the Biblical text often speaks to prospering, though in a proper sense. The latter clearly shows the inequality of outcomes-based upon one’s merit. See a couple of parables that would support further this view – The Parable of the Tenants and The Parable of the Vineyard. We asked this question before. See here – Is God an Egalitarian? The resounding answer is NO!
Speaking specifically to the verse in Acts 2:42-45 that is in question, a point that needs to be said is that there is no commandment to sell everything you have and follow Christ. The account merely discusses what the people did at that time and place in history. That being said, the principle here being missed is explained well in 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” The concept is that the lusting for wealth and placing it above all else (even God) is the issue, not being rich in itself. See further reading here, here, and here.
Perhaps a younger Trump did seek wealth too much – he did have a reputation of being a bit of a bombastic playboy. But people evolve and change. When Trump sought the American presidency, a change no doubt occurred, understanding the weight of the task. Perhaps he did understand the idea to forsake the ability to earn more money, rather seeking to truly “Make America Great Again.” Its called service to one’s country. Are we so cynical to believe that this can not be true?
Has Trump rejected the pursuit of material gain in favor of serving America? Is Trump profiting from being president? How has Trump done on this moral measurement while pursuing a career in serving in government? Let’s take a look at one data point of the net worth of president coming in and leaving the presidency for a few recent presidents:
|President||Wealth coming into office||Wealth leaving office|
|Trump||$4.5B||$3.5B (current estimates)|
Trump’s assets are in a trust managed his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, as well as a business associate, and he has no direct control over them. As widely advertised, Trump donates his entire presidential salary to charities, though for sure, he does not need the $400,000 presidential salary. Trump’s assets have reportedly have taken a hit due to the Trump name being tarnished from the constant media attacks and issues of people using his assets (e.g., hotels, golf courses, etc … ) to avoid the appearance of “quid pro quo.” How much is not clear, but his personal profit being a politician has been mostly nil, compared to Trump’s peers – prompting Trump to say:
“Whether I lost $2 billion, $5 billion or less, it doesn’t make any difference. I don’t care,” Trump said. “I’m doing this for the country. I’m doing it for the people.”
Juxtaposing this information with the two presidential candidates in 2020, who has been the stingiest of them all in giving to charities? Arguably this dubious prize goes to Joe Biden. Joe Biden and his wife donated just $70,000 to charity in the two decades leading up to 2017, per their tax returns. But when their earnings skyrocketed in 2017 (a book deal when leaving the office of Vice President in 2016), so did their giving. That year they handed more than $1 million, or about 9% of their income, to 26 charities—including their family’s Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children ($150,000) and the Joseph Biden Foundation ($100,000). Note that the charities are primarily given to his “pet” projects and the people that support him politically.
Trump, on the other hand, has not been in politics for the past 47 years as Biden, whereupon the charities could be tied to any political endeavor. Charities have been an integral part of Trump’s career. Trump’s being a wealthy man and having a complex financial situation, we can suffice to say his charities are extensive – see here this website that outlines this in detail.
The following quote is said to be that of Harry S Truman. “You can’t get rich in politics unless you’re a crook.” Though not specifical sourced in most likely came from comments made by Truman that stated, “No young man should go into politics if he wants to get rich or if he expects an adequate reward for his services. An honest public servant can’t become rich in politics. He can only attain greatness and satisfaction by service.” A president should serve the people and not themselves. Seeing the wealth created by past presidents, one does have to ask the question of whether Truman was indeed correct.
Trump is not a king, an apostle, or even a god. He is a president of a Constitutional Republic. No one is perfect, but the key point is to be moving in the “good” direction. Regardless of your faith’s beliefs, based upon the data, Trump has come the closest to achieving this measure of morality among the recent past presidents of America.