The Bible’s Viewpoint
Why Liberation Theology Is Not the Answer
LIBERATION theology is a relatively new idea. It was developed two decades ago by Roman Catholic priests in South America who were frustrated by the grinding poverty of many in their flocks. They came to feel that merely speaking to the desperately poor about spiritual things was not really helping them. Rather, they, the clergy, felt that they needed to promote radical social changes if the people were to improve spiritually. Some even advocated revolution.
Of course, it is not wrong to want to improve the lot of the poor. Jesus himself felt great compassion for the people of his day. We read: “On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) Indeed, Jesus promised liberation to those who responded to his words, saying: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) So is liberation theology the Bible’s way for a Christian minister to help the poor?
A Wrong Theory
No, for many reasons. For one thing, a Christian minister’s primary responsibility is the spiritual well-being of his flock, and there is no evidence that if a poor person’s living standards improve, he will be more inclined to improve spiritually. Indeed, the wealthier countries of North America and Europe, despite their high living standards, suffer from severe spiritual problems. Dishonesty, immorality, abuse of children and the elderly, and greed—to name just a few—are rampant. And in some places interest in God is all but dead.—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
Further, liberation theology was not the way Jesus went about helping the poor, and Jesus is the Great Exemplar for genuine Christians. (1 Peter 2:21) When Jesus was on earth, he lived among a people who were subjects of a colonial power and suffered at the hands of cheating tax collectors. The most helpless among them were often victimized by rapacious members of the ruling class. (Matthew 22:21; Luke 3:12, 13; 20:46, 47) Yet, Jesus did not get involved in political theorizing or social agitation to try to improve their lot. Rather, he preached “the good news of the kingdom.”—Matthew 4:23.
Finally, ministers of religion who promote liberation theology are seeking a political solution to a problem that can only be solved in God’s way. Although their theory is called a theology, it is not Bible based. Jesus said of his disciples: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:16) It is impossible to encourage political activism and not be a “part of the world.”—James 4:4.
What Really Helps the Poor?
Really, if liberation theologians do not have a spiritual message that is relevant to the very poor, we have to say that they are preaching the wrong message. Jesus greatly helped the responsive poor of his day, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing the same today as they share in preaching the “good news of the kingdom.”—Matthew 24:14.
What is this good news? For our time, it is the truth that God’s Kingdom has been established in the heavens and soon will remove all wickedness and oppression from this earth. (Revelation 11:15, 18) In this way, God’s Kingdom will solve forever the problems of poverty and oppression. Speaking of the effect of the rule of God’s Kingdom, the Bible says: “He will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) What a magnificent prospect for righthearted ones!
But how does this truth about God’s Kingdom help poor people now? Well, remember that Jesus said: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) The truth helps one to enjoy freedom from a guilty conscience, freedom from fear of the future, and freedom from religious superstition.
Moreover, the person who learns this truth gains two very powerful Friends. One is Christ Jesus, who is now reigning as King of God’s Kingdom. The other is Jehovah God himself, of whom the Bible says: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.” (Psalm 55:22) Even if a poor person lives under an oppressive political or economic system, these two compassionate Friends can help him to cope by means of the Christian congregation.
Additionally, responding to the truth about God’s Kingdom leads a person to get rid of bad habits and to make the most of whatever resources he has. No, a poor person does not necessarily become rich because of living a Christian life. But if he puts God’s Kingdom first and lives according to His righteous standards, in one way or another the physical necessities of life are provided. It is just as Jesus promised: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matthew 6:33.
King David of old gave heartwarming testimony to the way God cares for His own. He said: “A young man I used to be, I have also grown old, and yet I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, nor his offspring looking for bread.” (Psalm 37:25) There are innumerable examples among Jehovah’s Witnesses today that prove this to be the case.
Hence, rather than seek temporary relief through human theories and theologies, all, including the poor, are encouraged to enjoy the very real benefits that come from serving God. Those who do so agree with the apostle Paul, that “godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.”—1 Timothy 4:8.
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God’s Kingdom rule is the only solution to world poverty