Stephen Colbert has built a career on mockery, and his audience loves it. To them, Colbert projects the impression that he is superior to those he mocks. And they, like children laughing at the stuffiness of grownups, delight in seeing their victims taken down a peg or two. But those of us from an older generation see Stephen Colbert as an irresponsible, immature, deceived, know-it-all brat. Where his fans think he is just a great guy doing the same things great comedians have always done, I see him as someone who has no sense of probity.
It isn’t simply a matter of him crossing the line. He acts as if there are no lines. He acts as if the only thing that matters is the pleasure he experiences by acting superior to everyone and everything he mocks. On his show of December 16, 2010 he mocked statements made by lawmakers that referenced Jesus. And as clever as Mr. Colbert and his fans like to think he is, he made problematical statements which misrepresented Jesus, Christianity and even the separation of church and state.
When talking about “what Jesus actually said”, Colbert gave as an example, “rich people should sell all their possessions and give the money to the poor.” But Jesus never made that generalized statement. You may either take Colbert’s statement at face value and not think any further or you can actually examine what the Bible records. It’s your choice. Are you a know-it-all or are you willing to learn? Stephen Colbert has already decided he is an expert on what Jesus taught. He is woefully ignorant.
In Matthew 19:16 a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Rabbi, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Already, this person was off to the wrong start. The New Testament teaches that there is NOTHING we can do to “get” eternal life. Ephesians 2:8 & 9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that none can boast.” Jesus answered this man (Matthew 19:17) saying, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” In other words, Jesus was telling him NO GOOD DEED was good enough to “get” eternal life. But that he should begin (enter) by obeying the commandments.
In verse 20 the man said he had already been keeping the commandments but asked, “What do I still lack?” This man felt a definite lack in his life, or else he would never have asked this. Jesus knew that this man’s love of money was preventing him from making any real spiritual commitment, so in verse 21 he said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” It’s the “follow me” that’s most significant. In verse 22 the man went away sad. The love he had for his great worldly wealth prevented him from following Jesus and seeking heavenly treasure.
After this story Jesus talks about how difficult it is for those who are rich to enter the kingdom of God, yet he tempers that statement by saying all things are possible with God. It is the love of money that gets in the way, not the money itself. Speaking of making such a choice between money and God, Matthew 6:4 and Luke 16:13 both teach that you can’t serve both masters. 1 Timothy 6:10 tells us the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. And it is the love of money that makes you a servant to it.
In 1 Timothy 6:18 the rich are told to “do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” But how they actually do that is strictly their business. No one has the right to oversee the altruism of anyone else. In Matthew 6:1-4 Jesus instructs us not to do our “‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them” and “when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” This is because giving to the poor is a voluntary act, rightly motivated by a willing heart. 2 Corinthians 9:7 spells it out: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” That’s freewill.
Colbert concluded his Jesus routine: “…if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition… and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.” There are some glaring mistakes here that aren’t funny. First of all, the Bible teaches us about personal accountability to God. Jesus didn’t teach that government taxation was how we should give to the poor. He taught that the most important consideration is what is in the giver’s heart, not the amount of the gift. Mark 12:42-44 (the story of the widow’s mite) illustrates that point.
In order to laugh at this, you have to find mocking the separation of church and state funny. I don’t. On the one hand Christians are denied the free exercise of their religion, when it comes to any public, tax supported forum, but on the other hand they are expected to pay extra taxes because it helps them practice their religion by giving to the poor. That not only lacks humor, it lacks intellectual integrity because giving to charity and being taxed to pay for government “charity” have absolutely nothing in common. One is an expression of freedom, the other is an act of tyranny.
Second, Colbert characterizes Americans as selfish? I don’t believe that for a moment. Americans have always generously helped the needy through charitable giving. It’s only when statistics are prepared by pro Pan-Leninists that American giving appears to decline, in comparison to other countries. That’s because socialists call their tax-supported government assistance “charitable giving”. And their official line is that they’re looking out for the little guy, while those rich Americans are just “greedy”. Of course, such a sentiment comes from envy (a sin equal to greed), but they somehow see it as a virtue, that poor people are, by definition, virtuous. And that is a complete distortion of reality.
Third, Colbert said, “we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition”. Did Jesus really command us to do that? I know Jesus told us to love our enemies. But does that mean we are to subsidize them? After all, he did say we would always have the poor. I also know that we are to “serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13). That specifically refers to Christians serving Christians, not just the poor. In fact, if you will study Scripture, you will discover that the poor are not to be given preferential treatment. We are to treat everyone equally. His phrase “without condition” is meaningless. We are to love unconditionally, because that is how God loves us, but that does not equate to social welfare. Only an unspiritual person would think so. Even the Bible teaches: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
Fourth, Colbert says if we don’t acknowledge Jesus commanded us to love the poor and serve them unconditionally, then we need to admit we just don’t want to do it. This statement angers me beyond belief. Biblical charity is to be done in secret. It has nothing to do with tax-funded programs for the poor. God and God alone is the judge as to who is a generous and cheerful giver. Not the IRS, not the congress and certainly not Stephen Colbert. A person’s generosity can’t be measured by the taxes he pays. A Christian’s desire to help the poor goes way beyond taxes. And taxation to support socialist programs for the poor actually has been shown to be more detrimental to poor people because it keeps them on the government dole. They lose any incentive to better themselves and they remain dependent on the state. How does that serve the poor? How is that loving them?
Stephen Colbert’s mockery attacks my beliefs and values. He attacks Biblical theology and misrepresents the teachings of Christ. While wrapping himself in the flag, he mocks the very freedom that forged this country and the very values instilled in our constitution: small government that guarantees the freedom of self-determination based on personal responsibility, not big government that engenders and preserves a plantation mentality. And just in case you don’t know what that means, it means don’t worry your pretty little head. The master will take care of everything.