Ohio Gov. John Kasich talks a big game about giving to the poor and needy, but when it comes to his own charitable contributions, Kasich doesn’t practice what he preaches.
Kasich, an Obamacare booster, has expended a considerable amount of political capital in order to enact Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in Ohio. To the chagrin of Obamacare opponents who believe that Medicaid expansion will only trap more adults in costly, sub-standard health programs, Kasich has all but accused skeptics of being bad Christians.
“Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small,” Kasich reportedly told a member of the Ohio state legislature. “But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.”
Judging by tax filings detailing his income and charitable contributions, Kasich may not pass that test. A review of Kasich’s 2008 tax returns, the most recent year for which the Ohio governor has made his tax return information available, shows that Kasich’s own actions fail to match up with his rhetoric.
In 2008, Kasich reported nearly $1.4 million in overall income. Based on the biblical principle of tithing–contributing at least 10 percent of one’s income to faith-based causes–Kasich should have donated $140,000 or more to charitable or faith-based causes. However, his tax returns show that his reported charitable contributions totaled $27,326, less than 2 percent of his total income that year, and far less than the 10 percent tithe that is generally expected of believers.
Kasich’s contributions were also well below the average amount given by his millionaire peers. According to data from the Internal Revenue Service’s statistics of income data set, tax filers who earned between $1 million and $1.5 million in 2008 contributed an average of just over $32,500, or 2.5 percent of overall income, to charitable causes that year.
Kasich’s office did not respond to repeated requests for more recent information about the governor’s income and charitable contributions.
By way of comparison, President Barack Obama, whose health care plan Kasich has touted as proof of his own Christian commitment to the poor, has made generous charitable contributions throughout his presidency. According to their 2014 tax returns, the Obamas donated nearly 15 percent of their income to charitable causes. Despite making less than half of Kasich’s 2008 income, they nonetheless donated two-and-a-half times as much money as Kasich did.
The meager charitable contributions from Kasich, a millionaire investment banker prior to being elected governor, call into question his commitment to charity. Spending other people’s money is easy, but sacrificing your own well-being to help others is much more difficult. The gap between Kasich’s rhetoric and his own actions brings to mind Jesus Christ’s parable of the rich young man, detailed in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke:
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “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.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
The overall point of the parable is that it is impossible for anyone to earn their way into heaven. Because of our sinful nature, we are inherently incapable of living the perfect life that Christ lived, of always loving our neighbors as ourselves, and of always loving God with the entirety of our being. It is only through God’s grace and mercy that we are saved. The parable of the rich young man is meant to highlight the infinite gap between our earthly works and Christ’s perfect life, death, and resurrection. We cannot possibly measure up to the example he set.
In his zeal to set himself apart from those naughty Christians who oppose Obama’s Medicaid expansion, Kasich commits the same grave error as the rich young man in Christ’s parable. Even worse, he authors his own heavenly fan fiction, complete with an implied scene in which he brilliantly passes St. Peter’s works test while all his antagonists fail. Kasich does not preach compassion; he preaches a false gospel of redemption through political activism.
The example of Kasich’s meager contributions to charity, especially given his wealth (his 2008 income placed him in the top 0.28 percent of all tax filers that year), is not highlighted in order to condemn Kasich as a “bad Christian,” even if he eagerly jumps at the chance to condemn his own political opponents. Instead, the example is meant to show that it is simply impossible for politics to be used as a means of sanctification.
Note that in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul does not say that we are saved by our political platforms. Quite the opposite: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
As far as salvation is concerned, it doesn’t matter how much of your own money you donate to charity, because at the end of the day, you’ll still be a sinner in desperate need of grace. Works are a sign of faith, but we cannot possibly be saved by our works. We are justified only through Christ’s works. And it doesn’t matter how many bills you sign, how many taxes you raise, or how many sanctimonious speeches you give in which you cynically use the Bible to justify your own political desires, because you are still a sinner in the hands of an angry God, destined for judgment and condemnation in the absence of God’s grace.
The next time Ohio Gov. John Kasich has the inclination to condemn his political opponents for not sharing his zeal for government management of health care, he should consult the parable of the rich man. Kasich should prayerfully consider whether his walk actually matches his talk. And if Kasich truly seeks redemption and salvation instead of judgment and condemnation, when he has that final meeting at the pearly gates with St. Peter, Kasich should humbly lean on the works and resurrection of Christ for justification and sanctification, not on the earthly political works of a sinful politician.