I appreciate the emphasis on the kingdom of God and as well as the imago dei. Caution should be advised when we think about linking the state with KoG issues. First, consider Luke 4:18-19 and the mandate that the KoG "proclaim liberty to captives" and "set at liberty those who are oppressed". I believe this of course includes both physical and spiritual realities--but most of us would decry associating this with Bush's invasion of Iraq. It would be crass to argue that since the state has better resources to liberate captives, the church can defer to it when liberty from oppression is at stake. Second relying on the state to usher in eschatological realities would seemingly be critiqued heavily by the apocalyptic theology of Revelation (despite how that's slaughtered a la Left Behind). Indeed rival kingdoms set up a false hope that pursues a false trinity (Satan and Beasts) that rivals the true eschatological in breaking. Note well Revelation critiques bald greed and earthly authority structures that oppress. Now matter what claimed motives are we should be wary. Third, I would note the early church met the needs of the poor but was actually hindered by the rise of Constantine and his partnering with the church to meet the needs of the poor. As Peter Brown argues in Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire, the state was able to keep the church in check seemingly as they worked together for the poor, essentially the state funneling money through the church. The point being: partnership does not have a good history.
The notion that profit motive inherently evil is not necessarily true either. Yes, Adam Smith argued capitalism is motivated by self-interest and yes that can run amok to Christian morals turning into a pure Darwinian or Nietzschean approach. But if I understand Gilder (Poverty and Wealth) a bit, and I confess I must read him more thoroughly, he argues that capitalism is [can be?] altruistic. The choose of profit over care is a false dichotomy. Yes it can become that but it is not necessarily inherent. Part of the argument seems based on the myth of capitalism is a 'zero-sum game'--e.g. someone is always exploited (see Richards' Money, Greed and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution Not The Problem). Second from a Christian perspective those who serve are allowed to earn for their service, 1 Cor 9:8-11. It does not make gospel ministry/service exploitive because one collects any more than it makes public service in the government exploitive because not only does one get a paycheck but one gets lucrative book deals, speaking engagements and banquets.
This is difficult issue and no matter what party you support you can agree that it must be dealt with. Christian convictions should drive us. But imago dei covers issues of liberty over oppressive government as well. The eschatological benefits of the kingdom are concerned with both individual salvation and systemic issue (social justice AND oppression by power). I struggle personally with if and how we should legislate such items. Martin Luther King Jr. was right to argue that while the law cannot make a man love it can keep him from lynching.
If however profit can take priority over care what about systems and bureaucracy taking priority over care?
So how do we care for the poor and avoid systemic oppression both from big corporation (note Revelation 18) and empowered socialized government? The first rule of medical triage is to do no harm--we have to be equal wary unintended consequence such as oppressing people in further poverty. Sometimes we have to say "if you do not work, you shall not eat" --and not because we are Neitzschean capitalists sloth is equally degrading to the imago dei. Indeed the imago dei dignifies work, and wealth can be pursued for mutual benefits. Note I am not arguing that all poverty results from sloth, that would be foolhardy--but does a system designed to do good produce more disaster? Sometimes we have to eat our lumps other times we can pursue a greater excellence.
In summary, many "conservatives" are motivated to help the poor mainly by compassion. This may come from a belief that poverty is mainly a matter of individual irresponsibility. It misses the fact that the "haves" have what they have to a great degree because of unjust distribution of opportunities and resources at birth. If we have the world's goods, they are ultimately a gift. If we were born in other circumstances, we could easily be very poor through no fault of our own. To fail to share what you have is not just uncompassionate but unfair, unjust. On the other hand, many "liberals" are motivated to help the poor mainly out of a sense of indignation and aborted justice. This misses the fact that individual responsibility and transformation has a great deal to do with escape from poverty. Poverty is seen strictly in terms of structural inequities. While the conservative "compassion only" motivation leads to paternalism and patronizing, the liberal "justice only" motivation leads to great anger and rancor.
Both views, ironically, become self-righteous. One tends to blame the poor for everything, the other to blame the rich for everything. One over-emphasizes individual responsibility, the other under-emphasizes it. A balanced motivation arises from a heart touched by grace, which has lost its superiority-feelings toward any particular class of people. Let's keep something very clear: it is the gospel that motivates us to act both in mercy and in justice.