Friday, October 04, 2013

Religious Left Calling Gov't. Shut-Down "Anti-Biblical." Is It?

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Jim Wallis and other left to far left religious leaders are calling for the government to reopen, because, they say, to shut it down is "anti-biblical."

Wallis and other Jewish and Muslim leaders have sent a letter to the President asking that the government be reopened immediately.

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, a social justice advocacy organization, has joined about 33 others of like mind in criticizing those who have, in their mind, caused the shut down (Republicans and conservatives), asking the administration to re-open it quickly.

Is this so-called shut down anti-biblical?

If so, why?

It all depends on how you view the role of government---and biblical Christianity.

Left to far left religious leaders almost always advocate for bigger government---more handouts, more intervention by government, more regulations---creating more public dependency on government.

Does the Bible actually support that position? Is that what Romans 13 is teaching?

Let's take a closer look at what Scripture actually says about government and what biblical history reveals.

What is government?

John Locke had great influence on America's system of laws through his codification of Scripture into law prior to the founding of America.

He said, "The civil law . . . is the force of the commonwealth, engaged to protect the lives, liberties, and possessions of those who live according to its laws, and has power to take away life, liberty, or goods from him who disobeys."

George Washington described government this way, "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence — it is force. Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master . . ."

Many philosophers and religious leaders of that time agreed with their assessment of what government actually is intended to do.

America created a form of government that would be of the people, by the people and for the people. Our Founders recognized that rights and freedom come from God and government is to protect those rights and freedoms---not bestow them.

Government then, Washington believed, is the human "force" that protects our God given rights and freedoms.

What did Jesus think of government?

In ancient times the authority of a ruler was symbolized by the circulation of his coinage and coins bearing the ruler’s image were considered his property, in the final analysis. When Jesus requested that his detractors show him one of the coins used to pay the tax, they did and He asked, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said it was Caesar’s. Jesus then said, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s." This account is told in Matthew 22 and it parallels in Mark and Luke.

America's coins and currency identify our allegiance is to God. In God We Trust.

While Jesus said little about the power of government and what government should or should not do, two other New Testament writers came down solidly on the side of respect for the civil authorities and obedience to law.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul offered the following admonition: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God."

Pay your taxes and give respect and honor to whom they are due, said Paul. Conduct yourself properly and you will have no reason to fear an official. "But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain."

And Peter wrote:

"Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor."

The statements are brief because the writers were not primarily concerned for man’s relation with the authorities but for his relation with God and his fellow man. But the statements are definite. And they provided the scriptural foundation for what some have come to call the "social justice movement."

Irving Babbit wrote, "When studied with any degree of thoroughness, economic problems will be found to run into political problems, political problems into philosophical problems, and philosophical problems to be almost indissolubly bound up at last with the religious problem." In short, what we believe or do not believe about man and about God determines what kind of society we will have and how our society will govern itself.

Our Founders repeatedly pointed out that our Constitution was only effective for a religious or Christian people.

While there is support for paying taxes, obedience to law, and respect for civil authority in the New Testament, no detailed analysis of the nature of government or the proper functions of government is to be found there.

The Old Testament, however, reveals much about government. This daily blog or column does not allow the more lengthy comments I would prefer, however, here are some things to think about in regard to the biblical role of government and the demand for more government by the religious left.

In the Old Testament, the writer of the books of I Samuel and II, Samuel, draws a definite contrast between limited government and the all-powerful State.

For generations, the Jewish people had been led by officials called Judges. Probably the best known judge to most of us is Gideon, because of the Gideon's work in distributing Bibles.

The judges combined civil, military, and religious functions in their office. They led the Jewish people in battles against their enemies, settled questions of law, administered justice in disputes between individuals, and functioned as priests and prophets. They strongly defended Israel against their enemies. However, in the leadership of their own people, they were rather mild.

Israel wanted a King.

Gideon did not even want to be king. After he had led the men of Israel successfully against their enemies, they asked him to rule over them but he replied, "I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you."

After the death of Gideon (Judges 8:23), one of his sons, Abimelech, seized power briefly and killed all of his brothers except one, the youngest, Jotham, who hid himself and escaped. When Jotham was told what his brother had done, he told the story recorded in Judges 9 about the trees going forth to anoint a king over themselves. The olive tree, the fig tree, and the vine all declined to abandon their productive pursuits to become king, so the trees then turned to the bramble and the bramble accepted.

The historical narrative following this moment reveals a time of chaos, confusion and a road to serfdom and bondage for God's people.

Samuel was the last of the series of prophet-judges. He served the people well, when he got older, Samuel made his two sons judges, but Scripture says they lacked their fathers values and character. They "turned aside after gain . . . took bribes and perverted justice."

The Jewish people were still engaged in the prolonged effort to conquer the land they had occupied. Their security was threatened and their enemies were often better organized. So the elders of Israel came to Samuel with a request: "Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations."

They were essentially saying, we do not think we are exceptional, or people with a special mission.

Samuel strongly disagreed and the Lord said through Samuel, "For they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me. . . ."

Samuel was directed by the Lord to tell them what it would be like to have a king. He did so in words recorded in I Samuel 8:

These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your menservants and maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves. …

Our Founders recognized the fallen nature of man. That is why they built checks and balances into our form of government. Absolute power absolutely corrupts.

The people refused to listen to Samuel, however, and insisted that they wanted a king to govern them and fight their battles. They prevailed. They got big government.

Saul was selected King.

Many years before, when Moses explained to the people of Israel the law that he had delivered to them, he told them what kind of person to choose as king when the time came. His counsel is recorded in Deuteronomy 17: Read it.

In a book based on his research at the Hoover Institution on war, revolution and peace, Alan Rabushka of Stanford University wrote, "Governments take resources from the public but use them to maximize their own welfare."

Rabushka says, "Both Moses and Samuel recognized this human propensity and warned about it. To modern taxpayers the tenth part of their grain and vineyards and flocks, that Samuel said the king would require, must appear mild indeed but in time the burden became onerous to the people. Samuel’s prophecy that one day they would cry out because of their king was not realized immediately.

But it was realized.

Everybody has a stake in preventing the unprincipled members of society from committing acts of violence or fraud upon peaceful persons, and should help pay a part of the cost of the police and defense mechanism necessary to protect people in their peaceful pursuits.

Government is society’s mechanism for protecting and defending; it properly collects taxes to pay for these services. But when it takes from some persons what belongs to them and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong, it is more than simply redistributing the wealth.

The government then is committing an act of plunder.

One person who uses force or the threat of force to take from another what has been honestly earned or built or created, commits an immoral act and a crime.

The religious left demands more and more government intervention or "welfare," which by its nature takes from one and gives to the other. There is no biblical precedence for Robin Hood, as charming as he may have been.

When government provides benefits for one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime, it performs an act of plunder.

While there is a limited role for government to play in temporary help for the individual, there is no biblical support for a government creating a dependent society, allowing some to enhance their own political power.

For thousands of years, history has revealed that this is the path to tyranny.

Not only is governmental plunder immoral, it reduces the general well-being of the people. It does so by taking away from some people what they have produced but are not permitted to use. It reduces well-being by distributing to other people what they have not been required to produce. Both the producers and the receivers are thus deprived of incentive. And government reduces the general well-being by creating an unproductive administrative bureaucracy to do the taking away and the distributing.

Nowhere is this supported in Scripture. Nor is there any indication in Scripture that our current so-called government shut down is anti-biblical.

Now we can read Romans 13 in this context.

Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Informed. Be Active. Be Prayerful. Be Blessed.