“The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” ~ Margaret Thatcher
Some may think we’ve not yet sunk into the clutches of socialism — which happens when we have a state-run economy. But consider this: In 2009, federal and state governments will consume 40 percent of the United States’ TOTAL gross domestic product.
This means that nearly half of all the wealth generated in America this year will be taken by civil government to fund its ever expanding control over more and more of our lives and our economy. As a result, we have run out of money while undercutting the means for producing future wealth.
Yet the federal government seeks to expand its reach even more.
This has happened because too many Christians confuse civil government with self government and the other spheres of government ordained by God — mainly the family, the church and voluntary associations. We have failed to fulfill our obligations of self, family, church government, and want the “easy out” of expecting civil government to do it all for us. Politicians, ever eager for more power, are only too willing to accommodate us and we are now reaping the disastrous results.
In 2008, many Christians (especially among the younger generation) were disgusted by the failings of the Bush administration (gross fiscal irresponsibility, undercutting constitutional protections, environmental disdain, turning a blind eye to unjust business practices, an unprovoked war with Iraq, etc.). They were even more disgusted as they watched Christian leaders from my generation fail, time and again, to muster the courage to speak truth to power when otherwise friendly politicians were involved. Instead, too many of our “Christian” leaders tried to garner elusive influence through silence and by sacrificing clear Biblical precepts.
As a result, younger Christians were ripe for the picking by politicians touting “change”.
The problem is, this new generation of Christians is also failing to stand firm on solid Biblical principles. They allowed themselves to be tempted by then-candidate Barak Obama’s ploy of garnering votes by promising to “solve” a host of social problems through an expansive federal government. Many of those problems are legitimate concerns, but God never intended for civil government to encroach upon the jurisdiction, or fulfill the responsibilities, of self government, the family, the church and voluntary associations.
Rather than turn to civil government to solve all of our problems, Scripture challenges us to:
- exercise self control, virtue, thrift, productivity, creativity and compassion for others (i.e., self government);
- pass along the virtues and values of self government, discipline and train the young, produce mature and responsible adults, and take care of our family members (i.e., family government);
- speak truth to power, celebrate God’s sovereignty and mercy, teach God’s ways, develop individual gifts within the community of faith, and take care of those who are destitute but lack family support (i.e., church government); and
- extend our ability to fulfill our rights and obligations of self government through voluntary associations (i.e., covenants and agreements, businesses, local communities and various institutions).
Nowhere in scripture is there any admonition for (nor even a positive example of) civil government assuming responsibility for meeting our personal, individual needs or usurping the role of the family, church or voluntary associations. Instead, we see throughout Scripture that civil government is given the right, responsibility and power to restrain and punish evildoers (including other forms of government — see Beware! as an example where IRS intervention is appropriate to stop an abusive church), protect and foster virtue, defend the rights and responsibilities of the other God-ordained spheres of government (e.g., judging civil disputes and protecting the institutions of the family, church, etc.), and provide for our common wellbeing (e.g., national defense and domestic tranquility, infrastructure, sound money, economic policy, foreign relations, etc.). Its role is vital, but limited.
When we apply Biblical rights and obligations given for one sphere of government to another, we get all sorts of crazy results. For example, “turn the other cheek” is an admonition given by Jesus to individuals operating in the sphere of self government. In context, it was never given or intended to apply to civil government, which instead is expressly told to use the power of the sword to protect society and punish evildoers. To confuse those two obligations and jurisdictions would make no more sense than to use the passage in Romans 13 regarding civil government to claim that the church also has the power of the sword — which it does not!
Likewise, care for the poor and meeting personal, individual needs is uniquely relegated, with some variations, to the domains of self government, the family, church and voluntary associations — but never in Scripture to civil government!
What we see throughout Scripture is that different jurisdictions have different rights and different roles and different responsibilities. Once we surrender our rights and responsibilities of self government, the family, the church and voluntary associations to voracious politicians, however, civil government becomes our idol and the foundations of society start to crumble.
This is an issue of profound importance to the Christian community as we seek to be salt and light to our nation and to become engaged in the great debates of our day.
For those who want to promote some nebulous “Christian” obligation to expand civil government into the domain of self government, or to assume the roles and responsibilities given in Scripture to the family, the church and voluntary associations, I challenge you to provide Scriptural references and examples. The best you can do, from what I’ve seen, is to take passages directed at one jurisdiction of government (self, family, church or voluntary associations) and twist them around to apply to civil government. But as we like to say here in Virginia, that dog don’t hunt.
~ Jim Wright