Sadly, modern evangelical Christians often take a very narrow view of the Gospel. The good news of our Lord Jesus’ redemption is meant for more than the redemption of our souls. It is meant for …
Sadly, modern evangelical Christians often take a very narrow view of the Gospel. The good news of our Lord Jesus’ redemption is meant for more than the redemption of our souls. It is meant for the redemption of all creation (Romans 8:19-22). Further, the highest purpose of mankind is not simply to fellowship with God but to bring glory and honor to him. It is to be fruitful in all that God has called us to be and do. Therefore, God cares about everything as all of creation matters.
Those who live under and by the law of Christ will reap the blessing that comes with it. Therefore, what does God’s word say about money matters and economics? First off, it certainly makes no promises about worldly wealth and prosperity for those who follow Christ. However, it also doesn’t tell people that money is an evil in and of itself. Rather, it says that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10). In other words, we need to guard against greed lest our possessions come to possess us.
Nevertheless, God’s word has a great deal to say on economic principles that we violate at our peril. One of these principles is the idea that personal property is to be respected. The eighth and 10th commandments lay the foundation for this principle. If God says, “you shall not steal” (Deuteronomy 5:19), he is necessarily saying that our property is truly ours. However, he adds that we are not even to desire what doesn’t belong to us (Deuteronomy 5:21).
The right to personal property is one of those inalienable God-given rights alluded to in our Declaration of Independence. Any society that allows one person or group of people to plunder another will become a hell on earth. This doesn’t just apply to private citizens but to kings, governors and elected officials as well. God ended a dynasty in Israel because a king and queen murdered a citizen so they could seize his property (1 Kings 21). They thought they had a right to take this man’s property simply because they were the governing authority.
However, they had no more right to do that than a majority of people has a right to vote themselves the property of a minority of people. Stealing is stealing, and anyone who comes by what they have in such a manner will suffer the just judgment of God as it is better to be a poor man who walks in integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways (Proverbs 28:6). Being poor is not a sin, but stealing is. Further, we don’t get to say who deserves to have X or Y.
Those things are for God to judge, and with that in mind, let us also consider that God never once in all of scripture assigns charity work to the government. Rather, he tells individuals that it is their own responsibility to give of their own increase to take care of the poor and downtrodden. Government-subsidized charity destroys us on multiple levels. First, it destroys us by taking what we should have had the honor of giving to charity ourselves, and second, it destroys our natural affection for our fellow man. I saw this firsthand in Germany where I was told not to worry about a woman begging before a church because “the government would take care of her.”
God never forces us to give anything. Rather, he gives us the individual opportunity and privilege of joining him in his work of caring for all. This brings me to the empty promises of socialism and communism that so many in our country are now entertaining. The whole thing is based on an ancient lie that will bring nothing but ruin and destruction to our people.
The pilgrims tried to hold all in common when they first arrived in America, and they did it in good faith as earnest and dedicated Christians. After all, the Jerusalem church held all things in common after Pentecost (Acts 2:44), why couldn’t people just be governed according to that ideal? After trying it, Governor Bradford wrote that the pilgrims were in such “misery of want” that they allowed everyone to plant corn for their own households rather than for the community. The results astonished him. They found that everyone was more industrious when working to provide for themselves and their own families. Further, being Christians, they were able to feed everyone from the excess that was produced in this way.
Regarding this experience, Governor Bradford observed in Of Plymouth Plantation, “the failure of this experiment of communal service, which was tried for several years, and by good and honest men proves the emptiness of the theory of Plato and other ancients, applauded by some of later times, that the taking away of private property, and the possession of it in community, by a commonwealth, would make a state happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God.”
He concluded by saying of their failure, “let none argue that this is due to human failing, rather than to this communistic plan of life in itself.” I hope we heed Gov. Bradford’s warning as those who fail to heed the fifth commandment are doomed to suffer the misery of their ancestors.
(Shane Legler is the pastor of Garland Community Church of God.)