The Bible and Economics (10)

If churches had not defected with respect to the preaching of the gospel and the preaching of the covenant, the once Christian West would not be in the present disastrous situation in which it finds itself. The modern welfare state would not have come into existence. The bankruptcy-producing unfunded liabilities of the West’s national governments to fund old-age retirement plans and health care for the aged were voted into existence by politicians elected by Christians. If pastors had preached the laws of Christian economics, and if church members had believed them, this would not have happened. But the pastors did not preach this, so the welfare state gained support from the broad masses of Christians. From 1885 on, the idea of the welfare state began to gain support of pastors in the large northern Protestant denominations in the United States. This new theology was known as the social gospel. It was dominant in the large Northern Protestant denominations by 1925. It was dominant in the rest by 1980.[1]

Most Christians will concur with the general notion of Christian responsibility, so long as we keep the notion general. As soon as we begin to get particular, and begin linking Christian responsibility to issues like the tithe, and Christians caring Biblically for the poor through giving, support for the notion of Christian responsibility begins to quickly fall away.

The last 140 years in the West testifies of this; in carrying on the tradition, we keep doing what our forefathers have done, and think nothing of it. Well, we might think nothing of it, but Jesus Christ has clearly noted our attitude, and is in the process of bringing us to account for it.

National bankruptcy of Western governments will not be a happy time for many. But a remnant of Christians will see in it the righteous judgments of God on His church, and on the godless institutions which have been foolishly perpetuated through the disobedience of Christians.

This means that national bankruptcy will actually be a great opportunity for those Christians, who are prepared to get busy in the work of the gospel. Why is this? Because people who are in financial pain but are being helped by Christians, are often ready to listen to them as well.

In the midst of strife, there will be progress with the gospel. And more than that, there will be opportunity for Christians to learn new avenues of faithfulness to God, many of which have been largely lost, at least for the bulk of the church.

What will this mean? I don’t know, but it will mean that the church will at least have the opportunity to lay the foundations again of the godly society.

Crisis does mean opportunity for faithful and willing people, who will see past the many negatives. The welfare state, smashing onto the rocks with its atheism, hatred of God, theft and bloated budgets, will indeed be painful for many, but we’ll have the opportunity to go to the scriptures to determine what should replace it.

What should replace it?

In what was a pivotal occasion in scripture, God He gave His law to Israel in Exodus 20, commencing with the Ten Commandments. Immediately following these are the Case Laws of Exodus 21-23, which give practical application to the Ten Commandments, including God’s commands in relation to welfare.

Israel had now come out of bondage, but what should replace it?  God laid it out for His people, as He has for us today. Here is one example:

If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest. If you ever take your neighbour’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, for that is his only covering; it is the cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious (Ex.22:25-27).

Servitude is a fact of life. This is one of the themes of Exodus. But the children of Israel, having escaped the tyrannical control of Pharoah in Egypt, were very slow to get the message: their new-found God-given freedom was given by Him, so they could worship and serve Him.  This would be the basis of their future freedom.

People today frequently proclaim their desire for the forms of freedom, while they amass large, unwarranted amounts of debt on their credit card or property mortgage. Whether they acknowledge it or not, their debt has become the means of their servitude.  So the question is never whether we will serve, or not. It is always, “Whom shall we serve?”

The poor person who needs to borrow for the basics of life is in a vulnerable position. God considers it a heinous thing to capitalise on this, by compelling someone to pay interest on a charitable loan. The Bible explains that “the rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Prov.22:7).

This negative command to charitable lenders (“…you are not to act as creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest…”) is matched by God’s promises to them:

How blessed is he who considers the helpless; the Lord will deliver him in a day of trouble. The Lord will protect him and keep him alive, and he shall be called blessed upon the earth (Ps.41:1-2).

He who despises his neighbour sins, but happy is he who is gracious to the poor (Prov.14:21).

He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honours Him (Prov.14:31).

One who is gracious to the poor man lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his good deed (Prov.19:17).

He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses (Prov.28:27).

Notice too, that the text pictures lending and borrowing in an individual context: “you shall not charge him…” Welfare and “compassion” is never a task of civil government. According to the Bible, it is always an individual, family or church responsibility. The Bible never speaks of any form of government initiated “welfare.”

As Ronald Reagan stated in 1985, “Government that is big enough to give you everything you want is more likely to simply take everything you’ve got.”

Conclusion:

The welfare state will ultimately go the way of all flesh, and every Christian should rejoice at the prospect of that. Our challenge is to come up with its godly replacement, for you cannot replace something with nothing. There must be works of charity within the church which have developed over time, to be a source of welfare within the community, and these will require the usual things: time, money, inconvenience and suffering.

Are these things you’re ready to put your hand up for, as part of a team within your church?

 

 

[1] Gary North, “Christian Economics,” Chapter 11, Individual Covenant,  22/5/2017

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