When Nations Sin

“…be sure your sins will find you out” (Num.32:23).

We tend to think of sin in terms of what individuals do. This is because our culture has become so highly affected by individualism, that we don’t think as much of units larger than ourselves, like our family, our church, community or nation.

But God thinks differently. Yes, sin can be purely an individual action, like that of Judas when he betrayed the Lord. Or, it can be a family issue (think of Ananias and Sapphira, and Achan), a church matter (witness the churches mentioned in Revelation 2-3), or a whole nation.

When Israel as a nation rebelled against the Lord under Moses (see Nu.14; 16), He threatened to wipe them out AS A NATION. In A D. 70, His patience with Israel ran out, after they murdered His Son. Everyone still in Jerusalem in that year was either killed or enslaved by the Romans.

So what am I saying in all this?

The economic drama of the last week on stock-markets around the world has been much more than financial. It has been ethical and moral. It is a reflection of how many nations (especially in Europe, but all around the world) have indulged themselves with debt, and sinned against God in the process. Governments indulge themselves with debt, because this is what their people have wanted. William Penn was right in 1682:

Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad; if it be ill, they will cure it. But, if men be bad, let the government be never so good, they will endeavour to warp and spoil it to their turn. 1

International financial instability will not go away, if nations believe that indebtedness is fine. “God is not mocked” (Gal.6:7). God always sees to it that every house of cards built on sand (regardless of the size) collapses. The Third Reich lasted 12 years, the Soviet Union 70. Collapses are a reminder to all that God is over all things, and that He will not endorse  immorality, regardless of the form. It is pure folly to try and paper over obvious problems.

Greece is only the beginning. The world's leading economies have long lived beyond their means, and the financial crisis caused government debt to swell dramatically. Now the bill is coming due, but not all countries will be able to pay it.2

It is folly for people to try and resist when governments respond with economic austerity measures. Just as alcoholics resist having the bottle taken away from them, so people around the world (such as in Greece) are resisting the austerity measures. Like children at a birthday party that only want to eat ice-cream, they haven’t learnt anything. Yes, their leaders chose the economics of sin and irresponsibility, but who kept voting for them?

We need to think carefully about what civil governments are and are not. Civil governments are not like individuals. They are irresponsible in ways that individuals never can be, because other individuals will intervene to stop irresponsible individuals before they inflict harm on everyone around them. So, we do what we can to call government irresponsibility to the attention of others. We fight battles that we can win, or at least might win, which are few and far between in the latter stages of national irresponsibility, which we are obviously in.3

So, what can we do now?

Be realistic, and batten down the hatches. Things could get a whole lot worse than they presently are, and they probably will. The majority of people in the western world may not be enjoying the same quality of life, five years from now. Why? Because of generations of government economic immorality, brought on by personal immorality. Birds do come home to roost. The good thing in all of this, is that “when the earth experiences Your judgments the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness” (Isa.26:9).

Is there hope for the future? Yes, when economic sanity replaces economic sin, nationally and internationally. And that is what we have to be steadily trying to bring to bear, beginning at the level of home and family, and the church. To some degree, we in the Church have been a part of this problem through our apathy, and inability to speak to these issues. Now we may be able to be a part of the solution.

1. Quoted in De Mar, G., “Ruler of the Nations,” 1987, p.7.
2. From the German magazine, Der Spiegel, 7/5/2010.
3. North, G., “How to Run a Federal Budget Surplus,” his website, 7/5/2010.

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