Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Great Exchange

Over the years, I’ve seen people become increasingly anxious that government should provide for many, if not all, of their needs.

When you hear a radio or TV spot denouncing the President for “taking away our jobs,” or, conversely, praising a would-be President who will “bring jobs to our state” (not to mention fix the economy, provide universal health insurance, and feed, clothe, and house us all), what are you hearing? Isn’t the message-within-the-message, “The government must take care of me”?

Of course, the deadly danger to a democracy here lies in what I call the Great Exchange. The more people find they can get from the government, the more power over their lives they will surrender to the government. The more power the government gets, the less freedom the governed will have.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “If a man won’t work, he shouldn’t eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). The book of Proverbs is chock full of admonitions to labor and diligence. Why all these warnings and admonitions?

It’s self-evident that work—purposeful, productive activity—enhances our humanity. Witness the number of retired men who literally don’t know what to do with themselves (with wives only too happy to give them something to do).

The Bible indicates that work is one mark of the image of God in us (cf. Genesis 2:15; John 5:17). To surrender, then, our freedom to work for that which sustains us is to surrender a valuable part of our humanity.

Understand, now, I’m not talking about people who can’t work, any more than the Bible does. Indeed, the church has the responsibility to look after widows and orphans (James 2:27). The criteria Jesus uses at the Last Judgment includes whether we clothed the naked and fed the hungry (Matthew 25:35-36).

In too many places, the church has cheerfully turned over her responsibility to care for the truly needy within her ranks to the government.

Is government, then, more Christian than the Christians who’ve sloughed off what Jesus told them to do? I think not! That’s because those who govern are worried about power, not poverty.

The first order of politics is get in power. If elected, the candidate’s next concern is stay in power. How will such a man campaign, upon what platform will he stand, when he knows that people will turn out in droves to vote for their own largesse?

What frightens me is the growing idea that federal power can solve all our ills. Listen to the ads buzzing like flies at election time, singing the praises of Our Candidate (while damning The Other Guy): Our man will change the country! Our man will give you everything you need and, come to think of it, all you’ve ever wanted! Our man will make all your dreams come true!
What they fail to realize is that, in the process, they must surrender more and more of their freedom.

The erosion of personal responsibility at all levels of life should concern all Americans, but particularly American Christians. After all, what does a Christian do? He works, if he can. He doesn’t pray to the state for his daily bread but to the Father in Heaven. He gives Caesar what is Caesar’s, yes, but not without giving God what is His.

Gary D. Robinson

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