PART 4 FOR BOTH “HOW A POOR WIDOW ANSWERED HER CALLING” AND “GOVERNMENT-GIVEN RIGHTS VERSUS GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS”

Mankind's Eternal Dilemma: The Choice Between Virtue and Vice by Frans Francken the Younger depicts three choices: heaven, earth, and hell (from here)
Mankind’s Eternal Dilemma: The Choice Between Virtue and Vice by Frans Francken the Younger depicts three choices: heaven, earth, and hell (from here)

In PART 3 FOR BOTH “HOW A POOR WIDOW ANSWERED HER CALLING” AND “GOVERNMENT-GIVEN RIGHTS VERSUS GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS” we went back to GOVERNMENT-GIVEN RIGHTS VERSUS GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS-PART 1 and resumed the original outline (for a four-part versus a five-part series).Why a five-part series? Now we are interweaving ideas from HOW A POOR WIDOW ANSWERED HER CALLING — PART 1 into the series. The object is to show what the story of The Widow’s Two Mites (Mark 12:41-44) teaches us about how we should govern ourselves.

How Well Does Statism Work?

How well does Statism work? It does not work well at all. The focus of statists is the acquisition of and the concentration of power. Therefore, the people who run the government use this measure of success: How much power do we have?

To obtain power, leaders undermine the character of their People.

Politics and Religion

What is politics?

politics (n.) Look up politics at Dictionary.com1520s, “science of government,” from politic (adj.), modeled on Aristotle’s ta politika “affairs of state,” the name of his book on governing and governments, which was in English mid-15c. as “Polettiques.” Also see -ics.

Politicks is the science of good sense, applied to public affairs, and, as those are forever changing, what is wisdom to-day would be folly and perhaps, ruin to-morrow. Politicks is not a science so properly as a business. It cannot have fixed principles, from which a wise man would never swerve, unless the inconstancy of men’s view of interest and the capriciousness of the tempers could be fixed. [Fisher Ames (1758-1808)]

Meaning “a person’s political allegiances or opinions” is from 1769.

When she dropped a couple of coins into the temple treasury, how did a poor widow perform a political act? When the widow dropped her coins into the temple treasury — even when she prayed in the temple — she performed public acts. She demonstrated her support for the teachings in the Old Testament.

When we demonstrate what we believe about God, that says a great deal about our political allegiances. Two thousand years ago what the Old Testament says about proper behavior differed greatly from the teachings of the various pagan Peoples that surrounded Israel. That led to strife. Eventually, in 70 A.D., because the Jews found it so difficult to submit to the rule of the Roman Empire, Roman legions destroyed Jerusalem. They butchered, enslaved, and scattered the Jews; almost two thousand years passed before Jews once again ruled in Israel.

Similarly, when Jesus taught and performed miracles, His teachings irked the Jewish religious elites. Thus, Jesus performed a political act. Therefore, the Sanhedrin sought Jesus’ death, and the Roman government crucified Him.

How did Jesus perform a political act? Even though Jesus taught from the same Old Testament as the Jewish elites, Jesus provided a distinctly different interpretation.  Whereas the Pharisees taught we can be saved by obeying the Law and the Sadducees claimed there is no resurrection, Jesus proclaimed Himself as our savior, that our faith in Him justifies us. What Jesus taught undermined the worldly authority of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. So they hated Him and sought His death.

Statists Must Pervert Virtue

When Jesus’ disciples began to see everyone, especially another disciple of Jesus Christ as someone to love and care for, they began respecting the rights of others, confident that this was what God had made them to do. That is, Jesus’ disciples became virtuous.

In the Catholic catechism, the seven Christian virtues or heavenly virtues refers to the union of two sets of virtues. The four cardinal virtues, from ancient Greek philosophy, are prudence, justice, temperance (meaning restriction or restraint), and courage (or fortitude). The three theological virtues, from the letters of Saint Paul of Tarsus, are faith, hope, and charity (or love). These were adopted by the Church Fathers as the seven virtues. (from here)

What is the problem with Statism? Statism requires a corruption of virtue. Why? What we believe affects what we call virtuous.  Consider how different people interpret these words.

Mark 12:13-17 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Pharisees: Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar?

13 Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. 14 When they had come, they said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?”

But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it. 16 So they brought it.

And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

17 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

And they marveled at Him.

Some people read Jesus’ reply, and they see only a clever answer that ducks the question. Supposedly, Jesus avoided the trap.  Supposedly, the Pharisees and the Herodians did not trick Jesus into advocating rebellion against Rome, but consider what Jesus said. He said we must render to government that which belongs to government and to God that which belongs to God. Jesus also said all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength belongs to God (Mark 12:30). Whenever the desires of our rulers conflict with the Bible, Jesus said we cannot compromise. We must obey God.

Because Jesus taught we must love individuals — that God wants us to love Him above all and our neighbors as we love ourselves — what Jesus taught conflicts with Statism, which sacrifices individual rights for the good of the state.

The Seven Christian Virtues

HOW DOES THE STATIST PERVERT THE THEOLOGICAL VIRTUES?

Charity

Charity involves giving of ourselves to others. Charity is based upon the most noble form of love, agape. Statists pervert the virtue of charity by using government provided “charity” to buy votes.  That is, statists use “charity” as an excuse to raid the public treasury.

James Madison used different words, but he warned about this sort of problem in The Federalist Papers (see WHAT ARE THE SIGNS THAT OUR REPUBLIC IS ABOUT TO FALL? — PART 1). Madison  advocated the Constitution because he believed it provided the necessary checks and balances that would prevent the formation of factions that used the powers of government to abuse the rights of others.

Faith

Faith is not just believing something because we want to believe it.  Faith is believing something for good reasons and then acting upon that belief. My favorite example of faith is swimming. When we swim in water that is over our head, that requires faith in our ability to swim.

What does it mean to call faith a virtue? It means we believe God, and we trust — live by — what is taught in His Bible. Because the statist wants us to trust government, he sees faith in God as competition. That is why we see such a pronounced drive for secularization in our day. The statist wants to bury the competition.  He want us to have faith only in the state.

Hope

Hope strikes many as a strange virtue, but imagine being without hope. That is what John Piper asks us to consider.

What is so important about Christian hope?

If our future is not secured and satisfied by God then we are going to be excessively anxious. This results either in paralyzing fear or in self-managed, greedy control. We end up thinking about ourselves, our future, our problems and our potential, and that keeps us from loving. (continued here)

Those who don’t believe in God put their hope in wealth or pride in themselves. Alternatively, they may seek escape in pleasure. Statists put their hope in government, and they delude themselves by electing prideful leaders who say what they want to hear.

Because they have nothing else, and all the things of this world must decay and pass away, the godless have no true hope. Until we put our hope in God, we are too fearful to love, and our courage is of no use.

HOW DOES THE STATIST PERVERT THE HUMAN VIRTUES (The cardinal virtues)?

Prudence

Some describe prudence as the care of and moderation with money (here). It is a cinch that if someone is imprudent, that imprudent soul will most likely spend more money than he can lawfully acquire. Similarly, whenever their government begins to spend too money that is a good sign that a People has become imprudent.

With respect to Statism, reckless government spending merely indicates a larger problem. What is truly imprudent about Statism is the willingness of a people to surrender great power to few people. History has recorded time and time again how power can corrupt those who weld it.

Justice

social justice noun
the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within a society

Courage

Fortitude is another word for the virtue we here call courage.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church cites this verse as a source of strength.

John 16:33 New King James Version (NKJV)

33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will[a] have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Christian teaching tells us to rely upon God, to persevere and do what is right, to be courageous in the knowledge God is All-Powerful. When a difficult problem arises,  statists would have us rely on the power of government to fix that problem. Instead of voluntarily working with people within our communities to solve problems, statists demand costly government programs.

Whereas Jesus expected Christians to turn to Him and answer His calling, statists would have us define courage as depending upon and supporting the power of government. That is, statists would have us be brave only because there are so many of us.

Conclusion

I suppose many will read the above and roll their eyes. Will they even get to this point in the post? Who knows?

For those of you who have gotten to this point, let me offer you a reward. I refer you to a better, more thoughtful writer (H/T to Tricia). Here is how the relevant post begins.

The paradox of the individualistic society is that it can only exist if individuals embrace virtues that are greater than their own needs and whims. A society where each individual acts as a little tyrant, pursuing his desires with total selfishness at the expense of everyone else becomes collectivist as the little tyrants turn to a series of big tyrants to get what they want no matter who gets hurt by it. (continued here)

Statist decry (many with obvious hypocrisy) the selfishness of those who emphasize limited government and individual rights. Yet no such society can exist unless the People are virtuous.

Need further convincing? Then do what suggests. Please read Daniel Greenfield’s brilliant Youmerica post.

To Be Continued

The final post in this series will be: How Do We Choose The Best Candidate?

Other References

10 thoughts on “PART 4 FOR BOTH “HOW A POOR WIDOW ANSWERED HER CALLING” AND “GOVERNMENT-GIVEN RIGHTS VERSUS GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS”

  1. Justice is an interesting thing. Aristotle, in his prelude of sorts to the Politics called the Ethics, defines Justice as giving each person his due according to proportion. When we examine early Christian writers like Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Chrysostom, we see a different picture of justice. For them and the long tradition of Catholic Social Doctrine all the way down to Laudato Si, Aristotle’s concept of justice takes a broader scope. Understanding that the natural inequalities of the world are begat not by chance but by the evil of original sin, the Fathers and the Church generally have taught that these inequalities are an enemy to the Christian, that the propagation thereof is a product not of a good society, but of a wicked one.

    Equality rightly understood would be a recognition of the fraternal nature of humanity and the treatment of each person not simply as a countryman, but as a brother and sister. Equality, therefore, is found chiefly in Christ and his Church. Politically, equality does not stem from equal treatment under any law, but the recognition of an a priori truth i.e. that event the hobo, the rapist, the ISIS soldier, and every person was made and is loved completely by God and we are meant to express that love.

    As a final note, individualism must be destroyed.

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    1. @mastersamwise

      Think again about that widow and the two mites she put into the temple treasury. Jesus — God — judged her gift as “more than all those who have given to the treasury.” Instead of being equal to all the other givers, the widow had shown the greatest generosity. Yet by our standards — yours too — she suffered abysmally from inequality. If only Jesus would judge me so….

      Before there was original sin, inequality existed. Each of us is unique. Our Lord has given us different gifts. As a result, there is a hierarchy. After God created Adam and Eve, He still ruled. The angels, although powerful, are as nothing when compared with our Lord. Yet a certain angel, that old serpent had the capacity to deceive Adam and Eve. Satan, not the children of Adam and Eve, rules this world.

      Even before the Fall Adam and Eve were not equal with each other. Which was the greater? Who knows? After the Fall, we would have called Adam the greater. Yet what would God have said? Before Jesus spoke, how would we have judged that widow?

      You say individualism must be destroyed. Who should we appoint to destroy individualism? Would this fine soul (or committee of fine souls) be our greater or our lessor? If our Dear Leader (or Leaders) succeeded in destroying individualism, what would distinguish all the widget people who remained from a bunch of lifeless corpses?

      Matthew, Mark, and Luke, each in a different context all tell us that “many who are first will be last, and the last first.” See Matthew 20:16, Mark 10:31, and Luke 13:30. So it seems to me that we each need to what Jesus told His disciples.

      Mark 9:33-37 New King James Version (NKJV)
      Who Is the Greatest?

      33 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. 35 And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

      To serve others with enthusiasm is an individual choice. In fact, the more individualism we destroy, the fewer we will see of those with hearts like Mother Teresa.

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      1. “Yet by our standards — yours too — she suffered abysmally from inequality.” Actually, not by my standards. She gave according to the greatest extent of her relative ability. She is contrasted, as Jesus said, because she gave in her want and need while others gave from their excess. Charity is supposed to hurt. If you need an example, look at the cross.

        “Before there was original sin, inequality existed.” This is impossible. This would say that God created a lack or absence of goodness which is absolutely contradictory to himself. If God established inequality from the beginning, that would mean that God created things less good than he could have in order that there be a lack of good. This is, of course, absurd. You may be referring to gifts as in natural talents as opposed to the physical goods necessary for human life, but even that is absurd. For if it were true that, from the beginning, some were given more gifts than others and these gifts bestowed degrees of goodness, then some people were made less good than others. Since nothing God creates can be any less good than anything else he creates, the natural talents granted to each person has nothing to do with inequality because they do not reckon the worth of man, unless you reduce man to the sum of his abilities and then you devolve into the bourgeois capitalist and the radical socialist.

        Adam and Eve must have been equal. Indeed, the consequence of Eve’s sin is that her husband would rule over her. This implies that, previously, the natural state was not of one dominating the other, but the two being co-equal beings. This makes more sense as an image of God since God himself is made up of three co-equal beings. If Man was made in God’s image, are you saying there is an inequality in the Trinity? Adam is only considered the greater because of sin, not the design of God. Indeed, Paul makes it clear that the mystery of Matrimony is bound to the mystery of Christ and his Church. The husband cleaves to his wife. Adam was lord of all the created things for God gave him dominion over it and man’s dominion lasts or God is forsworn. But one thing he did not give dominion and that was Eve and Adam said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…” The woman is part of himself and what man can be at odds with himself?

        “Who should we appoint to destroy individualism?” Every human person for it is every human person that is threatened by it. It strips man of every dignity in himself and he becomes the sum of his exterior associations. Mother Teresa did not believe in individualism and you would be hard pressed to find a quote from her endorsing it. Instead, she understood that these poor were made in the image of God and because of that shared generation, they were kin and had worth beyond measure because of that fact. It was not because they were of a certain religion, or political bent, or any other reason besides their humanity.

        Indeed, the words of Christ you quoted is not an individual charge, it is a universal commandment. No one may ascend to any hieght if he will not be the servant. It is also interesting because in Jewish culture at that time, little children were not considered truly people in society. So when Jesus sat one on his lap and said to receive the little children, he taught them the humanity of even the smallest child. To serve others is not just a choice we can make; it is a choice we MUST make if we desire any inheritance. The more we divest ourselves of in-divisions that set us apart as duals–see what I did there?–the more Christ increases.

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        1. @mastersamwise

          Don’t you remember The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)? Our Lord judges us — ranks us — according to the content of our character. He has given us gifts, and He expects us to make use of them. He rewards those who make appropriate use of His gifts.

          When I asked who we should appoint to destroy individualism, you could not give me a straightforward answer. You don’t like individualism, but you have your own individual agenda. I doubt you see the irony. As it is you have yet to properly define the problem you think is posed by individualism. Why don’t you start by defining individualism?

          What is the problem? As I see it? We exist to love our Lord and glorify Him. How do we do that? I think the solution is to follow our example, Jesus Christ. What did Jesus do? He voluntarily served His Father, giving His life in obedience to the Will of the Father.

          John 10:17-18 New King James Version (NKJV)

          17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

          Against the will of human authorities, Jesus obeyed the command of His Father. Jesus expects the same of us, but He left us free to obey or disobey.

          Matthew 16:25 New King James Version (NKJV)

          25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

          Obeying Jesus is not about economics. It is not about Capitalism or Socialism. It is about serving God to the best of our ability, serving as we each see fit. It is about allowing those who love God best to serve as shining examples for the rest of us. The Christian Church was built on the blood of martyrs, individuals who made a personal choice. These individuals refused to deny Jesus, generally it was some government who killed them.

          Unfortunately, some people think everyone else should conform to their agenda. These consider those who love God an obstacle. Using our covetousness and our jealousy, they would stifle those who would use their gifts in the service God. How? With government power. That’s why forms of government such as Socialism and Statism are so harmful.

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        2. I do recall it. And the worthless servant was the one who hoarded it. That which is given is not our own.

          Since individualism was, according to the history of philosophy and indeed language, created in the pride of mankind’s secularization of humanity, then naught else can destroy such prideful and willfulness except Charity. My “agenda” is hardly my own.

          Christ submitted his will to that of the Father indeed. This is impossible for individualism. It is actually, going back to the ill-begotten creators of the concept, opposed to it. The individual does what he does because it seems good to him. The human person does what he does because it is who he is in his very being. The sacrifice of Christ gave God nothing that he needed or already possessed but was entirely for the sake of man. This is humanity; it is not individualism. Whereas the former is acting according to the nature of our created being, the latter seeks to define that being from itself and act according to its own will. This is blasphemy to the very memory of Christ.

          Obeying Christ has plenty to do with economics, but in a different sense. The word comes from the Greek oeconomia meaning literally “house law.” Is it not written that we must prepare the way of the Lord by the ordering of our lives to his will? Thus, the houses of our souls must conform to his laws. No individual can do this for the individual stands apart, trusting his own wisdom and counsel. He is “that which cannot be divided further” and has no being, no definition apart from what he is divided from. This is opposed to the ideal of Christ who says that each person was known by God ere they were formed in the womb. Each person is unique and special to God and their like is never to be found, ever.

          The martyrs where not individuals, but instead the culmination of their personages. Their talents were given them according to who they were per se, not who they were in relation to whatever external circumstances defined them. They were given the grace to die for that Truth the guides all human action, that God is the culmination of human life. Thus, inspired by this Truth, nothing can be considered a loss.

          Unfortunately, God demands all conform to his agenda and his agenda is this: You shall love the Lord you God and love your neighbor as yourself.

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        3. @mastersamwise

          The martyrs were not individuals? There were the culmination of their personages? Every man’s agenda is his own. Such assertions may not be unique to you, but they most certainly are unusual.

          Consider what it means when we say the prophets and the apostles spoke not their own words. Consider what it means when we say scripture is inspired. In these rare instances, men and women said or wrote what God would have them say.

          Are our interpretations of scripture sometimes inspired? I think so, but I think we presume too much when we use the power of government to run the lives of others. Christianity is not a theocracy. Christianity is a personal relationship with our Savior. We can inspire others to seek Jesus, but we cannot force another person to love God.

          Here are the commonly accepted definitions of individualism.

          individualism (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/individualism?s=t)

          noun
          1. a social theory advocating the liberty, rights, or independent action of the individual.
          2. the principle or habit of or belief in independent thought or action.
          3. the pursuit of individual rather than common or collective interests; egoism.
          4. individual character; individuality.

          The first definition is the one I have chosen to use in my posts. It speaks of those rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. The third definition is the one you insist upon. Apparently, you recognize the existence of no other.

          I think that third definition of individualism has a stronger association with Statism than it does the government of a constitutional republic. How does accepting the fact that others have the right to make their own choices indicate an inflated ego? It does not. On the other hand, insisting that others must bend their will to our own, even if we are in the majority — that others have no inherent rights we must respect — is to worship the power of government instead of God.

          Should we obey Christ? To that I will readily assent. Must I obey Christ exactly in the way you demand? No. I can read the Bible. You don’t like my interpretation? So? Who says any two people have to agree?

          God insists we love each other — that we behave as brothers — but we belong to Him. We must strive to obey Him, not each other. If God wants to correct our confusion, He is certainly capable of doing so.

          Do brothers enslave or rule over each other? No, but fathers do correct their children.

          Anyway, I have another post to write and blogs to visit. I welcome your reply, but I expect my next reply will be included in my next post in this series.

          Thank you for your thoughts.

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        4. “Every man’s agenda is his own.” Who’s agenda did the martyrs have? Clearly not their own since it would have been better for them to flee rather than to die. Unless their agenda was not their own but united to the agenda of another, submitting their will to that of another.

          “Christianity is not a theocracy.” Then Christ does not rule at the right hand of the Father?

          “Here are the commonly accepted definitions of individualism.” And that social theory is contrary to the very words of Genesis. For man’s rights are not individually held, but commonly held among all men. The liberty given the Adam as well as the commandments of natural law extend to all men from our common ancestry in Adam, not in anything we have ourselves deemed is our own. I insist on that third definition because it is realistically stripped of the idealism of the first. Individualism IS egoism because it forces the human person to look inward when all Christian belief tells him his fulfillment is outward.

          If we were to ascribe to the first definition and its idealism, what defense can their be of traditional marriage? Would not the opposition of the SCOTUS ruling be in opposition of the individual rights of the LGBT individuals? Stripped of its idealism–dare I say utopianism–individualism does nothing but allow individuals to invent whatever rights they think an individual has. And what individual can tell him otherwise? Is not same-sex marriage an independent action that no government should hinder? Unless you think that the individual cannot invent rights, then individualism deteriorates.

          Like

  2. Wow, what an outstanding post Tom, truly the best explanation I’ve seen on the differences of relying on the State to provide “rights” vs God. You are so right too that how we think about virtue determines how we act; for the Left this is a big problem because their thoughts on what is “good” changes on what seems like a daily basis depending on the political cause de jour. Men being men, will always go for the power grab (Left or Right) which is why we must always look to the Constitution for guidance and is why we are literally crumbling as a society today.

    Thank you so much for the link up. I was never notified by WP about it and so am a bit late to the party on this. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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