Are you a cheerful taxpayer? I am not, but I guess some people are. My last post, GOVERNMENT, LOVE, AND CHARITY, sparked a furious debate. Stephen is quite upset with my views, and Philip Augustine added his two cents. This comment from sort of surprised me.
Those in favor of originalism of the Constitution, Enlightenment philosophers, and the natural law that speak have created idols out of the founding documents, the men that created them, and the supposed “rights” which out of the Enlightenment as promoted the ideology of self-idolization in the form of “Individualism.” Of course, one can make the argument that relativism was birthed from the Protestant Reformation, given a pedestal during the Enlightenment, and now has led to secular atheism of Western Civilization as it’s logical conclusion. No doubt, my friend you will certainly disagree, but the statement must be stated regardless. (from here)
When someone disagrees with us, we all have a tendency to see that disagreement as a sign that the person who disagrees with us is somehow defective. That, of course, should remind us that we are all sinners, that we need to focus on the issue, not the person.
What is the issue? Should government be in the wealth redistribution business? Various people say yes, and many, such as myself, say no. People of diverse religious persuasions are on both sides of the issue. Since I am a Christian, I, however, approach the ethical aspects of this issue from a Biblical perspective. Unlike and , I see where the Bible charges us to be personally charitable, but I don’t see support for government charity.
tried to make the case. He cited various scriptures (here), but I think his vision tends to be selective. Consider that he cited Proverbs 3:27-28, OJB, but he only quotes the first of the two verses. Here are both verses in a more readable translation.
Proverbs 3:27-28 English Standard Version (ESV)
27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.
28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
None of verses cited are anything except calls for personal charity or impartial judgement by judges. Yet insists government must be charitable in our name. In fact, instead of saying God is love, says “God is charity”. Since charity and love do not mean the same things in our day, that’s flawed. That is why modern translations say God is love.
Here is a verse that cited that I think we need to consider further.
1 Corinthians 10:24 English Standard Version (ESV)
24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
What is good for our neighbor? Should we try to run our neighbor’s life for him, because we know what is good for him? Isn’t that the objective of the welfare state? Are you willing, supposedly for the sake of your neighbor, to let politicians run your life? Count the cost first.
1 Samuel 8 tells the story of how Israel saddled itself with a king. Through the prophet Samuel, God told them it was an awful idea. So God had Samuel appoint a couple of kings for them. First, to show them the difference between seeing a man as he appears and seeing a man’s heart, God had Samuel anoint Saul and then David as king. Still, even with David, Israel suffered. Every man is subject to the temptations of great power. David was. Even Solomon, the wisest of men, gave into many temptations. Perhaps the worst is that he led his people to worship vile idols.
Because of our history, we don’t truly know what it means to concentrate power in government. So let’s consider what most sermons on the most popular story about Solomon’s wisdom fail to mention.
Read the passage below. Imagine that you are the one the king has ordered to divide that child in two with a sword.
1 Kings 3:16-28 New King James Version (NKJV)
Solomon’s Wise Judgment
16 Now two women who were harlots came to the king, and stood before him. 17 And one woman said, “O my lord, this woman and I dwell in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. 18 Then it happened, the third day after I had given birth, that this woman also gave birth. And we were together; no one was with us in the house, except the two of us in the house. 19 And this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. 20 So she arose in the middle of the night and took my son from my side, while your maidservant slept, and laid him in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. 21 And when I rose in the morning to nurse my son, there he was, dead. But when I had examined him in the morning, indeed, he was not my son whom I had borne.”
22 Then the other woman said, “No! But the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son.”
And the first woman said, “No! But the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son.”
Thus they spoke before the king.
23 And the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son, who lives, and your son is the dead one’; and the other says, ‘No! But your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.’” 24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. 25 And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other.”
26 Then the woman whose son was living spoke to the king, for she yearned with compassion for her son; and she said, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!”
But the other said, “Let him be neither mine nor yours, but divide him.”
27 So the king answered and said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him; she is his mother.”
28 And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had rendered; and they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.
Was Solomon wise? Yes, but his trick to reveal which woman was the true mother worked only because those two women believed that the man Solomon had ordered to divide the child with a sword would obey the order.
Consider what Solomon advised with respect to obeying the king.
Ecclesiastes 8:2-6 New Living Translation (NLT)
Obedience to the King
2 Obey the king since you vowed to God that you would. 3 Don’t try to avoid doing your duty, and don’t stand with those who plot evil, for the king can do whatever he wants. 4 His command is backed by great power. No one can resist or question it. 5 Those who obey him will not be punished. Those who are wise will find a time and a way to do what is right, 6 for there is a time and a way for everything, even when a person is in trouble.
Of course, if we are wise we avoid putting ourselves in a situation where we might be ordered to cut a baby in half. Yet those called to serve a king often have little choice in the matter.
Does the Bible say we should obey the king no matter what he orders? No. As Solomon observed in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, we must obey God’s commands above all. Sometime we must even become martyrs.
Consider how the power of government is expanding in our day. Because of the welfare state, government provides for our health, education and welfare. Government decides who is treated, and who is not. Government decides what we learn. Government decides how much we earn. Because of government power, many unchristian notions that would have been immediately rejected just decades ago have become acceptable.
Imagine again. Once people accepted the idea that just because the king said so, a man had to cut a baby in half. Is that the choice you would leave your children. What if a decade from now the law requires your child, a doctor or nurse, to participate in an abortion?
insanitybytes22 has a post that speaks about the nature of God’s justice, Riding Puking Bulls at the Alamo. Because we need the justice God has provided for us so much, ‘s post is well worth reading. It is worth considering. Is man capable of justice of that sort?
When a man has great power, when a man is a king, we hope the justice he provides will look like God’s justice. Yet no man is God. No man save Jesus ever saw what is in the heart of another. Hence, even King Solomon had to engage in trickery, trickery that left some poor fellow relieved he would not have to carry the memory of a baby he had cut in half with him for the rest of his days.
Because we are not God, we have different levels of justice. God works His perfect justice full of grace and mercy; He saves our souls. Our government, when we choose able rulers, works imperfect justice. Government maintains order by providing plain, ordinary justice. As individuals we do not provide justice in any legal sense. The best we can do is show our love for each other with grace and mercy. Even at the cost us our lives, the best we can do is just try to do what our Lord would have us do. Hence, when a king tells us to cut a baby in half, we must refuse.