This is the fourth part in a series designed to inspire debate on the nature of our Rights.
- Part 1: Here we considered the definition of rights promoted by the Declaration of Independence.
- Part 2: This part examined whether the Bible affirms whether or not our rights are God-given.
- Part 3: This last part looked more carefully at the argument for government-given rights.
Here we will consider the following question.
How Have Liberal Democrats and Progressives Instituted Government-given Rights?
Consider the basic problem. Why do we need a government? None of us are righteous.
Romans 3:9-20 New King James Version (NKJV)
All Have Sinned
9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
10 As it is written:
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
13 “Their throat is an open [a]tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 And the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become [b]guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
The Bible explains the origin the problem. Genesis tells the story of Adam’s and Eve’s fall grace in Genesis 3. God gave Adam and Eve the responsibility to obey a simple command, a law, and the right to choose to obey. When they failed to choose rightly, God mercifully promised them a savior and redemption.
Because of this story and what the Bible shows us about ourselves, if we believe the Bible we know we are sinners. Without God’s help, we are incapable of obeying the law, of doing the right thing.
Therefore, we have two problems.
- How do we prevent ourselves from destroying each other? This is a sin of commission.
- How do we make ourselves do the right thing? This is a sin of omission.
Historically, mankind has considered government the most practical solution for each of these two problems. However, people have always wondered what they could do about the problems posed by government itself. James Madison may have framed the issue best.
But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. — James Madison from The Federalist No. 51
Even when supposedly decent men rule, rulers — because they are not God are not good — abuse their power. Rulers, especially tyrants, strive to bend their subjects to their will by enslaving them. Joseph, one of the patriarchs whose life is described in the Bible, was a very decent man. Yet when given the opportunity he enslaved the people of Egypt (Genesis 47:13-26).
How did the founders of our nation approach this problem of designing a government? How did the founders weigh the need for government against the abuses of government power? The founders wrote our laws as objective prohibitions; they tried to prevent sins of commission, to stop us from stepping upon each others rights. That is, what is not against the law, we have the right to do. Doing “it” (whatever that “it” might be) may still upset some of our neighbors or cost too much. So we may still not want to do “it”, but that they decided was a problem beyond the scope of government.
To prevent a profusion of laws, the founders distinguished between custom and law. To avoid upsetting our neighbors we generally follow custom. To avoid harming our neighbors, we don’t break the law.
Take a good look at the 9th and 10th amendments.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Clearly the framers intended that government officials would only be allowed to exercise powers the Constitution says that they have. If the Constitution does not say they can do “it”, they are not suppose to do “it”. The People, on the other hand, are only suppose to be prohibited from doing what the law says they cannot do.
Unfortunately, some see the success of government, and they want our government to get back in the business of making us, the People, do the “right thing”. These abhor what they consider sins of omission. Ignoring the concerns of the founders, these busybodies want government to have far more power than the Constitution gives it. Naively, they wish to change our laws from prohibitions to loving, caring commands. They want our elected officials — politicians, people no one trusts — to tell us exactly how we are suppose to love our neighbors, and the most amazing thing is that they are serious.
If the busybodies have their way, what will be the eventual result? We will lose our freedom. We will only be able to do what our elected officials want us to do. If the laws our leaders create do not say we can do something, we will not be permitted to do it. Why? Ostensibly whatever we want to do would not be the government’s approved method of loving our neighbors.
Should we surrender our choices, our rights, to the “best” among us (those who clamor most loudly for high office) and depend upon the wisdom of self-proclaimed greats, people we already know to be sinners just like us? Or should we understand that each must make his own choices? When no one is good, how can either of these choices be good?
There is no easy answer. God has not empowered us to choose salvation for someone else. We cannot even save ourselves from sin. So each of us must on our own surrender our hearts to Jesus. Only then will we begin to start doing what is right.
Matthew 11:25-30 New King James Version (NKJV)
Jesus Gives True Rest
25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am [a]gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”