Charity or Robbery?

What would you call it if a person walked up and pointed a gun at you and demanded your money?

Robbery.

What if three guys did it? Would it be something else?

Of course not, it’s still robbery.

Okay, but suppose you live in a town of 100 people and 99 of them get together and decide to come to your house with guns and take your possessions. What’s that?

Robbery. C’mon.

How many people would have to get involved before their taking your stuff was justified?

That’s silly, it doesn’t matter how many robbers come — it’s still robbery.

thidthief.jpgBut suppose they came and took your possessions and, after pawning it off, took the proceeds and fed some hungry people in the neighborhood. Would that justify their actions?

Of course not, Robbery is robbery regardless of what you do with the stolen property.

Interesting.

All of those scenarios were robbery and easily understood as wrong but we blindly accept this kind of robbery in America every day. In fact, many of us enthusiastically support it.

We just call it taxes.

Congress confiscates huge portions of our money every year and gives it away based upon their discretion. And, should we refuse to pay, the “authorities” would eventually show up at our door to take our money or our freedom by force. We are robbed, quite literally, at the point of a gun.

Quick Note: The previous analogy was borrowed from Walter E. Williams, professor of economics at George Mason University and frequent quest host of the Rush Limbaugh radio show.

I guess we tolerate this robbery because, at the moment, Congress behaves more like a mugger in an alley — taking only the money we have on us — and not like a home invader who comes and cleans us out. For the moment they leave us a portion of our earnings (and expect us to thank them for not stealing it all — how nice.)

I bring this concept up because this is an election year and most of the candidates are telling us they are no longer satisfied with what they can take from us in the alley. They plan to follow us home and steal everything we’ve got. Oh, they don’t put it in those words. They hide their intentions behind carefully crafted phrases like, “I don’t plan to raise taxes, I plan to raise hope,” and “I want to provide universal healthcare for every single American.”

They commit robbery and call it “charity.”

With one stark exception, every candidate for president (both Democrat and Republican) has grand schemes for our money. And, should we be in need of some of our own money, well, we’ll have to go take a number at a government office somewhere, wait our turn, fill out a bunch of forms (in triplicate) and beg — for the “privilege” of having the use of our own money.

I realize many readers would think I’m overreacting. Some might think I’m being alarmist. But let me remind you of something. Our country was founded on the principles of liberty. Our founders valued equity in opportunity not outcome. We all were to have an equal shot at making the best of our lives with the resources available to us. But we do not have a right to some arbitrary standard of living if it means robbing our fellow citizens to pay for it. That, my friends, is socialism. And, as much as I hate to point it out, our country has been on the march toward socialism for some time.

thidtax.jpgThere was a time when Americans would have been shocked at the idea of an income tax (which, by the way, was a “temporary” government measure). There was a time Americans would have been appalled at the idea of Social Security (which, by the way, was supposed to be “optional”). There was a time Americans would have been angry at the concept of government intervention in the country’s health-care system.

But, our federal government has done all of these things and now we think of them as normal. And the thing we can’t seem to understand is that government intervention in our lives is a bad thing. I’ll give you just one example.

Government’s intervention in the American health-care system is destroying our health-care system. And the politicians’ answer to this problem is more intervention in the health-care system. I cannot emphasize this enough, universal government healthcare is a nightmare waiting to happen.

And of all the presidential candidates only one has unveiled an economic plan that is suitable for fixing this enormous bureaucratic mess.

But the most disturbing thing in this whole scene is the role many Christians are playing. Far too many of us have come to expect the state to be God’s instrument of grace when it’s not. Many of us — whether we realize it or not — view the state as some sort of savior. And when we come to a presidential election we often reject our King of kings and demand our own earthly king, instead.

America will become socialistic if we allow it. And when it does we can expect tyrannical government edicts (like this one) to become the norm.

As believers in Christ we need to understand the proper role of the Church and the proper role of the government. We also need to understand that robbery is robbery regardless of how you try to justify it.

And robbery is forbidden — just check the eighth commandment.

Bumper sticker of the day:

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Kingdom or Empire?

The Christian Church began during the time of the Roman Empire. It’s no accident. Christ came to Earth in the fullness of time, at exactly the right moment in history according to the will of the Father. And because the Gospel began to spread during the Roman Empire those who bore witness to Christ had ease of travel due to some remarkably engineered Roman roads. They were relatively safe because the Roman Empire provided pretty good security at the time. God used the Roman Empire as a tool to build His own Kingdom. But God’s Kingdom also stands in stark contrast to the earthly kingdoms represented by Rome.

  • Earthly kingdoms are about glorifying man.
  • God’s Kingdom is about glorifying God.
  • Earthly kingdoms are acquired and maintained by force and violence.
  • God’s Kingdom is peaceful.
  • Earthly kingdoms are marked with pageantry, pride, and accoutrements.
  • God’s Kingdom is marked with service, humility and no promise of earthly wealth.
  • Earthly kingdoms are temporary.
  • God’s Kingdom is eternal.

empire2.jpgThe contrasts go on and on. And so, I’m convinced, it is an act of providence that the New Testament Church was born during the reign of one of the largest and most powerful empires in world history. God’s Kingdom is not of this world and its establishment in the midst of the Roman Empire shows us just how different is the mind of man from the mind of God. The early Christians understood the differences quite well.

Those who followed Christ in the first century refused to “respect” Rome in the manner Rome demanded. They would not worship the Caesars as gods and claimed “we have no king but Jesus.” Because of their stand they suffered persecution the likes of which no modern American can fully comprehend. They were beaten, imprisoned, called traitors, fed to lions, and burned.

Yet, despite all of their trials I sometimes wonder who had it tougher — Christians in the first century or Christians in modern America. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite pleased that it’s legal to preach and teach in Jesus’ name. I’m thrilled that I’m not threatened with the possibility of prison for my faith in Christ. But at the same time I wonder if we have the proper perspective on what it means to be blessed by God. I wonder if we haven’t so confused God’s Kingdom with our own earthly kingdom that we can’t differentiate between the two — to our own detriment.

The Christians in the first century — and all of our brethren who live or have lived in similar circumstances — have an easier time than we do maintaining a Kingdom focus. We often have trouble making the distinction between God’s covenant people (the church) and the citizenry of the United States. We sometimes forget that God has established His new covenant with the church and not our country. We don’t see our own earthly empire as standing in stark contrast to God’s Kingdom.

empire4.jpgAs is the case with most things, we are much more capable of seeing the problems with others than we are with ourselves. We can plainly see how other earthly kingdoms were contrary to the teachings of Scripture — so, let’s take a look at them.

The Roman, French, and British Empires are among the worlds largest and best known empires throughout history. Rome and France digressed from republics into empires (Britain was a monarchy then an empire). Initially there were benefits to their empires. In the Roman and British instances there was a period known for peace — the Pax Romana in Rome and the Pax Britannica in Britain.

As they expand, however, empires have a tendency to self-destruct in a number of ways. Their leaders become so driven by conquest and world influence that they overreach. When their grip on power begins to tremble they bear down — even on their own citizenry (because they become so paranoid for the maintenance of their own power). Eventually they bankrupt themselves and violate the trust of their people to the point that they crumble from within or are conquered from without.

In the worst case scenario the empire ends up on the dust heap of history, completely ceasing to exist — like Rome. Or, in a better case, the empire retains its name but is reduced to a shadow of its former self — like Britain and France.

Looking back on history it’s easy to see their mistakes. What’s more difficult for us to recognize in America is how we are following an identical path. We have overreached throughout the world (for a list of countries where American troops are currently stationed click here). Our liberties have been attacked from our own government in ways we couldn’t have imagined just a generation ago (see here, here, or here). Historians even call the age after World War II the “Pax Americana” consistent with other empires.

And we don’t see it.

empire3.jpgAt the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 a woman approached Benjamin Franklin as he left Independence Hall in Philadelphia and asked him, “What do we have, a republic or a monarchy?”

Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Unfortunately we’ve not kept it. Oh, we still have the same name and occupy the same land, but like the French and British Empires, we are a mere shadow of what we once were (An extensive outline of just how we are different can be found here).

But the worst part is not the erosion of another earthly empire. Even if we can succeed in reversing America’s plummet toward imperialism the United States will cease to exist one day. It’s an earthly kingdom and it’s temporary. No, the worst part is that Christians all over the United States fail to keep God’s Kingdom a priority. Matthew tells us to “seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness…” The question we need to seriously consider is this:

Do we?

Bumper sticker of the Day:

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Heavenly Father or Big Brother

shieldmountain.jpgDuring a presidential election year it is very easy to become distracted with politics. Almost every candidate is offering hope. They are making promises of a brighter tomorrow. And, for a lost and dying world, their promises can be quite appealing. But as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we ought not place our hope in the promises of political solutions. The state is a poor conduit of grace. The state refuses to recognize its limits and almost always oversteps its boundaries. The good intentions of political leaders are meaningless when the results are so disastrous. Here’s just a sample:

State seeks to control thermostats in homes

Judge bars distribution of Bibles to grade schoolers

Pro-gay agenda taught with taxpayer money

Mother warns community about “Nazi” home invasion

It takes a village…

The state is growing more and more like Big Brother every day. And while big brothers usually protect their younger siblings from others, it’s sometimes because they reserve the right of kicking them around for themselves. If history has taught us anything it should be that our hope is misplaced when it’s placed in the state. This should be especially true for believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our hope does not rest in the promises of politicians or in the benevolence of the state. We have a blessed hope that rests firmly in the power of God Himself.

To place our hope in government is to trade the genuine love of our Heavenly Father for the abuse of Big Brother.

Manipulating the church for the glory of the state

Political leaders are masters of manipulation. Most of them will say anything to sway public opinion and garner support for their agendas — and groups that wield considerable influence are targeted first. Christians are not exempt from this. In fact, the church in Germany represents one of the best examples in recent history of a large group that allowed themselves to be manipulated by a shrewd politician. Chuck Baldwin summarizes the instance in his article, “We desperately need the Confessing Church.”

soldier.jpgWhile I’m not suggesting that the United States is as far gone as Nazi Germany, I am suggesting that many of the attitudes and trends that were present in Germany’s churches, which allowed Hitler to come to power, are disturbingly present in many of our churches in America. The short film “Gott Mit Uns,” produced by For One Films, takes a look at some of these similarities. We frequently come together as the body of Christ and swear our allegiance to the state in services dedicated to the worship of God alone. We have confused patriotism with nationalism. And we have taken God’s Word out of context to lend credibility to state causes (as evidenced in the poster at right).

This poster implies that the soldier kneeling in prayer has the power of God to back him up — and even quotes a portion of Ephesians to strengthen the point. In a very subtle sense this poster equates God’s will with the will of the state. But here is the rub, the poster leaves out the context. The book of Ephesians is a letter from the apostle Paul to the believers at the church in Ephesus as evidenced by it’s opening lines, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:” His message is not for the soldiers of anyone’s earthly army it is for the believers in Christ Jesus.

God’s power is not a commodity available to world leaders and politicians for the accomplishment of their schemes. God’s power is available to HIS children and HIS church for the accomplishment of HIS will for HIS glory. As Christians in America we need to be aware that we will be targeted for manipulation by politicians seeking our support. We also need to be more discerning than our German brethren of a generation ago. We need to remember that we exist to bring glory and honor to our heavenly Father alone — and then act accordingly.

A watered-down gospel

positivegospeltrash.jpgSo prevalent is the post-modern, cultural directive to not offend, that many of our churches have adopted the philosophy and, as a result, completely compromised the Word of God — though they would deny this claim. “Oh no,” they would say, “We merely present a ‘positive gospel.'”

A “positive gospel.”

This is a gospel designed not to offend the sinner. One that doesn’t really confront a sinner with their sinful nature and true standing before a holy God. People don’t like to hear that. People don’t like to hear that they are helpless to save themselves and face an eternity in hell for having transgressed against a holy and just God. Instead, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is characterized as something other than a necessary atonement for our sin. Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in California, characterizes it as our opportunity for a “do over.”

He’s careful not to offend.

I am convinced this “positive gospel” is no gospel at all. It is a false gospel and contrary to Scripture. The gospel is inherently offensive. And if we want to preach and teach God’s Word in it’s entirety we need not be concerned with the delicate sensibilities of sinners and dare to offend them.

The late Paris Reidhead, a pastor and writer of some note, was convinced we had allowed humanism to influence our presentation of the gospel and said the following about what current church leaders call a “positive gospel”:

“If I had my way, I would declare a moratorium on public preaching of ‘the plan of salvation’ in America for one to two years. Then I would call on everyone who has use of the airways and the pulpits to preach the holiness of God, the righteousness of God and the law of God, until sinners would cry out, ‘What must we do to be saved?’ Then I would take them off in a corner and whisper the gospel to them. Such drastic action is needed because we have gospel-hardened a generation of sinners by telling them how to be saved before they have any understanding why they need to be saved.”

That about sums it up.

Thideology News of the Day:

The Iowa Caucuses are today and the 2008 presidential race will finally have it’s first official vote. I continue to be a staunch supporter of Ron Paul. However, those who characterize themselves as evangelical Christians are getting behind Mike Huckabee in large numbers. Bill Barnwell has written an excellent essay on why this is a mistake and makes the good case as to why Christians should be supporting Ron Paul instead.

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