The Divine Economy (6)
““When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother.” Deuteronomy 17.14, 15
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. Romans 13.1-4
A king in Israel
The oft-repeated lamentation of the book of Judges—“at that time there was no king in Israel; everyone did that which was right in his own eyes”—shows what can happen when national government is nonexistent or indifferent to the ends of justice and love. That time of lawlessness, violence, and vigilantism nearly ruined the nation and people of Israel. No wonder that, toward the end of that period, the people demanded a king to rule over them.
One of the important functions of the national government God provided for the people of Israel was to ensure a framework within which justice, according to the Law of God, would prevail throughout the land. Israel’s king was to know the Law of God, to live and exemplify the model of justice, and to serve as the highest bar of appeal in bringing the benefits of that Law to the people. Solomon showed what the potential for such a Biblical national government might be in 1 Kings 10.
There is certainly a role for national government in the divine economy outlined in God’s Law. A national government is important for such areas as national defense, suppressing evil, maintaining a sound currency, facilitating transportation and commerce, and serving as a final bar of appeal as required in questions of justice.
A limited vision
The objective of America’s national government, as expressed in the preamble to our Constitution, is “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” Here we note but scant mention of material wealth. The focus instead is on union, tranquility, justice, wellbeing, defense, and security.
The objectives outlined in the United States Constitution are appropriate to the limited role of national government the founders of our republic envisioned, and much more in line with an economics of justice and love than an economics of material prosperity. The Constitution was drafted not to “spread the wealth around” but to maintain a secure and united national framework of justice and opportunity against all threats, domestic and international.
A more perfect union?
Would we say that our national government today has brought us to “a more perfect Union”? The nation is divided racially, economically, ideologically, and regionally against itself in a struggle for material advantage.
Would we say that this government is primarily concerned to “establish Justice” when, in fact, no working definition of justice is agreed upon by the different political factions? Our government works to “insure domestic Tranquility,” but this is mainly the responsibility of local officials, who often turn blind eyes to civil disobedience for ideological or political reasons. The national government has done a good job in working to “provide for the common defence” of the republic. However, at least in this observer’s view, it takes a far too aggressive view of what it means “to promote the general Welfare”. The reams and reams of regulations, codes, and other forms of public policy by which the national government seeks to “spread the wealth around” are more a hindrance to “the Blessings of Liberty” than a help.
And as for “our Posterity”, the government sponsors one of the least effective programs of education in the developed world, divides people ideologically and racially, plunders the inheritances of heirs, and routinely puts the overall wellbeing of the money economy in doubt by its policies of taxation and regulation. In addition, it has encumbered the generations to come with a burden of debt which seems unlikely to go away any time soon.
This is not the form of national government envisioned in the Law of God or the mind of Paul.
Recovering a limited national government
We need a national government, to be sure, and in the divine economy national governments are no less important than local governments. However, our present experiment in ever-expanding national government has become more a burden on the nation than a boon. Government is today the largest employer, creating a burden of taxation to support itself, and an equal burden of laws and regulations to justify its existence. America needs a strong national government, but not one that, by its sheer weight and size, merely gives the appearance of strength. Strength in national government is a function of justice, not size.
We need a government more like that envisioned and established by the founders of this country, and less like the one that presently is devoting most of its efforts to ensure that autonomy and prosperity are the privilege and possession of all Americans, whatever it takes.
The present course of national government in America portends ruin for the nation in the future. We need a new vision of the future, one rooted in and focused on justice and love, and a reformed national government to help us along the way to that vision. It may take generations to recover a proper national government, but it will not happen unless some begin seeking and working for it.
1. What can Christians do to return our national government to a more Biblical framework?
2. Do you think this is possible? Can we make a difference, even though it takes a generation or more? If you do, if you really think God can use us in this way, what will you do to make it so?
3. What will be the likely result if believers fail to be more active in all the arenas where public policy is forged?
Next steps—Transformation: Add something to your prayers, your conversation, and your work that is aimed at bringing more of the goodness and glory of God into the workings of our national government.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.