Who Shall Rule?

The August 7, OCRegister headline read, Rick Warren hopes to redefine presidential politics. The issues that will be addressed are of a social nature, curing AIDS, poverty, sickness and will likely avoid such questions as same sex marriage, and abortion. As the article notes:

“It is a lot more sterilized and socially acceptable to be concerned about people who got HIV in Africa – because they acquired it in a heterosexual way – than to discuss the real, core issues of why Americans are getting it, which have to do with sexuality, poverty, lack of education, drug use,” said Rodriguez, president of the AIDS Services Foundation Orange County board. “These are segments of the population that don’t really get people votes.”

Earlier this year we also saw the birth of the Obama Bill: 845 Billion more for global poverty. I am not certain that McCain would be opposed to this since both he and Obama endorse Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. Plan:

Warren noted that McCain and Obama have endorsed Saddleback’s PEACE Plan, a strategy to mobilize churches to fight global problems such as illiteracy, corrupt leadership and disease

Rick Warren seems very comfortable and enamored with the political left. He is dedicated to the idea that contrary to Jesus’ claims that we would always have the poor (Matt. 26:11; Mk. 14:7; Jn. 12:8), we humans can eliminate poverty, hunger and sickness from the face of the earth. He seems so consumed by this that he seems to convey it is the church’s mandate to do so but the church doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to fulfill Warren’s mandate. He seems to be of the view that the Federal Government should steal the money from its citizens in order for the church to fulfill Warren’s dream. Will 845 Billion more for global poverty. be the ticket? Will McCain propose a similar plan? Who will rule and what will be the cost?

For many this is a difficult election cycle. The issues which arise from a biblical worldview are discouraged even by Evangelical leaders in order to look more like the surrounding culture:

“He is trying to ask the kind of questions that you don’t have to be an evangelical to want to know the answer,” Winston said. (Rick Warren hopes to redefine presidential politics)

There are many who rightly point out that it is God who sets up and removes governments. No one rules apart from Him (Romans 13). What is often not pointed out is that He may allow an evil, unjust or inept ruler to come to power in response to the people being governed. We get a pretty clear picture of this in 1 Samuel 8. The leadership of the nation of Israel came to Samuel and demanded:

Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations. (1 Samuel 8:5)

When Samuel went to God, God was clear that in demanding a king the people were rejecting Him:

The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.

Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day–in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods–so they are doing to you also. (1 Samuel 8:7-8)

What follows in 8:9-18 is God’s outline of what would happen as a result of their choice. This included expanding his (the kings) prestige or celebrity (v:11), expanding the government bureaucracy (v:12), allocating the talent out of the private sector and increasing taxes (v:13- 17). The result would be:

Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day. (1 Samuel 1:18)

Many times God allows us as individuals and as groups to suffer the consequences of our choices. He warns us in advance what those consequences will be and like spoiled children we demand to have our way at which point He steps back and turns a deaf ear, at least for a time.

How does all of this bear on this election? The church largely abandoned culture in the early part of the 20th Century. The culture maintained a sort of hangover of Christian morality until the 1960s and 1970s at which time the hangover wore off. We discuss this at some length in  How Did We Get Here? The church began to wake up and didn’t like what it saw. The culture without the salt and light went bad and into darkness. In the mid 1970s some of the church began transforming itself to look like culture in order to be more widely embraced. Rather than being ambassadors to culture the attempt was made to entertain culture into the church. Rather than influencing culture, culture continued transforming the church. In the late 1970s another segment of the church chose to look to politics for salvation and attempt to recreate a Christian culture through legislation. Although we can legislate someone’s morality (and nearly every law does legislate someone’s moral behavior), we cannot legislate their will or beliefs. This election is based largely on celebrity and feel goodism. The issue of abortion will be sidestepped because it is “divisive.” The issue of same sex marriage will be tabled because according to emerging leaders, there is no “consensus” from the Holy Spirit. The voice coming from Evangelical/emerging leadership is, expand government and increase taxes in order to solve global poverty, hunger, and illiteracy. As Rick Warren pointed out, both of the current candidates have signed on to his plan. Will the citizens survive the crushing weight of the expanded government, allocating the talent out of the private sector and increasing taxes? Will God hear us when the consequences of our corporate actions come to fruition or is God saying to us as He did to Israel:

Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.


Who Shall Rule? — 5 Comments

  1. I respectfully disagree with almost every theological statement made in your post, starting with the implication that because we will always have the poor we have no mandate from God to care for the poor. If I’ve understood you correctly, this is illogical and unbiblical reasoning.

    First it’s illogical. We’ll always have sickness as well, yet if your spouse were to be diagnosed with cancer would you not take her to an oncologist? We’ll always have atheists but you are dedicated to telling the story of a God who died for all to anyone who will listen. I will always be hungry but I feed myself three times a day.

    Second, it’s unbiblical. The bible speaks of poverty and the poor and our calling to care for them more often than it does the physical places heaven and hell – and those are surely real and essential ideas to our faith. In Exodus 16 the Hebrews are told to only take the manna and quail they need for the day so that there will be equality in the camp. Those who have little should not have too little and those who have much should not have too much. Paul, in 2 Corinthians, quotes this passage as if this law made by God still applies after the cross and the giving of the Great Commission. He collects an offering from the church in Corinth for the church in Jerusalem – an impoverished persecuted church – saying he’s doing so to create “equality.” Again, he says those who have little should not have too little and those who have much should not have too much.

    I agree with what I believe you are saying about the role of government in all this equality making though. I welcome the help of anyone willing to reduce the burden on the poor and give freedom to the oppressed but ultimately God has not commanded Democrats, Republicans, presidents or prime ministers to do this work. He has commanded the Church. He wishes to redeem all things by the power of his Spirit, according to his plan, through His People. Only His People can combat not only physical poverty but also have the Means to offer solutions to spiritual poverty as well.

    I cannot speak for Mr. Warren. I do not know his position. But I do not believe we can rid the world of poverty. Yet we are commanded (as Paul was at his ordination in Galatians 2) to remember and care for the poor. To preach something different is to rewrite the Good News of Mark 1. The kingdom has come and is coming still. It’s daily bread, God’s will on earth as it is above, good news for the poor, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed.

    -Shaun Groves

  2. I appreciate you respectfully disagreeing but have to admit I am a bit befuddled and perhaps you can help me. You say that you disagree, “with almost every theological statement made in your post.” Fair enough but you give no examples of which ones or where they are wrong. You indicate there is something in my post which implies, “that because we will always have the poor we have no mandate from God to care for the poor.” But again provide no example of that. You do say, “If I’ve understood you correctly.” I appreciate that for I can find nothing in the post which implicitly or explicitly holds forth this view. I have written on this a number of times before and have been clear that we are to feed the poor, care for the sick, etc. My post, The Rise of the Evangelical Left is but one example of that.

    I do find your statement regarding Exodus 16 and 2 Corinthians 8:5 a bit troubling however. There is nothing in the text, explicitly or implicitly that this was done “so that there will be equality in the camp.” We don’t really find a sort of biblical Socialism. Our dependence and focus should be on God and we as believers should practice compassion but we don’t find a redistribution of wealth and in fact God lays out guidelines for such things as slave ownership, which would necessarily mean that sufficient wealth to own a slave or slaves which would have less or no wealth. Now please don’t misrepresent me, I am not arguing for slavery but rather to show that we don’t really find some sort of financial “equality in the camp.”

    When you write, “I agree with what I believe you are saying about the role of government in all this…” it seems we are much closer than when your comment began. There is something special which happens when we as individuals and believers extend help to others as individuals and believers. The one in need is blessed to be fed, clothed, given medicine, perhaps assisted in finding work and they have a face to put on those who helped them. They are cared for and encouraged. Those who helped are blessed and gratified as they see the hungry full, clothed, healthy and growing in grace and knowledge of Him. When it is done institutionally all of that changes. The institution (the government) takes whatever finances it chooses from its citizenry, keeps a fairly large percentage to pay those are doing the redistributing and sends what remains out in various programs. The government is a nameless, faceless bureaucracy which exerts its will and those from whom the government takes money resents the institution as little more than common thieves. They don’t see those who work there are working there because they are in many cases concerned for the suffering. Since the tax payer doesn’t see how the resources are being used view those who are struggling as “freeloaders.” Many of those in need do not appreciate what they receive because it is coming from the nameless, faceless government and is viewed as what is due them and that they are entitled to more. So, no one is happy or blessed in this situation. All are nameless and faceless to the others involved and resent them for one reason or another.

  3. I apologize for not being more specific. You have crafted a thorough post and it deserves an equally thorough response. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to give you one today. But one point of disagreement I can address quickly and I promise to come back and continue this discussion – thank you for having it with me.

    I never mentioned 2 Corinthians 8:5. I mentioned 2 Corinthians 8 as a whole, however, but should have specifically referenced verses 13-15 which read…

    2 Corinthians 8:13-15 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, 15as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”

    You say this passage is not about equality (a word used twice in it) or redistribution of wealth (asking for wealth from one church to give to another church in need) whereas I can’t read it any other way. How do you interpret this verse?

  4. Shaun, some good Scripture along these lines are also the early chapters in Acts where it says the disciples lived as though they had every thing in common and shared freely with each other.

    The question is whether these ideas should be government mandates. Unlike Israel, we are not a theocracy, and the Scriptures are very strict as to who among the impoverished may receive church support, and who may not (ie – if a man won’t work, he won’t eat, either, and the instructions about widows).

  5. Good to hear from you Shaun. I would be interested in the other points you would like to make but before you go too far you still need to demonstrate from the original post the claim that “starting with the implication that because we will always have the poor we have no mandate from God to care for the poor.” us true.

    I do understand limitations for I am bi-vocational and am in the midst of a vocational move in addition to the normal demands of this type of ministry.

    2 Corinthians 8:5 was a typo. It should have been 2 Corinthians 8:15. Lynn’s response is absolutely correct. As far as Exodus 16, there is nothing in the account explicitly or implicitly giving us a biblically mandated redistribution of wealth. Rather we see that dependence on God is what is important. Those who gathered to horde and thus trust in their ability to squirrel away an abundance lost out while God multiplied for those who gathered too little. When we come to 2 Corinthians 8:15 the section begins with those who were in deep poverty but gave with “liberality” in spite of it because of their joy. This is not a redistribution of the wealth but an expression of faith and trust in God and love for the brethren in spite of their circumstance. Even as Paul addresses the Corinthians he is clear to say “I am not speaking this as a command.” In other words, this isn’t a biblically mandated redistribution of wealth but about willingly serving those in need. As Lynn point out they were choosing to freely share. I think the answer to your question about the two instances of “equality” in this passage are addressed by David H. Stern in the Jewish New Testament Commentary”

    It is tempting to see Sha’ul as a Jewish mother, “only giving an opinion” as he urges mature expression of initial zeal as being to your advantage (vv. 10-11a). You should not be dissuaded by poverty or by fear that your gift will be inadequate (vv. 11b-12). And relief for others should not cause trouble for you; rather, there should be reciprocity (vv.13-14), as when the Israelites were in the desert and each gathered just as much manna as he needed (v. 15).

    This isn’t about a redistribution of wealth but a reminder to rely on God. Paul was calling them to proceed with their original commitment, not to shrink back because of a seeming lack of funds or fear that the gift would be too small to make a difference but rather a reliance on the God of all provision to use it to His glory and the benefit of all, the givers and the recipients. But I digress for as Lynn suggested, the original post was “whether these ideas should be government mandates.” Not whether Christians should feed the poor, clothe the naked or minister to the sick. I think the last portion of my previous response outlines my views.

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