Friday, December 28, 2007

The Politics of Wealth: Dt 8:18

"But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day." (Deuteronomy 8:18)
In my country, we live in a politically charged environment where the differences between the various socioeconomic groups of our population are exploited for political ends. It is not uncommon to hear talk about the "two Americas, the haves and the have nots." There is also much debate over the tax brackets with some politicians complaining about "tax breaks for the rich" and wanting to increase the taxes on the wealthy in this country. I suppose it is to be expected that issues involving money would be easy fodder for politicizations, but what does the Bible have to say about wealth? And how should civil government apply biblical truths about wealth and apply them to policy decisions? This scripture teaches us several things about wealth.
  1. Wealth is the provision of God. In a now famous speech, Congressmen Richard Gephardt referred to those who were wealthy and high achievers as "winners in life's lottery", yet this scripture clearly teaches that wealth does not happen by chance. There is no "life's lottery" where some just happen to win and gain wealth while others continually "purchase" tickets and never win anything. It is God who gives people the ability to make wealth, not chance or fate.
  2. Wealth is not evil. While not everyone who becomes wealthy does so by ethical means, and not every wealthy person uses their wealth for noble causes, this does not mean that wealth is evil. Wealth is the provision of God and therefore not intrinsically evil. It is not wrong to be wealthy just as it is not wrong to be poor.
  3. Wealth is not automatic. This scripture teaches us that God gives us the ability to gain wealth and not wealth itself. Just because someone has the ability to gain wealth does not mean that they will become wealthy. It takes personal effort, diligence, and perseverance to put those abilities to work to produce wealth. Sometimes, poverty is not the result of lack of ability but lack of effort.
  4. Wealth is not equal. It is a reasonable interpretation of this scripture that God does not necessarily give the same ability to gain wealth to all people, nor is it reasonable to believe that all people will use the abilities given to them by God with the same effort and effectiveness. We should not expect or seek a social system where everyone is equal in terms of wealth and riches. God proportions to us our abilities, talents, and giftings as He choses, therefore we should not expect everyone to be equal or for life to be equatable.
  5. Wealth is created. Wealth involves investing raw ability and talent into enterprises that can produce wealth. The process of creating wealth should involve the production and delivery of products and services that are valued by others. Contrast this with gambling. In gambling wealth is exchanged, depending on luck, instinct, and sometimes trickery, rather than being created.
So what should be a government's position and policy on wealth and the wealthy? Here are some of my thoughts based on this scripture.
  • It is not the government's job to guarantee wealth. Wealth is the provision of God not the government. The government should never establish themselves as the providers of the people. In a recent presidential debate, someone asked the presidential candidates what they would do to help them to "find a job?" The candidates should have responded by saying, "Nothing!" Wealth is our responsibility, to use what God has given us, not the governments.
  • Government should not attempt to equalize wealth. God does not guarantee that wealth will or should be equal, and neither should the government. Unfortunately, in my country, the income tax system had become largely a system for the redistribution of wealth. The rich are taxed and their wealth given to others in the form of various social programs. It is not the government's job to make equal what God has not.
  • Government should not attempt to neutralize personal responsibility in creating wealth. Programs like welfare and the minimum wage serve only to reward people with "wealth" with out regard to personal effort. Welfare provides income without, in many cases, requiring the recipient to work, or even seek work. The minimum wage provides a minimum level of income without regard to a person's work ethic, their productivity, or their value to their employer. In these cases, a person's income level is decided by the government and not by their God given abilities and the effectiveness to which they use them.
  • Government should not foster the gaining of wealth through gambling. As I stated above, gambling is a means to gain wealth that does not provide for the actual creation or production of wealth. Whether gambling should be allowed in the private sector is debatable, but I firmly believe that it is wrong, immoral, and improper for governments to sponsor and promote gambling. It may provide revenues to the government, but it promotes an activity that I believe is contrary to the scriptures.

David Robison

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Forgetting God: Dt 8:10-14

"When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you. Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." (Deuteronomy 8:10-14)
With all that the Israelites saw and experienced, all the miracles and provisions from the Lord, Moses felt it necessary to warn them not to forget God. How is it that, with all they had been through, they could forget God? Most of us who are believers cannot fathom forgetting God, yet many do. What Moses reminds the people is that, forgetting God is not about divorcing God from our thoughts but rather straying from His ways. Moses warned them not to forget God by "not keeping His commandments." When we depart from God's ways, we are in essence, forgetting God.

Jesus taught this same idea when He asked the people, "Why do you call Me, 'Lord , Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46) Jesus clearly linked knowing God with obeying God. If we confess we know God but fail to obey Him then we are, at best, deceived. Jeremiah also taught the same when He prophesied, "'Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?' Declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 22:15-16) When the children of Israel walked in God's ways, it went well with them and they were blessed. When they knew God it was expressed though their lives as they walked in His ways.

Today, let us not forget God by pursuing our own ways; seeking after our own interests and living by our own rules and morals. Let us purpose in our heart to live a life that is consistent with the one we know. Let us determine to be Christ-like, to live a life patterned after Him. In so doing, we will ensure that God is remembered in our hearts, soul, mind, and body. Let us today, remember Him.

David Robison

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Rushing towards the Promise: Dt 8:15-17

"He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. Otherwise, you may say in your heart, 'My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.'" (Deuteronomy 8:15-17)
Why does it seem to take so long to go from promise to fulfillment? The Bible is replete with stories of God making promises, only to wait years to bring them to fulfillment. Consider just three quick examples,
  1. God promises Abraham a son, but waits almost twenty five years to bring it to pass.
  2. God speaks to Joseph about the day that his brothers would bow down to him, yet the next dozen or so years were spent in slavery and imprisonment before he saw his brothers again.
  3. God reveals to Moses that he was to be the deliver of God's people, but he then spent forty years in the wilderness, in obscurity, before he faces the "burning bush".
In the above scripture from Deuteronomy, it had been forty years since the children of Israel left Egypt and they have yet to step foot into the Promised Land.

So why does God so often delay between promise and fulfillment? I believe, in part, that it is so that we will always remember who it was who promised and who it was who brought the promise to pass. We have seen it over and over, people who rise quickly to the top, only to be shipwrecked by their success. Sports and entertainment provide an abundance of examples of young people who quickly gain the spotlight; many receiving multi-million dollar contracts. However, for some, their success is also their undoing. They loose sight of where they came from and who they used to be. Even worse, they forget who it was that gave them the abilities and talents for which they are praised. Far too often, those who rise to the top without having to suffer the struggles along the way, fall prey to the same deception that Moses was warning the Israelites about, "My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth."

In my own life, I can now look back and see how the years past have prepared be for my present blessings. I don't know if I could properly have handled my many blessings if not for the challenges, tests, and lessons that have lead me to this place. This scripture should encourage us all to embrace and give thanks for the times of our testing and trials; for the times of obscurity. For I believe that the more time God spends on us in preparation, the greater His plan for our lives must be.

David Robison

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Why the wilderness: Dt 8:1-6

"You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him." (Deuteronomy 8:2-6)
For forty years, the children of Israel lived and wandered in the wilderness, yet these were not wasted years but rather years full of the purpose and promise of God. Their time in the wilderness was not merely a time of punishment for their lack of faith, but is was a time when God was preparing them for the promised land. It was a time of both trials and blessings. Certainly it was a time when God tested them and humbled them and even exposed them to hunger and thirst, but it was also a time when God supernaturally provided for them; their clothes did not wear out and He provided food and drink for them even in the middle of the desert. In the end, there were two key revelations that God was trying to teach His people.

Who am I: God humbled them "to know what was in your heart" and to know weather or not they had a heart to obey God. Is wasn't that God didn't know what was in their heart, but He wanted His people to know what was in their heart. Our wilderness experiences with God are meant to show us who we really are; who we are in the depths of our heart. When times are easy, it is easy to have faith and to follow God, but when hard times come, we are tested and we learn the true quality of both our faith and our obedience to God. Difficult times show us places in our lives where we must grow and where we must learn to trust and lean on God. Wilderness times help us avoid self deception and helps us to remain humble and to acknowledge our need and dependency on God.

Who is God: God desired that His people come to understand that their trials and blessings proceeded from the hand of a loving God. God was not treating them as a mere master or lord, but as a father. If God did not care for us He would either simply leave us alone of summarily destroy us, and in both He would be justified. But God was demonstrating Himself to His people as one who loved them; as a father loves his children. God's discipline and testing in our lives is evident that we are His children and that we are loved by Him. "But if you are without discipline , of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons." (Hebrews 12:8) Whether times of trial or times of blessing, we must learn to received them both as coming from the hand of our loving heavenly Father.

David Robison