God and Money


English: Flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

English: Flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What happens when a theologian crosses paths with an economist? It sounds like a bad joke. But the question is pertinent, considering that a new book is on the horizon which combines clear theology with sound economic principles.

One of the benefits of attending ETS in Milwaukee was hearing Wayne Grudem defend this thesis: “God does not require or even authorize the state to redistribute wealth–except for a welfare safety net.”  Dr. Grudem offered the session as a preview to an upcoming book. He has already sent the manuscript to the publishers so watch for the book in 2013.

Grudem’s basic outline is so practical that it is difficult to see how anyone can miss the point, but, of course, our last election is Exhibit 1A in the evidence room against such practicality in economics. Grudem asserts first that the power of government is great and therefore exceptionally dangerous. The government bears the power of the sword and can coerce its will on its citizens.

Second, Grudem explains that the government is expected to fulfill several functions, but wealth distribution is not among them.  Punishing evil, promoting good order, and establishing justice (not fairness) is among the important tasks of government, while equalizing income and property have no place in government function.

Third, Grudem shows that the Bible expects private property ownership, not communal government property. Individuals are to own the land and thus possess the wealth of a nation. Governments must be held in check so that the “king” does not exact the wealth from his people.

Fourth, Grudem demonstrates how justice is concerned with a standard of righteousness–not with counting coins to make sure everyone has the same amount. The government should prevent crime and enforce contracts, but it should not take money from some to buy votes from others and thus to keep all in subjection.

Grudem’s work is timely (as always). The book should be a very helpful resource when it arrives. In the meantime, Grudem suggests a book by Jay Richards: Money, Greed, and God.

Why Uncle Sam Shouldn’t Play Santa


As a child, I believed in Santa. As my age rose into the higher single digits, I began to realize that something wasn’t adding up with the Santa Claus story. I don’t remember my age, but it was definitely before age 10, when I realized that Santa had some parental help. Here is how it happened.

I got a super sweet Daisy pellet gun on Christmas morning. That gun may have been my best present ever. More than 3 decades later,

1914 Santa Claus in japan

1914 Santa Claus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I still have it, and it still works. But on the package that Christmas morning, I noticed something which confirmed a suspicion I had long held: There was a West Brothers Dept. Store tag on the box, and it read $24.95. Either Santa Claus shopped at the same store as my parents, or my parents were really Santa.

I settled on the latter, simpler explanation and learned a lesson which has stuck with me to this day—a lesson which half the adults in America may not fully grasp: There are no free gifts. Somewhere behind the Santa charade someone has worked and earned the money needed for gifts to be given away. This is true under the Christmas tree, and it is true when monthly checks are distributed by the federal government.

Our system of government is currently corrupt and not very compassionate. It “feels” compassionate to double the welfare rolls and promise free medicine to all people, but it is not. True compassion comes from empowering people—not from enslaving them to a political voting block of government dependency.

Take, for example, the injunction of the Apostle Paul:

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

Paul was not some crass, big-wig Republican Wall Street type. He was a well-educated, but poor tentmaker because he gave away all his money and spent his time and energy working for the kingdom of God, working with his hands by day so he could preach by night and travel to the different churches he was planting.

In giving this injunction to force people to work, Paul was affirming a principle of freedom. God originally created human beings to exercise dominion over the earth, to cultivate the earth, to work the ground and receive the rewards of their labors. There is righteousness in working hard and reaping rewards. Equally, there is poverty and bondage if this natural order is not followed. Making people dependent on the government is the opposite of compassion: It is enslavement. It is bondage. And it is calculated to create a voting block—not to genuinely improve the human condition.

Consider the results of welfare programs in the black community: In the 1960’s, nearly 80% of black families in America were intact families, with both father and mother living at home. Today, 70% of black children in America are born into homes without a father. As a result, poverty has increased. Families have been broken and destroyed by the dependency culture that came about through the “War on Poverty,” which was a political scheme instituted by Lyndon Johnson to get blacks to vote Democrat. In that sense, LBJ’s scheme worked. Blacks do typically vote Democrat. But the results have been disastrous for the black community. (See Star Parker’s testimony below).

The truth is, freedom comes from expecting people to provide for their own families. Freedom comes from empowering people through opportunity to succeed. If someone is unwilling to work, that person should not be fed by the federal government. America was founded on this very principle, and our liberty has been dependent upon maintaining it.

This lesson was, in fact, one of the first lessons learned in the American experiment. In Jamestown, the early colonists had a communal system in which all people were given equal shares of food, irrespective of work performed. Captain John Smith was forced to enact the biblical principle mentioned above in order to increase the work ethic and, thus, provide the food and goods necessary to keep the people of Jamestown alive. Over time, William Bradford came along and instituted private property rights, which not only expected people to grow their own food but also taught them to enjoy the full reward of their labors by owning, improving, and increasing their property (and hence, their prosperity).  Smith and Bradford ended up succeeding because of instituting the real-world solution of work and its reward.

There is no such thing as free food. And gifts whether they are given by fat-cat politicians or by bearded men with big bellies—all the same—they cost someone his wages.  As it turns out, the Daisy pellet gun I got as a kid is worth far more to me now because I know how hard my parents worked to give it to me. It cost them money they didn’t have to throw away. It was a sacrifice of love and now is a greater gift to me than it was then.

But when the government “gives” money away to people who will not work, they are not giving sacrificially like my parents gave. They are giving to a voter who will, in turn, vote for them. In a word, they are buying votes by taking money from all working Americans to create a voting block of Americans who are getting the “free” benefits of other’s labors.

It is not a legitimate defense of this practice to claim that it represents the compassion of America. Compassion is the task of individuals, of churches, of non-profits. The government cannot legitimately take on the role of compassion because the government neither produces its own wealth nor receives it voluntarily.  The government takes wealth from others. It should be free to take wealth only to the extent that it needs funds for defense and infrastructure. When Uncle Sam becomes Santa, all Americans lose wealth, freedom, and prosperity. There is no compassion in government spending. None.

To summarize the point: My parents did show love and compassion when they worked hard, earned their own money, and spent it sacrificially to give a good gift to their son.  If my parents had strong-armed their neighbors, taken money from them, and agreed to pay the rent for their other neighbors in exchange for some service, then my parents would not have been compassionate. They would have been criminals. Vote-buying and dependency building is not compassion. It is criminal.