Inherit the Earth (19)

The topic of wealth and poverty should not be discussed apart from a consideration of the law of God and its relationship to the covenants, for it is in God’s law that we find the Bible’s blueprint for economics. Biblical justice, Biblical law, and economic growth are intimately linked.  The crucial section of Scripture which explains this relationship is Deuteronomy 28.  There are external blessings for those societies that conform externally to the laws of God (vv. 1-14), and there are external curses for those societies that fail to conform externally to these laws (vv. 15-68)… God provides gifts: life and land.  He also provides a law-order which enables His people to expand their holdings of capital assets (the implements of production) and consumer goods.  But these assets are not held by men apart from the ethical terms of God’s covenant.  The temptation before man is the same as the temptation before Adam: to forget God and to substitute himself as God (Gen 3:5).  It is the assumption of all Satanic religion, the assumption of humanism, the sovereignty of man. God warned the Israelites against this sin — the sin of presuming their own autonomy.[1]

It looks as if the Church will have to be brought, kicking and screaming, back to obedience to the law of God. God’s people have been in rebellion against His law since the time of Moses, and as the Bible says, “…there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc.1:9).

This mightn’t happen in my lifetime, or for a long time. I can’t make it happen. But I can play a role in challenging Christians and the Church to get back to God’s law, as a crucial aspect of our faithfulness to God. I believe it is and always will be a crucial aspect of Christian relevance in the community. The further we have drifted away from the law of God, the more irrelevant we have become, and the less respect the world has for us.

God’s law, coupled with our obedience to it, grants us great courage. But when God’s people abandon His law, they become objects of contempt for their enemies. Whenever we turn from obedience and courage to disobedience and fear, everything changes.

Think of Israel’s twelve spies. When they returned from spying out the land, ten of them were unbelieving and disobedient. They said “the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and …we are not able to go up against this people, for they are too strong for us” (Num.13:28, 31). They then said, “we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (v.33).

When Jonathan (I Sam.14) and David obeyed God in their respective confrontations with the Philistines, including Goliath (I Sam.17), where was Saul? Afraid and unable to act. (See I Sam.13:7; 14:1; 17:11). That is precisely what happens when you walk away from obedience to God’s law. You lose the confidence to act fearlessly.

Fast forward to the twentieth century. Speaking of the German Protestants, Hitler said to one of his aides, “you can do anything you want with them. They will submit…they are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them.”[2] Having abandoned God’s law, in what state was the German Church? Docile, weak and easily manipulated.

But it wasn’t always this way in Germany under Hitler. Some Germans were different. The Nazis were determined to gas to death disabled people: babies, older children and adults. The evil plan came to the notice of the Catholic Bishop of Munster, Clemens von Galen. In a pastoral letter, read out in many churches in August 1941, he declared (among other things),

We are dealing with human beings, our brothers and sisters. With poor people, sick people, if you like unproductive people. But have they for that reason forfeited the right to life?…

Woe to mankind, woe to our German nation if God’s Holy Commandment “Thou Shalt not Kill,” which God proclaimed on Mount Sinai amidst thunder and lightning, which God our Creator inscribed in the conscience of mankind from the very beginning, is not only broken, but if this transgression is actually tolerated and permitted to go unpunished.

What was the consequence of this? “The sermon sent a shockwave through the Nazi leadership all the way up to Hitler.” For fear of a national reaction, Hitler suspended the gassing plan, which had already accounted for nearly a hundred thousand deaths. The program quietly continued, but without the widespread gassings.[3]

What will it be that makes people change, and reconsider God’s law?

Lots of pain, much of it economic. And rest assured, pain is coming. When people are hungry and hurting financially, they think, “I want out of this. How can I do it?” The gospel (which includes the law of God) has the answers for them, including real and lasting hope, both in this life, and for eternity. And this is what we must be faithful to communicate.

You want to see the Church suddenly become the most relevant, powerful institution in the world, proclaiming the truth in all areas, including economics? I most certainly do. It may be as simple as this: going back to proclaiming and demonstrating that God’s law is the only legitimate foundation of every society. We may suddenly find the world willing to be the inheritance of Jesus Christ, as He promised it would.

Moses gave to Joshua a command: be courageous. This meant that Joshua must move forward, not being deflected by concerns about what was going on at his right or his left. The same is true of our adherence to God’s law. If we stick to God’s revealed pathway, veering neither to the right nor the left, we shall be victorious. God will stand with us for His own glory, delivering His enemies into our hands.[4]

[1] Gary North, “Free Market Capitalism,” Appendix E, “Inheritance and Dominion,” 1999.

[2] Quoted in William Shirer, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” 1968, p.329.

[3] Quoted by Babette Francis, ‘Blessed Cardinal Clemens von Galen-the pro-life Lion of Munster,’ “Endeavour Forum,” October 2011, p.8.

[4] Gary North, “Inheritance and Dominion,” 1999, ch.71.