Change to Really Believe In
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Change to Really Believe In
A fascinated nation follows the 2016 U.S. presidential race with an intensity of interest virtually unprecedented in our lifetimes. Pundits and commentators have marveled at the level of emotion, anger and invective the race has produced, and which seems to intensify with each passing week. “The best reality show on TV” is an apt description.
Millions of Americans sense that this may be the most important presidential election in modern times. Despite looming threats from the Middle East and a resurgent Russia, economic and cultural issues take center stage, pushing foreign concerns to the sidelines.
Anger and frustration seem to be driving many voters, and yet more and more, Americans have wondered aloud, “Are these the best candidates the nation can find?”
Anger and frustration seem to be driving many voters, coloring perceptions of the issues and sending them into the arms of candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, seen by many as political outsiders. Observers have noted the backlash against what is perceived as the “Washington establishment,” with politicians concerned only with money and reelection.
More than seven years into the weakest economic recovery in decades, many voters think the economic cards are stacked against them. Rising national debt, student-loan debt and stagnant incomes fuel a growing frustration with a federal government many see as weak, ineffectual and controlled by special interests. Trump on the Republican side and Sanders on the Democratic have tapped into this discontent to the bewilderment of more traditional candidates like Jeb Bush (who dropped out of the race in early March) and Hillary Clinton.
With the backdrop of the still-recent housing slump of 2007-08, Sanders rails against Wall Street, pointing to “big business” and “big finance” as the culprits behind the nation’s economic woes. On the other end of the spectrum, Donald Trump points to large numbers of illegal immigrants and poor tax and trade policies of the Obama administration as the cause of millions of jobs being lost by hard-working Americans.
Both candidates have appealed to voter blocs seen as outside party establishments. Trump’s appeal to largely blue-collar voters stands in sharp contrast to Sanders’ overwhelming appeal to young, idealistic voters, many of them voting for the first time.
Polls show that Trump’s criticisms of Muslims and illegal Hispanic immigrants have earned him the scorn of most minority voters. He raised the ire of many Hispanics when Jorge Ramos, a reporter for Spanish-language Univision, was forcibly removed from a Trump rally as Ramos repeatedly questioned him on his stand towards Hispanics. The mass media have declared war on Trump while hoping that, as the likely nominee, his colorful rhetoric and actions will continue to produce top TV ratings.
More and more, Americans have wondered aloud, “Are these the best candidates the nation can find?”
Ancient Israel’s political problems
Israel, the central nation of the Bible, was ruled anciently by a series of judges who administered the laws God gave with varying degrees of success. But in a succession battle involving the sons of Samuel, the prophet whom God had established as His judge over Israel, the people let it be known they wanted change. Their “platform” called for a king like the nations around them, an army for protection, and greater interaction with the very nations God told them to avoid.
In response, Samuel told them what having a king would be like, what their political platform would bring:
“This is what the king who will rule over you will do. He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots . . . He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers” (1 Samuel 8:11-13, New International Version, 1984). Samuel went on to describe how a king would tax them heavily and confiscate private property to support an army and an administrative bureaucracy.
The comparison to modern America, where the government can easily tax up to 30 or more percent of income, is all too obvious. And yet American taxation is light compared to that of European and other nations.
Knowing the tendency of people to look at a candidate’s physical appearance and strength of personality, God allowed Israel to have a king who fit that bill. Through Samuel, God chose Saul, “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites” to be their first king—and it didn’t hurt that he also stood “a head taller” than his countrymen (1 Samuel 9:1-2, NIV, 1984).
But it was not long before Saul, perhaps filled with his own ego, turned from following the God who chose him. After a series of missteps and outright rejection of God’s law, he fell on his own sword after being badly wounded in battle.
His successor, David, was able to bring about a brief period of greatness and stability, which continued and grew under his son Solomon. But that period of wealth and power was not to last. The kingdom was split in two. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles detail the sad history of Israel and Judah under a succession of mostly evil kings who ruled in evil, power-hungry ways that eventually brought both nations to financial ruin and captivity.
Hundreds of years after a portion of the captives of Judah, now called Jews, returned from Persian captivity, Rome arose to dominate the nation of Israel. Although official Roman policy was to allow the Jewish people to keep and practice their religion, Roman-appointed administrators such as Herod and Pilate tended to rule with an iron fist.
By the time Jesus Christ came into the world, the Jews were yearning for a Messiah who would overthrow the hated Romans and return Israel to the greatness it enjoyed under David and Solomon. Again, the Israelites sought a strong leader who would rally the people and, they thought, solve their problems.
Human politics can never bring about utopia—only God can
We should ask, Can human beings bring about the peace and prosperity so universally desired yet so seldom achieved?
Your Bible—and history—shows that human beings, motivated by corrupted human nature, can never achieve a completely just, balanced and fair human government. The reason? Man does not know the way to peace, prosperity and security.
Through the prophet Isaiah God says, “The way of peace they have not known, and there is no justice in their ways” (Isaiah 59:8). The prophet Jeremiah had this to say: “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23, English Standard Version).
The apostle James laid the cause of war and conflict at the feet of human passions and hatred: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and . . . murder and covet and cannot obtain” (James 4:1-2).
The same can be said about economic policy. After experimenting with different economic systems for thousands of years of human history, have we finally gotten this right? Or are all human societies still marked by poverty, want and deprivation?
The answer should be obvious.
Yet your Bible speaks of a future time when all of these goals will finally be achieved—but not by the governments of men. The good news of the future world, the world beyond today, is that the goals of peace, prosperity, good health—all of which politicians and governments of men have been striving for all of human history to attain—will happen! But it will take the government of God to bring this about.
The government of God on earth will come with the return of Jesus Christ. This is the gospel or good news that few know about and even fewer believe. Space here does not permit a full discussion of this amazing truth, but we invite you to download or request our free study guide The Gospel of the Kingdom to learn more.
What, then, will God’s government look like? What kind of “platform” will it have?
Not another exercise in failed ideology
From various Scriptures we can see that the Kingdom of God will eradicate poverty, crime, war, disease epidemics and the other ills that plague mankind.
Some might equate concern for the poor with modern liberal thought and social welfare programs. The political left, represented in the United States by the Democratic Party, seeks economic equality through the means of wealth redistribution—which is actually theft by government, breaking the Eighth and Tenth of God’s Ten Commandments.
Liberal or progressive ideology calls for compassion to those less well off, but the programs put in place to achieve this often do more harm to the poor than good by making them dependent on government handouts and perpetuating poverty from one generation to the next.
Some contend that the Bible advocates socialism or even communism, pointing to a time when the early New Testament Church practiced sharing of food and goods for a short time.
This is a reference to Acts 2:40-45, the very beginning of God’s Church. The apostle Peter had just delivered his powerful Pentecost sermon, which resulted in 3,000 new converts to the Church on the first day. This passage tells us, “Now all who believed were together and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need” (Acts 2:44-45).
However, this was an unusual situation, with the Church under persecution and the many new converts from faraway lands wanting to stay in Jerusalem for a while to learn more about Jesus Christ and the truth. So to help provide for all of them through this circumstance, believers “had all things in common” for a time.
But lest we get the impression the Bible endorses the kind of socialist system advocated by Bernie Sanders, we must understand that this was a completely voluntary sharing of resources (see Acts 4:32; Acts 5:4)—not to be confused with a socialist or communist system wherein shared ownership is mandatory, amounting to government redistribution of private property, which again is theft according to God.
Again, this was a temporary circumstance. Such sharing took care of an immediate need. The record in Acts shows that this did not last long. Soon the Church was scattered and the gospel message was spread to surrounding areas (Acts 8:1; Acts 8:4). Thereafter we never see such a system practiced or referred to in the Bible.
God’s solution for the poverty problem
Will the eradication of poverty, a condition as old as mankind, ever be achieved? Yes, it will—when the entire world is living according to the revealed laws of God, which are based on loving God and loving one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:35-39). Certainly Jesus Christ showed compassion for the needy when on two recorded occasions He fed thousands who flocked to hear His message. Matthew 14:13-21 and Matthew 15:32-39 detail these occasions.
But poverty won’t be eliminated by forcibly taking income and property from those who have worked hard and produced and giving it to those who choose not to. It will be eliminated by teaching people how to live in ways that make them productive citizens, and also teaching them the laws of God that will bring abundant physical blessings.
In ancient Israel, God did not forget the poor of the land and in His laws made provision for them. For example, God provided a food supply for the poor to gather, telling landowners: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them to the poor” (Leviticus 19:9).
But this command for caring for the poor was a personal duty before God—not one that was policed by human government (though community censure would face those failing to do as they ought to). And it’s worth noting that the landowners weren’t taxed to have their income and property redistributed to the poor. Furthermore, the poor had to put forth the effort to gather the food for themselves. They couldn’t just go to a warehouse and claim it or have it delivered to them.
It was also widely understood that family members took care of other family members. And if a woman lost her husband, her children were responsible for taking her in and caring for her. We see this private responsibility stated in the New Testament as well (1 Timothy 5:8).
Also, each family owned land, and even if land was sold it reverted back to the original families every 50th year. This prevented not only the perpetual cycle of generations of poverty among the poor, but also prevented the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few super-rich families.
From these examples we would have to conclude that equality of economic opportunity and compassion for the poor will be major planks in God’s platform for a perfect world. And this will be in a right way, not the wrong approach of the modern political left.
God doesn’t oppose wealth
Helping those in poverty is often viewed as a hallmark of liberalism. But genuine concern for the poor seeks to alleviate their plight permanently through different means—by encouraging private charity and reducing wasteful human government programs and regulations to allow economic freedom leading to wealth creation and greater prosperity for all, including the poor.
As we read earlier, when ancient Israel wanted a king to be like the nations around them, God warned where this tendency toward looking to human leadership for solutions would lead—to ever-expanding government administrations, unnecessary and costly bureaucracies, loss of personal freedom and ever-growing expense (1 Samuel 8:4-18). How much this sounds like exactly what we see today in a country mired in trillions of dollars of debt from exploding government spending!
You may be surprised to learn that the Bible does not condemn wealth. In ancient times, Abraham, “the father of the faithful” (see Romans 4:11), became one of the wealthiest men of his time and place. Genesis 13:1 tells us Abraham “was very rich in livestock, silver and gold,” three measures of wealth still important in our modern world. The rest of Genesis chronicles how his son Isaac and grandson Jacob inherited and increased this wealth. Later in Israel’s history, God made Solomon one of the wealthiest men who ever lived.
Shortly before His death, Jesus Christ gave some final teachings to His disciples. In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, He compares Himself to a wealthy man who takes a trip to a distant country. Before he leaves, he apportions his goods to his workers (who in this parable represent His true followers), with the understanding that they will try to increase what they are given.
Those who received five talents and two talents (a talent was about 20 years’ average wages at the time) went out and through various business dealings managed to double their money. A third servant, who received only one talent, dug a hole in the ground and hid it.
What did the wealthy man do on his return? He praised the actions of the two servants who had doubled their money. But his reaction to the lack of return of the third servant was far different: “You wicked and lazy servant . . . You ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my return I would have received back my own with interest” (Matthew 25:26-27).
Jesus obviously did not condemn wealth or the legal acquisition of it. He did teach on several occasions, however, that wealth and the pursuit of wealth can be a snare that distracts us from the pursuit of righteousness. What this parable teaches is that we should exercise and build on our spiritual talents, skills and abilities, which to God is infinitely more important than our material wealth.
Still, those who are materially wealthy are in a better position to help others in need—through private charity, employing people and buying goods and services from those needing to sell them. And an attitude of thankfulness and sharing one’s material blessings ultimately serves everyone in society.
The Bible does make a case for a liberty-oriented economy—what we would today call true capitalism or, perhaps better put, private property and free exchange.
A plan for national greatness
What about national greatness? Is it wrong for a nation to want to be a leader among other nations?
God set up ancient Israel as His model nation. He intended Israel to be the shining example for other nations to emulate. Notice: “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8, emphasis added throughout).
Since the end of World War II, the United States has played a leadership role in the world. By no means has it played this role perfectly. America’s numerous foreign policy blunders and missteps are plain for all the world to see. But no nation has done more to preserve peace and stability in modern times than the United States.
God’s perfect government platform will again establish Israel as His model nation, a nation to demonstrate the benefits of His government and faithful obedience to His laws to all the nations.
God’s platform calls for universal peace and prosperity. Your Bible makes hundreds of references to that coming time of peace and prosperity unparalleled in human history, and gives us hints about this coming economy. It will value and preserve private property rights while providing peace of mind and true security: “Everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4).
Those privately owned farms will produce abundant harvests: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it” (Amos 9:13).
The platform of God’s perfect government will preserve the rights of those who work and profit to enjoy the fruits of their labors. But just as importantly, it will level the playing field so that everyone, not just the wealthy or those with the right connections, will have the opportunity to prosper.
Get involved in God’s platform!
Fundamentally, the platform of God’s perfect government is that of His perfect character of outflowing love for others (1 John 1:8; 1 John 1:16). This is expressed among human beings by obedience to God’s commandments (1 John 5:3), following true biblical morality.
Liberal ideology advocates that people follow their own private morality—provided that is in line with overall liberal ideology. This has resulted in an expulsion of God and His laws from governance. Thus liberal groups have long promoted gay marriage, abortion on demand and other sins against God. Such evils will not be allowed in God’s coming government.
Conservative liberty-oriented thought has historically promoted traditional Judeo-Christian morality, recognizing that it is in the long-term best interests of everyone. In fact, the official Republican platform expressly opposes the evils just mentioned. Yet many Republicans give only lip service to biblical morality, and a significant number of others have abandoned it altogether.
Furthermore, those who do espouse biblical morality are often quite removed in their thinking from many of the laws God requires in His Word. And even if some understood the truth of God, they would be quite incapable of turning the tide of this corrupt world and leading the populace into needed change.
As of now the Democratic and Republican fields have greatly narrowed. Both parties will hold their national conventions in late summer, which will produce each party’s nominees. Millions of Americans find themselves caught up in the frenzy of campaigning for their favorite candidates.
But seeing that neither party will bring the changes that are truly needed, should you not rather get involved with the campaign for the perfect government? You’ll find this campaign to be refreshingly different, with no need for its supporters to knock on doors, make phone calls, cheer at political rallies or make donations to political parties.
What it does call for is for you to get your life in line with its principles, as expressed in the law of God. It calls for you to reorient your life to living by the law that will govern the world of the future! And it involves standing with others doing the same.
Here is change to believe in! Be assured, no political campaign of man can be more fulfilling and rewarding!