Recently, a grassroots movement has sprung up called the Tea Party Movement. The Tea Partiers’ basic premise is smaller government, tax cuts, and less government spending. The Tea Party movement is in response to the Obama administration’s large spending bills, including the recent health care overhaul. Critics of the Tea Party movement say that the nation’s current economic crisis has necessitated government financial intervention. Both sides claim the other is propelling the nation to utter doom. Each side, however, does have one thing in common:
Tea Partiers say the nation should depend less on government and more on individual effort to solve the economic crisis. Those opposed to the Tea Partiers say the nation should depend on the government to solve the economic crisis. Either way, dependence is the key issue. And both sides’ thinking is flawed.
My political leanings are more Libertarian. I prefer much smaller federal government, thus allowing state and local governments to make more decisions that directly affect citizens–the whole “that government which governs closest governs best” thing. I’m also realistic. Deregulation looks great on paper, but in reality, individuals are greedy. A totally non-regulated stock market allows guys like Bernie Madoff to go crazy. Totally non-regulated business allows employers to exploit employees. But I also know (and this is a broad generalization) that anything the government tries to regulate or do is screwed up, requiring way too much money and rewarding incompetence, thus encouraging corruption. Depending upon government or ourselves for thriving and surviving is like putting a band-aid on cancer.
Enough politics. What does God say? Look at Psalm 146:3-7,
Do not trust in princes, in mortal man,
in whom there is no salvation.
His spirit departs, he returns to the earth;
in that very day his thoughts perish.
How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever,
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free.
Yes, in America we depend on our various levels of government for infrastructure, education, defense, etc. But for the salvation of our souls, there’s nothing we or any government agency could do. So how do we live out this tension?
In the words of Jesus, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Caesar (government) charges taxes. We have to pay them, like it or not. Yes, we’re fortunate enough to live in a country where we can protest taxes, but we still have to pay them at the end of the day (or April 15). Jesus says give it to them, and Peter builds on Jesus by saying we should give honor to government officials and give fear to God. Thus, we owe honor and taxes to Caesar but we owe our very lives–our dependence–to God.
In my book, The Jumbo Shrimp Gospel, I wrote how many Christians voted in the ’08 presidential election out of fear, and how Christians put more trust in politics than the gospel to bring about change. It must not be that way. We often forget the Bible authors often wrote under tyrannical regimes (Emporer Nero, for one), yet they didn’t depend on the government to turn the world upside down. They gave to Caesar what was due, but depended upon God for their very lives–both here and throughout eternity. We must do the same.
So who do you depend on? Really?