by Micah Lovell
This is an excerpt of a larger article about the government’s role in prosperity to be released later in the coming weeks.
Just as we observed last week, governments are established by God and exist for the good of the governed. Though there may be several areas where you feel God ordains governments to get involved, we will examine only three core principles. Last week we saw the government has a responsibility in administering justice.. Later on we will examine the role the government has in the prospect of peace. Today our topic is discovering the role of government in prosperity.
The Bible has a lot to say about money. Jesus talks more about money than any other subject. There are over 2000 verses in the Bible that talk about money. If you’ve heard any or all of this you are not alone. If you’ve heard any of this from the pulpit, you’re probably still in the majority. If you’ve heard this from someone whose financial advice you trust, you’re probably all by yourself. This is because you’ll usually hear this statement from someone who wishes to tell you that God really, really cares about you and your money and he wants you to give it to them.
It wouldn’t be surprising if you’ve heard from your pulpit that God wants you to be rich, that he wants you to be successful and that if you just ask him, he’ll fill your bank account. Or perhaps you’ve heard that God wants you to sell all your possessions and give it to the poor, that the love of money is the root of all evil or that you cannot serve both God and Mammon.
The trouble with all of these disjointed statements is that, though some of them might be true, none of them alone gives us the essence of the biblical perspective on money, prosperity, taxation and financial responsibility either to our families, our governments or otherwise.
The greatest confusion within the relationship between prosperity, the church, and government intervention is due to the fact that the church has dropped the ball on teaching the biblical principles of handling finances, and it’s done an even worse job of doing the things that it was commanded to do in the first place – the task that our government has now taken upon itself to do: caring for the poor, the weak and the down-trodden. Not only have we in the church neglected our own responsibility, we are willing to let the government take from our earnings and determine how best to go about caring for us in the way that it sees fit. We’ve left it to them – in fact assigned to them – the task of telling us what to do with the money we earn. To make matters worse, we’ve increasingly lorded over the other aspects of our lives into their hands, telling them that they can accomplish more than we can ourselves and letting them guide us through the funds in our own checkbooks.
Perhaps the worst aspect of this whole ordeal is that it’s becoming increasingly more popular to accept government intervention as necessary and proper. It’s not just that we are more apathetic to it than ever before (though we are) nor is it a matter of our willingness to accept government assistance on the basis of need (though the costs of life have risen but the value has not, leading us to think government control is how we get by in life). The worst aspect of government intervention in our everyday lives is that many now believe that it is good for the the government to get involved as it does, or even worse yet, that it is biblically sound.
You may claim that it’s much simpler for the government to collect taxes and use it to take care of the poor than it is to make sure individuals do it themselves. You may not claim that God commands us or our government to do such things. Yes, he does command a rich young ruler to sell all he has in Luke 18 because the ruler has made personal wealth his identity and his god. But in the very next chapter, when the corrupt tax collector Zacchaeus finds his own identity in Christ, he gives away half of his goods all by himself and he makes amends for those whom he has defrauded – no government intervention required. God may command you personally to do something like give away the excess of your wealth, but he does not command everyone to do so, and he doesn’t command the governing authorities to do it through excessive taxation either.
If we believe what the Bible says (and what it doesn’t say) about finances, we should be vehemently opposed to excessive taxation, not so we will have more money to spend for ourselves, but because God does not give our government the right to take it and use it for its own ends. And though we’ve progressively given them more and more control over our lives and finances, the government’s ability to distribute wealth has not improved the numbers of financially responsible people nor has it shrunk the number of poor people in our country. More than ever, our government has proven itself to be ineffective in righting all of the problems of society – in fact, it more often makes things worse (see the mortgage and credit crisis in recent days). Governments do not enhance the prosperity of all of its citizens by extracting tax dollars from their paychecks.
There are so many of Jesus principles that have been misapplied by the Social Gospel and the Prosperity Gospel. The reality is that God probably doesn’t want you to be rich nor to give all your money to the poor. This is because he wants you to be responsible with the talents and abilities and finances he’s given to you. He also wants you to be responsible to obey his Word and care for the poor and down-trodden within your own family, within your local church, and within your community. The biblical perspective on prosperity is one that is rooted in personal responsibility, not in income equality.