Friday, January 11, 2019 -
Overnight “J,” my cellmate, came down with a bad cold and is spending the day in his bunk, so I am trying to avoid the cell as best I can. So far, I’ve been blessed with few interruptions in the only place I can go in our unit to read, reflect, and write.
Herbert Schlossberg’s “Idols for Destruction,” first published in 1983, is an excellent treatise on our societal degradation, which has grown much worse today, in some areas more than others. It is eerily prophetic.
We love in a society where power has replaced justice as the principal order. The elite who capture and hold power do so at the expense of our system of government (Republic) and its citizenry.
This is reflected just in my economic sense by the graduated income tax, the dominance of pressure groups or constituencies in the political and economic process, entitlement programs, price and wage controls, the government’s ability to print money at will – thereby creating the illusion of prosperity, the ubiquity of debt in our culture, and a population that has become more pragmatic than moralistic when it comes to economics.
Our society is now in the midst of an age of envy, an evil that cannot be assuaged – like a dangerous tumor. In fact, as Schlossberg puts it, “materialism is the opium of the people.” And Christians are not exempt! Our government and politicians have been increasingly feeding this monster – no matter the political party in control. The deception is subtle and framed in a false morality. Today it has become so bad the Democratic party is promising Marxist-style redistribution of wealth – an idea being embraced by an alarming percentage of naïve Americans falling for the deceptive elite’s rhetoric and the god of mammon, or greed!
“Politics is a business,” writes Bryce Harlow, “the bottom line is not profit and loss, it's votes.” “As we see below the surface of the modern political-economic system,” writes Schlossberg, “it becomes clear that to associate redistribution with the doing of justice is a sham.” And too many Christians are falling for it in one form or another.
The only ones who benefit are the elite class. It completely contradicts God’s mandate in the Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:17) that we should covet nothing. “The principle that determines the actions of both of those who seek money and favors from the state and those who distribute them (the elite who control government) is self-interest.” That’s why only 20% of funds set aside for entitlement programs make it to the intended recipient! “Justice has little to do with the process, except to serve as a cover.” Schlossberg adds. I have long said that the church in America has usurped its role in society by abandoning its mandate to care for the poor, widows, and orphans, leaving it to the government. The severe consequences of a dependent society have become God’s judgment on a nation that has abandoned its role of Christian love and charity. The church today by and large is neglecting its responsibility although there are some great exceptions.
Paul called covetousness a form of idolatry (Col. 3:5; Eph. 5:5). The chief priests demanded Jesus be condemned because they were envious of Him (Mark 15:10). And, of all the wicked acts Paul lists of those to whom God has given up to their own lusts, the sin of envy comes directly before murder (Romans 1:29). Jesus said we cannot serve both God and mammon, because the two are rival loyalties and if you love one, the other will be despised (Matt. 6:24). We, as a church, as a nation, and as individuals, must repent of being preoccupied with wealth and material possessions, rather than being content in all things – trusting God fully.
To prove the point that the church is wrapped up in the god of materialism, the Billy Graham Center Institute and Lifeway Research recently polled Americans to find out what the main issue was that triggered the way they voted in the 2016 presidential election. Among evangelicals, the economy ranked first (17%) and healthcare second (11%) as their primary motivation, which could also be deemed an economic issue. Religious liberty (8%), the Supreme Court (7%), abortion (5%), and the candidate’s position on LGBTW “rights” (1%) were towards the bottom of the list. We in the church are perpetuating the culture of greed and envy in this country by our materialism.
In other words, the church is a major part of the reason our country is in such a mess. And in recent years, by allowing the elite class to get away with redistributive and regulatory mechanisms, they are not insisting on affecting every area of life, the elite being secure in the superiority of their “values, which suppress any notion of morality based upon Scripture. It is reflected in our laws, culture of death, lack of regard for the Constitution, the rejection of natural law, the entertainment industry, and in our courts.
The destructive, usually unanticipated (except for believers) side-effects are evident today, and predicted in II Timothy 3:1-4: “But realize this, that in the last days, difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good.” No description of our society could be more apt.
And such deterioration of moral living has permeated the church – and even its leadership. Divorce rates, addictions to pornography, materialism, lack of self-control, disobedience to parents, pride, love of pleasure, and entertainment, are all as prevalent in today’s churched as in those who do not attend church. Partial responsibility must fall upon church leaders who neglect to condemn those in the pews “holding to a form of godliness although they have denied its power” (II Timothy 3:5).
On a national scale, the implications of the church not being the “salt of the earth” are enormous. I believe because the church has lost its “saltiness” is the reason I sit here in prison today. Too often Christians set their minds on the flesh (self-love, materialism), not on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5). The result is death (Romans 8:6), and we are seeing this reflected in what once was a nation that feared God – the envy of the world.
The evil being touted as good by society reflects the persuasiveness of the self-love of those within the church, a church that has been influenced more by a permissive, greedy society than by God’s Word. The allowance of the church in the institutionalizing of envy on a national scale, under the false purview of “social justice,” began to open the door to other deceptions and perversion by Satan himself! “Greed has driven purposeful economic activity on the defensive and is replacing it with political power in order to get what it wants,” Schlossberg comments. And this is not limited anymore to economic greed. This “enlightenment mindset” of self-gods ushers in all sorts of evil. Our economy, both nationally, and individually by household, has become idolatrous. But we as believers are to be satisfied with becoming reconciled with God, not by acquiring wealth. The idolatry of mammon, as Schlossberg calls it, “are in fundamental disagreement with the warnings of Jesus that ‘a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15). The ethical injunction that has to accompany such a position is contentment; therefore, the apostle says that ‘if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content’ (I Timothy 6:8). And again, ‘Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have’ (Hebrew 13:5). That is why Marx called religion the opium of the people; he rightly saw that Christian faith is antithetical to the envy, the grasping for more, on which his revolution depends.
“What of those who reject that counsel? ‘But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction’ (I Timothy 6:9). People who are thus described naturally disagree, too, with the statement of Jesus that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35)…Idolatries of mammon are unanimous in the insistence that it is more blessed to receive than to give; their ethic, therefore, is one of taking. Political economies that follow them are inflationary and redistributive. They elevate respectable forms of stealing into principles of virtue, putting themselves in the position of those whom the prophet Isaiah denounced: ‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil’ (Isaiah 5:20). That is why it is not the worst elements of society that are the most dangerous but those whom society has judged most worthy of trust, just as in the Old Testament. The object of the prophets’ wrath were the princes, judges, and religious leaders.
“…Just as idolatries of mammon imitate the creation of value out of nothing by the policies of inflation, so they imitate the redemptive process with redistributive schemes.
“If we continue to worship them (the idols of mammon), the unrest and discontent that mark our society now are only a sample of the destruction that is to come.”
For us as Christians, it all comes down to rejecting the “ownership mentality” of the world. During the first year of our marriage, I was forced to listen to Larry Burkett’s teaching seminar, “Christian Financial Concepts,” in order to help promote it for its producer. At that point, we came to recognize that we as believers really don’t “own” anything. Everything God has blessed us with is a gift from Him, and He can remove it at any moment. It belongs to Him.
This totally changed Kathie and my perspective on everything in life. The subject of money and possessions is one of the most prevalent subjects in Scripture. We are merely caretakers, or stewards, of what God entrusts to us – not just material possessions, but our gifts, talents, and family. We are completely out of debt. We took to heart the proverb that says, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,’ when you have it with you” (Proverbs 3:27-28). Kathie and I truly learned, it is more blessed to give than receive, and you can’t out-give God. All of these Scriptural principles have proved true, even through this current ordeal which we face. God is in control, and we expect Him to do great and mighty things.
I urge you, whoever might be reading this journal, to examine yourself as to whether you have any idols of mammon in your life, to confess them, and to become a “giver” rather than a “getter.” Two ministries I’ve been very involved with I highly recommend that can help you do this effectively and efficiently are Advancing Native Missions and Mission India, both targeting truly unreached people groups.