You can have an economy without a government, but you cannot have a government without an economy. The economy is more basic than government as it is built on basic human transactions, trading and interchange. This is what binds people together into communities.
The majority of all communication today is about some form of trade or business. After family ties, business is the strongest human link. For this reason, understanding the economy is essential to understanding a nation—if that nation’s economy has been allowed to grow organically and has not had Marxism or other forms of economic tyranny imposed on it.
It is noteworthy that the two pillars in the temple of Solomon were named after a priest and a businessman (see I Kings 7:21—Jachin was a priest and Boaz a businessman). As the temple was God’s dwelling place, this speaks of how God wants to be present in our daily business and our daily transactions with others, not just when we gather to worship Him in services. Who we are is not determined by how we behave on Sunday, rather by how we behave Monday through Saturday. Our basic character can be revealed more through how we do business than how we attend church services.
We know from their writings that The Founders sought The Lord for wisdom on how to structure our government, but not so much about the economy. Why? They sought to establish a government that was limited to protecting the people’s liberty. As long as we remained a godly, moral people, we would build a godly, moral economy. This has proven accurate. Corruption comes when we drift from The Lord, and purity comes back when we return to Him, just as we see repeated in the history of Israel in Scripture.
Freedom works many times better than control for releasing initiative and innovation in an economy. Even so, we must have a higher vision for our economy than just being prosperous. We must have a devotion to do what is right and just if we are to be a partner with God, as the foundation of His throne is righteousness and justice (see Psalm 89:14).
Even in the most godly, moral society there will be some who deviate. Because both the media reporting current events and historians reporting past ones give the most attention to the extremes rather than the norm, history covers the extremes and not the normal. For this reason, we get a distorted picture of the times even from the most honest reporters or historians. They may be reporting the extremes accurately, but the extremes are not the overall reality of the times.
For example, we can read any history of the American Civil War and it will be mostly about the battles, with maybe a little about the politics of the time. Consider that less than 2% of the time during this period was spent in battles, and less than 2% of the population was engaged in them. So, what was “normal” life like the other 98% of the time and for the other 98% of the people? No one covered that. Who would read it?
To have an accurate picture of history, we must not judge people or the times by their most extreme elements. Certainly those can have a major impact on the times, but this tendency to judge others and events by their extreme elements is the source of some of the most destructive deception and division in the world today.
Consider how the political right tends to look at the most extreme on the left and think that all who are on the left are like the extremes. The left does the same thing to the right. Non-Christians do it to Christians, and Christians can do it to non-Christians. This is what The Bible calls “seeing in part,” and “knowing in part.” This causes people to make vast, sweeping judgments of others using only partial information, and such judgments are almost always wrong. If allowed to persist, those extreme perceptions can cause terrible fracturing of a society.
This being understood, the economy is a barometer that tends to reflect accurately how effective and just a government and a people are. Governments that establish justice and provide a level and fair playing field for business, as well as protect the liberty that encourages initiative and innovation, have been the most successful in stewarding prosperity for their people. As we can see repeated in history, when excessive control is imposed on the economy, it results in increasing control over the people until there is ultimate tyranny. The first indications that this is happening will be an economic slowdown. Economic freedom is crucial to basic freedom.
People were created to be free, but freedom must be connected to purpose to be enduring. The early American colonists came with a purpose that was greater than finding gold or creating a free market. They viewed themselves as being on a divine mission to build a place that would reflect the nature and kingdom of God. This was not true of everyone, but it was for most.
This vision was stoked into a much greater fire by the Great Awakening. This was a movement like the world had not seen since the birth of Christianity. Because of this Awakening, Christianity in the colonies became very different than had been experienced by the European nations. To this day, Europeans do not seem able to comprehend American Christianity because it is so different from their own experience with Christianity, which was dominated by very controlling institutions.
The Great Awakening was not birthed out of any denomination, and it united almost all churches in a special fellowship. This is a liberty of The Spirit that produces a fellowship that once experienced makes it hard to settle for anything less. The division among Christians has come mostly through leadership that starts to seek control more than maintaining the liberty of The Spirit. When this control is cast off, Christians tend to draw closer to God and one another because this is the true work of The Spirit.
This experience of liberty and the fellowship it made possible was a main factor that made the ultimate independence of the colonies inevitable. The colonists had learned to discern between the control spirit and the liberty of The Spirit, and they would rather die than surrender that liberty. One of the “straws that broke the camel’s back” that led to the Revolution was when King George III started revoking the religious liberty of the colonists by declaring that all preachers in the colonies had to be licensed by the Church of England.
Religious liberty is again under assault in America, and at the same time a third Great Awakening is beginning. The same strains that brought about the first American Revolution and the Civil War are building in America again. We are again being forced to choose between control and liberty. This is not just happening in America, but the whole world now seems to be entering the same “Valley of Decision.” What will we decide?
Joseph Stalin is attributed as saying, “America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism, its morality, and its spiritual life. If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within.” He was right, but the reverse of this is also true. If we strengthen these three things, we will have a cord of three strands so strong that we will never be broken.
Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation. Charles Finney, The Decay of Conscience (1873)
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