The Reverend Mr. Watkins edits and publishes The Printed Preacher, a monthly gospel message, 303 North Third, Dayton, Washington 99328.
Whatever happened to shame? We have lived long enough to see people from all sectors of the population line up at the government trough to beg for tax dollars from the hands of self-serving politicians at all levels of “public service.” And they do it without shame! If you are not getting yours from some governmental bureau or agency, there are other agencies established to help you find a law or clause or loophole to open the cornucopia of limitless “bread” looted from the hapless taxpayers and funnel it right into your pocket.
In the little town where I live in rural America one of the forward-looking citizens came up with the idea of sprucing up Main Street, through which a lot of tourists pass during a year. Businesses were called upon to voluntarily fix up the fronts of their buildings with needed repairs and paint, soap and water. The idea caught on and people began to sign up as participants. But, not more than two weeks passed when one of the social- ist-minded localites discovered a federal bureau that is programmed to dispense funds for just such enterprises. Now several of the businessmen have decided to wait until the paper work for the anticipated largess has been cleared. This is only one example of many pipelines for tax dollars into our community, and it is typical of hundreds of thousands of raids on the treasury—without shame!
About 2500 years ago there lived a man named Ezra. Like a misplaced Vietnamese, he was an exile from his homeland, and he organized a pilgrimage of his people to return to the land from which they had been led away captive. Being a man of faith he said, “I proclaimed a fast, so that we humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions.” If Ezra had been our contemporary instead of occupying such a remote slot in history he would have found bureaucrats standing in line with financial aid, trucks, buses, ships, planes or whatever he might think he needed. In those days, as you can well imagine, the state patrol was not cruising the freeway at the beck and call of distressed pilgrims. They had to traverse hostile country to arrive at Jerusalem, their destination. There was some safety in numbers, of course, but without an organized army they were in jeopardy, especially in view of the large quantities of gold and silver they were transporting.
Ezra resisted what must have been a strong temptation to ask for a detachment of military support and protection. “I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The good hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his anger is against all who forsake him.’ So we petitioned our God about this and he answered our prayer” (Ezra 8:21-23).
All the peoples of that day were religious; most of them, including the Babylonians, the Medes and the Persians, worshiped idols. Even Artaxerxes, king of Persia, bowed to man-made gods and consulted astrologers in order to communicate with the metaphysical realm. But Ezra and his people worshiped a God who could not be seen with the physical eye, and for this reason they were at times called atheists by the idol worshipers.
Ezra claimed his God was the only real one and that all the rest were phony, and now he was going to get a chance to “put your money where your mouth is.” It was, then, with some fear and trembling that he led his people back to the land from which they had been exiled for 70 years. Having bragged about the faithfulness and power of Jehovah, he was ashamed to ask help from a heathen king, the most powerful in the world at that time.
Obviously, Ezra was a man of faith and integrity. He trusted God and prayed to him because he believed in him. The testimony of his forefathers and the prophets had impressed him so deeply that he was still a believer, even though he and his people were exiled captives in the hands of a heathen king. Furthermore, he was honest enough to admit that he couldn’t have it both ways. Either he would walk by faith all the way, or he would admit his God was not worthy of trust.
Ezra, come on back; we need you. Most of the “Christians” of our day pay lip service to God, but they petition the Government for just about every material thing. And they do it without shame. They ask for commodity foods, food stamps, tax breaks for churches and other nonprofit organizations. They go to government agencies for welfare, medicare, pensions, and so on. We have arrived at the point in time where the people of this nation whose coins bear the inscription, “In God we Trust,” have turned their backs on God and their faces to Government. The Government even publishes a virtual library of books detailing how every citizen may petition Big G for help of all kinds. Big G will tell you how to raise bees, make charcoal, buy a car, insulate your house (and pay you to do it!), save gas, raise a garden and can its produce, on and on. You may even subscribe to publications that tell you how to get more money out of your Government.
Government or God?
We as a people have petitioned our Government so long (nearly 50 years) it is really mockery to talk about our “faith in God.” As Government has grown in power and has come to dominate every facet of our lives, God has diminished in the hearts and minds of each of us. We can’t serve God and Government in the same way at the same time.
The sense of shame Ezra felt at the mere thought of petitioning the government of his time is what we need in Americans today, but shame is almost totally non-existent among us. In fact, the converse is true; millions of our people tend to think first of the Government whenever any need arises. “There must be some agency to dispense the funds we need for this project!” What are you planning to do? Build a bridge? Educate your child? Insulate your house? Pave your streets? Kill your mosquitoes? Vaccinate your hogs? The Government can do it for you! PTL (praise the Leader).
The conviction is growing in my heart that until Americans lose faith in “Almighty Government” and turn back to Almighty God, there is no hope for the survival of this republic. Faith in Government as the all-powerful one to whom all should pray is rank humanism, and the epitome of it is found in Soviet Russia, the “Peoples” Republic of China, and all the “peoples republics” of the world. Their “hearts belong to Daddy,” “Big Daddy Government,” and their minds are being conditioned to send all petitions in that direction. They become slaves, mind and body. They are schooled in scarcity and can only dream for fleeting moments of the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. As we turn all our responsibilities over to Government we develop a scarcity of everything but bureaucrats, who sit around like vultures grabbing whatever else we are allowed to produce. The next step, of course, is rationing.
Why are we in this sorry mess? Someone has rightly said we get the kind of government we deserve. Unless we can have a resurgence of men like Ezra, there will be no change for the better. We need a restoration of faith and integrity. We need to re- educate the conscience of the American people to the place where they can again experience shame instead of blatantly asking Government to rip off their neighbors on their behalf at the point of a gun. Queuing up at the Government pipeline is legalized stealing, regardless of the euphemistic title given it by the G-men. Federal aid is a transfusion from one arm to the other—through a leaky tube. Those who ask for it because it is legal are still immoral, and it should be stressed that legality and morality are not synonymous.
Because of Ezra’s faith and integrity he became involved in a tremendous reconstruction project. If it’s not too late, we too can become involved in the restoration of a glorious republic composed of responsible, free men and women who will be ashamed to petition the Government for any kind of financial help. But it takes faith and integrity now as much as it did 2500 years ago.