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Covetousness as national policy

It dismays me how often I hear Christians appealing to covetousness as a basis for laws and regulations. How often have you gotten email forwards appealing to you to try to punish gasoline companies for high prices? Usually these emails propose some kind of boycotting scheme which honestly is not rooted in rational economic thought -- the proposed plan would usually alter but not diminish demand for gasoline, and so prices would not be affected. Or how often do you hear people, often Christians, complaining about Wal-Mart or other large companies, basically for having too much money, for being too successful?

All of these appeals have their base in covetousness -- wanting that which is not ours, and being upset that somebody has something which we do not. With these attitudes, we are prey for politicians who want to expand government power in our name, at the expense of the economic prosperity of our nation, our neighbors, and ourselves, and as well as at the expense of doing what is right and Godly.

God's word couldn't be more clear about covetousness. "Thou shalt not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Exodus 20:17). "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, and you shall not desire anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Deuteronomy 5:21). "I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be covetous" (I Corinthians 5:11 -- wow!). "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: covetousness, which is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5). I encourage you to go look for the word "covetousness" in your New Testament yourself, because there are some other very shocking and damning things God has to say about it.

In the Old Testament, covetousness was not to be used as the basis of policy, or as the basis for the decisions of the judges. We're encouraged today to try to use the sword of the government as a weapon to make those who have (we're led to believe that they have because they stole ... this may sometimes be the case, but usually if they did steal it was government doing the stealing for them) share with those who have not (often they have not because government stole from them, too ... or because government stole from those who would've employed them, or made laws against trading with them). While we are supposed to be compassionate to the poor with our own money, we are not to violate the principles of justice and private property to do it. "You shall not follow a multitude in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute." (Exodus 23:2-3) God anticipated this urge to favor the poor and steal from the rich to "help." This is prohibited. If you want to help the poor, do so with what God has given you and use the power of the Gospel to preach that others should do the same.

Finally, check out Acts 5:4. This is the case of somebody who had property that could've been used to help the poor. Acts 5:4 teaches us God's inviolable principle of private property: "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?" You'll want to read the context of this yourself in order to fully understand the story. The church didn't get to vote on making members sell property and give to the poor. The church didn't get to use the government to get around this restriction, either.

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