Not Our Home

An old gospel song begins, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through.”  Perhaps now more than at any time in the history of the United States, Christians can see truth in this sentiment.

The growing disdain that society shows for biblical Christian beliefs and values shouldn’t surprise us, but it is sometimes overwhelming to observe the pace at which western society has rejected and marginalized traditional ideas.  The United States from its founding was profoundly influenced by Christian values, but in the last couple of decades that history has been denounced, marginalized, and swept away in academia, media, entertainment, and government.  Christians and Biblical ideas are now widely rejected and even hated.  Scripture warns us that believers will face such opposition.  In John 3:19-20, Jesus told His disciples, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”  Later, in John 15:18-21, Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”

Absolutes.  The concepts of objective authority and objective truth have been rejected, while personal autonomy and subjectivism rules the day.  Truth is seen as one’s own truth, what one might personally define as truth.  This is held only in a form, for certain ideas are held to be true because, in effect, the social elite say they are true.  Ideas are repeated as truth over and over until they are accepted as true.  Anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is one example of this.  Media has come to simply assume and state it as fact.  Anyone questioning it in any way is ridiculed and rejected.  Science supposedly proves it, and it must be accepted and not questioned, contrary evidence is never given credence, and anyone who doubts is dismissed.

Sexual expression and morality are central in this postmodern rejection of objective truth.  The freedom to fornicate is today’s most prized and cherished freedom.  At a recent Senate hearing to confirm a Supreme Court justice, the nominee was castigated by a Senator for using the term “sexual preference” rather than “sexual orientation.”  The assertion is that we must not question one’s rejection of traditional heterosexuality, it must be accepted that the individual has every right to be identified however they feel oriented and practice accordingly; we must not think of it as merely a choice.  At a recent televised event, Democrat candidate former Vice President Joe Biden offered his support for children to undergo gender transition.  Responding to a question from a mother of a supposed transgender child, Biden said, “The idea that an eight year-old child or a ten year-old child decides, ‘you know I decided, I want to be transgender, that’s what I think I’d like to be, it’d make my life a lot easier.’  There should be zero discrimination.”  This was a stunning statement.  Eight-year-old children often cannot make good decisions about picking their nose.  The idea that a child should be guided on a path to receive harmful hormones and later be physically mutilated is akin to offering a child on a pagan altar.

The ideas of Karl Marx are becoming widely accepted to the Left.  Marx as an atheist and a materialist rejected morality as irrelevant and contended that power is everything.  Postmoderns seem to agree, at least that morality is irrelevant and the quest for a socialist order is everything.  “My object is to dethrone God and destroy capitalism,” Marx wrote.  “Keep people from their history and they are easily controlled.”  Forget history, and of course ultimately forget God.

Secularism simply has no place for Christianity, at least in a biblical form.  Some within broad Christianity have imagined that Christianity can somehow be made acceptable to the postmoderns.  This is an error and a deception.  We will either need to embrace most aspects of their philosophy, which is completely antithetical to biblical teaching, or we will face their ridicule and anger.  It is becoming more obvious by the day that churches and believers who hold to Christ and His gospel are simply unacceptable in today’s environment.  This growing hostility takes many forms.

Churches and Christian institutions have been tax-exempt throughout American history.  It may be a matter of time before this is threatened.  In a piece published in “The Denver Post” on July 12, 2020, columnist Bruce DeBoskey wrote,

“In 2019, 29% of all U.S. giving, $128.17 billion, went to religious institutions. Those donations were tax-deductible, resulting in billions of dollars of lost federal and state tax revenue. Unlike nearly all other nonprofits, however, religious nonprofits are not required to file annual tax returns revealing how the donations were spent.  Those expenditures may include leaders’ salaries, benefits and other perks, property holdings, investments, sources of revenue and other facets of the nonprofit’s operation and management.  Although most of us believe that the majority of the 300,000 religious institutions in the U.S. follow the law and are doing good work in, and provide value to, their communities, there is no way to factually evaluate that claim.”

He continued,

“Moreover, in most cases, religious institutions are exempt from paying property taxes, depriving local governments of badly needed income to provide essential services such as public education, law enforcement, fire protection, etc.  Studies estimate that American churches own approximately $300 billion-$500 billion in untaxed property.  New York City alone loses nearly $627 million in annual property tax revenue because of exempted churches in the city.  The triple whammy of deductions for contributions, exemption from paying taxes, and no reporting requirements, leaves us all in the dark about why these organizations deserve such favorable tax treatment.”

When a church simply teaches the scripture authoritatively, there is obvious conflict with new social ideas regarding subjects like sexuality, marriage, and gender roles.  Insistence that marriage is solely to be between one man and one woman, and all sexual expression is to be confined to marriage is widely rejected in thought and in practice.  The Bible teaches male leadership in the church and in the home, hardly a popular idea today, and a biblical church must hold to that in practice and teach it.  The wrath of those who reject the teaching of scripture will inevitably lead to demands to end any favored status for such churches or institutions.

Internet censorship most obviously seen in the political sphere is sure to come against Christians and biblical ideas.  Breitbart recently noted that

“Wikipedia users are no longer allowed to include “user boxes” on their profile page that express opposition to gay marriage following a discussion where predominantly left-wing editors argued such a stance was “discriminatory” and against site policy. Most user boxes pre-dated a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage and were used by hundreds of editors. This included one expressing a personal view favoring traditional marriage, but advocating for states to decide.”

Beyond the internet, Christian broadcasters are likely to come under pressure.  The airwaves simply cannot be used to promulgate speech that offends.

Christians and Christian ministries are now often attacked with labels of hate and intolerance.  One far-left organization, the Southern Poverty Legal Center, claims to “monitor hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States and expose their activities to the public, the media and law enforcement.”  Some of these “hate groups” are well-known for their hateful rhetoric and actions, but others are Christian or nonprofit groups.  The conservative group Liberty Counsel has reported that many Christian or nonprofit groups have been categorized as “hate groups” by SPLC, given this label because each takes a biblical position on marriage.  Simply holding to biblical and historically Christian views, taken from the Bible, is enough to be called a “hate group.”  These groups don’t call for members to express hatred or commit violent acts; they simply hold to a set of beliefs that Christians, and most others in the Western world, have held to for centuries.  The Sunday service at a Bible-preaching church is essentially, to the far Left, a hate group rally, and the sermon “hate speech.”

The Gospel.  In 1 Peter 4:1-5 we read,

“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.  For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles – when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.  In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.  They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”

Ultimately, the real issue at the root of the conflict today is the Gospel.  Unbelievers do not want their sin exposed by the message of Christ and his Word.  They prefer to live in a society where their conduct is praised and accepted, rather than accept the truth that they are sinners in need of a Savior and creatures in rebellion against their Creator who need to turn from sin and turn to Him by grace and faith.  The Gospel is at the center of the church, the central theme of the Bible, the very center of Christian teaching.  The Gospel is Christianity; it is the message that the church has been commissioned to proclaim.  The message of the gospel is the good news of God for everyone who believes, but it starts with the bad news that we are all sinners and deserve the wrath of God, and that is a message people do not want to hear.  Throughout Scripture, God is shown to be a God of love and mercy, and many postmoderns are happy to accept this concept.  But He is likewise a God of holiness and justice, and people are less inclined to accept this.  He loves people, but he also calls all to repent of their sin.  Allowing people to remain lost in sin without warning them of the judgment to come is a disservice to them and an affront to God.

American believers are deeply patriotic.  We love our country, love our history, and are deeply appreciative of our prosperity and of our liberty, even as Christians face growing intolerance and hate from the culture.  We are becoming aliens and outcasts from society in our own beloved earthly country.  The last line of the first verse of that old gospel song reminds us, “And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

1 Peter 3:14-17 –  “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

John 14:2 – “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

A place prepared as our home. Our eternal home.

More Than 700,000 Served

The local suburban weekly newspaper featured the headline, “More Than 700,000 served.”  The opening paragraph noted that the local school district’s food program “will take a break for a week or two next month after a busy spring and summer.”  The accompanying photo caption began, “Cars line up at Northglenn High School July 17 to collect three days worth of meals,” and noted that the school district food service had been providing the meals to students and their families since schools in the area closed due to COVID-19.  The photo showed three late-model SUV’s lined up as they approached the tent to receive the hand-out meals.

“We went from giving out cold sandwiches in March, blended in April and May with hot entrees served daily and now we’ve gone to frozen meals they can finish at home,” said an administrator.  Later, the article noted that “Families line up drive-through style, picking up several meals per person–lunch for two days and breakfast on Mondays and Wednesdays.  They pick up more meals on Fridays, enough to get each student through the weekend.  They’ve even added a mobile option, with a bus leaving each high school headed to more remote areas.”

I was incensed.

A few months earlier, I had a similar reaction as local television featured similar stories, one showing busses heading out to hand out lunches, another a woman and her kids standing at the door of what appeared to be a comfortable home receiving meals.  I might have a different reaction if this were merely for several weeks during the virus shutdown, but that is not the case.  Months earlier, before the virus shutdown, the school district’s “mission creep” had included expansions of their feeding program.  Full-day kindergarten had been mandated by the state and introduced at the beginning of the school year.  Always more taxpayer-funded programs, always a bigger role for the government and the government schools.

The school district never seems to have enough funding, asking for more property taxes almost every election cycle.  Understanding that much or most of the funding for the massive food giveaway is from taxes the Federal government has taken, not just taxes from local property owners, one still must ask why government handouts have to be the source of food for every lower- and middle-economic class family.  When I was growing up, we were far from wealthy, but I took a sack lunch TO school every day.  I ate breakfast and dinner at home, and during the summer there was no school food program.  Dad, and later Dad and Mom went to work to provide for our needs.  They taught my brother and I by example how to be responsible, how to provide for our own needs, how to work and save.  Our children did not go to the government schools, but did not go hungry – my wife and I worked to provide for them.

Children resident in the United States should not go hungry.  America is an exceptional nation, divinely blessed with a favorable climate, almost limitless natural resources, millions of square miles of arable land, and an economic system unequalled in history.  We have the capability to produce far more food than we consume.  But what kind of lesson is being taught to children when the government and school district become their source of every basic need?  Why do productive people bother to work, send increasing amounts of their earnings to government, only to have government redistribute it to others purely at the whim of government?  If one wants more, just riot and demand more; this has become the understood message that is increasingly accepted.

Wealth is productivity – productivity brings wealth.  This is true of individuals, it is true of nations.  People cannot look to government as their source of material goods; it will ultimately bring poverty, loss of freedom, and ruin.  Individuals must use whatever opportunities and advantages that may be available to them and become productive.  The American system offers tremendous opportunity.  This concept has been lost; far too many with a sense of entitlement and aggrievement look to government to provide for their needs.  No need for personal responsibility, no need for marriage and family, no need to work and save, just demand more from government; this has become widely accepted in society.  That philosophy will bring ruin.

The Bible is filled with exhortations as to the responsibility to work, to be productive, to provide for one’s own needs and the needs of family.  Compassionate giving, sharing with those in need – absolutely; that is the spirit of Christianity.  But it is not at all compassionate to facilitate dependence on charity or on government.  It is ruinous – to the individual, and to the nation.

Wealth, Productivity, Riots, and Demands

The Bible has much to say about work, material wealth, and prosperity.  In the Ten Commandments, God clearly affirms personal property rights.  “Thou shalt not steal.”  “Thou shalt not covet.”  What is mine is mine and not yours; what is yours is yours and not mine.  We are reminded repeatedly in Scripture of the importance of hard work and personal industry.  Proverbs 14:23 tells us, “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”  Throughout Proverbs we read of the importance of personal responsibility, work, saving and investing, providing for family, and doing so honestly.  Colossians 3:23 tells us, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”  Elsewhere Paul reminds, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need (Ephesians 4:28).”

          

My father grew up in poverty.  He was born in a small town in Nebraska, the youngest of four children, and I don’t recall him talking about his childhood much.  His grandfather who homesteaded land in Nebraska was from a line of ethnic Germans who had lived in Russia and eventually migrated to the United States. My grandfather was an alcoholic; he didn’t want to farm and so sold whatever land he inherited, even as other relatives became successful farmers.  My grandmother had mental issues and likely suffered from schizophrenia.  Dad remembered that as a child he had picked up coal along railroad tracks to burn for heat at home, and his family had lost electric service on occasion for failure to pay the bill, and was even evicted a time or two.  Dad didn’t finish high school.

My mother wasn’t much better off.  She grew up on a small farm in the next county north, on land that her grandfather had homesteaded after the Civil War.  My parents met and married when Dad was working with a crew laying brick pavers in the streets of the town where Mom lived.  They married months after Mom finished high school, and Dad worked for a short while at an armaments plant leftover from the Second World War era.  The facility closed, and employment opportunities in the area were limited at best.  Dad’s sister and family had moved to an area just north of Denver, and with some promise of a job from my uncle, my parents moved to that area.  They secured a tiny rental home – better described as a “shack,’ of perhaps 500 square feet.  The hoped-for job didn’t materialize.  Dad got a job in a parking lot in downtown Denver behind a department store, where he worked when I was born.  He eventually secured a position working in a warehouse where he worked for more than two decades, even as physical maladies made it difficult for him to be on his feet all day on a warehouse floor.  The folks were able to buy a better house, all of 750 square feet, shortly after the birth of my brother.  It wasn’t much by today’s standards, but it was theirs.  Dad went to work – every day.  He lived within his means.  We never went hungry.  Mom stayed home with us when we were small, and eventually went to work for J.C. Penney for a number of years.  The family’s standard of living rose, and by the time of their deaths the folks owned their home and left an inheritance for my brother and me.  We sold the little house after Dad died.

My parents inherited – nothing.  They were handed – nothing.  Dad and my aunt paid on an insurance policy for years so that there would be money to bury my grandmother, who they had brought to Colorado.  When the area where they grew up offered limited opportunity, they moved to another area.  They never collected any government assistance.  They never received any charity.  “Welfare” and “food stamps” were epithets, terms of derision in our house when I was growing up.  They worked, saved, and lived within their means.  They married, before I was born, and remained married until death.  Starting from nothing, they provided a good life for themselves and for my brother and me.  They made lemonade out of the circumstance of lemons they had to work with.

A few months ago I participated in a memorial service for an elderly lady.  Her life story is fascinating.  She was born in Silesia, then at the southeast corner of Germany, shortly before the Second World War.  When the war ended, the area was annexed to Poland, and her family was given hours to simply vacate their house.  With only what they could carry, they eventually made it to the western zone of occupied Germany.  She met a young man coincidentally from her home region, who had been drafted into the German army.  They eventually married and came to the United States.  They became successful and raised a family.  They too made lemonade out of lemon circumstances.

A friend of my wife’s mother has a similar story.  A young girl when the war ended, her ethnic German family became refugees.  They came to the United States with nothing, but took advantage of opportunity.  This woman and her husband, also an ethnic German, raised a family and successfully operated a small business.

What are the common threads here?  Seeking opportunity and working to overcome circumstances.  Relocating to a place of greater opportunity when necessary.  Willingness to work.  Personal responsibility.  Marriage and fidelity to marriage and family.  These things produce success.  None of these people viewed themselves as victims.  They didn’t have time to grovel in their circumstances; they were too busy working.  I don’t have confidence that my Dad ever became a Christian, and don’t know that all of the others referenced here did either.  But the life pattern that they followed was rooted in Christian principles and brought them success.

I got a job the summer after my junior year in high school.  It did not require any great genius, but I merely had to get up early, go to work, and do my job.  I was able to return to the job, summers and on Saturdays, throughout the rest of my educational career when I was in-state and at home.  My brother also worked various jobs during his youth.  We both funded much of our own college expenses.  We developed a work ethic that enabled both of us to have successful careers.  Today, too often suburban males spend their adolescence “working with their thumbs” playing video games, watching their cellphones, or watching movies and sporting events.  I have observed that the landscape crew for my HOA is staffed by Spanish-speaking adults, likely Mexican or Central American nationals.  During my youth, those landscape crews were staffed by American high school or college-age youths.  A summer or two, my brother had a brutally hard job for a small concrete contractor, handling large panels assembling and disassembling forms for basement and foundation pours.  Today, those jobs are largely staffed by immigrants.  In many inner city areas, youth are both unemployed and unemployable.  They are too often the children of unmarried teenaged mothers who themselves were born to unmarried teenaged mothers and have no understanding of any sort of a work ethic.  They are easy recruits for those who would incite them to riot and destroy and demand more taxpayer benefits while never actually doing what it might take to secure employment and progressing to a better life.

          

Wealth comes from productivity.  Wealth is not created by governmental redistribution nor is it created by government fiat, by government creating money out of thin air to give away to perceived victims.  American prosperity comes from the fact that Americans are the most productive people on the planet.  The best form of government recognizes personal and property rights, fosters opportunity, and furthers productivity.  Our system of capitalism and free enterprise does that and has done it well.  But for significant portions of society, that work ethic has been lost..

Property rights are absolute and are key to developing personal prosperity and furthering prosperity in a society.  I have no right to destroy the property of others or to destroy community property.  Exodus 22 explains this principle under the Old Testament economy.  We all have a responsibility to work and provide for ourselves and our families.  My ancestors worked brutally hard – farming in the nineteenth and early twentieth century was no picnic.  My Dad performed manual labor.  My career has required me to perform not manual labor but intellectual tasks, and I have saved throughout my career and now have modest savings in various instruments that provide capital to companies that employ people and provide necessary goods and services. Scripture enjoins us to provide for our children, and to teach them a trade, or by extension in our era, to provide for education, to set a positive godly example, and if circumstances allow to provide capital for their use.

          

As Christians, we are above all called to use our means for the honor and glory of God.  We are to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.  Wealth is not to be hoarded, and we are not to find our satisfaction in amassing material wealth.  We are to give.  We are to consider ourselves as stewards of whatever we may possess and give of our resources in submission to the lordship of Christ.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.   (Matthew 6:25-33)”

Paul wrote of our proper attitude toward “things.”

Now godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world,  and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  (I Timothy 6:6-10)”