Saturday, July 4, 2009

Governmental Salvation

We have all heard the phrase “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” We have probably laughed at it, knowing that the person quoting it is often being sarcastic. But the phrase today has been modified, in dead earnestness, to be rephrased “I’m from the government and I’m here to save you.” There appear to be many in government who view government as the salvation of mankind. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi once responded to a question asked her with the retort “I’m trying to save the planet!”. Her statement illustrates how easily this viewpoint is affirmed among Washington politicians. There are also many in our country who look first to government to solve their problems. Unfortunately, our leaders don’t attempt to dissuade people from believing this. There is a belief in Washington as well as in state governments across the country that whether its healthcare, the financial crisis, the mortgage crises, corporate failures, climate change, or whatever new crisis that rises up, government will save us. In each case, government is portrayed as our savior. Government seeks to provide our security and take care of all our problems. As religion is pushed more and more out of the public square, government is poised to become the new god whom we are all expected to worship. Many citizens hold the same view. The journalist, Evan Thomas, recently stated on Hardball "In a way Obama’s standing above the country, above – above the world, he’s sort of God."

But God will never play second fiddle to anyone. He will never allow any government or individual to usurp his place as creator and sustainer of the universe. King Nebuchadnezzer found this out while walking in his garden, and he become insane. Throughout history men and women have found out, to their chagrin, that God is bigger than they are. God is not one to be trifled with.

Today, we find ourselves living in a world very similar to that of the ancient Israelites who lived in Jeremiah’s time. Like we do, they lived in a tumultuous world. Facing the global and military economies of their day, they sought the favor of the Assyrian, Babylonian and Egyptian gods in their futile attempts to find security. They courted governmental alliances in order to have economic protection. Ultimately their attempts failed. They didn’t work for them anymore than they will for us. Ultimate security can never be found in men or government. They will always fail. We are already seeing this in the automotive bailouts that failed, ending in bankruptcy. Ultimate security can only be found in God. As Philip Yancy recently wrote in an essay in Christianity Today, “Christ exposed as false gods the very powers in which men and women take most pride and invest most hope.” Yet even with all of the lessons to the contrary throughout history, we still have a tendency to look to government to save us. But we will always find that governmental salvation is illusory.

The attempts of government to save us will always fail because societal ills come from the heart. Governments cannot deal with the heart, only God can. Governments can pass laws that we are expected to follow, but they will not change our inner motivation. Only God can change the heart. Only God can lead us to repent and truly change.

Our attempts to find security through governmental programs will fail because they are misplaced. We will eventually find that the governmental emperor has no clothes. We will eventually realize that it really has nothing to offer us. In the meantime, who are you looking at to save you, God or government?

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