“Don't Make Government Your God!”

Categories: M. W. Bassford, Meditations

The recent pandemic has had many negative consequences, but on the positive side of the ledger, it has at least crippled, if not killed, the American myth of self-reliance.  For decades, the gospel in this country has been battling the delusion that I’m Just Fine On My Own.  Don’t need God, don’t need nobody, don’t need help for nuthin’!

Well, no.  The downfall of the most self-reliant person on the planet is never more than a catastrophe away.  Sometimes, the catastrophes are personal; at others, they involve the whole nation.  In the U.S., we’ve largely been spared the first-tier national kind since probably the Great Depression, which is more than long enough for the experience to fade from our collective memory.  As a result, millions have been allowed to indulge the fantasy that they can handle whatever comes their way.

No more.  You can nurture your small business for decades, guiding it through every foreseeable challenge with wisdom and skill, but when the governor shuts your doors for two months, it’s game over.  You can eat right, exercise, have yearly physicals, and confidently expect to get your four-score years due to strength, but if the wrong person coughs on you these days. . .

The changing times have left lots of folks feeling more than a little bit uneasy.  They recognize for the first time that they can’t make it on their own, that the struggle before them surely will overwhelm them.  For the first time, they find themselves turning to a higher power to protect their lives from harm.

I refer, of course, to the government.

It is striking how the news for the past couple of months has been dominated by the government.  It has been responsible for the first-order (“The virus is coming!  Shut everything down!”) and the second-order (“Everything’s shut down!  Throw lots of money at the problem!”) reactions to the pandemic.  Partisan bickering, though not silenced by the crisis (that would have been too much to hope for), has at least been focused on it.  Both parties are promising that if we do it their way, we’ll get through this thing with nothing more than a metaphorical hangnail.

However, trusting in the government, regardless of who is at the helm, doesn’t make any more sense than trusting in oneself.  The problem with self-reliance is that we all are fallible humans, but the government is made up of fallible humans, and it tends to magnify the frailties of those in power.  No matter who wins the next election, their response to the present distress will be expensive, short-sighted, poorly coordinated, and bedeviled by unintended consequences.  I’m no prophet, and neither was Dad, but you can take that one to the bank.

In short, don’t put your trust in princes.  Don’t set your hope on the government.  It will not protect you.  It will not make all right with your life or with the country.  It will not do for you what only God can do.  Indeed, history teaches us that the higher the aims of a government, the more catastrophic its failures will be.

The Christians of the first century were well familiar with crisis.  They faced persecution, disease, famine, natural disasters, civil war, and, as the crowning glory of the century, the destruction of Jerusalem and the overthrow of the Jewish nation.   They had no illusions about the government fixing things and making them better.  As 1 Timothy 2:2 reveals, their highest aspiration for the government was that it would leave them alone so they could worship.

Instead, they trusted in God and were not disappointed.  Through all of the above trials, they were more than conquerors through Him who loved them.   Government promises, but God performs.  If, in these troubled times, we want a kingdom that cannot be shaken, there’s only one place we can look.