What Would Jesus Do About the Size of Human Government?
Rev. John C. Rankin (August 10, 2011)
Jesus prophetically calls for the size of human government to be cut drastically. Now, the question is whether my interpretation holds water. I welcome all comers who wish to challenge it.
It is an easy thing to press Jesus into service to our own political agendas. We see this often enough as the last refuge of political scoundrels who get desperate when their top-down government agendas cannot be justified. They use the now cliché question, What would Jesus do?, apart from a biblical grasp of who Jesus actually is. But for disciples of Jesus, it is always first the Gospel, and only then, politics. Anything else is idolatry, and in particular, the idolatry of human government where the motivation is to acquire power over others.
This also requires knowing the whole storyline of the Bible. Thus, a little biblical literacy is needful before anyone can claim to know what Jesus would do in any context, here summed up in ten observations:
First, the Bible is interpreted through the lens of Genesis 1-3 where we find the teachings of creation, sin and redemption. “Sin” is a descriptive word for broken trust, and “redemption” means to buy back out of slavery.
Second, unmitigated goodness is located in the order of creation, and the Bible is structured through a series of “covenants” where Yahweh keeps his good promises.
Third, the first covenant for man and woman was that of freedom, where the Hebrew text in Genesis 2 speaks of the metaphor of continual feasting as the nature of freedom. We have unlimited good choices so long as we do not eat poison and continually die (to continue the metaphor).
Fourth, here in the initial reality, good and evil also find definition – to create is good, to destroy is evil; life is good, death is evil; freedom is good, slavery is evil. Also, freedom is only free to do the good; to do evil is to be a slave to it, and thus freedom becomes forfeit.
Fifth, following the broken trust exercised by the first man and woman in Genesis 3, this covenant was shattered, and slavery to such broken trust followed. Thus Yahweh initiated a series of covenants to restore such freedom, all fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah.
Sixth, the Law of Moses was the covenant given to protect the Israelites from the pagan practices of sorcery, sacred prostitution and child sacrifice, so as to protect the lineage of the coming Messiah.
Seventh, this law, under Yahweh as King, was enforced through local judges. These were men (or a woman in the case of Deborah) who were: a) local members of one of the 12 tribes of Israel; 2) each tribe had its own land that was to be inviolable across the ages; 3) the judges periodically traversed all the tribes to rule according to the Law of Moses under King Yahweh; 4) there was no national capitol; 5) there was no national shrine (the Ark of the Covenant was mobile and not a shrine in this sense); 6) there were no national taxes for a political regime (only the tithe for the priests and Levites in service to the Ark); and 7) the lives, liberties of properties of the Israelites were thus protected from political despots. Such freedom was the birthright of Israel, as stated before the giving of the Ten Commandments: “I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
But eighth, in the days of the last judge, Samuel, the Israelites wanted a human king just like the pagan nations, an idol they could touch. So Yahweh gave them their wish, King Saul – even as Samuel promised that Saul would enslave them and institute a national tax accordingly. As the kingship grew, even in spite of King David’s devotion to Yahweh, the government of Israel led to a national capitol, and though the temple of Solomon was set up for true worship, it became a national shrine that led to the destruction of Israel and Judah, and in the waning days, sorcery, sacred prostitution and child sacrifice became rampant.
Ninth, the United States is a pluralistic nation founded on the biblical ethics of unalienable rights for all people equally (life, liberty and property, in legal terms), and where there are checks and balances on power. The parallels to the 12 tribes of Israel under the judges are remarkable, where we are constituted to be a federation of states, and not a national top-down and ever expanding government.
And tenth, Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses in his own person, redeeming the original promises of the biblical order of creation. Thus, what would Jesus do about the size of human government? He would maximize individual freedom within healthy communities, and cut out all unaccountable and despotic authority. This by itself would hugely cut the size of government, impacting all sycophantic and forced dependency realities. Freedom and economic prosperity would explode.