There are some interesting comparisons between the government of Jesus' day and our own Federal government. First century Jews were subjects of the Roman government, forced to pay taxes and obey the law, which basically consisted of not engaging in activities subversive to Rome. In return they were provided protection from invasion as if anyone would mess with Rome. There existed a layer between Rome and the people - the Jewish ruling class, consisting of the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees and the Roman puppet, King Herod, himself a Jew. This sounds complicated but it really wasn't. Herod and the Sanhedrin answered to Rome and were responsible for keeping the people in line. This was accomplished through a set of regulations which were basically religious laws emanating from scripture. Jews were accustomed to life under a foreign government as they had held that status for 600 years. Rome was adept at controlling people in conquered lands as they were the world power of the day. Jesus was not the first person crucified by Rome.
In America we are not subjects of a foreign government as our government is elected by the people. Like the Jews, we pay taxes and are subject to laws. Unlike Israel, however, much of the money paid to Washington is returned to the citizens in the form of entitlements and benefits. The government also provides for our protection but the biggest part of the budget is entitlements. Thus, in our great country the government, through its elected representatives, pays tribute to its citizens through benefits. There are strings attached as we lose some our freedom in exchange for what the government provides. We are reluctant, however, to do without the freebies. Elected officials who threaten to take them away will simply be voted out of office.
The Jews were captive in their own land but were for the most part free to go about their daily lives without interference from their rulers. They engaged in commerce, worked the land, tended their flocks, raised their families, cared for the sick and elderly and worshipped the one true God. They did not look to the government for assistance. They answered only to God through the appointed priests and spiritual leaders as they had done for thousands of years. Rome did not provide health care, welfare or retirement. Nor did they sit in judgment except in extreme cases, one of which involved Jesus and then only because He could not be put to death under Jewish law. So the Jews paid tribute to Rome and were left alone. Rome promised nothing as long as they received their due. But the Jews weren't free.
Conversely, our government pays tribute to its subjects through distribution of benefits. It seeks to control our lives through an expanding role in education, health care, regulation of businesses, speech and even worship. Our Federal bureaucracy has become a growth industry. The predictable result is that we depend more and more on government and less on God. Now that's freedom.
“It is a dagger that strikes at its very core when an individual recognizes that government dependency is akin to mental, emotional and spiritual slavery. Like a malignant cancer this form of dependency eats away the essence and value of the soul. It is worse than physical slavery because it enslaves the human will, necessary to fight for and win freedom.”- Burgess Owens, author and former NFL football player
From the Pastor
For those of us with email, we receive many messages – some informative, some funny, some satirical, some we delete without even opening. However, I received an email this week describing "The Silent Minute." I cannot take credit for this, as the author is Dr. Jim Denison, but we could begin to make a difference in our country if we were to put "The Silent Minute" back in our lives.
Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the challenges we face? What can we do?
The obvious answer is to pray. Scripture is clear: "You do not have, because you do not ask." (James 4:2) If we ask, it will be given to us (Matthew 7:7). John Wesley believed that "God will do nothing on earth except in answer to believing prayer."
But it’s easy to wonder if praying together actually changes the world. So consider this: During the dark days of WWII, British Major Wellesley Tudor Pole proposed what became known as the "Silent Minute." He suggested that people devote one minute each evening at 9 p.m. to praying for peace. Both King George VI and Prime Minister Winston Churchill supported the idea.
On Sunday, November 10, 1940, BBC radio began broadcasting the chiming of Big Ben as a signal for the Silent Minute to begin. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraged the Silent Minute, which spread across land and sea to battlefields, air raid shelters, and hospitals.
After the war, a British intelligence officer was interrogating a high Nazi official. He asked him why he thought Germany had been defeated. The official replied, "during the war, you had a secret weapon for which we could find no counter measure, which we did not understand, but it was powerful. It was associated with the striking of Big Ben each evening. I believe you called it the 'Silent Minute.'"
In 1994, a British group revived the Silent Minute. It has become a global movement, with more than 124 million daily participants. Each evening at 8 pm CST; 9 pm EST; 7 pm MST; and 6 pm PST, I will join millions of others in praying for our nation and the upcoming election. I invite you to join us, beginning tonight.
Theologian Max Lucado noted: "When we work, we work; but when we pray, Go< works." We can do no greater work than praying for the Almighty God to work.
Grace and Peace,