I think we should pay attention to the Occupy Wall Street protests.
If you’ve been watching the news reports of these protests, you know that their demands are all over the map, and few people are taking them seriously. That is a mistake.
These protestors are being dismissed, chided and mocked by political conservatives. A very popular financial advisor challenged them to get a job and get rich in order to join the ranks of those they are protesting against… as if getting rich will make greed decrease. Really?
I think all of this is the wrong approach.
Their choice of government over God reveals a dangerous fissure growing in our nation. And Christians need to respond appropriately.
A broad demographic but relatively small base of our population is in the streets chanting in favor of placing government in control of matters that have historically been dealt with in the realm of personal responsibility based upon a strong adherence to Judeo Christian values. Who would have ever thought that in the land of the brave and the home of the free, with nearly 75% of the population identifying themselves as Christians, citizens would rally in favor of an agenda so flawed.
I’ve been taking note of the reasons given for the protests, and I think they boil down to three general complaints. Let’s look at each issue in turn.
First, they are bothered by greed. According to the demands of the protestors, the greedy corporations and individuals (the so-called “1 percenters”) need to give more of their wealth in taxes to fund government programs for the benefit of everybody else (the “99 percenters”). Sounds fair (to them), until you examine where this philosophy will ultimately lead us.
In nations where this financial fairness doctrine has been fully implemented, it has led to human slavery and untold suffering. In the countries that I’ve visited where government operates according to the views of Karl Marx, the citizens would more likely protest against it, but they are not allowed to do so. How could anyone in our country embrace something so disastrous, you might ask?
The answer is, they’re confusing government with God.
Logically, you can accuse a corporation of being mismanaged, but not of being greedy. Greed is a problem within the heart of a human.
As for the greed of individuals, which certainly is a sin, it cannot be legislated away. The protestors should abandon their desire for communism and espouse one of God’s key financial principles, that we should avoid greed and love people more than we love money or possessions.
Instead, their solution is twisted and based on another sin—envy. This approach would have the government take from some to give to others on a fair and equitable basis. How unlikely is that? How has it worked in countries that have embraced it?
Two wrongs still do not make a right. Which is worse, greed or envy?
How is wanting what others have any less a sin than loving money or possessions? The Bible makes no such distinction. In fact, abstaining from envy or covetousness is one of the most overlooked of the Ten Commandments: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17 NIV).
For the record, refraining from greed is not one of the Ten Commandments, although the Bible certainly declares greed to be a sin: “The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper” (Proverbs 28:25 NIV).
I always thought that was an odd way to make the case against greed; that “the greedy stir up conflict”. Seen within the context of the Occupy Wall Street protestors, it makes perfect sense. Greed has stirred up conflict. It is a problem. But what are the protestors missing? It’s the knowledge that a change of heart is the only way to effectively deal with the problems of selfishness and exploitation.
The next thing on the protestors’ agenda is closing the wealth gap. Let’s put that in a biblical construct as well: caring for others less fortunate than us. This, too, is one of God’s principles—that we should give to the poor. It is our responsibility and privilege to give to meet the needs of others. It gives our life meaning and significance.
The protestors, again, put their faith in government to carry out the need for a generous spirit in our culture. They would force the redistribution of wealth through taxes, regardless of the spiritually detrimental effect this has on all parties. What sounds “fair” is truly fair in this respect—wealthy and poor alike lose their desire to be productive. Equality achieved to everyone’s loss! When the culture of a meritocracy is eliminated, history shows that it leads to fewer benefits for everyone, not more.
The desire to love others and care for the poor can only come from a spiritual transformation—a realization that Someone else loved you first, and gave you the greatest gift imaginable—forgiveness of your sins and a new life through Jesus Christ. Read through the Parable of the Good Samaritan one more time (Luke 10:25-37 NIV) and look for the government’s role in this story. You won’t find it. No, I don’t think the government is capable of meeting everyone’s needs nor should it be.
And finally, there is this business of the 99%, the idea that the “little people” have no voice and no one caring for them. Well, it’s another of God’s principles that He will provide for us, that He will hear our prayer and that He will never leave us or forsake us. In God’s kingdom, there are no little people… or big people either.
Again, instead of encouraging faith in God, the protestors are encouraging folks to become more dependent on government which can never meet their spiritual needs, and increasingly, not even their physical needs.
More than that, God has always used the small and the weak to do mighty things. Each person is capable of making an enormous difference in the world when we walk by faith and place our trust in Him.
We need to hear their misguided pleas and take them seriously. The protestors are advancing an ideology, a philosophy that if adopted, will be the downfall of the freedoms that made America the greatest nation in history.
If the Occupy Wall Street protestors sincerely want to see greed decrease, the wealth gap closed and have the voice of the “99%” heard, they need the good news of Jesus Christ. In Christ we find peace, contentment, and joy in serving the needy. That allows us to celebrate, not denigrate, those who merit the rewards they have earned.
You and I need to be the salt and light of our time leading America towards a revival. The gospel leads to freedom, while a misplaced dependency upon government leads to slavery. The protestors and America need God, not more government.
Now for my sobering warning –
I hazard to guess that these same people would rail against any legislation that is based upon biblical values, such as laws against same-sex marriage or to protect the unborn or to uphold the death penalty, but they have no problem forcing their beliefs on Christians with the full power of the government. Their confusion of government for God has the potential to produce incredible division and strife in our nation.
I believe these folks will likely go home during the coming winter months, but will be back in force as the presidential election approaches. The coming year promises to be a turbulent one as economic pressures, competing beliefs and the need to make hard choices all collide. Look at Greece and prepare—for the same civil unrest you see there now could happen here in America.
Now is the time to start our own movement to combat the hollow and deceptive philosophy of man. We must infiltrate the ranks of the lost with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
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