Bible and Money

TheBiblical View of Wealth andIts Enemy the State

By Rev. R.J. Rushdoony 

A key aspect ofidolatry is that an often otherwise legitimate aspect of this world is madeabsolute. Very commonly, the state, which has a very limited but lawful statusunder God is made into an idol and becomes, in Hegel's terms, God walking onearth. This is idolatry. However, it is equally false to see the state asabsolute evil and the source of sin. It is the heart of man which is the sourceof sin, and the state reflects our sins and our envious desires.

The same is trueof wealth. It is not in and of itself good nor is it evil. It is man who makes wealth either a good oran evil. Wealth can be a blessing from God, and a means whereby we can blessothers, or it can be a witness to our lust for power and a curse to others.Private wealth can capitalize a society, as it has in Christendom, or it candecapitalize a society, as in old India, where the vast wealth of the rajahsserved only their pleasures.

Attemptstherefore to think of wealth in isolation from God and His purposes lead usreadily into idolatry. Wealthis made into an ultimate good or an ultimate evil, and the latter is becomingall too common in our day. For some churchmen, the ultimate evil is to be rich,especially a rich Christian in a hungry world. Some pastors actually declarethat it is a sin for any man to be paid more than $20,000 a year, or, asanother holds, more than $40,000 a year,which may be his way of saying it is asin to make more than I do!

Wealth, like allthings else, must be understood in terms of God's purposes. Any consideration apartfrom that is not faithful to Scripture. Again and again, the Bible speaks ofGod's concern for the poor, and we are told that the poor man is our brother,but it would be absurd to conclude that poverty is seen as a happy goal forman! Rather, we are told, if God's people are faithful to His law, "thereshall be no poor among you: for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the landwhich the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it: Only ifthou carefully harken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do allthese commandments which I command thee this day" (Deut. 15:4-5). God thusdesignates the abolition of poverty as the goal of His law-word. To avoid theforce of Deut. 15:4-5, all too many will cite Matthew 26:11, "For ye havethe poor always with you; but me ye have not always." All this means isthat the Lord told the disciples that, during their lifetime, they would alwayshave opportunities to minister to the poor, but not to His physical person andpresence.

Over and overagain, the Bible stresses the fact that the godly seed must inherit the wealth,and that God's purpose in time is that all the world's wealth pour into theKingdom of God: "yeshall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves"(Isa. 61:6). God's purpose is that wealth capitalize the godly, and throughthem, His Kingdom. This capitalization of the Kingdom of God means conversion,knowledge, technology, and godly progress in every area of life and thought.

The modern world,however, is deeply committed to decapitalization because of the reign of envy. Envysays, if I cannot be rich, let no other man be rich. Modern politics andeconomics is governed by envy, and envy cloaks itself in the name of thewelfare of the poor.

The world is nowseeing the economic consequences of decapitalization. Through taxation andinflation, men's assets have been watered down and decapitalized. We hear muchtalk about the wealth of the "big" corporations, and too little abouttheir precarious existence. Martin D. Weiss, in The Great Money Panic(1981), points out that in 1973 General Motors and its subsidiaries had aninterest cost of 36 cents of every dollar of net profits. In 1979, interestcosts were 93 cents of every dollar of net profit. The cost of borrowed moneywas almost equal to the money earned. The situation since has grown worse. Invarying degrees all of the 500 major corporations in the United States save oneare in the same predicament. Probably the largest of all American corporationsis General Motors. How "big" is it? The press, the university, thepulpit, and the media promote the idea of gigantism, as though our majorcorporations are rivals in size and wealth to the United States. However, asMichael Novak, in Toward a Theology ofthe Corporation (1981), has pointed out, "Running a multinationalcorporation in the Fortune 500 is, in most instances, about equivalent torunning a major university." The smallest of the 500 has only 529employees; the largest, General Motors, has no more than 14,000 employees inMichigan; add to this its over 200 units in over 177 congressional districts,and General Motors still does not equal in size and wealth of the University ofCalifornia. The problem with the corporations has not been their size and powerbut their cowardice in the face of federal power and their too frequentcompliance.

The corporationshave been decapitalized by controls, taxation, and inflation, and the peoplealso. As long as inflationand fiat money continue, this decapitalization will continue. Each succeedingpresidency has furthered this decapitalization in the name of remedying it. Torob the people, every political scoundrel pleads a great concern for the poorand the needy while never giving to any need out of their own oftenconsiderable wealth.

The centralguilt, however, belongs to the church. There is scarcely a seminary where liberation theology, a sentimentalform of Marxism, is not taught. Catholic and Protestant seminaries andmissionary agencies are too often cesspools of liberation theology.

The pulpit toois radically delinquent.Where do we hear sermons on Matthew 23:14, "Woe unto you, Scribes andPharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence makelong prayer therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation." Our Lordhere thunders out against an evil which was small compared to what iscommonplace today, our confiscation by estate and inheritance taxes of theproperties rightfully belonging to widows and orphans. It is easy, in suchcontemporary instances, to feel a rage against the Internal Revenue Service,but this is to miss the point. The I.R.S. is the agency of the voters' envy.Through Congress, we enact envy into law, and now that envy reaches into ourpockets, we are angry. This is not to say that the I.R.S. is without guilt, butthat the primary guilt rests with Congress and the people. The fact is that themajority of the people want out of envy to see their superiors hurt, even if itmeans their own hurt. A friend, while in a country in Europe, was discussingthe confiscatory taxation of that nation and called attention to itsdestructiveness. His hosts defended the taxation, while agreeing as to itsthreat. Their reason? It's good to see the high and mighty humbled.

Octavio Paz, in TheLabyinth of Solitude (1961) said, "Marx wrote that all radicalism is aform of humanism, since man is the root of both reason and society. Thus everyrevolution tries to create a world in which man, free at last from the trammelsof the old regime, can express himself truly and fulfill his human condition.Man is a being who can realize himself, and be himself, only in a revolutionarysociety."

Thisrevolutionary society is the goal of every humanistic state. Some hope to achieve it by violence, othersby democratic change. In either case, the goal is the same, man as god or, morespecifically, the humanistic state as god. Since one attribute of God iscreation, the modern state seeks to create wealth, cradle to grave or womb totomb security, and also to create money. Modern money, fiat, paper money is theresult. It is state created money which is used to erode all traditional formsof wealth, and to place all wealth under the control of the state. We see todaysmall family farms, in the same family for generations or from the colonialera, being sold because of taxes. This disaster is also taking place in Britainand elsewhere.

Godly wealth inScripture is in terms of the faithful development of potentialities under God.God created the world, and He created the possibility of wealth through itsnatural resources, the earth's fertility, and the mind of man. Creation and allits ingredients are the handiwork of the triune God and none other. It is Hislaw therefore which is the only true ground for godly wealth. The Lord condemnsall trust in wealth as a form of humanism, as a kind of worship of the creationof our own hands rather than the Creator of all.

This, however, isthe kind of wealth the modern state regards as alone acceptable, a state-created,humanistic wealth. Instead of being defined in terms of some God-given aspectof creation, gold, silver, land, or other assets, all wealth is to be reducedto state-created paper. Now the value of money is its liquidity which makes forits ready and easy use. When the modern hyper-taxing state creates a papermoney inflation, it thereby requires every other form of wealth to be equallyliquid. The family farm is no longer an inheritance from the past to the futuregenerations; it is converted from a stable form of wealth to a highly unstableand liquid form by paper money, inflation and taxation. In the years of limitedstate power, the tax on a family farm in many areas was a few dollars at most.After World War II, many farmers were shocked when their taxes hit $25 and then$50; now they run into the thousands of dollars. At present, a growing numberof American farmers are in serious trouble because of the combination of hightaxes and debts they cannot repay. In the United States, every economic crisishas been preceded by a farm crisis.

Decapitalization isa world-wide fact today. In the Soviet Union, it is far gone, and not for thefirst time. In 1939, Stalin's Russia was bankrupt; by means of World War II, itrecapitalized itself through an act of piracy approved by Roosevelt andChurchill. The Soviet Union was allowed to seize Central Europe, cannibalizeEast Germany and Poland, and more. Since then, the Soviet Union has beenrecapitalized annually by aid from the United States, and from American andEuropean banks, These loans have been even more profitable than the seizure ofCentral Europe perhaps. However, both by its foreign and its domestic policies,the United States has been decapitalizing itself. A socialistic economy is aparasitic one: its continued life depends on the life of the host. Both theU.S.S.R. and the U.S. are today parasites living off the American people. Thereis no future for the American people until they rid themselves of theparasites, which means a radical change of perspective with regard to thenature of civil government.

Unless we havefreedom under God and in obedience to Him, our definition of wealth is born ofhunger, not of bounty. OneAmerican, long a prisoner in the Soviet Union, saw wealth as one potato, andtwo potatoes as undreamed of wealth. A refugee couple from Cambodia celebratedtheir wedding anniversary in the Cambodian jungle with an unexpected andwelcome gift in their hunger, a rat's skin shared with them, to boil into abroth. A decapitalized (and unfree) society redefines wealth in pathetic terms.To each according to his needs, Marx held, and the Marxists have reduced thelevel of needs 10 beggarly dimensions. They have redefined wealth to make itthe legitimate possession of the state and none other.

Redefinition hasoccurred in many areas. Students are routinely taught that there is an economicdistinction between consumption and investment. Franklin W. Ryan, and Dr. ElginGroseclose, in his excellent America's Money Machine: The Story of the FederalReserve System, show otherwise. (The family is called by them thegreatest production enterprise in society, and yet we are today at war againstthe family.) If I feed myself and my family, I am investing in our future; if Iuse junk food, I am making a poor investment. Whatever money I spend on thefamily is either a good or bad investment or consumption. To indict the idea ofconsumption is absurd; there is good consumption and unsound consumption.

The point of itall is that we are seeing an assault on and an erosion of the Biblical doctrineof wealth and stewardship.In its place, the state as the new god wants to remake man and society, and itbelieves that it can also create wealth by legislation, taxation,redistribution, and controls. What the modern state is accomplishing instead isthe erosion of true wealth, and morality as well. The modern state has becomehistory's great devourer of widows' houses, while it talks piously of a lovefor the poor, and the church is largely silent in the face of this growingevil. The sure promise of God to all such is judgement, unless men separatethemselves from these evil ones to the Lord, Who says to us today as Moses didwhen Israel worshipped the golden calf, "Who is on the LORD'S side? Lethim come unto me" (Ex. 32:26). (March, 1982)

(Taken from Roots of Reconstruction,p. 143; "Wealth and the State", Chalcedon Position Paper No. 30)