Liberty and Government

The natural progress of things is for liberty to yeild, & government to gain ground.” – Thomas Jefferson

In the vacuum created by the rejection of divine government, that is, a government rooted entirely in love and truth, man is left to devise for himself systems of governance which approximate its elegance, simplicity and efficacy. These systems typically necessitate rather than obviate judgment and therefore constrain to the squandering of liberty rather than to its preservation.

As a young man, I had the privilege of traveling extensively around the world, including a fascinating tour of France with 15 American, 15 French and 15 Soviet students in celebration of the French Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Though just in high school, we understood that we were ambassadors of three distinct points of the political spectrum. Being young, we were naturally curious about one another’s experience and as a result, asked one another a ton of questions.

It became apparent to me through various conversations that my French and Soviet counterparts felt that their futures were much less open-ended than did my compatriots. It was as though they saw the future through a telescope while I viewed it through a kaleidoscope. My possibilities seemed endless, while the future they foresaw seemed more or less inevitable.

Two decades have passed since that wonderful trip. My Soviet comrades are no longer Soviets, for their country fell apart. My French amis are as French as they ever were. I think the bigger surprise, however, is the incredible rate at which Americans have been giving away their liberties since the fated events of September 11, 2001. When I think of the world my children are going to inherit in a few short years, I cannot help but feel a sense of alarm about the rapidly decaying liberties in what is ostensibly the standard-bearer for individual freedom.

It is widely understood that stepping back from an intractable personal problem is an effective means of gaining perspective. In the case of government, stepping back involves stepping outside of the present age and measuring our present experience against the sweep of history. I am reminded today of the account of Samuel’s experience with the peoples’ call for a new government in 1 Samuel 8:

[1] And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.
[2] Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-sheba.
[3] And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.
[4] Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
[5] And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
[6] But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.
[7] And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
[8] According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.
[9] Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.
[10] And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.
[11] And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
[12] And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.
[13] And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
[14] And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
[15] And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
[16] And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
[17] He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
[18] And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
[19] Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
[20] That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.
[21] And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD.
[22] And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.

So we see that little has changed, even when we peer some 3,000 years back into human history. People – up until this very day! – continue to cry out “now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” despite the mountains of evidence which point to the terrible downsides to that wish being granted. Governments, if we are to tolerate them, must be kept in check, for their degeneracy is inevitable, no matter how brilliantly constructed their political architecture may be.


4 thoughts on “Liberty and Government

  1. Zach

    It is amazing to me that people still believe that a bureaucracy will do anything but enslave them in regulation and mediocrity. Just like in Samuel’s time, where the demand for a king delivered them Saul, our demand for safety from our government will give us an organization with great potential which will not deliver what it has promised. Unless each individual can create within themselves the government of love and truth, there is no external government which will ever be able to do the job.


  2. Joy

    For each of us, despite the Lord abundant generosity and patience, we have to reap what we sow, if during those times of reaping we are honest enough to acknowledge that we were the sowers, we can repent and turn again to The Lords governance. I think the world over we are in the phase of reaping, it is a wonderful time to separate the wheat from the chaff and assume personal responsibility for every aspect of one’s world.


  3. Coco

    I shudder when I see the role that government is playing in our lives and when I see what freedoms are now on the table to lose. If we just look today at Russia and their Olympics charade; every freedom we abdicate in the name of laziness or childishness, brings us closer to this reality. We have to be willing to do the work individually, of governing our behavior. This begins with our hearts and thoughts. I couldn’t agree more with your view of our future and the path we are careening down. We must become clear again about the difference between liberty and license, rights and privilege, earning and entitlement. It was worth fighting for many years ago, is it worth manning up to our responsibility now to preserve it ?


  4. Katherine

    We have to be willing to take full responsibility for our lives. By demanding a “king” or “government” to rule over us in the guise of protecting our liberty, then ironically, that is the very thing we will lose. We can’t have both a king and divine government at the same time. If we’re looking for a king to fight our battles and to blame when things go wrong, then we’ll end up trading our birthright for mess of pottage. As citizens of an amazing country, we must not fail to have a larger vision and concern for the future and realize as once we give up those liberties, it’s much more difficult to regain them.


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