No More Living for the Week-end

As we previously discussed, in the Old Testament God helped to break the tribal, cyclical Hebrew thinking by having Moses develop a written linear record of their history. Very few other cultures had any written record at this time. From this record the people could see the progression and growth of their society and themselves as individuals. To build on this God gave them promises for their future. He promised His Kingdom would take over the entire earth and last forever.

As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces…But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. And in the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.           Dan. 2:34-35, 44

Thus God’s people developed a consciousness of their past and future. They thought of time as linear with the world moving forward. They were able to plan for the future. Living for the moment or the week-end was no longer a viable option. This affected every area of their lives, including their finances. They made long term decisions because they could depend on His promises. They learned the value of an inheritance to future generations in many different ways. They learned the value of being frugal and saving for the future.

Jesus taught this same theme in the New Testament in His parables. He reaffirmed the Jewish concept of linear time and progress. He taught this about His kingdom in the parable of the mustard seed and the yeast. He told us that his kingdom was like the mustard seed that would grow anywhere—that it was like yeast that takes over the entire loaf of bread—that His kingdom would grow and grow and take over the entire world (Matt. 13, Luke 13). He also taught us in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6) that His kingdom would come and that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. We are taught that the future is secure and that we can invest and build His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Let’s do it.

Source:

Economics 101- What is God’s plan?; Dr. Art Mathias; Wellspring Ministries, 2016

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To Prosper…Work Hard and be Honest

It seems so simple. How can something so simple be so profound, and so ignored? In the Monday edition of the Wall Street Journal appeared an article entitled – Bring Back the Work Ethic. It is an interview with Bob Funk, who is CEO and founder of Express Employment Professionals, one of the nation’s largest job agencies. Since he started the firm in 1983, he has helped 6.5 million people find jobs. So he is a bit of an expert.

“So many people do not realize how important the soft skills are to unlocking job opportunity,” he says. He shares a small brochure his company puts out summarizing a recent survey of employers. In order, the survey found the top five traits employers look for are as follows:

  • Attitude
  • Work ethic/integrity
  • Communication
  • Culture fit (teamwork)
  • Critical thinking

Four out of the top five have to do with character, godly character. Only critical thinking would be considered outside this area. Drugs are a huge character problem today as well, with many would-be employees putting themselves out of the running when they fail drug tests. Some are happy pot is legalized in various US states, but they don’t realize how it affects their ability to get a job. In the US, a certified truck driver can start at $55,000 to $60,000 a year, for example, but no one’s going to hire you if you do drugs.

If all this sounds old-fashioned, it is—and Mr. Funk isn’t ashamed of it. Where does Mr. Funk get these radical ideas? They are from the Bible. He is a Christian with a degree in theology among his various degrees. So in Matthew 7:12 when Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you”, I guess we could say that means, “work for others as you would have others work for you.”

So many people, Funk says, are unfamiliar with the fundamentals of work, from knowing how to dress and showing up on time to taking direction from a boss. At a time when employers are complaining they can’t find the people they need, Mr. Funk says being honest and having the right attitude will help you stand out from the pack.

Nor does Mr. Funk look down his nose at so-called McJobs: “Those low-paying, entry-level jobs,” he says, “are good training for the soft skills you need for upward mobility.” It is far better than falling into the socialist trap in which people end up losing their appetite for work because they become too comfortable with government benefits meant to be temporary.

Mr. Funk generally starts people out as temporary employees, but points out that 62% of the “temporary” workers he places end up being hired to stay on full-time. “Try before you buy,” he calls it—and says that goes for the worker too! “It’s the greatest feeling in the world to help someone who wants to work find a good job,” he says. “I’ve helped a lot of people find jobs in my life,” he says. “And I’ve learned that if you are honest, have a strong work ethic, and stay off drugs, there’s a great future for you out there.”

Source:

McGurn W. Sept. 4, 2017, Bring Back the Work Ethic- ‘There’s a person for every job and a job for every person,’ says Bob Funk., wsj.com

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Is God a Socialist in the New Testament?

We know the first Christians were, of course, Jews. So they held the values we have discussed founded in the Jewish culture that are more capitalistic in nature. In the New Testament we also see these values reflected.

In Acts we read how the new believers living in Jerusalem sold their possessions and then gave the proceeds to help other believers. Based on this account, some people have said that we should all sell everything we own and have everything in common. Some even say that God is a socialist in the New Testament. A closer reading of this passage shows us something different. The early believers did sell their possessions:

and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Acts 2:45

It says that they “began” selling…so apparently they did not sell everything. If they would have sold all their houses, they could have not met from house to house as the next verse says:

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread [a]from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and [c]sincerity of heart, Acts 2:46

These early believers had a high degree of love and a social value, which motivated them to care for each other. What we see is their love for God and each other was a higher value than the accumulation of material goods. But we must note that these early believers were still living the Old Testament taught principles of accumulating wealth, including houses for themselves, and possibly extra houses to sell. It would appear they were financially prosperous enough to sell properties, use the proceeds however they wanted and not go hungry.

Now I want to quote directly from Harold Eberle. “It is important to understand the historical setting in which those first century believers were living. During those first few years many Christians were driven out of Jerusalem due to tremendous persecution. Worse yet, Jerusalem was completely destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, so all of the believers were going to lose their properties anyway. A modern capitalist will point out that God inspired those Christians to sell these homes right before the market collapsed (or they would have lost them anyway – BS note).

The fact that the early Christians sold their possessions does not tell us they were socialists. To the contrary, they were capitalists motivated by love and led by the Spirit of God.”

Source

Compassionate Capitalism – A Judeo-Christian Value by Harold Eberle, 2010, Worldcast Publishing. Pg. 35-36

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The Biblical Principles of Capitalism Must be Blended with Social Values

As we reviewed the Old Testament teaching in previous blogs, we find that God mentored the Hebrew people to be prosperous. As Christians today we value this heritage given to them and we can claim it as our own. The Hebrews were mentored by God to have a prosperous way of thinking or I would say a prosperous soul; and this way of thinking developed the principles of capitalism, although they had to be blended with social values.

In the way of review, according to Harold Eberle’s book Compassionate Capitalism – A Judeo Christian Value, all of the following were included:

  • The belief in One God
  • Sense of identity of being created in God’s image
  • Personal responsibility to manage themselves and the earth
  • Individual Freedom
  • Ownership of land and personal property
  • The Fear of God
  • Resting one day a week
  • Strong family relationships
  • Enjoying the fruit of one’s labor
  • Giving tithes and offerings
  • Care for the orphans, widows and the poor
  • Making and keeping covenants (agreements)
  • Time is linear, society is advancing
  • Planning for the future.
  • Leaving an inheritance for your descendants
  • Frugality and saving
  • Different people get different rewards depending on their effort and wisdom
  • Developing a sense of capital separate from themselves

As Harold Eberle says, “Jewish culture was filled with thoughts of submitting to God by giving tithes and offerings, along with caring for one’s family and compassion for the poor. There was an expectation that people could not live selfishly accumulating wealth with no regard for the people around them. They were allowed and expected to prosper according to their own labors, but they had to be a contributing member of their own community.”

This builds a platform to study what the New Testament says about economics and finance.

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A Shortage of Sand in the Sahara?

Economist Milton Friedman once said that, if you put the government in charge of the Sahara desert, there will eventually be a shortage of sand. No wonder that, after 14 years of socialist government, Venezuela — the country with the world’s largest oil reserves — is currently importing gasoline. This fact highlights Venezuela’s painful descent into chaos, as the economy crumbles and the nation’s social fabric unravels. There is even talk now of a civil war.

Venezuela is a prime example the failure of the socialist model, between 1999, when Hugo Chavez took over as President, and 2016, average per capita income in Venezuela rose by 2 percent. In the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, it rose by 41 percent over this same period.

The Venezuela government reacted to skyrocketing inflation by following the typical socialist script: it imposed price controls and has been raiding businesses it accuses of hoarding. As a result, there are widespread shortages of food and medicines. Under control of its socialist government, Venezuela currently has an infant mortality rate well above that of war-torn Syria. Mothers in childbirth die of infection or minor labor complications because doctors lack antibiotics or even soap to clean surgical tools and operating tables.

For another example consider Robert Mugabe, Chavez’s erstwhile friend and the President of Zimbabwe, who has been in charge of his unfortunate country since 1980. Since then, Africa’s income per person rose by 48 percent. In Zimbabwe, a socialist dictatorship, it has declined by 25 percent.

The great achievements of society have not come from government bureaus. Einstein did not construct his theory under the order of a government leader. Henry Ford did not revolutionize the automobile industry that way. The only cases where the masses have escaped poverty is where they have embraced capitalism and largely free trade. Where are the masses the worst off? Where capitalism is not practiced! The record of history is crystal clear. There is no alternative way to lift people out of poverty. It is the productive activities that are released by a free enterprise system.

Upcoming….more Bible teaching on economics, why it takes VW twice as many workers to build a car as Toyota, and a look at the Scandinavian socialist countries.

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The Economic Failure of Socialism

The poster child of economic failure for socialism and communism (state mandated socialism) was the Soviet Union. With its highly centralized government and economy, the USSR survived for 69 years until its collapse in 1991. Free markets were abolished; the state owned the businesses and a central planning committee planned the economy. Consider this, bakers were arrested for making brownies, because their job was designated as only baking bread. I kid you not. If you had an apple tree in your front yard, it was illegal to pick those apples because they belonged to the state. I think you get the picture.

While oil prices were high and oil could be sold, the Soviet Union appeared to have a strong economy and could maintain its focus on increasing its military power. But when oil prices fell towards the end of the 1980s, the USSR found itself forced to borrow from Western banks. Its sluggish economic system and dependency on the West also weakened the control that it had over countries under the USSR’s control and eventually led to its demise. A situation similar to what Venezuela is experiencing today.

A brief comparison between the Soviet Union at its collapse and the US at that time reflects the weakness of socialism as compared with free market capitalism; which we believe to be a more Biblical economic system:

  • At the point of its collapse the Soviet Union found itself with a standard of living that was 1/3 of that in the United States.
  • Because consumers were not served, the soviet diet was not good; resulting in a male life expectancy seven years less than the United States.
  • The infant mortality rate was twice of that in the US.
  • One in 20 people in the Soviet Union had a car in 1970 vs. more than one out of two in the United States.

The environment was sacrificed on the alter of state control as well. The Aral Sea used to be the fourth largest lake in the world. The whole lake, over 23,000 square miles of water, in some places 100 feet deep, evaporated into thin air. Why? Soviet planners wanted to turn Central Asia into the world’s largest producer of cotton so they diverted the two rivers that fed the Aral Sea for irrigation for the Soviet cotton industry. The scale of the Aral Sea disaster only became apparent in the 1980’s. It is one of the world’s most startling ecological calamities – the story of how Soviet planners soaked up an entire sea to build a cotton industry. Everything served the state.

Of course this is only an economic comparison that does not reference the millions who were brutally killed by Lenin, Stalin and his followers.

 

How Socialism Destroyed VenezuelaJuan Carlos Hidalgo, Cato Institute, Feb. 25, 2014

Waiting for the Sea; Rustam Qobil, BBC News, 25 February 2015

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Why Does Socialism Tend to Attract Dictators?

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro brushed aside international condemnation and installed a powerful new assembly on Friday that critics say will crush the last traces of democracy. The assembly, made up of government loyalists including his wife and son, will have powers to override other government institutions as it rewrites the constitution. Opponents worry the assembly, whose election on Sunday was widely seen as fraudulent, will wipe out dissent and create a dictatorship. To make matters worse, two prominent opposition politicians, who were already under house arrest, were jailed.

But why is it that socialism attracts dictators? Chavez, Castro, Stalin…even Hitler. Yes…the Nazis were a socialist political party before Hitler joined. The German National Socialist Party attracted Hitler with his evil intentions. These German socialists believed that the individual existed for the purpose of the state, not the other way around, as we would understand to be a more Biblical perspective of government. Chavez stated he was concerned about the Venezuelan people, but his actions showed otherwise. Forbes magazine estimated Chavez’s net worth to be $500 million at the time of his death. How about Castro? Forbes estimated his net worth to be $900 million at his death. Even Italian dictator Mussolini was a socialist. His father read Karl Marx’s Das Capital to him as a child.

Briefly stated…socialism minimizes the importance of individuals and private property. Here is how socialism often leads to dictatorial control:

  • It starts with growing state interference in the economy.
  • This leads to massive inefficiencies and long lines outside empty shops.
  • Economic central planning inherently limits economic freedom, as there can be no agreement on a single plan in a society of free thinkers.
  • The centralization of economic decision-making has to be accomplished by centralization of political power in the hands of a small elite.
  • A state of perpetual economic crisis then leads to calls for more planning. When, in the end, the failure of central planning becomes undeniable, totalitarian regimes tend to silence the dissenters as history has demonstrated—sometimes through mass murder.

Even a casual observer can see this progression in Venezuela. Unfortunately, socialism refuses to go away. Wannabe socialists are thus destined to learn not from history, but from their own mistakes. In the meantime, as in Venezuela, ordinary people suffer.

Sources:

Venezuela Seats Powerful Assembly Many Say Is a Fraud; by Anatoly Kurmanaev, Ryan Dube, WSJ, August 4, 2017.

Venezuela Reminds Us That Socialism Frequently Leads to Dictatorship; Marian Tupy, Reason.com-Free Minds and Free Markets, April 4, 2017

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