The encroachment of government on personal rights and responsibilities is the result of our increasingly godless society. As man trusts the Lord less, he puts his trust in other men, particularly rulers, more. How a few recent examples have made me painfully aware of that lately!
The problem of increasing costs of local government coupled with an accounting error to the tune of $10 million in our city’s budget in a previous year left local leaders with a great shortfall in income. The solution? Our property taxes were increased by 40%.
Our church building sits kiddy corner to the public library in downtown Kokomo. For over a year now the library board has been considering different plans for expansion and renovation. One of the plans we recently discovered on their website, in the area labelled “demolition,” involves the “removal of the Presbyterian church.” That’s us! To this date, no one from the library or city has yet to contact us.
I’ve had to oversee my mom’s healthcare, and she is turning 65 in a few months. So I’ve been trying to figure out Medicare. Despite the claims of the Medicare literature (complete with colorful drawings and tables) that they are making it easy to understand and decide on the best option, even with a few math degrees I’m struggling to make heads or tails of it. A recent cartoon captures my experience so far. An elderly man is holding up some bottles of pills to his adult daughter and he says, “This one’s for a good night’s sleep and this one’s for the headache I get trying to understand the new Medicare drug plan.”
Though there will be a great crisis caused at some point because there will be too few workers to fund too many retirees’ medical needs, at least for the moment Medicare is more a nuisance to me than anything. Certainly I detest paying several hundred more dollars per year in taxes, but at the very least I can hope (I’m not holding my breath) that the increased property taxes are only temporary until the crisis passes. As much as these other examples concern me, it is the middle example above that has me the most concerned over the arrogance of government when they no longer fear God. The library has stated that it hopes that it will not have to pursue “eminent domain options,” but with the recent Kelo decision by the Supreme Court local governments have been emboldened. Our local officials have not even had the courtesy to ask the Presbyterian church if it would like to be demolished, and some involved have made bombastic statements in public meetings as to how “easy” it will be to expand our way.
These things remind me of a story from the Old Testament about a king named Ahab. Seems that Ahab wanted a certain vineyard adjacent to his own royal gardens that was owned by a man named Naboth. When Ahab found Naboth’s vineyard was not for sale, a plan was hatched by his seductive wife Jezebel. They ended up holding a sham trial against Naboth with false witnesses, sentencing him to death, and then after he was executed – voila! – they seized his property. The “Law of Naboth’s Vineyard” then is this: What rulers want, rulers can have. If they want more of your income, they can have it. If they want your property, it is ultimately theirs. If they want to take care of your doctor’s bills, they can do that for you. What rulers want, rulers can have.
However, there is one thing rulers may want to keep in mind. Ahab and Jezebel found this out the hard way. The Law of Naboth’s Vineyard is universal. In other words, the Lord of lords and the King of kings can employ the same rule. What the Lord wants, the Lord can have. The only difference is that unlike arrogant government officials who apply this law to seize things to advance their personal power and political purposes, God applies this law to execute justice and protect the poor. When He pronounced Ahab and Jezebel’s demise (you can read about it in II Kings 21:19-26, but be warned that it is not for the squeamish), the Lord makes it clear that He wants their lives and properties because they had taken Naboth’s.
So rulers, pause before you seize. You can apply the Law of Naboth’s Vineyard, but there is a great King to whom we can pray who also operates by the same law.