Socialism And Crony Capitalism: Both Are Losers

I am reading several books right now. One is titled “The State,” by Anthony de Jasay. I am not that far into it, but it defines the state as an entity, different than the natural state, that emerged either violently or by social contract. As I began reading this book I thought a good companion read would be “Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity.” So, I decided to reread it. That was a good choice, especially in light of recent news.

Zingale, the author of Capitalism, was an Italian economist who did not like Capitalism until he moved to the United States and saw how it could work. In his book he warns how Socialism and Crony Capitalism lead to the same end. “In a socialist economy, the political system controls business; in a crony capitalist system. . . business controls the political process. The difference is slim: either way, competition is absent and freedom shrinks” (p. 29). I think this is a true statement. Either Socialism or Crony Capitalism will lead to less efficiency in the market. Two recent events are great examples.

Airbus, Boeing’s main competitor, launched its A380 in 2000. It is a very large airplane that holds 555 people. It has been described as the “eighth wonder of the world.” Leave to the Europeans to embellish one’s importance. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Airbus has sunk at least $17 billion into the project yet sold less than the half of the 750 superjumbo jetliners it promised to deliver by the end of this year.” Last week Airbus announced that it would cease production by 2021. As Holman Jenkins argues it is a lesson for young Socialists.

Jenkins states, “Socialism is currently in vogue. If the word means anything in today’s context, it means projects of unusual government ambition.” I remember when the A380 was being developed. I was a Boeing employee, and we discussed the pros and cons of a very large airplane. Based upon market analysis Boeing felt that smaller, more fuel-efficient airplanes that go point-to-point were what people wanted. They moved away from the very large airplane and built the 787. The rest so they say is history.

Airbus, instead, with government underwriting via massive subsidies ignored the market to create this behemoth. Jenkins asks the question, “what went wrong?” The governments involved with Airbus wanted to override the invisible hand of the market. As Jenkins states, “They would have to overrule the preference of business travelers for frequent departures,” and “they would have to overrule the public’s appetite for lower fares.” Add to this the amount of time it takes to load and unload 555 people, Airbus, and Socialism in general, created a loser. As Jenkins rightly points out, “Enough Socialism could be mobilized to get the plane built, but not enough to make it commercially viable.”

If we want to continue to look at the failures of Socialism look no further than the California bullet train. Billions of dollars were wasted on a train to nowhere. The current Governor of California initially canceled the program, but according to some may be waffling. We shall see. Don’t get me wrong there are some things that government can do well, but there are many things it can’t do well.

The next example of inefficiency is Crony Capitalism. When the business system moves from a competitive free-market to favors from a government we have an asymmetric system that rewards insiders. This creates a system seen as unfair, seen the greatest concern for the modern expression of Capitalism. People are fine with competing if there is a level playing field. So, when businesses become so big and powerful it becomes problematic.

I would never say I agree with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on anything, but I worry when companies the size of Amazon, which is a Leviathan, get government favors. Of course, New York City stated that Amazon would not have gotten any incentives without creating the jobs promised, but I worry about this type of activity. On the other hand, I agree with Amazon choosing to take its ball and go to another state.

Once again, I agree with Holman Jenkins. “Slathering on tax abatements and infrastructure promises to lure new development may be irresistible for communities, but it is always a second-best idea. For New York it is especially unnecessary given all the city’s attractions.” It is not the best thing for communities to lure big business via incentives, leaving small business in its shadows.

When a free market is encouraged and supported, and people have the freedom to choose what they purchase and what they sell, we have economic growth. But when there is government overreach and business greed the market suffers. Jenkins says it well, “In a pungent statement on the governor’s [New York] own website, Mr. Cuomo not only acknowledged New York’s fiscal unattractiveness and the reality of tax competition with other states. He skewered the disingenuous and just plain dumb critics who portrayed his Amazon deal as a net giveaway when Amazon would have brought New York $9 in tax revenue for every $1 in tax relief it enjoyed.”

If I lived in the area where Amazon was going to locate, and would have had the opportunity to get a good paying job, I would be pretty upset. Some of the interviews I saw online were examples of that. I don’t know if the Amazon event would have been a good deal in reality, but I always worry when business and the state get too chummy.

When we have a free market, the players have to behave. “In a competitive market, individuals who want to discriminate against others, refusing to trade with them, wind up worse off themselves.” The invisible hand controls the process. This is what had made the American system the best in the world. When our systems move us away from a free market model, we the people will suffer.

And that is my thought for the day!

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Don’t Be Fooled By The Language of Revolution

I haven’t written anything for a while, so it seems like today is a good time to restart. With all of the craziness going on in our nation, I think it is time to re-engage in the discussion of Capitalism versus Socialism. Capitalism seems to be under attack in our nation, some of the critiques are justified, and some are a part of a concerted effort to undermine our systems. I choose those words very carefully.

In Saturday’s Wall Street Journal my favorite editorialist wrote how Republicans need to save Capitalism. Her point was that “Democrats have gone left, so they will not do it,” which I will write more about this later, but today’s blog is more of a spiritual offering. In 413AD a man named Augustine wrote a seminal book on the city of God and the city of man. It was a book written in response to people who blamed Christians for the fall of Rome. According to Spark’s notes, “These Romans claimed that Christians were not patriotic enough because they asked people to serve God rather than the state.” The first ten chapters of Augustine’s work “refute the charges that Christian’s brought about the fall of Rome.”

Augustine’s work described the “four essential elements” of his historical philosophy, which I think we in the Church need to remember today. The four include the Church, the State, City of Heaven, and the City of the World. Spark’s notes state, “the church is divinely established and leads humankind to eternal goodness, which is God. The state adheres to the virtues of politics and of the mind, formulating a political community. Both of these societies are visible and seek to do good. Mirroring these are two invisible societies: the city of Heaven for those predestined for salvation, and the city of the world for those given eternal damnation.” Those words of predestination and eternal damnation are strong and inflammatory, but they are so on purpose.

This is in line with my thoughts concerning the Bible narrative of the Tower of Babel. I believe this event actually happened, so when I use the phrase metaphor, I am following Augustine’s line of thinking about the visible and invisible. The Tower of Babel is the attempt to create a state or world system devoid of the need for God. This is contrarian to the kingdom of heaven whose leader is God. The Tower of Babel is an example of the state devoid of God. The tension between these two entities goes on. This is an age-old battle, that if you have read the Revelation you know how it ends and who is victorious. But, we live in an age where many people have either not heard the message, outright rejected it, or have left it. Regardless of how we feel about this battle, it is reality.

I have thought long and hard about why I cannot adhere to the language of the left, and the right for that matter. I fear that many of us who are believers have fallen into the trap of leaving the City of God to create a tower of Babel connected with the state thinking that we are bringing in the kingdom of God. As Francis Schaeffer once said, we can be co-belligerent, but “we must be careful that our co-belligerence does not communicate to a watching world the possibility of neutrality and the dilution of the exclusivity of Christ and the gospel.” This is my fear, that we in the Church have done exactly that. We have forgotten about the warfare that is occurring between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the world.

As I was thinking about this, I thought about how our language of resistance models the language of previous revolutions, specifically the Bolshevik revolution.

According to the Investor’s Business Daily there were six principles used by Lenin to consolidate power: The ends justify the means, firstest with the moistest, never let a crisis go to waste, demonization, propaganda of example, and blame your predecessor.

Lenin used promises to get the people behind his movement. His promise of increased land ownership is the most relevant to today. He promised one thing and delivered complete state ownership of property. The promise of free stuff must always be suspect, and those who have the power to give free stuff, also have the power to take it away. This occurs because the end justifies the means.

The firstest with the mostest is interesting, and not just because of the rough language. As Lenin took over he began to create the idea of the other. He used terms like Bolsheviks, good, or “majoritarians, and the term Mensheviks, bad, or minoritarians.” He then attached terms like Red to the Bolsheviks to signify their importance to the revolution, and the term white to link them to the Czarist dynasty, thus linking them to corruption and greed. He did this to create the in-crowd, which excluded the out-crowd.

The third involves never letting a crisis go to waste. To do this they created a closed system of information. All means of communication belonged to the Bolsheviks. They could create a narrative that if one disagreed they would be ostracized. Fourth, involved demonization. As the Investor’s Business Daily states, “In denouncing opponents, Lenin was obsessive, virulent and personal, calling them bloodsuckers, insects, spiders leeches, and vampires.”

Fifth, propaganda of example. Public hangings and other means of terror were used. “We must execute not only the guilty. Execution of the innocent will impress the masses even more” (Lenin’s commissar for Justice). Sixth, blame your predecessor. Lenin was famous “for his propensity to blame his predecessor the Czar.”

As I look at these characteristics I see them being used today by both the left and the right. The false promises of politicians to get power is nauseating. Both the left and the right will promise anything to get the seat of power in the US. The hatred assigned to the other is just incredible today. I worry about the left and how it has acquired almost all means of communication in this country. The news media, academic elite, and the entertainment industry all lean to the left. But I worry just as much about the crying of wolf, or fake news, fake news. It has gotten to the point we gravitate to those informational elements that support our position and ignore those we disagree with.

When it comes to denouncing opponents, it seems like our current President is the best at that activity. During the Bolshevik revolution public hangings were used to control the crowds, today we use figurative public hangings to control the narrative. Say something online that is against the flow of culture and watch the public hanging. We have seen many examples of that impacting young and old alike. Lastly, blaming the predecessor is just as prominent today as during this chaotic time in history.

Why do I bring this up, remember when I stated that Augustine argued for a visible and indivisible expression of history? The Church today represents the City of God. That visible expression is under attack much like the Bolsheviks attacked the people of Russia. And the state is working hard to create another tower of Babel. This was attempted in Russia and I think it is now emerging in the United States. And we in the Church are falling for it. We are forgetting the ultimate power behind the scenes that drives the world system. Instead we look at each other as the only culprit.

Those of us who are on the right, think that if we just support the Republicans then everything will be alright. Those of us who gravitate to the left, think if we just support the Democrats everything will improve. We are only fooling ourselves. The state is the state it is not the kingdom of God and it will never be the kingdom of God. The Church is the kingdom of God’s physical representative on earth today. And as the Revelation tells us it is a diverse inclusive body of people who stand before the throne crying Holy Holy Holy.

We are not a perfect group, and we have made business decisions that often hurt people. But the time now is to repent and stand with God in these final days. Give up the language of revolution and return to the language used in the City of God. “Come to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being build up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5).

And that is my thought for the day!

Politics And The Ubiquitous Good Of Business

Saturday was a good day (Exclamation Point)! I woke up, which is always a good thing, had a great time of devotion, and then traveled with my wife, picked up the grand-daughter (dropped her off at school), and took the grandson with us to Portland. We picked up some equipment for the daughter, and then traveled to Braking Cycles on Powell. It was Braking Cycle’s one-year anniversary. It was great to support the ministry and make new friends. After we spent some time there we travelled back to the Couv, where we dropped off the daughter’s equipment, and then went home and the grand-son helped with my yard responsibilities. He is now sleeping and I am writing. However, I did not post this blog on Saturday, and I have picked it up again after the midterm elections. I am interjecting my thoughts on the election.

First of all, I am appalled at the negative rhetoric in this campaign. I am horrified at Trump’s language, but I am just as appalled at the left’s willingness to do the same thing as they “resist.” Now the results are in, and it appears the Democrats will take the House, but the Republicans will increase their hold on the Senate. It also appears that Republican Governors will outnumber the Democrats. Congrats to the many women who have been elected in this midterm elections. Now is the time for leadership, not partisan politics.

My two favorite Presidents in my short life have been Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. People have strong feelings about both of these individuals, but both could lead. They both faced an opposition party that had control of all or part of Congress, but they got things done. If Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House and follows her desire to act like adults, then America wins. However, if she follows her rhetoric to destroy the GOP then America loses. On the other hand, we will now see what kind of leader Trump can become. If he tones down his rhetoric, just maybe he can get some things done even with a Democratic House. If he doesn’t then he will not have a chance in 2020. Obama never got the Congress on the same page as he, which is why, as much as people like him, I am not that impressed with him as a leader. He is eloquent, and smart, but I don’t put him at the same leadership level as Clinton and Reagan. Now back to this regularly scheduled show.

Today’s offering comes as a result of an experience I had at Braking Cycles. I had a conversation with Salvador. He is a young man who Transitional Housing helped get off the street and into a good paying job. He is now married and working in construction. It is a great testimony of the work Transitional Housing and Braking Cycles is doing with at risk youth. These ministries are not just about giving help, they are about giving young people skills and abilities to transition to a productive life. The greatest poverty reduction tool at our disposal is giving people the skills needed to be successful in their jobs. I think right now is an incredible opportunity for young people to find those jobs, good paying jobs, because of the booming economy.

In October business created 250,000 jobs. It also stated that wages grew another 3.1%, which is due to the tight labor market. In other words, there are so many jobs available that people have to leave a job they are currently at to take the new one. This means employers have to have better incentives, pay, to get employees to change, or stay. Over the last three months business has added, on average, 210,000 jobs. This is amazing for a nine-year economic expansion.

Although the unemployment rate has stayed the same, 3.7%, the workforce participation rate ticked up to 62.9%. This represents a prime working age (25-54) percentage of 82.3, a .7% increase. Teens increased to 35.5%, but the 20-24 year-old age group declined. Not sure why this occurred, maybe they are still living at home (just kidding). The labor force participation rate for those without a high school diploma increased to 47.7%. All of this is exciting.

What I find very interesting was reported back in May by the Washington Post. “The United States now has a job opening for every unemployed person in the country.” The Post also stated that “many business executives say their top worry is that they can’t find enough workers. Unemployment is at the lowest level in nearly two decades, and the jobless rate for African Americans and Hispanic Americans is at an all-time low.” This is the power of business to do good. It is about helping people have the ability to be productive and provide for their family’s needs. What is very good, “companies are revising their hiring practices to ensure that they do not rule out any potential good workers, especially those who might not have a college degree or people who have criminal histories and have served time in jail.”

I want to place this in juxtaposition with what just happened with the United Auto workers. It appears the justice department just convicted seven United Worker leaders and Fiat-Chrysler Executives for corruption and conspiracy. According to the WSJ, “The FBI’s three-year investigation has revealed that Fiat Chrysler executives funneled cash to UAW worker training centers in return for backing collective-bargaining agreements.” Union Leaders then used this cash for “lavish retreats to Palm Springs, condo expenses, and other things of value.” Regardless of one’s political affiliation, corruption is a possibility.

In this WSJ editorial the writers also discuss a report from the Detroit News about Union Leadership misappropriating union dues. “UAW Union leaders tapped the union strike fund to build an 1,885-square-foot cottage on Black Lake in Onaway, Michigan, for retired President Dennis Williams.” The hypocrisy continued when a UAW spokesperson said they always use union labor when available, but the news report stated that when union contractors are too expensive the UAW used non-union laborers to save money. Hmm, core values are one thing, but being pragmatic is another. This is the end of our regularly scheduled show, now another commercial.

Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Mitchell, and President Trump now is the time for leadership, not more partisan politics. The right does not have a monopoly on corruption, or even on politicians with allegations of abuse (Keith Ellison, Tony Cardenas, Bobby Scott, and Bob Menendez), the left has its issues too. Thus, it is time to stop throwing stones and work together for relief, development, and new social policies that help to create both economic opportunity and strong social programs. Good luck to the three of you, please for the good of the country exercise leadership instead of perpetuating hate.

And that is my thought for the day!

Romans Chapter 5: Faith Triumphs Over Trouble

Over the first four chapters of the Epistle to the Romans we have learned that all have sinned, none of us have the right to judge anyone else, and God knew we couldn’t deal with the sin problem, so He did. I love the first four chapters, but we are now getting into the meat of Paul’s letter. In other words, how we can practically live for God, knowing that He loves us and wants us to be blessed.

Chapter 5 begins with the word therefore. Pastor Chuck Smith used to say, “when you see the word therefore, you need to ask wherefore.” Therefore, reaches back into the previous chapter. Because we have saved by grace through faith we are declared justified, as the old timers used to say just if I’d never sinned. And, we now have peace with God. The first verse in chapter 5 is one that deals with standing. Because of what Jesus has done we now have peace with God. Wuest in his wonderful commentary states that this is a doctrinal point that demonstrates the difference between standing and experience. Our standing is one of peace based on the death of Christ, and as verse two states faith allows us to have access into this grace provided by the death of Jesus Christ, and by faith we stand on the fact of His provision, but the hope is not just for the here and now, it gives a hope for the future.

As Paul demonstrates we have a good standing with God, but we also can trust Him to help us to grow in our lives. Because God was willing to do something wonderful for us, we can trust Him that experiences in our lives will help us grow stronger. In verse 3 through 5 we see that we glory in tribulations. The Greek word translated “tribulation” is interesting. According to Wuest it means, “pressing, pressing together, pressure, oppression, affliction, distress, and straits.” He also states that because of the sentence structure, “these are naturally expected” elements in the believer’s life. What this means then, we can expect occurrences that will create great tension in our lives, but we can know that they are there only for good purposes. As the song says, He is a good, good Father.

These tribulations work, “accomplish, achieve, to do that from which something results,” like patience, character, and hope. The word character has a sense of approval. In other words, we are tried and proved faithful as we stand in faith. I love this promise from God. All of us who walk with God have experienced many different tribulations, but God is faithful and therefore as we trust Him we are not disappointed. In fact, His love has filled and continues to fill our hearts as a work of the Holy Spirit.

This first part of chapter 5 demonstrates the rich life of the believer who walks with God. It starts with a foundation of value that gives one peace, and it continues through a life of faith through all of our experiences. This is a much different experience than what had become of humanity. As Paul explains, through Adam we all became sinners. Through the disobedience of Adam in the garden we all were plunged into death. However, just like all mankind became sinners, “the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ abounded to many.” Every human being demonstrates the reality of Adamic sin by our own sinful nature, but through the death of one man, we can experience redemption from this painful reality. Verse 18 states, “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all humankind, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”

Chapter 5 is an amazing testimony of God’s work in the world today. By grace through faith we have a new standing with God, one that has a foundation in peace. But we also have an experiential promise that God is making us more like Jesus every day. Improving our character, making us more approved through the various trials. All of this was done by a loving God who first loved us before we were ever able to love Him. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly,” and “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

I don’t know about you, but I am stoked by this. I am jazzed by this. I find it to be groovy.

And that is my thought for the day!

Capitalism And Business As Mission

Have I stated recently how much I love retirement? I am settling in to a routine that I think will be good for me. I start my day by reading. I read two newspapers, one local and the Wall Street Journal, three books, and my Bible. I have breakfast and pray, and then I go to work. I begin writing down my thoughts. I have a topic I am working on that really is just for me. If anyone reads my blogs then I am happy, if no one reads them, I am happy too because I am growing. However, I have decided to interject some additional offerings to increase my readership.

Capitalism versus Socialism is a hot topic right now, and I have just finished Ronald Nash’s excellent book Social Justice and the Christian Church, so why not wade into the muck again. So here goes.

Michael R. Baer in his book, “Business As Mission: The Power of Business in the Kingdom of God,” describes what can be accomplished via business if the owners or managers see themselves as stewards. Often Business, like Capitalism, is viewed as something evil. Baer states, “In much of the world there is a fundamental conviction among sincere Christians that there is something intrinsically wrong with business and that no serious follower of Christ would go into business, much less consider it a calling.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Business is a mechanism for creating opportunity for people and positive social change.

Ronald Nash argues that those who see Capitalism as immoral are incorrect. In 1974 Israel Kirzner, in his book “The Ugly Market: Why Capitalism is Hated, Feared and Despised,” Kirzner states “One of the most intriguing paradoxes surrounding modern capitalism is the hate, fear, and the contempt with which it is commonly regarded. Every ill in contemporary society is invariably blamed on business, on the pursuit of private profit, on the institution of private ownership.” To hold this type of mentality one must adhere to a worldview that interprets what occurs in the business world as evil, that worldview is usually based in some type of big government, socialism, centrally planned solution. I have criticized this view in previous blogs and will continue to do so. However, as a Democratic-Capitalist I also think there is a need for some type of referee in the market process. I will come back to that discussion later.

Critics of capitalism often retreat to the 18th and 19th century arguing the capitalism created misery for the working class. I will admit there were excesses and exploitation, but there was also growth and opportunity for people to advance economically. The industrial age helped to create products that were less expensive, so people could afford them, think of Henry Ford. Poverty did not begin with capitalism, and people starving did not begin with capitalism. The process of human change was occurring and is always occurring. Our country moved from an agrarian society to one that was industrial. Urban centers became the norm as people moved from farms to the city. As the new business models became more mature, more people thrived, and today we enjoy the fruits of those early difficult years of industrial capitalism.

It was also during this time that government and business worked on balances to ensure greed and selfishness were adjudicated allowing people to have the protections we have experienced in both the 20th and 21st centuries. I believe the market system allows people to make choices for themselves and their own benefit. They have the freedom to move where ever they need to and find that job that can support their family. Or they can start that business because they have the right to own their own business. Capitalism as an economic system allows that to happen.

But, and this is a big but, the people that own those businesses should behave a certain way. This is why I think Business as Mission is such a good thing. Business as Mission is about calling. I was called to business to do good in the aspects of business I have had responsibility for. As a worker, I always tried to do a good job. As a manager I tried to be a servant leader. I tried to help my employees be successful. And as a business professor I have always tried to be prepared and provide the best education I could for my students. Operating a kingdom business is doing the best we can for the glory of God.

Business helps people to provide for their and their family’s needs. Think about all of the stakeholders affected by a particular business. The owner, the employees, the customers, and the community are all impacted by a business. Each represents a need that is meant to be met, all of which will make everyone better off. In the movie Dave with Kevin Kline there is a great scene where Dave explains why he loves his small business, an employment agency. Dave gave this great speech about what it is like when a person receives a paycheck for a job well done. I also saw that when I used to hand out paychecks. That was my favorite day of the week when I used to go around and give each employee their check. The employees were always happy to see me.

Remember, business is about relationships. If there is one thing I have learned in my over 50 years of participating in business it is the importance of relationships. Business is not about who you can cheat, it is about creating a trust-based relationship that lasts for a long time. There is nothing more important in an organization than the relationship between manager and employee. There is nothing more important that the relationship between Employee and customer. Business is about relationships.

A for profit business is not evil, and it can be used to create great good in society. Through business and the opportunity it provides – people around the world are better off than in the past. But I think business can do better, which is why I see the importance of business as mission.

And that is my thought for the day!

Law Or Grace: You Choose!

I have to admit I am enjoying my study of the Epistle to the Romans. The process is revitalizing my faith, while helping me to trust God’s process. As we move toward the midterm elections we hear so many fear mongers. Daniel 2:21 reminds us that God “changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” I trust God and His plan, which is ultimately the message of Romans chapter 4.

In chapters 2 and 3, the Apostle Paul told us that all have sinned. There is no distinction made between those who were a part of the chosen people and those who were not. All of us have hamartia, missed the mark. However, in chapter 3 Paul explains God’s plan for dealing with this problem, the death of His Son on the cross. In chapter 4 of Romans, Paul now explains the avenue through which one can participate in this blessing. That avenue is faith.

Chapter 4 begins with “what then shall we say?” In other words, I have just argued that all have sinned, but all can be saved by faith in Jesus Christ. To solidify his argument he answers the question, what about Abraham? What can we learn about the relationship between God and human kind from Abraham? In verse 3 it says, “Abraham believe God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” I think this is the key verse in chapter 4, but what does it mean?

Wuest states, “It will therefore follow, that it was not the act of believing which was reckoned to him as a righteous act, or on account of which perfect righteousness was laid to his charge, but that the fact of his trusting God to perform His promise introduced him into the blessing promised.” Abraham’s trust that God would perform what he promised is the exemplar of human kind’s relationship with God. If we trust that God’s sacrifice does what He said it does, then we are counted as righteous.

I am a business guy. I like numbers and efficiency. I like managing people. So, when I see a word like accounted I am interested in the meaning. The Greek word is logizomai, and it refers to “putting something down to one’s account.” Wuest describes what is meant here, “God put into Abraham’s account, placed on deposit for him, credited to him, righteousness. The actual payment had not been made, the actual bestowing of righteousness had not been consummated, and for the reason that our Lord had not yet paid the penalty of man’s sin.” Because of faith Abraham possessed righteousness in his account, but it became realized after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I like this. King David rejoiced in this truth, “Blessed are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity” (Psalm 32:1,2). When we trust God that He will accept Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sin, we are forgiven, no wonder we experience the gushing of living water. As Jesus stated in John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Through salvation we now experience the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives giving us a new life filled with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, etc., which is the fruit of the Spirit.

Contrast that with the hatred we see around us in the world. Try posting something online that is contrarian with what is acceptable to the masses, and you will receive the full force of the world system. I think this illustrates Paul’s juxtaposition of the law and faith. All through these first four chapters Paul has been contrasting two experiences. One that is associated with the law, that brings about wrath. When we break the law, we are punished. The law is unbending, you either obey the law or you will receive probation, fine, or jail time. In the case of God’s law, it involves eternal punishment. However, Paul contrasts that with grace. “Therefore, it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed” (Romans 4:16). In other words, whether you are Jew or Gentile the offer is to all, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.

I am finishing up a book that discusses the relationship of the Church with Social Justice. Ronald Nash was the author. He was a philosophy professor at Reformed Theological Seminary. He was a proponent of religious particularism. This was a new phrase to me, but one I believe. Nash taught that “one had to possess explicit belief in Jesus Christ in order to obtain salvation.” Using this as our definition of religious particularism I think we can safely assume that Paul was of the same belief.

Nash was also an opponent of Liberation Theology, which has been and will be a subject for this blog, and Socialism. He used three claims to describe Liberation Theology. 1. Christians out to become politically active on behalf of the poor and oppressed. 2. The major cause of poverty and oppression in the world is capitalism. 3. Christians should attack capitalism and see it replaced by socialism. My opinion after spending time with Nash in his book that he would agree with the first claim, but not the last two. I too would agree with his assessment. As stated I will address this further at another time.

However, I bring this up at this point because I see so many people who are believers that spend so much time in the political realm that they have forgotten Paul’s message. God’s “righteousness shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Romans 4:24). To not share this message and only focus on oppression is missing a huge part of the gospel. As I have said before, there is no gospel without social concern, and there is no gospel without salvation.

And that is my thought for the day!

Israel and God’s Plan: Romans Chapter 2

Today we continue to mourn the mass shooting that occurred on Saturday. As I sit in my office thinking about what to write about, I am appalled at the level of hate in our country. The latest example being the deaths at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. I wish this were the only time that Jewish people were attacked, but it is not. Throughout history we see a people attacked and hated. The Egyptians turned them into slaves, the Germans, specifically Adolph Hitler, attempted to exterminate them, and their country is surrounded by people who want to destroy them. They are God’s chosen people and have a special place in God’s economy.

In chapter 2 of Romans we learned that the Jew is no different than the gentile, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” However, Paul wants us to know that the Jew does have an advantage, one that is critically important. Although the Jew cannot say they are not in need of a savior, they can hold onto certain amenities. Paul describes this as involving the possession of the scriptures. God had entrusted to the Jews His word, the description of how God interacts with humankind and specifically how He intended to send a savior.

God has chosen to act in history through a given group of people. The first was Abraham who demonstrated to people the importance of faith. Then there was King David, not a perfect man, but a man who was after God’s own heart. Don’t forget the major and minor prophets, which leads up to the Apostles, and the New Testament. All of which declare the mighty acts of God. The Jews were the custodian of all of God’s plan.

Paul then expounds on the argument, if this is such an important relationship, and the Jews failed, then where is God’s faithfulness in this relationship? If Jews are sinners just like everyone else, and they sinned, what is so special about a relationship with God, and can He be trusted? The question here is not God’s faithfulness, but the weakness of humanity. As Paul later states, “there is none righteousness, no not one,” and “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” All this does is confirm what God is telling us, even though we have this problem, we can find the solution in God’s plan.

The heart of chapter three is the gospel message. Because none of us seek God, we have all turned aside, we all have tongues that practice deceit, and have mouths full of cursing, we have no right to stand before God and say that he cannot judge us. The law, the rules that God has established from the beginning tell us we are guilty. “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19).

However, remember the oracles of God? The scripture that the custodians laid out for us says, “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For, there is no difference” (Romans 3:21 and 22). Paul ends this chapter by using several interesting words, justified, grace, redemption, propitiation, and righteousness. Words that should fill our hearts with joy.

In our modern language the word justified is usually used to validate some action we have taken. In this case Paul is describing an act that is taken by God regarding an individual who has faith in Jesus Christ. As Unger states in his dictionary, “Justification is a divine act whereby an infinitely Holy God judicially declares a believing sinner to be righteous and acceptable before Him.” This is accomplished by an act of grace. Grace is the motivation for God’s gift of His Son. Later Paul will tell us that God gave His Son while we were yet sinners. In other words, we weren’t seeking God, He chose to seek us, and redeem us from slavery to sin. This is truly grace.

This grace has led to what Paul calls redemption. The Greek word used here means to buy from the slave market, which gives a graphic sense of what sin does to us. Jesus paid the price for this sin resulting in the adopting us into the family of God.

The next word is not one we use much today, propitiation. This word is very interesting, and I think it would be best to allow Kenneth Wuest to explain. “Cannon Westcott says, the scripture conception of this word is not that of appeasing one who is angry with a personal feeling against an offender, but of altering that character of that which, from without, occasions a necessary alienation, and interposes an inevitable obstacle to fellowship.” With faith as the avenue, God’s grace as the motivation, and Jesus Christ’s death as the vehicle, we are moved from one position with God to another. One of disconnect to one of fellowship.

Because of all of this we are declared righteous, just if we had never sinned. Is there any wonder why the one who only comes to kill, steal, and destroy continually tries to hurt the Jew? I am so sorry there is hate in the world. I am so sorry that racism and anger is all around us. But I know the only way to deal with this is to find the Jesus that Paul is describing here. My prayer is that people can see the solution that God offers.

Chapter two of Romans has a very interesting verse. Verse 24 states, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the gentiles because of you.” That verse is directed at the Jews, but I think it could be addressed to us today. May that not be true about us, and the church.

And that is my thought for the day!