Tuesday, May 5, 2009

IN GOD WE TRUST

That national motto has been emblazoned on our currency since the 1860’s. Treasury secretary Salmon P. Chase instigated the new inscription on our currency at the prompting of concerned citizens wanting to acknowledge God’s hand in our nation. Emboldened by these promptings, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, the Philadelphia mint director, in a letter to prepare a motto:


Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

http://www.treas.gov/education/fact-sheets/currency/in-god-we-trust.shtml


After approval through an act of Congress, the US Treasury began minting coins with the motto “In God We Trust” in 1864. One Hundred and forty-five years later we still read those poignant words on our coins and bills as we transact our day to day business. But do the words still ring true?


A 2008 Pew Research poll noted that the number of Americans unaffiliated with a particular religious group is more than double the number who say they were unaffiliated as children. 16.1% of Americans now claim no affiliation with any particular religion. Among the 18 to 29 age group, 25% say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion.

http://religions.pewforum.org/reports


Now this survey does not indicate a total abandonment of God by the unaffiliated. Out of those who are unaffiliated, only 25% define themselves as atheists or agnostics. Yet, I do believe the research reveals a growing disillusionment with the traditional understanding of God. So the motto “In God We Trust” will likely have a significantly different meaning to different people, and some will discount it all together. Even those that are affiliated with a religious group may not look to God as their source of hope and help.


What then does America trust if not God?


Some may argue government. A survey by Rasmussen revealed that 33% of Americans under 30 favored socialism over capitalism. Only 37% of that age group favored capitalism over socialism and 30% were unsure.

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/just_53_say_capitalism_better_than_socialism


This survey, as far as I know, didn’t define socialism or capitalism, so some of the results may reflect misunderstandings on the part of the survey participants. I would simply define socialism as an economic system based on collective or governmental ownership and governmental administration of production; whereas, capitalism refers to private or corporate ownership and the administration of pricing and distribution determined by private means.


Let's assume the majority of those who participated in the Rasmussen survey had a similar understanding. In that case, I find those Rasmussen and Pew Research polls complementary. In other words, as some people in America turn away from a trust in God they in turn shift their trust to government. This was particularly evident in the poll results for the 18-29 age group. This group had a higher number of people with no religious affiliation and a higher number of people who perceive socialism as superior to capitalism when compared to other age groups.


Now let me clarify that I don’t think any particular worldly economic system will be perfect. Regarding ownership, scripture indicates that everything ultimately belongs to God (Psalm 24:1). Yet, scripture also refers to man’s stewardship of God’s possessions. God does seem to entrust property to individuals as is evident in both the Old and New Testaments. The Israelites were given land and in the New Testament individuals sold personal property to care for those in need.


And though scripture tends to lean more toward a capitalistic approach, both systems have the potential to lead people into trusting something other than God. Under capitalism, people can grow dependent on their wealth to solve their problems. I believe we have seen that in America over the past decades. As Americans increased in wealth we began to look to our finances to take care of us. Whether that was through retirement accounts, insurance, savings or other financial means, we began to trust in our finances to help us in our time of need.


Now with our economy reeling, many Americans have grown disillusioned with a dependency on wealth. Many individuals have never ‘made it’ and younger Americans may wonder if they will even have the opportunity to ‘make it.’ Instead of depending on wealth to solve their problems, Americans are beginning to look to the government to solve their problems. Whether it’s paying their mortgage, health care costs, or retirement income, a number of people are looking to the government to provide for their needs.


Tragically, dependence on the government is no better than dependence on wealth from a spiritual point of view. Trust in either of those things will provide a disastrous substitute for trust in God. The hope for our nation or any nation comes not in a political party, an economic system, or a charismatic leader, but our hope ultimately rests in God. He alone can meet our needs.


Jeremiah understood the dangers of trusting in something other than the LORD. His people were looking to other entities to deal with their problems and God warned them to trust only in Him. We read the following in Jeremiah 9:23-24 and 17:5-8.


This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jer. 9:23-24)


This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.


“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jer. 17:5-8)


Those are powerful truths for every American to consider. I pray that God, out of the richness of His mercy, may grant America one more revival before Christ returns. Then, perhaps, our currency’s motto would again ring true “IN GOD WE TRUST!”

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