A few weeks back I was asked a litany of questions by a reader that I believe are important areas of concern for the Christian who seeks to live their life in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. We are all commanded in Scripture to “Love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength” and in a similar fashion to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” These are not guidelines but direct commands.
The question we must ask in answering these commands is “How am I to show love first for God and then for neighbor?” Loving God is only possible when we obey His voice. Meaning when we uphold His Law-Word in our life (Matt 5.17; Rom 3.31). For it is the law of God that defines the proper way we are to respond to our Lord and Savior and to our fellow man. The two “love” commands mentioned above are summations of the entire moral code that God has revealed in the Old Testament (Matt 22.40; Rom 13.9-10).
Today, I wanted to offer a brief answer to one of the questions that was posed to me by the reader of a post I had written entitled “How to Know Whether You Should Stand or Kneel “. He asked, “Can you find any examples of ‘nanny state’ activity being condemned?” This particular person took issue with my stance that socialism and communism are sisters sharing an underlying presupposition about personal wealth and property. In our back and forth dialogue he challenged this premise among others. Looking back I found the conversation very fruitful. Some dislike arguments or debates where two sides cannot seem to come to agreement, but I believe that they may serve as growing opportunities for those who seriously desire to know the truth.
So, does Scripture (the sixty-six books of the Holy Bible) condemn a nanny state? I believe so, but before I explain why, I want to lay out what I believe is a foundational issue that undergirds my response.
An Issue of Authority
It is my contention that the civil government has a limited sphere of authority where it is allowed to operate. I base this line of thinking on the fact that only the Triune Creator God of the Bible is absolutely sovereign. His authority is limitless in that He does whatever He pleases as a reflection of His holy nature. All other authorities are limited because they derive their authority from God (Rom 13.1-2).
This may be witnessed from a variety of examples…
- As individuals: All people are created in the image of God (Gen 1.26, 28). The image that we are expected to reflect as a byproduct of our being God’s creature is to reflect Him in all areas of life (word, thought and deed). Thus, we are supposed to be self-governed in light of God’s Word. I’m speaking about the original intent of God for man; pre-fall. After the fall (Gen 3), the inward bent of mankind fell under the curse of sin and as a result we all, as children of Adam, are born children of wrath, sons (and daughters) of disobedience (cf. Eph 2.1-3). The two love commands mentioned above are still in effect, because God’s moral law is still in effect (Matt 5.18). The way we live this life will require an accounting our part. We are responsible for our actions, not the actions of others (Ezek 18.20). We are to be self-governed, we do not have authority to govern others.
- As parents: Parents are supposed to represent God in their household (Exod 20.12; Deut 11.19). They are given authority to govern and discipline their children in the light of God’s Word (Prov 13.24). But a parent’s authority is limited to their own family unit. Parents do not possess the right to govern or discipline the offspring of another home.
- As elders/overseers: Within the Church God has ordained leaders to watch over His flock (Acts 20.27-28). They are to govern and discipline the children of God in Christ in light of God’s Word (Eph 4.11-16; Heb 13.17). This requires teaching, instructing, rebuking and correcting so that every person is fully equipped for every good work (2Tim 3.16–4.2). The leadership of one local body does not have authority to govern or discipline members of another congregation. The Church’s authority is unique in that it has authority to speaking into the life of the individual, the family and the state on how they should perform their duties as image bearers of God. The symbol of the Church’s authority is the “keys” of the kingdom (Matt 16.19; 18.18).
- As civil authorities: Within the confines of the civil government the role of the magistrate, which is identified as a minister of the Lord God in Scripture, is to uphold the good and punish the evil (Rom 13.3). Unlike the Church whose symbol is “keys,” the state bears the symbol of the “sword” (Rom 13.4). Their role is limited in the sense of executing justice and purging evil from society (e.g., Deut 19.9b-20).
All of these spheres of governance are to be guided by one universal standard—the Law-Word of God. Since as Jesus testified, “only God is good” the only way one might truly define good versus bad behavior in the individual, the family, the Church or the Civil government is by that which is revealed from God—His Holy Word.
On the Legitimacy of the Nanny State
Having expressed my categorical understanding of authorities and their subsequent limitations, I believe we are now able to begin looking at the issue of whether or not a nanny state is a legitimate exercise of the civil government.
A brief definition…
So that we are all on the same page, I wanted to take a moment and offer a brief definition of the subject being questioned for legitimacy. A “nanny state” is one that attempts to provide for the needs of her people. This includes a variety of areas and/or services. Things like education, healthcare, food and living assistance, employment, wage and price controls on businesses, etc. Some I suppose would include emergency services like EMS/EMT, Fire, and police. I would be inclined to place police in a separate category as they are designated as law enforcement, tasked with protecting the citizenry and maintaining the peace.
An issue of funding…
Now the question is how does a “nanny state” provide those various services? Do they raise their own money in order to pay for them? Often times you will hear those that lean strongly to the social left in our nation (like Bernie Sanders) promise free healthcare, free education, free living, free food, etc. But who pays for the medicine or the medical staff? Who pays for the literature and the teaching fees? Who pays for section 8 housing? Who pays for the credit on the EBT card? Where does the funding come from for such programs? Who fits the bill for the cost of production, for the construction of facilities, for the maintenance and upkeep of services? Where does the money come from?
The nanny state sounds great to those on the receiving end of the promised services (needs met), but from where do they acquire the wealth to provide such things? The backs of others. Since the civil government does not produce wealth, it must glean from the wealth of others. That is to say, they must take from the wealth of the citizens to provide for the needs of others. This is accomplished through taxation.
Socialism pretends that property should be public rather than private. That personal wealth must be distributed to others. They take from the first-fruits of some citizens that are considered well-off, in order to given to those who are deemed “poor.” Socialism loves a graduated tax rate. If you work harder than your neighbor, if you are wiser with your time and you manage your resources better, and this is demonstrated in the building of wealth, then you will be gouged at a higher rate.
Why is socialism evil? Where might we turn to find a condemnation of the nanny state? Wait for it. Its really easy. So easy in fact you need to prepare for it:
“THOU SHALL NOT STEAL.”Exodus 20:15
According to the Word of God no one has the right to another persons’ property. It does not matter if it is your neighbor, the Church, or the civil government. No one has the right to reach into another man’s wealth and take it for themselves. To argue that all you’re really concerned about is the poor. To say its not fair that you have this much wealth and your neighbor doesn’t. To demand that what another has should be given to others, without the owner deciding of their own free will—apart from any form of coercion—is demonic.
I’m not saying that every one who has bought into this line of thinking is purposefully serving the devil’s desires, but to say you can take from someone else without their permission, without their cheerful desire to give, is to challenge what God has written as holy, good and loving. Judas Iscariot had that attitude and we know who he served (John 12.5-6).
Based on this text alone the concept of the “nanny state” is an unbiblical practice. Period.