The Current Scene
Inflation And The Bible
There are times when situations develop that give a nation nowhere to turn; the alternatives are nil. The two invasions that the little country of Belgium has suffered in this century are examples. In Isaiah 28 the nation Israel faced a crisis. The great Assyrian power had risen and the land of Palestine was in the path of her conquering armies. In their desperation they sought Egypt as an ally. This, in the light of Jewish orthodoxy, is described as a covenant with death. To press home the plight of his nation, the ancient prophet used a graphic illustration. We quote his own words: “For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than he can wrap himself in it.” No ease from stretching oneself out; no warmth from the stinted cover. Everything Israel thought of turning to for help afforded no reliable succor.
Coming across this verse in Isaiah 28:20 led me to consider the problem both the United States and Canada face with inflation. Certainly the present stop-gap solutions to this problem bring no ease to the thoughtful. Ever since the menace was first felt, the United States government has jumped from one corrective to another. One is to put the economic brakes on, which does succeed in slowing inflation but it produces unemployment, especially among the make-work projects of the government. When this happens the pump priming is again restored. Like the man in bed with the too short covering, he can make himself comfortable on one side at the expense of getting cold on the other.
Of course, the only remedy to inflation is a balanced budget. To bring that about would create hardships that would threaten the survival of any popular government. The remedy is worse than the disease. However, when the dollar approaches the zero mark, then we will admit that the medicine would have been much milder than the disease. Meanwhile, it looks like our leaders will continue to palliate the symptoms instead of dealing with the real cause.
Are there any lessons that the Biblically oriented mind can gather from inflation? We think there are. The first was the abandonment of the gold standard. This freed money from a yardstick. There was no standard. From then on, currency has been borrowed or just printed to meet an ever-accelerated demand. As a result, we have a floating currency. Like water, it will ever find its level. Standards are absolutes and that is a dirty word to the modern politician and educator. Flexibility is the order of the day. The pressures of the moment will decide the amount of morality we will apply in meeting any given situation. This practicality is workable for the present, but we happen to be in a world of laws. Call this what you will —facts, reality or truth — such will ultimately prove their orthodoxy. Or as the adage goes, “Payday some day.” True, the laws of morality are not as patent as those of mathematics and physics; they can be tampered with but not broken without final judgment. We do not break the Ten Commandments, they break the offender.
Inflation is extravagance. It creates an artificial prosperity. A plentiful supply of unearned money stimulates spending, not thrift. On the other hand, the thrifty see their savings eroded. In fact, inflation is a covert tax. Those who would earn their self-sufficiency by putting by for a rainy day are tempted to spend with the rest or put their money into real estate. The parables of the Lord, certainly those of the pounds and talents, teach that there is a reward and advancement to the industrious. A man’s standard of living was measured by his worth. In the Bible, the lazy were not entitled to eat. God’s love is tempered with firmness. The discipline of necessity creates inventiveness and responsibility. Many a strong man has been robbed of the will to be resourceful by unwise handouts. As a consequence, we have moved from a society of rugged individualism to one of entitlement. One does not earn a raise in salary, it’s coming to him. Welfare is considered just as much due at the end of the month as a well-earned pension. With money no longer stabilized by gold or productivity, prices will continue to rise and services will become too expensive or unobtainable.
All of this is far cry from the Biblical or the so-called “Puritan ethic.” Present day welfarism is dependent upon inflation; otherwise who could raise sufficient taxes to pay the bill? Witness Social Security as it attempts to balance its outlay with more income. Our humanitarian principles ignore that man is fallen — a sinner. Capitalism certainly approximates Biblical economics. It accommodates far better to man’s sinnership. Let’s face it, heaven will never come about down here. God has cursed the ground for man’s sake. He’s better off doing what work is available, or that he can do, than be idle. Inflation, like everything that is sinful, feeds on itself. It produces no remedy and eventually only makes worse the disease it is trying to correct.
A movement is now gaining acceptance that would demand of the government to live within its income. This would be like taking a dope addict off his habit by the cold turkey method, and most certainly placing our politicians in a straightjacket. The cry is, “What are we to do in an emergency?” Of course, the hard-nozed approach to that problem would be to have a reserve surplus for such occasions. Unfortunately, the euphoria that inflation has created demands an austerity if it is to be remedied, and we question whether an elected government could bring this about.
It is disturbing to know that one of the ingredients, according to Lenin, for the overthrow of free enterprises was to debauch its currency. The Scripture says, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). It is probable that the United States, which capitalism once made the envy of the world, will continue to water down the dollar until that once almighty dollar is unmasked and its real worth, or worthlessness, is discovered. Yet, even if we were in the most stable of societies, wealth and health have a way of taking wings. Hence the wisdom of our Lord’s philosophy of life: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where either moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:19-21).
A Vacant Throne
Many months ago the Shah of Iran yielded to public pressure and left his throne and country for what he says is a needed rest and vacation. Many think it will amount to an abdication. Was it not Shakespeare who said, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”? The fabulous amount of petrel dollars that have poured into Iran has become a major source of that nation’s troubles. In this train of a heady prosperity have come some of the evil influences of Western civilization. At least this is the thinking of fanatical Muslims. The Shah was for catching up with the West and succeeded in putting his country’s clock forward considerably. The new revolutionary government is for putting the clock back and adjusting things to an Islamic culture. Time will tell. Many, especially the women, have tasted (for them in particular) a new wine of freedom. So far it appears that the country has just traded one type of tyranny for another that can be more demanding than that of the Shah’s.
We cannot name a country today that is not facing some kind of insoluble problem. A population explosion, a bully neighbor, unemployment and inflation. Another source of distress can be from extremists, often operating underground and masterminded. Such can organize riots, demonstrations and bombings at opportune times. Then there is a coup or the assassin’s bullet that could change the course of a nation overnight. The assassin’s bullet from a crazed youth was the immediate cause of World War I. Why write in this vein? We read time and again in the Old Testament that when sin abounded, God in turn sent wars, famines and pestilence. The present is a reflection of the moral condition of the world. This is especially true in lands once enlightened by the Holy Scriptures. One of the graphic descriptions of our God’s disposition toward the children of men is “as an eagle stirreth up her nest” (Deut. 32:11). Or again, we read, “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more, until He come whose right it is, and I will give it Him” (Ezek. 21:27). Current events are constantly reminding us of what the Bible has been saying all along that “the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19). God is not allowing the world to get too cozy, else men would forget eternity. The words of Micah 2:10 will be heeded by those who have ears to hear: “Arise, and depart; for this is not your rest; because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even a great destruction.”
The God of the Bible abounds in love and grace, yet there is a judgment and a hell. There is no Santa Claus image about our God; mere sentimentality is far from Him “who will by no means clear the guilty” (Ex. 34:7). God allows sinful men to go so far. We are told that God holds the mastery over nature: “Thou rulest the raging of the sea” (Psa. 89:9). Equally so does God rule and overrule in the affairs of the world. Again we read, “Surely the wrath of men shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou re-restrain” (Psa. 76:10).
Things looked black for Isaiah when his patron and king, Uzziah, died. History proved that any misgivings he may have entertained were not unfounded. At the announcement of the king’s death, he was given to see another throne. In his prophecy, he states: “I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.” This is the throne that is to assure the final victory over sin. Just now because of the atoning blood of Christ, we have a throne of grace. The day is coming when the occupant of that heavenly throne, the Lord Jesus Christ, is going to assert His crown rights. Nor is this an exclusively Biblical viewpoint of this world’s system. James Russell Lowell’s observation led him to write: “Right forever on the scaffold; wrong forever on the throne.” Yet he envisioned in the dim unknown future the “scaffold” ultimately in full charge. In the meantime, Lowell added that God was “keeping watch above His own.”
All of the teachings of the New Testament centre around the cross work of our Lord Jesus Christ. While the book of the Revelation is no exception to this rule, we do find that its emphasis is on the throne of Christ which is finally described as “the throne of God and the Lamb.” Commenting on this theme, F. W. Grant wrote: “Heaven! And the first thing the apostle sees is ‘a throne’ and ‘One sitting on the throne.’ It is the first necessity for all blessing, for all stability and for all rest of heart. It is the assurance of order, of peace, of concord, of congruity: over all, a real, personal, living and sovereign God. Not a democracy, but an absolutism; not laws which execute themselves, but the will of the All-wise, All-holy: fixed rule in free hands. It is this that sin would have overturned; and which has proved itself impossible to be overturned; whose eternity alone assures the absolute security of all else, Well may all the crowns be cast before this throne, by which all are sustained and served. The sovereignty of God is surely the joy and triumph of every redeemed soul.”
As a result of elections it appears that many have had enough of big government. In Britain there is now a woman Prime Minister — the first in the history of that nation. Mrs. Margaret Thatcher is an avowed conservative and is not ashamed of the epithet given to her, “the iron woman.” She will likely polarize the two situations that are current today: socialism and conservatism. They cannot live with each other. Whichever ultimately dominates will be enforceable by going to one or the other extreme — communism or facism. It is our conjecture that the drift of the West will be anticommunist and develop into a fascist dictatorship. France and Italy, which have the strongest communist constituencies, have kept communism from gaining an upper hand in spite of a very close margin.
The United States will probably see the lines clearly drawn. The fact that a strong “Kennedy fever” is surfacing reveals a decided preference of some for even bigger government participation in our affairs. At the same time there is a noticeable recoil from this trend, and it is possible that the Republicans will nominate a decided conservative. The result of the election will be interesting and reveal the nation’s preference. We would not be surprised if there was a conservative victory. Whether by “the divine right of kings,” the ballot box or a revolution, God rules and overrules in the affairs of men. The Christian obeys whoever is in authority as far as his conscience permits.