Three Chains I : Fear


Over the course of the next few weeks, we are going to be considering three chains that the enemy of our souls wants to use in order to keep us in bondage. But in Christ, we have been set free, and set free means set free from each of these chains, and from all of them. The three chains are fear, guilt, and shame. All three are common to the human frame, but different cultures can develop different emphases. The Western world is concerned with righteousness, and is therefore afflicted with guilt. The Eastern world is very concerned about honor, and is therefore afflicted with shame. The Southern world is concerned about survival and safety, and is afflicted with fear. The North generally does okay because it is cold and no one lives up there.

The Text:

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt.10:28).

Summary of the Text:

In this part of Matthew, Jesus is telling His disciples that He is sending them out as sheep among wolves. We need to be shrewd therefore (Matt. 10:16). We need to beware of men, because they will in fact persecute (Matt. 10:17-18). Even when we are delivered up, we need to trust God for the words we must use (Matt. 10:19). The persecutions will be both intensive and extensive, and if they treated Jesus this way, we cannot be surprised when they treat us in the same way (Matt. 10:20-25). Do not fear them, the Lord says, because everything is going to be revealed (Matt. 10:26). The entire story will eventually be told. Be bold (Matt. 10:27). Do not fear men, who can only kill the body and not the soul. Rather, fear the one who can wreck both body and soul in Gehenna (Matt. 10:28). We are told not to fear for two reasons. The first is that God will tell the whole story one day, and the second is that they can only kill the body, which means that all they can do is help you escape from them.

Wine in a Cup, and Blood Spilled

There is a striking similarity between the bread we see here and the body of Jesus Christ. There is also a striking similarity between the wine in the cup and the blood of Jesus. If there were no similarity it could not work as a sacrament—it could not even work as a metaphor.

But there are dissimilarities as well, and we do well to keep them in mind. The bread we break here is bread on a table, on a tray, with a white cloth beneath. The body that was broken was laid out on a cross and nailed there. The wine we drink is wine in a cup. The blood that was shed was blood that was spilled.

The sacramental meal we observe is a ritual, a religious ceremony. It is obviously civilized. It is contained, bounded, focused. The reality that it represents was brutal, and despite the efforts of the Sanhedrin to keep their minutes in order, lawless.

Generosity Grows

James tells us that if we sin at just one point of the law, we are guilty of offending against all of it. This is because the law is simply a description of what the triune personal God is like, and so an offense against Him at this point or at that point is still, at the end of the day, an offense against Him. If a man were to strike another man, whether the blow falls on his right cheek or his left, the blow has still fallen on the man.

Now the point of our sanctification is to become like God. That is where we are going. If we forget this, as professing Christians, what happens is that we find ourselves keeping a bunch of detached rules, and forgetting what the person behind all the rules is actually like. What He is like is love, kindness, overflow, and everlasting generosity. The detached rules may be fine in themselves, but when we do this they are radically out of context. By keeping just some of the rules we got from God, we do it in such a way as to sin against God.

When we seek to accumulate enough money to build the sanctuary we are pursuing, we need to accumulate it through generosity, not through hoarding. A church is a conduit for ministry, and it is—in line with the character of God—a replicating ministry. This means that we must be constantly putting seed in the ground. “Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor. 9:10–11). That is what we are after.

With All Your Protections in a Binder on His Desk

After my Due Process post, I received a letter from a friend — a tax attorney — who agreed with my central point about the modern tyrannical state, but who did want to defend the IRS on the point I was making about due process.

“Although I agree with you that the modern administrative state is overreaching and Tyrannical, I believe it is untrue to characterize IRS assessment and collection processes as being ‘without due process.’”

As he defines his terms, I quite agree with him. And as I am defining mine, he (I think) would agree with me. By due process, I did not mean orderly process, or defined process, or published beforehand process. I agree with my friend that all that and more occurs during the processes of tax assessment and collection. Bureaucrats are nothing if not rule-guided creatures.

But before expanding further on what I mean by due process, I need to lurch off into this side paragraph for a moment to explain what I am doing. On this point, I am simply tracking and agreeing with Philip Hamburger’s foundational arguments in his Is Administrative Law Unlawful? This also addresses the objections of those who believe that I have inexplicably set myself up as an expert in constitutional law, har har har, doing so with a degree in philosophy from the University of Idaho, har har har. But Hamburger is a professor of law at Columbia Law School, and the book is published by The University of Chicago Press. Thus it is that I tentatively conclude that a man may agree with Hamburger while remaining clothed and in his right mind. Unless, of course, we have gotten to such a point of administrative tyranny that we are not allowed to decide on our own experts anymore, but must go with the constitutional experts who are assigned to us. These would usually be the living document johnnies, the ones who think that the right to keep and bear arms means that you can’t.

Where was I? As I mentioned, by due process I do not mean orderly process. I grant that the IRS gives us that. I am talking about three basic ways in which our interactions with the IRS — and the administrative state generally — violate the historical understanding of due process. First, the process is inquisitorial. Second, such processes tend to invert the presumption of innocence. And third, a man can get into serious trouble without ever coming near a court of law. This is a problem because the IRS is part of the executive branch. If I am in legal trouble, my troubles should begin in a judicial court, not end there, or miss a real court entirely.

Now as my friend pointed out, if a man plays his cards right, he can wind up in a legitimate tax court. But it is perilously easy for the average guy to not play his cards right.

In other words, if in one circumstance I am suspected of shorting the government by five thousand dollars in 2011, and in another circumstance I am suspected of shooting old Henry Spivvins in a bar fight in 2011, my legal exposure in these two scenarios is entirely and completely different.