A Clean Conscience and a Well-Oiled Shield

As I have been noting periodically in this series on liberty, taxation, and theft, I am not issuing a call to action, but rather a call for understanding and recognition. Clearly this is not because action is irrelevant, but rather because rash and precipitous action is usually destructive. Think, and then do. At some point, action will be necessary, and when that day comes, Christians need to have consciences that are prepared for the necessary action. If you are going to run a marathon, you don’t get ready for it by running around the block the day before.

Now by “prepared consciences” I don’t mean callused consciences. All Christians should have sensitive consciences, but they should not have consciences that are universally sensitive. When the conscience is universally sensitive, that tenderized one is a prime candidate for the guilt manipulators, who are quite prepared to tell us anything. You are waiting for your wife, who ran into the mall for a couple things, and you keep the car running so you can have the air conditioner going. Well, it is because of YOU that glaciers are falling into the ocean, and polar bears are keeling over in heaps. And if you want the hotel to wash your towels every day, it is clear that you want the cute little koala bear on that cardboard hanger thingy to die, die, die.

In contrast to this universal sensitivity, we should be acutely sensitive to the words of God. If we are actually sensitive in this way, we will be deaf to the guilt-mongers. If we are sensitive to God’s leading (which He gives to us through His Word), then our consciences will be trained and disciplined by the Word. Resistance to tyrants is submission to God, as Jefferson put it, but there is a corollary. Deafness to tyrants is listening to God.

Democracy in Action: "We heard that Murphy still has some money left!"
Democracy in Action: “We heard that Murphy still has some money left!”

Laws multiply when the lawgivers want to have subjects instead of citizens. When laws swarm like the frogs of Egypt, the reason for it is to increase guilt. This guilt means two things — one is that when there are multitudinous regulations, they can always get you for something. Second, it turns everyone into a lawbreaker, but because our consciences are not trained by the Scriptures, when it gets to the point of resistance, we are dragged into the fray with uneasy consciences — instead of walking toward the confrontation with a clean heart and well-oiled shield.

Swarms of their froggy little laws, and swarms of officers to eat out our substance, are a threat to us. What is a threat to them? Well, the gospel is the enemy of tyrants everywhere precisely because the gospel liberates the conscience. Even if for years after conversion, every forgiven sinner does nothing explicitly political against the tyrants, the tyrant nevertheless objects to the fact that the gospel is plainly removing all his handles from the sinners. A forgiven man is a free man, a fact regarded by taskmasters everywhere with frank suspicion.

If you doubt what I say about how these laws are a teeming nuisance, utterly inconsistent with living as free men and women, this is just because you don’t want to come to grips with the fact that you are probably committing a felony right this minute. Have you ever thrown away some junk mail that came to your house addressed to somebody else? That, my friend, is punishable by a sentence of up to five years. Now if you receive this information, and then next week you receive a missive about a sale at Macy’s addressed to Harry Schwartz, and you are not he, and you blithely throw it in the regular garbage (instead of the mandatory recycle bin, you villain!), and you do all this without any qualms of conscience whatever, it means that you are actually making some real progress. We might make a Christian of you yet.

Now some like to respond to this emphasis on property rights as human rights as a thinly veiled defense of “it’s mine, I tell you!” I make the mistake of issuing a clarion call for integrity as we learn how to stand up to the gargantuan thievery of the modern state, and defenders of that kleptocracy can only hear me saying, “We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us. Sneaky little hobbitses.”

But this is all part of what I mean by beginning with “recognition.” The early Christians trusted in God, which is why they could joyfully accept it when their property was plundered. When the prehensile and rapacious state seizes my property, like a dragon from the north, I should accept it from the hand of God — with the same principled contentment I ought to display if I lost my earthly goods in an earthquake or fire. It’s only stuff.

“For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one” (Heb. 10:34, ESV).

In other words, I don’t object to them stealing my stuff because I am revealed as heart idolator by their attempts at stealing (Eph. 5:5). If God’s object is to reveal my undue attachment to stuff, He can do it by means of fire, flood, high winds, or congressmen saving the children. And if a property owner’s idolatry is revealed by whatever circumstance, then it stands revealed. But whether or not the victim was an idolator, the thief who revealed that idolatry to the world remains a thief.

When Job lost all his worldly goods, some of it was because of natural disaster (Job 1:19) and some of it was by human agency (Job 1:27). But Job attributed all of it to God, and submitted to God’s will in it. The fact that he recognized the hand of the Lord in all of it, and accepted that loss from the Lord, did not mean that he had acquiesced to a new economic theory as developed by Chaldean raiding parties, or socialists, but I repeat myself.

So before we charge off to save our goods, we need to learn that they are in fact being stolen, and we need to get this information down into our wee little brains. After that information has simmered there for a number of years, and we start to notice a certain lightness of step, and a certain spring in our conscience, then we might be equipped to formulate a plan of action that was not certifiably insane.

So we accept the plundering of our goods joyfully, while naming it as plunder. Naming the plunder is the first step in learning eventually how to put a stop to it. For the magistrate to take property from anyone without scriptural warrant is theft simpliciter. The fact that we are used to it justifies nothing. Illicit taxation is theft, just as the fabled droit du seigneur was sexual immorality — whether or not all parties cooperated.

Being a creature, I reason from axioms, and decline the invitation to prove my axioms. A good axiom should therefore occupy a place on the trunk down near the grass, and not be a set of twigs up near the airy heavens, and so here it is. We are created by God, and it is self-evident that we were endowed by that Creator with certain rights that are inalienable, and that among these rights are the right to life, liberty, and property. If someone claims that I am refusing to pick up the onus probandi, the burden of proof, I will simply laugh contentedly, and acknowledge that this is entirely correct. I believe the burden of proof should actually be on the guy with a gun who wants to rob me. He is not hard to identify — they usually have big, block letters on the back of their jackets. Ask him what he is doing.

Being a magistrate is not a universal “its all okay” permission slip. Taxation without representation is theft. Taxation to finance cockamamie wars is theft. Taxation to pay wheat farmers to not grow wheat is theft. Taxation to fund Planned Parenthood is murderous theft. Taxation to fund research programs into whether cocaine causes quail to engage in risky sexual behavior is theft. Taxation to buy fuel for the 100,000 backhoes dumping our money into the Fannie Mae sinkhole is theft.

And not being able to see theft in all  this is tantamount to standing on the top of the levee in the middle of Hurricane Katrina and being unable to “detect the breeze,” and asking the rescue worker pulling on your elbow to please “define breeze.”

Just call it theft. You will feel better almost immediately. As the counselor guy puts it, the first step to recovery is acknowledging that we have a problem.

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timothy
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timothy

After that information has simmered there for a number of years, and we start to notice a certain lightness of step, and a certain spring in our conscience, then we might be equipped to formulate a plan of action that was not certifiably insane.

Patience, I was counseled .

thx

Matt
Guest
Matt

Have you ever thrown away some junk mail that came to your house addressed to somebody else? That, my friend, is punishable by a sentence of up to five years.

Yes, destroying other people’s mail is a crime. If you think about this for more than 5 seconds, you might be able to figure out why. Whatever made you think this was a good example of government overreach?

Paul
Guest
Paul

Based on some the criticisms already received, you really need to work on the quality of your critics.

ArwenB
Guest
ArwenB

Whatever made you think this was a good example of government overreach?

Because it is junk mail, as specified in the example.

Would you thank someone who tracked you down and gave you a pile of misdirected credit card solicitations and advertising flyers?

Jane
Member

I’ve thought about it for more than five seconds and I still don’t understand why it’s a crime punishable by imprisonment to pick up and place in the appropriate container something worthless that party A intended to have thrown at party B, but party C, who was entrusted with throwing it, misaimed and threw at me.

Jane
Member

Would you thank someone who tracked you down and gave you a pile of misdirected credit card solicitations and advertising flyers? The exception would be a company I do business with that sent stuff that was directed to me, like an offer from a department store where I have a charge card, for a special discount available only to cardholders. But then that’s not what I call junk mail. And I’m not going to be easily persuaded that with the Federal Register weighing in at north of 300 pounds, there wasn’t a way that the level of culpability couldn’t be… Read more »

Matt
Guest
Matt

Because it is junk mail, as specified in the example. To you it is. You have no idea what your neighbor considers junk or not (the fact that ad mailings go on suggests that at least some people are interested), nor could the law feasibly make some hard-line distinction between junk and not-junk that would not be immediately abused or circumvented. The current status quo of blanket ban on destroying other people’s mail and little if any enforcement in the case of mass-mailings few people care about is about the best we can get, unless you would prefer that mass-mailings… Read more »

jigawatt
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jigawatt

But the point is that throwing away junk mail is a crime (and ostensibly a kind of theft), while the billions of dollars of perfectly legal thievery that go on every day are overlooked completely.

Straining a gnat and swallowing a camel doesn’t even come close to an adequate comparison.

timothy
Guest
timothy

Matt,

Don’t be silly. Its not like their junk-mail is there private property or anything.

timothy
Guest
timothy

‘their’ not ‘there’

grr…

Matt Petersen
Guest
Matt Petersen

If someone claims that I am refusing to pick up the onus probandi, the burden of proof, I will simply laugh contentedly, and acknowledge that this is entirely correct. I believe the burden of proof should actually be on the guy with a gun who wants to rob me.

Hunh. Funny. I thought the debate was between Jefferson and Augustine, and so the burden of proof lies with Jefferson. But evidently it lies with the thieves, and Augustine is ignored.

However, the admission that you cannot argue against Augustine and Chrysostome, but, a la van Til assume Jefferson as axiomatic, is refreshing.

Gabe Rench
Guest
Gabe Rench

I think what is interesting in all the comments under this series, is how significant are slave mentality has become. Some people want the burden of proof laid on the slaves, while others think heavy handed laws/penalties are a bad examples of how a tyrant governs.

Jane
Member

I’m pretty sure it’s Moses he’s assuming as axiomatic, against which Augustine has to prove himself.

timothy
Guest
timothy

Why oil a shield, btw?

Matt Petersen
Guest
Matt Petersen

Jane:

We are created by God, and it is self-evident that we were endowed by that Creator with certain rights that are inalienable, and that among these rights are the right to life, liberty, and property.

That’s Jefferson, not Moses.

Rick Davis
Guest

“I beg you, remember this without fail, that not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life.” -John Chrysostom Note the personal pronouns Chrysostom uses here: “our own wealth”. Chrysostom is not denying the existence of personal property so that the government can then be free to take whatever it wants. He is saying that God demands we give to the poor of our personal property. He is clearly using “theft” figuratively as a rhetoric device, and intends it to be shocking to his audience in order to… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

Based on some the criticisms already received, you really need to work on the quality of your critics.

I agree – Matthew, you should do something about this issue if possible. ;)

Tom
Guest
Tom

timothy, Good question. Roman shields were made of leather, and if not oiled regularly, would crack.
My guess would be that this is analogous to a conscience sensitive to God’s word being impervious to guilt mongers.

Dave
Guest
Dave

For those who are unable to understand the governmental overreach with junk mail and numerous other tiny spider webs that trip up honest men making them terrorists and vile law breakers, I can point you in the proper direction. When you receive junk mail not addressed to you, according to the gospel of Elvis you should write upon it: “Return To Sender, Address Unknown. No Such Number, No Such Zone.”

mekt75
Member

So how would you address the States that are tax crazy like Washington and California?

Seth B.
Guest
Seth B.

Matt: I would think the the fact that property belongs to individuals can be seen from other OT laws. “If a man borrows anything of his neighbor, and it is injured or dies, the owner not being with it, he shall make full restitution.” Exodus 22:14. The text clearly says that it belongs to his neighbor.

Gordan
Guest
Gordan

Chrysostome was right about our duty to give our stuff to relieve the poor. I’m not getting how this becomes my duty to give *your* stuff to the poor; or the gummint’s mandate to do so.

Kevin Hadley
Guest
Kevin Hadley
Matt
Guest
Matt

Seriously bros, you can’t destroy other people’s mail. When did this become a conservative cause anyway? Sometimes I wonder if conservatives have any idea what they sound like. What they should do is raise taxes, and use the extra revenue to buy all conservatives a mirror.

timothy
Guest
timothy

Seriously bros, you can’t destroy other people’s mail. When did this become a conservative cause anyway? Do you do you not see the larger points Pastor Wilson argues ? Pastor Wilson gives an example of junk-mail to highlight this point: Laws multiply when the lawgivers want to have subjects instead of citizens. Ayn Rand (who fled communism for America) noted the principle as well. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

To reprise another post that I made in another thread:

Why do Christians advocate the use of lethal force to take their neighbor’s property?

If someone wants to give of what is theirs, they have that liberty. Why do they want to use the sword of government to force someone else to “give”?

Matt
Guest
Matt

Laws multiply when the lawgivers want to have subjects instead of citizens.

Except this is a case where the law is very simple and straightforward, and entirely justifiable. The argument seems to be that it needs to be more complicated to exclude a particular case.

This isn’t the only time the conservative narrative has fallen flat on its face. We live in the most free time that mankind has ever experienced, and a portion of the populace is determined to be the victims of tyranny somehow.

timothy
Guest
timothy

We live in the most free time that mankind has ever experienced,

This is ludicrously false.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Matt, in my travels and quests, I have never come across those who champion pitching out junk mail as a conservative cause. Perhaps thou dost protest too much and thou dost miss the forest for the junk mail flyer. This particular law was designed to prevent grumpy individuals from raiding mailboxes and trashing others mail. It was not intended to punish those who receive junk mail stuffed in their mail box that was addressed to another. As a note, postal employees are the ones who are usually charged with this particular law. They get tired of doing their jobs and… Read more »

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

@ Matt – Ref. The mail, bear with me here and I’ll acknowledge where you have a point or two . But first: Do you really think any serious harm is done to anyone when some sales flyer addressed to them is tossed in the trash? If you do, honestly it’s hard to take you seriously, so I hope your answer is “No, I don’t think that”. Now consider what it is for someone to be imprisoned for five years. No light matter. And then they’re a convicted felon with all the lifetime baggage that goes with being a convicted… Read more »

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

@Timothy –
“We live in the most free time that mankind has ever experienced,

This is ludicrously false”

When was the most free time that mankind has ever experienced? Now, don’t say “Before the fall”, we all get that.

@”everybody” – I’m curious as to when ya’ll think the good times really were.

RFB
Guest
RFB

JohnM. “If someone is trying to make the case that the Federal government is an ogre they’ll have to find some better example. ” Try 18 U.S.C. §1001 on for size. It is used as a general catchall when there is insufficient evidence. It is widely and frequently abused. If you think that your memory is perfect, think again. It is not nearly perfect enough to fully remember what you might consider small details during an interview. That is all it takes. Then, once the charge is levied, the “fun” starts. Yes, you might be found not guilty, but just… Read more »

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

@RFB – Since 1001 is not 1702 I’m assuming 1001 is your better example? In that case my point regarding 1702 stands.

Don’t mistake me for someone who denies that the law is sometimes outrageously used as a “tool” in a kind of end-justifies-the means-fashion. That’s not okay with me. It is worth noting though that 18 U.S.C. §1001 has to do with fraud and false statements and as Christians we are against fraud and false statements as much we are against misuse of the law.

RFB
Guest
RFB

JohnM, I was not insinuating anything negative towards or about you. This section ( §1001) is the one used when charging for lying to a federal agent. The issue that I am highlighting is not one whereby someone intentionally makes a false statement. I am talking about making a statement that you sincerely believe is true, but you are mistaken. If you happen to be in the crosshairs, someone targeted, your honest but mistaken error of fact is still a false statement. I think that the general, overall point of Pastor Wilson (in using the junk mail illustration) is the… Read more »

timothy
Guest
timothy

I think that the general, overall point of Pastor Wilson (in using the junk mail illustration) is the practice of statists in drawing ever decreasing concentric circles around citizen behavior so that eventually you must step out of the circle and then, Bingo, they have the leverage if they want to use it.

This.

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

RFB – Thanks. I can see how my own tone in reply might have been misread. I thought I might have been misunderstood, but I wasn’t being testy about it. I considered not commenting at all on this one. Sometimes in this forum I find myself on both sides and neither side. On this and similar issues I tend to feel caught in the middle, between – I don’t know if I want to say extremes – but maybe between two diametrically opposite statements about the way things are and the way things ought to be, and I agree with… Read more »

Matt
Guest
Matt

This particular law was designed to prevent grumpy individuals from raiding mailboxes and trashing others mail. So…you concede then that I have been right all along, and that this law is hardly some example of statist overreach? I’m glad of this. As for the postal employees, I’m not sure how much sympathy I’m expected to have for people who are “tired of doing their jobs”. A postal employee that refuses to deliver mail should be at minimum fired. Do you really think any serious harm is done to anyone when some sales flyer addressed to them is tossed in the… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

JohnM, No problems sir! I find your posts reasonable; I wanted to preclude any misunderstanding in my words toward you. In general, I agree that we have been and still are exceedingly blessed (regarding you last post about our general pacific existence) and I am thankful for that. Nonetheless, a trajectory is something that can be plotted once a few variables are accounted. The transit (and terminus) is pretty predictable, excepting unknown influences. I have two illustrations that might help: When going to a viewing for the recently dead, there are peach colored lights strategically placed near the (open) casket.… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

No Matt, you are still incorrect. Junk mail is one example of a tiny spider thread that encircles Americans. Combined with other tiny spider threads of similar — that is to say seemingly innocent laws that are really dastardly, devious, cunning methods of enslavement — the average American breaks the law all the time. Those tiny, innocent laws are then used to pummel an individual when someone in governmental power desires to do so. When the government chooses to pummel, each of these innocent, tiny laws are trumpeted to the grand jury and then to the trial jury as egregious… Read more »

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

While y’all were arguing about my right to receive junk mail, I reread the story of Shaneen Allen.

Katecho
Member

Interesting story. I hadn’t seen that one. Thanks, jigawatt.

Matt
Guest
Matt

So, yes the government will convict you of destroying a Macy’s flyer if you step out of line. So you have examples of this occurring? Do you really think that we would be on this blog right now writing comments like this under (presumably) our real names if the government were as bad as you think it is? Because as long as we’re talking about the Soviet Union, those people didn’t utter a peep where anyone could hear. Doug continually says the most horrible and insulting things about the government and Obama in particular, and he does so fearlessly–he has… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Matt wrote:

“We’re free man. Relax and enjoy it.”

We are “free” to the tune of $17 trillion in claims against a future generation’s resources. I guess we should relax and enjoy it? Our freedom is their enslavement (without representation).

The fact that current percentages of taxation utterly fail to keep up with our government’s spending binges should be cause for alarm, not relaxation. Our government is out of control. Unfortunately, being out of control is not the same as freedom.

timothy
Guest
timothy

Katecho

Our government is out of control. Unfortunately, being out of control is not the same as freedom.

We are de-coupling from our government.
The Progressive Movement is ended.
God is on the hunt.

cheers.

t

Dave
Guest
Dave

Matt, I served on a Federal Grand Jury for a year. Yes, I have seen the tiny infractions enforced by our government.

DrewJ
Guest

Matt, you abandon the law of God at your own peril. If you think that someone deserves five years in prison for any crime, much less destroying a piece of paper, then you simply have not read the Bible. Wake up. The Matrix has you.