My father worked as a public school teacher. My mother worked with senior citizens. They were always frustrated by the tendency of churches to present Jesus as an elephant. As I pastor over the years, I’ve met Christians who lean more donkey-ish and some more elephant-ish. We know we are hearing the true meaning of the Scriptures when the Word challenges all political assumptions. Jesus is not a donkey. He is not an elephant. He is a lion. He is the King of kings, the Lion of Judah. That makes Him unsafe for all who attempt to fashion Him into their image. I love the scene from Narnia when Lucy comes face to face with Him.
‘Then, he isn’t safe?’ asked Lucy.
‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver. ‘Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’
As a Lion, the Scriptures challenge both greed and entitlement. It challenges overspending, and hoarding. As C.S. Lewis said,
“Christianity has not, and does not profess to have, a detailed political program for applying ‘do unto others’ to a particular society at a particular moment. It could not have. It is meant for all men at all times, and the particular program which suited one place or time would not suit another.” ~C.S. Lewis in Social Morality.
In the name of bipartisanship, many have attempted to either tame the lion and put him in their camp or pretend the lion is cowering in the corner with nothing to say about issues with political implications. Both approaches turn the lion into a mouse.
Ironically, as issues like the debt ceiling are debated in Washington D.C., the Bible challenges both approaches. The debt problem is far, far, far worse than either Republicans or Democrats admit. David Walker, the chief comptroller of the United States during both Red and Blue Administrations, is calling out to the American public. He is warning that we need a much, much more radical approach than either side is proposing. The only way to get back to health will be radical. The only way to avoid the consequences of the Roman Empire and Weimar Republic will be an “all of the above” approach. We will need significant entitlement reform. We will need radical warfare reform returning to Biblical ideas and criteria of what constitutes as “just war.” We will need to increase taxes. While both political sides debate “how much to borrow” from China. The Bible taught that nations should NOT borrow from other nations. See Deuteronomy 15:6.
6 For the LORD your God will bless you just as He promised you; you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow; you shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you.
Here is an interview from January 2011 on NPR where he calls upon all Americans to see behind the curtain. If you have not seen his bipartisan video called, “IOUSA” check it out (but know you may not sleep tonight). And this video is two years out of date.
AMOS: Our next guest is likely to agree with that statement. He’s David Walker, and he was the comptroller of the United States and CEO of the Government Accountability Office from 1998 until 2008. He’s currently the President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, and he’s the scariest CPA who’s not doing your taxes.
After taking his message on the road, Walker has just written a manifesto of sorts, “Comeback America: Turning the Country Around and Restoring Fiscal Responsibility.” Welcome to the program.
MR. DAVID WALKER (President and CEO, Peter G. Peterson Foundation): Deborah, good to be with you. And I love that movie “Dave,” and it’s a great name, too.
AMOS: So you have to agree, then, with Murray Blum, the fictional accountant in the movie, that the real government’s books are in trouble.
MR. WALKER: There’s no question. Our financial condition is much worse than advertised. We face large and growing structural deficits that threaten our future, and we need to start doing something about them.
AMOS: Now, you’ve written in your book that there is a moment coming soon when most of the government budget is going to go to servicing debt.
MR. WALKER: That’s correct. The GAO, under its latest simulation, said that within 12 years, without an increase in interest rates, the single-largest line item in the federal budget would be interest on the federal debt. That means more than defense, more than Social Security, more than Medicare, and that’s obviously not acceptable.
AMOS: You point out that when President Clinton left office, we had a balanced budget and even a surplus. So how did it get so bad so quickly?
MR. WALKER: People lost control. The money burned a hole in their pocket, through the floor and half way through the planet. Basically, the statutory budget controls that we had in place in the 1990s through President George Herbert Walker Bush, President Clinton, and the early part of the Bush 43 administration, they expired at the end of 2002 and things got totally out of control after that.
AMOS: What do you think that the specific dangers are of running a deficit this high?
MR. WALKER: It’s OK to run a deficit in the short term, when you’re in a recession, when you face serious challenges dealing with housing and financial markets. It’s not the current deficit that I’m concerned about. It’s the structural deficit that will exist whether the economy’s growing, whether or not we’re at war, no matter what the circumstances are. The dangers are that we end up losing the confidence of our foreign lenders. They end up wanting to charge much higher interest rates. The dollar declines dramatically, and the effect on that on the budget, on the economy and on, frankly, Americans, the cost of credit and other things is not a positive sight.
AMOS: You write that the seriousness of this is for future generations, that there is no way for children and grandchildren, that they can avoid higher taxes. We do. How does that work?
MR. WALKER: There are two kinds of taxes: current taxes and deferred taxes. Deficits, especially unreasonable deficits, represent deferred taxes on our children and grandchildren with interest. That’s reality, and it’s also math.
AMOS: Does that mean that at some future date, no matter what, that Congress is going to have to raise taxes to pay for what we’re spending now?
MR. WALKER: There’s absolutely no question that taxes are going to have to go up. When you look at the promises that have been made for Medicare, for example, $38 trillion underfunded, Social Security $7.7 trillion underfunded, plus military and civilian pensions and retiree health care, to make the numbers work, you have to restructure those programs, constrain spending, and raise revenues.
AMOS: Almost every one of your solutions includes a blue ribbon panel, and I get the idea that you’re suggesting that you don’t quite trust the politicians to do this.
MR. WALKER: Ultimately, elected officials will have a vote. However, the regular order is broken. Washington can’t make progress on a single difficult issue at a time, much less multiple at once. And we’re in a situation now where we have to make progress on budget controls, Social Security, health care and taxes quickly before we lose the confidence of our foreign lenders.
AMOS: Your polls show that Americans actually take this seriously, that they think the budget deficit and the dangers are more important than global warming and even health care reform. But those very politicians, in a broken system, are the ones who would have to convince people to do things like have their health care at work taxed or have benefits from Social Security go down. How does that work? How do you get politicians to sell the kind of ideas that actually get people turned out of office?
MR. WALKER: Well, first, the American people are ahead of their politicians, as typically is the case. Eighty percent of Americans believe that escalating deficits and debts should be a higher priority. Seventy percent of Americans believe we need some type of special blue ribbon commission to be able to deal with it. But ultimately, the elected officials are going to have to make a decision on the recommendations to the commission, whether to go with them or not, and the President will have to decide whether to sign or veto it.
AMOS: When you look at how health care – that overall process – went, does that make you more or less optimistic that the American government and the American system can implement these kind of broad changes that you’re talking about?
MR. WALKER: Well, the current health care reform bill is really not a health care reform bill. It’s a health care coverage expansion bill, and the only reason that people are talking about cost is because the President rightfully said he wanted to make sure that it was deficit neutral. The problem is that this country has $38 trillion of unfunded promises for Medicare already.
So our health care house is already mortgaged for more than it’s worth, and all we’re doing is adding a new wing onto it. So it doesn’t give me great confidence. And my question is, when are we going to start dealing with the real problems with health care costs that threaten to bankrupt the country and to make sure that we can deliver on the promises that we make?
AMOS: No one argues that what you’re talking about is crucially important, but we’re in an even bigger financial hole. We’re in a recession. So how do you talk about balancing the budget when government spending is the very thing that the economy has needed to sort of stir jobs and to keep the country afloat?
MR. WALKER: I think it’s very important to separate the short term from the structural. It’s understandable to run deficits when you have a recession, a depression or unprecedented financial services and housing-type of challenges and crises that we’ve had. That’s not what I’m concerned about. We will ultimately turn the economy around, but what we have to do is deal with the large known and growing structural deficits that are growing with the passage of time, and they are not long term anymore. They are within the horizon. They are going to hit our shores and we are not prepared.
Check out www.godonomics.com for more information.
Entrepreneur or Entre-manure?
Is business and the adventure of Entreprenureship something God is pleased with or disappointed in? Is it Entreprenure or Entre-manure?
My father was a public school teacher for about 35 years. My grandfather was a marine, electrical engineer, and started his own successful realestate business with my grandmother in his second half. My mother was the vice president of a state wide company in Illinois. I know the challenges of running a business first hand. I know the challenges of management, strategic planning, and budgeting. How does God feel about business anyway?
Most of history has not celebrated the entrepreneur -Quite the opposite. Merchants, businessmen, and capital investors were considered to be a lower class than clergy and teaches for much of history. They were the Entre-manures. Even today, many are frustrated that the church is so ignorant or naive about the business cycle, pastors speak of it only when denouncing greed, broadbrushing companies as evil, or seeing it as a necessary way to put money into real ministry like the church.
As a communication major in Bible college, I was often shocked at the way I was looked down upon for not having a “greek” major, a Bible major, or a “foreign missionary” degree. I was either looked at as “less spiritual” for wanting to pursue God’s work in the marketplace or lacking faith. Although I did have another degree in pastoral ministry, but I didn’t tell the finger shakers.
On the other side, many of my fellow television personalities, producers, and editors could be heard cussing the wall paper off the wall during a shoot or setup, they dismissed their behavior as “Don’t be so judgmental or niave, this is the way the real world works.” If you’ve ever heard the chatter from a director during an evening news cast, you will learn a hundred ways the “F” bomb can be used in a half hour broadcast. Are there spiritual careers like the ministry and secular borderline evil environments like the marketplace?
Socrates… or So-crates as he is called in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure despised business, money, and these non spiritual activies. His philosophy known as dualism, or gnosticism clearly taught that the material world is evil, money is unproductive, and business is a waste of time. None of these endeavors could be Godly. For him, Entrepreneurs were Entre-manures.
The French Revolution was very different from the American revolution. While we set up a system that celebrated liberty, prosperity, and generosity, the French system depised the merchant, business man, and entreprenuer in the name of fraternity and equality. The rich were hunted by the common folk. A story is told of one rich business man who dressed down, hung out in the local pub, and tried to keep his identity hidden for fear of his life. He made the mistake of ordering 4 eggs at the pub. Immediately the crowd knew that only a rich man would dare to order so many eggs. They crowd mobbed him and beat him. Dr Gullotine who invented the humane way of killing those who didn’t get in line with the new order of things gave a new weapon to use against those who didn’t fall in line.
What all these have in common is the way they despise the Entrepreneur: From the French to the Greeks to the Church to the Gnostics, Entrepreneurs were Entre-manures
Christianity came on the scene with a radical knew mindset. The Bible taught that God was much like an investment banker. He was a venture capitalist. He took his capital (made a universe, created commodities, and materials) and took a huge risk. He risked making mankind, giving him liberty. He hoped the investment would bring reward. The reward of relationship, freedom, and progress. God was a re-manufacturerer, a refashioner. He got down on his hands and knees and worked for 6 days. He took the raw materials of dirt and fashioned them into something productive. When he sent his son to earth, he sent him into the home of a small business owner named Joseph to learn a trade of making, selling, and profiting from the carpentry business. The Bible celebrates the Entrepreneurs like Boaz, Lydia, Barnabus, and The Proverbs 31 woman.
The word Entre-Preneur comes from two words. Entre meaning “Entire” and Preneur meaning, “To take up” The Christian is called to “take up” the entire view of life. To elevate the everyday. To elevate the Entire life (business, work, and personal). Rather than viewing life in pieces and parts, the Christian sees everything as spiritual. Everything has potential to honor God and fulfill His purpose. The Christian elevates the Entreprenuer knowing we are made in God’s image. To work, to fashion, to rule, to remanufacture the resources He’s entrusted to us for His purpose.
This means that for a Christian everything can and should be an act of worship: work, play, prayer, and profit. Everyday is spiritual worship by giving, hiring, helping, and serving Christ in our fellow man. For more information, check out www.godonomics.com
I used to love watching The Muppet Show. My favorite characters were those two guys up in the balcony who argued and critiqued the show. Anyone remember their names? They were not part of the stage show, but they always had plenty to say.
Today, as our economics play is performed, it seems that there is an elephant and donkey muppet up in the “special seats” finger pointing at why the show is going well. The real question we must ask is, “Who wrote the script for the show?” Economics may seem boring and unimportant until you can’t get a job, see gas going up, and see your savings lost. One creative team made economics both understandable and fun. They reveal the two opposing writers of economic scripts: A man named John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich August von Hayek. These two men developed theories and philosophies about money, freedom, and government that have shaped (or not shaped) our decisions for the past 100 years. When you compare the assumptions and principles that govern these two theories, one lines up much more closely than the other to the Bible. One is lesser known and rarely tried. The other is celebrated and championed – despite its continual failures.
Austrian economics is much more aligned to the Bible’s teaching on money. It emphasizes production, profit, freedom, individual rights, and the role of saving and capital. Here is a radio interview where I answer economic questions from a Biblical perspective.
For more information, check out: www.godonomics.com
Before Jack Black played the part, Ted Danson was Gulliver. The original tale was a parody showing the ludicrousness of current government and economic theory. In this clip from the TV special, Gulliver tries to defend the current economic theory to a Queen of a far off land. He tries to defend the corrupt government that rewards the politicians, denies fair trials to the poor, and inflates the currency. It is a hilarious exchange that unveils a painful similarity to America today.
The Queen: “How can a kingdom spend more than it receives in taxes?”
Gulliver: “Well, that’s simple. We just… Ur.. Um… We just borrow more from ourselves.”
Queen: “Why are you always at war?”
Gulliver: “We need to attack others before they attack us. Gaining the element of surprise”
God warned his people long before Gulliver of the problems of a intrusive government. He told Samuel to show them the behavior of a king. He clearly laid out that a big government would take excessive percentages of the population’s profits and funnel them into government luxuries, corruption, and “pet projects.” He noted the insatiable appetites of kings for war -of which- he would use their sons as the “fuel” for the armies. 1 Samuel 8
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, “Look, make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD said to Samuel, “However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.”
11 And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to beperfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. 16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your sheep.
And you will be his servants. 19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel
For more information, check out www.godonomics.com or watch this clip of me explaining this warning from God about spending and government from 1 Samuel