A reader asks:
Should a Reformed Christian sign up with the Farm Program, for instance, like the Payment in Kind, PIK, like we had in 1983? “Every man should eat of the fruit of his labor.”
Allow me to remark at the outset that I have personally been so far removed, for such a long time, from the problems involving farmers that it is a bit difficult to understand and evaluate the various farm programs that have arisen during the past few years.
As I understand the PIK, the farmers were allowed in 1983 to take a certain amount of their land out of cultivation, and were given free of charge 80% of their average yearly yield per acre for every acre in the program. The land idled was to be devoted to conserving use, but might not be machine harvested. The purpose of this program was: 1) To reduce the large stockpiles of wheat, cotton, rice, corn, and grain which was in government storage. 2) To reduce the over-production of these commodities, thus raising the market price. 3) In this manner to save the farmer some expense on farm machinery, seed, fertilizer, and the like. At the same time giving him the opportunity to improve the land idled.
To quote from “An Initial Assessment of the Payment in Kind Program,” issued by the U.S. Agriculture Department, “PIK and other acreage reduction programs were initiated against the backdrop of serious and worsening farm surpluses. Weak domestic demand, declining exports, and record large 1981 and 1982 harvests had increased stocks, lowered commodity prices, depressed farm income, and boosted Government expenditures. PIK participants, in exchange for idling a portion of their cropland, will receive compensation in-kind from the crops held by the Commodity Credit Corporation or in the regular and farmer-owned reserve programs.”
Obviously our lives have become very involved and complicated. There was a time when the government did not interfere with obtaining our livelihood. Market prices were controlled by the law of supply and demand. Even then, as I recall, sincere Christians asked about the propriety of such things as insurance, especially life insurance, lightning rods on buildings, inoculation of pigs. The very word insurance, protection against the loss of property, seemed to suggest a lack of trust in God.
Today our problems have become more involved. PIK is only one of the many problems we face. The government involves itself in many of our daily affairs, so that we now have social security programs, medicare, and various relief programs. Medicaid has been introduced as a form of government benevolence, replacing in many instances the work of Christ through Christian charity and the deacons. We have food stamps, relief for afflicted areas, as well as grants and scholarships for those who wish to obtain a higher education. The government enters into practically every sphere of our lives as a constant threat of socialism and a foreboding of the antichrist.
Much can and has been said pro and con on these various issues. The question is, in how far can we as Reformed believers go along with these programs. Where do we draw the line? Instead of taking a stand for or against cooperation in these various programs, consistories have avoided making precept upon precept and have to a great extent appealed to our Christian liberty, leaving participation up to the individual conscience.
There are, nevertheless, serious considerations that may not be ignored.
The result of many government programs is that the rich have grown richer and the poor continue in their struggle for their daily bread. Our reader is correct when he says that God requires of us that we shall work for a living, eat by the sweat of our brow. Hard work has never hurt anyone. Work is not a curse, but a blessing when done in the fear of the Lord. There are many get-rich-quick schemes that are an abomination to the Lord and a devil’s attempt to deceive the elect. We can mention such things as State lottery, give away programs on TV, sweepstakes, etc. All of these make a strong appeal to man’s covetous nature, his pride, and his greed.
For each of us the question arises whether we can participate in the various government programs and at the same time commit our trust solely and completely in the Lord. Do we rely on God’s providence? Do we live in the consciousness of God’s almighty and omnipresent power whereby He upholds and governs all things? Are we always aware of the fact that large crops and crop failures, prosperity and adversity, riches and poverty, health and sickness, yea, all things that befall us in this vale of tears, come not by chance, but from the almighty and merciful hand of our heavenly Father? Do we conscientiously say: If the Lord will and I live, I will do this or that? Do we earnestly and sincerely live out of the hand of God, so that we earnestly ask: Give us this day our daily bread?
Finally, we must all give account of the deeds done in the body, whether good or evil. In other words, we must give account of our stewardship before the great white throne. We will not be asked, what did you do with your time, your life, and your possessions? But rather, what did you do with God’s gifts entrusted to you, health and strength, home and family, field and crops, yes, with your whole life from the time that you were born until the time that you died? “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
Note: There are a few more questions for the question box, which will be answered in the very near future.