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Scripture’s Sociology

Scripture’s primary interest is spiritual.

Scripture insists that we shall deal righteously with our fellowman, treat him with respect and in the fear of God. In short, we shall love our neighbor.

I believe it may truly be said that Scripture is not much interested in how well you fare economically or financially. With us this is often the primary thing, and no wonder, because we are of the earth, earthy and carnal.

In I Cor. 7:20-22 we find Paul saying: “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he is called. Art thou called, being a slave, care not for it, but if thou mayest be free, use that rather”. You would have expected perhaps that Paul would condemn slavery, but he does not do that. Neither however does he uphold it. Paul simply says that sanctification and victorious living is possible in either slavery or freedom. If victorious living and sanctification were impossible under slavery Paul would have condemned it. But not so. If you can be a free man, use it, but if a slave, serve the Lord thus. But Paul is not much interested in one or the other, his interest is that we all walk as “in the Lord”, and each in his own calling.

Likewise when Paul sends Onesimus, the slave, back to Philemon the master from whom he had fled. Paul admonishes Philemon to treat him as a brother. But Onesimus goes back to his servile task. Isn’t Paul interested in putting a stop to slavery? Certainly, if Philemon fears the Lord cruel slavery will cease. But Onesimus must go back to his master. Slavery or freedom is not important, what IS important is that we fear the Lord and serve Him wherever we have our calling.

And the soldiers came to John the Baptist saying, what must we do? John said: keep on being soldiers, it isn’t sinful, but do not do what soldiers generally do. Do not put fear into men. And how about the wages? The wages are pretty low. Says John; be content with your wages.

Then there is that man who came to Jesus and said: Master, my brother refuses to give me my rightful share of the inheritance, speak to my brother about this. Certainly this is an important matter. But notice that Jesus is not interested in this aspect of it. He says: Who hath made me a judge and divider over you? Then Jesus rebukes the man and applies to him and his like the parable of the rich fool. Behind the request for his share in the inheritance (which in itself could be perfectly all right) lay a covetous heart, and Jesus passes by the matter of dollars and cents and penetrates into the spiritual things.

And there is that brother going to court with brother (I Cor. 6) which Paul forbids. Paul is not interested in devising ways and means of getting the man his dollars, then Paul would perhaps have ordered him to get the best lawyer in town. But says Paul: “Why do ye not rather take wrong?” It were better you allowed yourself to be defrauded than in covetousness to drag your brother to court merely to get some money. Paul was not interested in attaining the material goal, he wants to know what is behind this court procedure.

James, what about those rich farmers whose harvests we have reaped and they have kept back our pay. What shall we do? What union shall we join to get what is coming to us? James says: be patient brethren. . . . don’t run ahead of the Lord. He shares your withheld wages crying for punishment, the Lord will take care of His cause.

Is not this the ever present danger that while we presume to be fighting against social unrighteousness and agitating against it, we ourselves contribute to this social evil by living out of covetousness. At the root of our economic misery lies covetousness, wrath, lust and greed. From this stems our class struggle, and from class struggle proceeds more covetousness, wrath and greed. Such is the vicious circle. Hence it is against these evils that Scripture warns us.

If therefore we are mere carnal creatures, interested first and only in temporal matters, the sociology of Scripture is very shocking, for it approaches each one of us as a potential contributor to the already terrific social misery which we see round about us.

Only if we live out of regeneration and seek to please God, yea and are spiritually minded will we be in a fit frame of mind to apply God’s precepts to our social life.

By approaching our social problems and seeking a remedy for them in any other way than the way of obedient and sanctified living only increases our problems, and joins us to the ranks of those who convert this present world into a chaos of emulation and strife.

Our Weapons are Spiritual.

Living as we do in the midst of an evil world, and having need of our daily bread, we shall have to have recourse to various weapons.

Observe the weapons which the flesh uses. Then weapons are altogether carnal, even if sometimes they gloss them over with a thin coat of Christian veneer. We all know which weapons she uses. In the home they use threatenings and divorce; in economics they use deceit and fraud; in labor and industry they use strikes and picketings together with all manner of force. The employers use their capital, the employees use force.

But our weapons are spiritual, says Paul.

Our enemies are not first composed of flesh and blood, but they are spiritual powers of wickedness.

Our weapon is first of all the Word of God. Both when we are tempted from within or oppressed from without. We do indeed have certain rights and privileges, the which if any man take from us he sins grievously and ranks himself with Cain. We do have rights and we do have privileges. No man may take them from us. But there come times that we must yield one or more of them. We can if need be yield them. But we can never yield the Word of God. Men may ultimately take away from us our rights and privileges, so that finally we can neither buy nor sell because of the injustice against the saints, but men can never take away from us the Word of God.

When Jotham stood alone against the Antichrist Abimeleeh, he had neither armies nor weapons, but he threw the Word of God at Abimeleeh, and later a woman dropped a stone upon his head, and killed him. Thus the Word of God, the curse which Jotham had spoken, overcame him.

Our weapon is the Word of God.

One may say: people do not care about the Word of God, it is not an effective weapon. Pray, what other weapon has He given us?

Together with the Word of God we have prayer. When (Hezekiah looked out one morning and saw Jerusalem besieged by Sanecherib, and letters came, Hezekiah went to God, and laid his letters and his cause before the face of God.

And I assure you that if we move prayerfully we move very carefully.

Faith is the victory.

Implicit faith that God cares.

Our Cause Victorious.

Christ most perfectly championed the cause of God. In doing this He lost even his garment and hung naked upon the cross. . . . but knowing that He had the victory.

How can we escape the revealed truth that if we perfectly champion the cause of God we shall finally find ourselves in a position in which we can neither buy nor sell, unless we cease being spiritual.

Our social science leads not to a utopia but to ever tightening battle lines, and to a condition in which if the Son of God did not suddenly come upon the clouds of judgment, the Church of God would go down to utter defeat. But the captain of our faith, in whose hands lies our cause, will return, to shake the wicked forever out of the earth, to purify it by fire and present a new heaven and a new earth to the meek. In this world righteousness dwells.

Our cause is victorious.

But we are saved in hope.

We ought to consider all these things when we live and walk amid the social realities of this present day.

Next time a few things about applied sociology.