Reformed Sociology Applied
I do not believe that the social evils of this world can be cured. Instead I believe that Scripture teaches us that the world socially and in every way involves itself ever more deeply in the curse of the righteous God. While we contemplate our social calling in this world we must not overlook what God’s Word teaches us, especially in the Book of Ecclesiastes, more particularly about the crooked which cannot be made straight.
If we look back over history we get a picture as follows: A series of evils arise; there comes a clash, a crash, temporary chaos, then everything settles down. But if you hasten thither with the measuring rod of faith, you will find that the world has slipped to a lower level. It stands at that level for a while. Another series of evils arises, there comes a clash, a crash, another temporary chaos, and after everything has settled down you will find that the world has slipped to a new low. And so on until it settles finally into the perplexity of which Scripture speaks, and in which it is overtaken by the final, righteous judgment.
Somewhat like a bull-dozer in the valley, leveling off the mounds and carrying away the dirt, but the valley floor drops lower with each leveling-off process. A war is such a leveling-off process. Each period of prosperity and each period of succeeding depression is such a process.
All this does not however mean that we sit in our chair in a tower smugly to watch it. By no means. For in the first place we as Christians must beware that we do not ourselves contribute to these ills. The world writhes in convulsions, but, brother, are you one of the contributing causes thereof? The earth totters under the weight of greed, lust and bloodshed, are we willfully adding to this weight? In how far are we, as farmers, as laborers, merchants and salesmen, in how far are we co-responsible for the things which have come upon the world? Certainly we do not willfully add to this world’s ills, do we? But, besides that, we have a positive calling in this world. We, who know the right way, haven’t we a great responsibility to practice it, so others also may see the right way? Who can interpret the Word of God like the Christian, and who can interpret history like the Christian? Therefore we are of all men in a position to say: this is the way, walk ye in it. Ye are the light of the world, said Jesus. . . .a city set upon an hill. Certainly also in things social we are prophets of the Most High, and with Daniel of old, stand at the king’s court to interpret what is happening. And dare to be a Daniel!
A Few Suggestions
If we will walk in sanctification also when it comes to the details of social life there is nothing quite so important as to be well acquainted with the Word of God. I know, Scripture is not a dictionary in which you can find social problems and behind them you find the answers. But Scripture is the Word of God and that Word covers all of life. Hence all of us, but not the least those who are confronted with certain social situations ought to be well acquainted with Scripture as a whole. It is not sufficient to know certain texts, we should know Scripture as a whole.
How valuable such acquaintance with Scripture is we can perhaps show you by means of a few illustrations and references.
There are many passages in the Word of God which simply speak for themselves and as such give very evident information and direction. One of those you find in, where we read, “Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong, that useth his neighbor’s service without wages and giveth him not for his work.” Certainly our Christian employer should be very conscious of this Word of God. Many a house has been built and many chambers furnished out of the wages which employers have kept back from their laborers. Scripture does not command what wages must be given the workmen, but Paul in says: “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s”, i.e. be solicitous of the welfare of the other. His spiritual, but also his temporal welfare. Isn’t that the Golden Rule applied to the employer-employee relationship? The employer is not concerned about the welfare of his employees if, shortly, he himself has earned enough to set up houses and buy real estate, while his workman lives in a hovel and can scarcely keep himself and his family alive. He who would build a house on the increase of his business, has the perfect right to do so; but he should certainly want his employee to be able also to build a house, however cheap a house it may be, out of the increase of the business in which he labors. Let this general rule determine the wages he gives his help.
The employee on the other hand must likewise “seek not every man his own but also another’s”. They must intend the welfare of their employer no less than their own. Wherefore, “let him that stole, steal no more, but rather let him work”, and he that worketh do it,” not with eye-service as men pleasers, but with good will doing service”. To steal from your employer by loafing, to ruin his business by doing poor work, to assume communistic or socialistic attitude toward him, or to destroy his business by organized strike and picket action, is contrary to the Word of God. And what fellowship hath Christ with Belial, i.e. if you belong to the union of Christ’s body, how can you also belong to a union of that which is opposed to Christ’s Word?
I want to show you still another method of applying God’s Word.
Inwe read, “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn”. An unimportant little statement, sandwiched between the thousands of Old Testament laws you might say. But, behold, Paul understands that although God cares for the oxen, this is written for our sakes. And on the basis of such a seemingly unimportant thing as this Paul is able to determine that “they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel” and ever after it this has been held as a hard and fast rule. Do you see how great a matter is determined by a seemingly unimportant passage from the Word of God? If so great a matter can be determined from so apparently trivial a passage, cannot our trivial things be determined by the Word of God also?
Or take the following. Inwe read, “The earth Is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof”. Just a statement of fact you might say. But on the basis of this fact Paul settles the question between Jew and Gentile touching the eating of things offered to idols.
Or the following: Inwe read that God made them male and female and the two were one flesh. When the matter of divorce comes up Jesus simply refers them to the fact that “from the beginning it was not so”. Hence they who engage in divorce go contrary to what it was from the beginning and have therefore left the straight line which God drew in His Word. On the basis of this departure from what it was in the beginning, Jesus says: “whoso marrieth her that is put away doth commit adultery”.
So we could go on, but suffice it to show that the important thing m our social living is that we be filled with the Word of God. It was given us “for the regulation, foundation and confirmation of our faith” (Belg. Conf., Art. V). And if we are concerned about sanctified and victorious living God saith: This is my beloved Son HEAR YE HIM.
Ye are my friends, says Jesus, if ye do what I command you. Certainly if the Covenant is a relationship of friendship between God and us, we shall rise up in this world as friends of God. We speak of the Covenant in the church, in the home and in the school, but let us add to it now this fourth dimension, the covenant in the social life. Friends of God in our social living. Friends of God in the relationship of marriage, in our relationship toward the authorities, in our relation toward the employer and employee.
First then we must be filled with the Spirit. Let us not be full of wine, says Paul, because in wine there is excuse. Let us not be full of lust and greed, nor be full of class struggle, but let us be full of the Spirit of Christ.
Being full of that Spirit, let us know what is the will of the Lord, let us acquaint ourselves fully with the will of the Lord as it has been made known to us in the Holy Word. If and when we are confronted with certain social problems, let our first concern be: what saith the Lord. If it cannot become plain to you what the Lord saith, seek the advice of other brethren in the Lord, perhaps they can assist you in understanding what the will of the Lord is.
And if we are full of that Spirit of Christ we shall not only have objective acquaintance with what the will of the Lord is, but we shall also be able to walk in that will.
Redeeming the time because the days are evil.
May we have abundant grace. If we lack ought, let us seek it with Him Who is able and willing to make all grace abound toward us.