Replacing ebbing ‘government services’ with the grace of diaconal ministry

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As a deacon in the christian church my duty is to encourage and strengthen the communion of the saints, especially in the way we help one another in time of need. Widows, the sick, orphans, prisoners and others in distress are to be the object of my care. I am also to “develop the grace of liberality in the members of the church,” collecting tithes and gifts of the people and distributing them, says our book of church order.

In the past week I have been considering my shortcomings as a deacon, and how my sins and faults as an officeholder are mirrored in the lives of others. When I think too much of myself, I think too little of others. If I am preoccupied with profit, I neglect my children. If I am straining to put myself out front, I care little for the feelings of my wife, Jeannette.

The work to which I am called as deacon and as a regular Christian is to be caring and neighborly, an attentive friend, a faithful son or daughter to an aging parent, a tither at church and a donor to charity — a service-minded Christian.

The operations of the modern state are also called a “service.” Since 2010 the value of “government services” has been touted in news reports about debt-burdened state legislatures around the country considering shrinking budgets and cuts in public services.

On Friday in Chattanooga private groups that provide social welfare services were informed of the amount of tax money they would be receiving from city government. Mayor Ron Littlefield’s F$209 million budget includes F$700,000 to be spread among several groups evaluated by United Way. The news of the day was the sense of dismay among hopeful charities, whose proposed allocations were premised on city funding of F$873,000.

BIBLICALLY SPEAKING, the offices of the state are ministries. The civil magistrate is a minister of the sword, defending his people from lawless violence from within (crime) and without (invasion). European states still keep the nomenclature of ministry, whether ministry of defense or ministry of the arts.

But the modern state, with its rapacity and its covetousness, its regulators and taxation, its endless claims of authority and jurisdiction, long ago strayed from real and limited ministry. In terms of “internal improvements” long sought by the Whig party in the 1800s and the Republicans and Democrats in the 1900s, the ambitious state richly funds a wide array of programs, offices and ventures beyond the scope of authority given by God and beyond its competence.

Its ministries reflect a lust for power and a carnivorous appetite for gain among its stakeholders.

CHRIST CALLS ATTENTION to the tendency of the enemies of the church and of God’s grace to rule high-handedly over their own people.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to be great among you, let me be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28.

These words help put me in my place as a Christian and a deacon. But they shine a light outside the church, as well.

R.J. Rushdoony, writing in California Farmer in March 1979, points out the difference between what he calls a carnivorous society (such as that overseen by commercial government) and a diaconal one (given over to private charity and mercy).

“The choice He tells us is an inescapable one: we have either a vulture society or a diaconal one, a world of hatred, evil, and distrust, or a world of faith, grace, and ministry.

The diaconal society, however, can only be built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. The modern state offers a pretended ministry of service as a means to exercising a pagan dominion, and the result is a vulture society of hatred, crime, and exploitation. It has no grace and therefore no ministry.”

Rushdoony goes on to say that the choice between the carniverous and the diaconal society is inescapable. He predicts that the more Americans build their country on any foundation other than Christ, “the more we become a depraved and vicious social order, a vulture society. The change must begin with us, and then every area of life and thought must be brought into captivity to Jesus Christ. If the Lord does not govern us, the vultures will.”

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Sources: “City budget shorts social service agencies,” Chattanooga Times Free Press, Cliff  Hightower, May 11, 2012