by Stephen McDowell and Mark Beliles
THE WORLD IS CHANGING RAPIDLY TODAY. Nations are looking for ways to bring prosperity to their lands. The Bible teaches and history confirms that to the degree a nation applies the principles of the Word of God to all aspects of the society is the degree to which that nation obtains freedom and prosperity.
Nations seeking to shift from communistic economic systems to a free market (or from state control to more self-government) must recognize that they will never accomplish their goals unless the people have the proper foundation in character and thought.
It is not enough to set up external structures, even if they have worked in other nations and have been part of the best and most free governments in history. We must remember that good structures are not enough because the best government in ill hands can do nothing great or good.
No nation can long endure without virtue or morality in the people. A loss of principles and manners is the greatest threat to a free people and will cause its downfall more surely than any foreign enemy. Samuel Adams, the father of the American Revolution, said, “While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.” He went on to say that the greatest security from enslavement in a country is virtue or morality among the people.
People of character will desire to observe the law and will not willfully take the life, liberty or property of others. Consequently, people will not live in fear of other citizens. In addition, less government will be required in a virtuous nation. Since fewer people will violate the law, a large police force and judicial system will not be needed. Law-making bodies will also have less to do because prohibitive laws will be at a minimum, as citizens will constrain themselves.
In a virtuous nation the rulers will be moral. This produces more freedom because the rulers will not usurp individual rights through bad legislation and they will not steal from people through fiat money, excessive or graduated taxes, or other means. Consequently, people will not live in fear of civil government.
What is virtue or character? Virtue has been defined as a conformity to a standard of right, and also a voluntary obedience to truth. Character is a convictional belief that results in consistent behavior.
Character literally means “to stamp and engrave through pressure.” This sums up nicely what God is doing in the lives of Christians. God’s plan is to make each person like Him. Romans 8:29 tells us that God has predestined that Christians, as His children, are to be conformed into the image of Christ. He is building His character within His people, or you might say He is stamping and engraving His image upon His people. He is doing this so that they might be examples of Him to the world and, also, that they may be able to fulfill His purpose for their lives.
The Basis of Happiness
History has shown that virtue and character in a people is the basis of happiness in a society and is absolutely necessary for a state to long remain free. As human nature is corrupted, the foundations of freedom are easily destroyed.
Following are some characteristics of virtuous citizens:
- They will have a concern for the common good above their own self-interest.
- They will vigorously participate in local, regional, and national government, and will seek to correct wrong conduct in public officials.
- If necessary, they will risk their life, fortune, and honor for their country.
- They will perform their duties and seek to have right conduct in public and private.
A free market economy is dependent upon the people being virtuous because such a people:
- Will not steal from their employees or others. Such theft increases the cost of goods and services for everyone.
- Will have a strong work ethic and be productive. This hard labor will cause the economy to grow.
- Will respect contracts.
- Will save and invest to acquire a greater return later.
- Will have a concern for their posterity and will seek to pass on a greater estate than they received.
- Will not waste public resources and will be good stewards of the environment.
Therefore, a lack of character in the people can produce the following: a stagnant or declining economy, corrupt laws, a lack of smooth transition from one political leader or party to another after elections, a corrupt military that may take control of the government, and increased power in civil government to attempt to solve the many problems that result from lack of character in the people.
A virtuous people will be vigilant to work to establish a free nation and then also to maintain it. Eternal vigilance is the price to maintain liberty. People of character will be eternally vigilant to secure their rights and demand that their government’s power remain limited.
From Liberating the Nations: Biblical Principles of Government, Education, Economics, and Politics, by Stephen K. McDowell and Mark A. Beliles, Providence Foundation, ©1991. Used with permission.