Why Government is Not the Answer

John Adams, the second President of the United States, said, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Did you catch that? “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.” That is the reason the United States and many other countries in the world are in such terrible shape. Our world is becoming increasingly godless. While the vast majority of people in the world believe in the existence of God, an increasing majority live their lives as if God does not exist.

While the same principles apply to other nations, for the rest of this article, we will be discussing the United States specifically.

I have no desire to ever run for political office. There are many ancillary reasons, but at the core I firmly believe that government is not the answer. There is no perfect government because every government is filled with imperfect people. And while I believe the United States has (or had) the best government in the history of the world, it is failing due to precisely what John Adams declared. Our government is wholly inadequate to govern immoral, ungodly, and selfish people.

None of the political parties seem to understand this. None of them embrace the Christian worldview on just how wretchedly sinful humanity is without Christ (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 1:18-32; 3:10-23). Is there a more apt description of modern society than Genesis 6:5? “The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”

The Democratic solution is to add new regulations. The Republican solution is to tweak the existing regulations. The Libertarian solution is to get rid of virtually all regulations. None of those methodologies are truly solutions to anything. The problem is sin. It does not matter how many laws we create. Evil and greedy people will find ways around the laws or find lawyers to rescue them after they break the laws. Creating laws, tweaking laws, or removing laws will never solve the problem of sin. We are all infected with sin and inherently greedy (Matthew 6:19-24; Luke 12:15; Ephesians 5:5; 1 Timothy 6:9-10; Hebrews 13:5). Government cannot cure it. Only Jesus Christ can deliver us from it.

I do not need a government to tell me that murder is wrong, that stealing is wrong, or that lying is wrong. I know these things are wrong because God has written His Law on my heart and from His Word. Sure, governmental punishment can be a deterrent, but ultimately I strive to avoid sin because I love God and want to live my life in a way that is pleasing to Him. That is the only biblically-valid deterrent to sin—not fines or prison sentences, but a desire to please God. That is what our society is lacking. And that explains why our country is floundering.

I am not saying that all of the early Americans or even all of the founding fathers were Christians. But at least they had a biblically-informed view of the world and a Christian sense of morality. The Constitution is arguably the best piece of governmental legislation in the history of the world. But it is inadequate in a country that is increasingly filled with people who desire only evil all the time.

True change is only possible through Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). The only reform that will truly impact our society is the reformation of people becoming new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) and having our minds transformed (Romans 12:1-2).

Governing a godless, selfish, and greedy people is like trying to restrain the wind or grasp oil in your hand (Proverbs 27:16). Or, as John Adams so aptly put it, it is like trying to restrain a whale with a net. Due to 200+ years of US history, the nets have become significantly more complex since John Adams’ day, but due to the ever-increasing wickedness (Romans 6:19) of our society, the whale has become exponentially larger and more dangerous. Without repentance from sin and faith in Christ, it is looking increasingly like the only solution is a harpoon.

S. Michael Houdmann

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