Truth and social reform


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The previous chapter sought to highlight some of the social implications of evangelism. That, however, must not undermine the fact that in the New Testament the predominant focus of the Good News is on an individual's salvation from sin. Though in some societies today, selfish individualism is denying people the personal fulfilment which comes from deep interpersonal relationships, one basic evil of the twentieth century has been to sacrifice the individual for all sorts of supposedly 'social' goods. The 'collectivisation' programmes of the Communist regimes that suppress individuality are too blatant an instance of this evil to need mentioning. But the Communists are not the only guilty ones. The killing of unborn or new-born babies for controlling the population of a nation or the 'happiness' of a nuclear family; the burning alive of a widow (sati) for protecting the property and harmony of a `joint family'; throwing out peasants from their lands (without adequate compensation) to build dams, are all instances of an evil outlook that forcefully sacrifices the individual for so called 'collective' good.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ in contrast, offers salvation to every individual. The individual bears the image of God, therefore he is the central object of God's love and salvation. It is the individual who is called to repent of his sin and by faith accept God's offer of forgiveness and salvation.
Social evils are the consequences of the rule of Satan. Satan has authority over us because when we choose to sin, we choose to obey him. We are individually responsible for our sins. Therefore, salvation from sin is the heart of an wholistic reform.
Let us take poverty as an example of social evils, to see in some detail how sin leads to the misery of poverty and salvation to shalom, i.e., peace with prosperity. Sin is disobedience of God's law (or obedience of Satan's deception). If for our purposes we look only at the Ten Commandments as part of God's law for us, we can see how every one of those commands has a bearing on poverty and prosperity. Needless to say, the Ten Commandments provide a framework for the whole of life, not just for our economic life.

1 False Gods

While God was leading the Israelites out of the slavery of Egypt to the promised land, under the leadership of Moses, He spoke to His people on Mount Sinai:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me (Exod 20:2-3).
In this very first Commandment, God reveals Himself as a saviour from slavery; as one who delivered His people from oppression and wants to lead them into a land flowing with milk and honey. He is a personal and moral being - a God of justice and righteousness. He commands us not to turn to false gods. This is not so much because God is somehow hungry for our worship, but because when we turn to amoral or immoral gods, we soon lose our freedoms and find ourselves under oppressive systems.
We have already noted in the previous chapter, and elsewhere I have considered in detail, the fact that submission to false deities results in poverty. The kingdom of Satan begins when we turn from the true God to false gods. The personal, moral God is the ultimate truth of the universe, the starting-point and the reference point of the meaning of everything else.
The failure to Know the personal God means that we cannot define the human person either, and as a society we gradually and inevitably sink so deeply into darkness and sin, that our lack of appreciation of personhood leads to institutionalising even murder. William Carey, the first British missionary to India, once saw a basket hanging from a tree. In it lay the body of an infant, half-eaten by white ants and birds. He was shocked to learn that it was a common practice for parents to starve their unwanted infants to death in this way, The fact the infanticide had been given socio-religious sanction was totally intolerable to him. Every year in a festival, parents used to throw their unwanted infants in the 'holy' River Ganges. Carey, therefore, fought to uphold the dignity and value of human life by getting this 'religious' ritual banned in the eighteenth century.
Is twentieth-century man any more civilised, more developed? Not really, except in the sense that he now has the technology to kill as many as 60 million unwanted children every year before they are born. In some ways `developed' humans are worse. When you do not acknowledge God as Creator, in whose image man is made, you are forced to define man with reference to an ape or simply as a complex collection of molecules. No rational basis remains for treating humans differently form animals or machines.
A society which does not know the Saviour God ultimately loses objective yardsticks for distinguishing between justice and slavery, oppression and development. How is it, that in spite of the immense advance in knowledge and power, so many governments in the twentieth century have been able to justify large-scale oppression in the name of development or social engineering, and describe slavery as 'revolutionary freedom' of the left or the right?
It really should not surprise us because the aim of the 'old dragon' is to make nations worship the 'beast' - the emperors that oppress. Communism is the clearest example of the folly of modern man who turns away from the Saviour God to put his faith in a party or a dictator. But Communism is by no means the only such folly. Western secularism also ends up at the same point denying God and deifying the state. It hardly matters whether we have a leftist saviour or a rightist saviour. Any deity other than the Saviour, God, will lead us to bondage and poverty.

2 Worship of Creation

God commands:

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations who love me and keep my commandments (Exod 20:4-6).
Some years ago I was invited to a village where some poor people wanted us to start development projects. When I reached there, they had just finished cremating a dead body and were making an offering to demons. My friends proudly showed me their temple in the middle of the river, which they said was a thousand years old.
I said to them, 'Do you know why you are poor? It is because your forefathers feared and worshipped the river instead of harnessing its water for your fields.'
Today that village has some believers as well as a government-constructed lift-irrigation system, which has transformed their agriculture (though the high-caste men have begun to grab by fraud and force those previously unproductive lands, which the untouchables have made productive).
When we worship creation we become incapable of exercising dominion over it. A society which worships the cow, becomes incapable of manipulating or improving its breed. A tribe which worships the 'mountain god', instead of looking under the mountain for, say, copper, is doomed to poverty. The tragic consequences of these sins last for generations.
Faith in a personal Creator sets the philosophical framework for faith in an objective, rational creation, whose laws are both discoverable as well as harnessable by human rationality because man is made in the image of a personal God. Societies which substitute faith in a personal Creator for faith in chance or impersonal energy or consciousness, eventually lose a concept of rational creation altogether and are forced by their own logic to deify the forces of nature as well as to consider the objective world as somehow unreal, merely a projection of consciousness.
The eleventh-century Hindu philosopher Shank-aracharya, for example, has been the most influential thinker of India. He taught strict monism called Advaita Vedanta. According to him, the diversity or plurality of the world is Maya (illusion) or dream of Brahma (Universal Consciousness), who is the only reality that exists.
Prior to this teaching, India made significant advances in science, mathematics, astronomy, architecture, arts, grammar etc. But after Shankara, there was stagnation and deterioration.

This monistic philosophy had two damaging, albeit logical, implications for India.

First, rationality was rejected in favour of mysticism. Our rational consciousness, including our self-consciousness (sense of individuality) was logically seen as illusory. Rationality was considered to be the source of our ignorance or bondage, which makes us see ourselves as distinct individuals instead of God. Meditation, yoga, Tantra etc., became proper epistemological means to transcend the bondage of rational consciousness and find reality (Brahma) in mystical experience. The denial of rationality in favour of mysticism meant that science became impossible.
Second, because reality was thought to be one, it was logical to assume that nothing else existed except God. Therefore the worship of stone, snake or sex was worship of God. No wonder that after Shankaracharya Indian society degenerated into superstition, sorcery and a host of social evils.
The stream of Western thinking which gave up faith in the infinite personal Creator is now being forced by the logic of its unbelief to give up faith in a rational creation, too. This is clearly seen in contemporary science fiction movies that grapple with the concept of time and stretch the Einsteinian concept of space-time continuum to imply that time is illusory. The film Star Trek IV, for example, explores a reality where the twentieth and twenty-third centuries exist simultaneously. A person can travel from one to the other in an instant, providing he has the technology to go fast enough.
Such a view of time could provide no rational basis for development, i,e.,alleviation of human misery or even ecology with which Star Trek IV is concerned. This view would ultimately mean that not only time but creation itself is illusory. If the twenty-third century already exists, why save the whales for it as the heroes of the film do? What significance can human action have if history is not moving, if we go 'back to the future'? What significance does man or his work have if time and history are not real?
The pre-Einsteinian rationalists who conceived of time as 'absolute' were wrong. Because God alone is absolute, time and especially our perception of it cannot be absolute. We perceive everything from a relative standpoint through various media. When we see a coin, for example, in a bucket of water, the coin is not where it appears to be, because water has refracted the rays coming back from the coin. However, the fact that our normal perception of the coin is inaccurate, does not make the reality of the coin itself illusory. Time is not absolute but it is real.
God created for six days and rested on the seventh; this means that what came to be on the second day* was non-existent on the first. Man and creation are also real. But they are not to be worshipped. God made man from the earth. Therefore man is a part of creation. But God breathed His spirit in man and therefore he is different from the rest of creation. He bears the image of the Creator. He is creative. He is to be a worker in God's creation, exercising dominion over it, not worshipping it. {Insertion from the text: I am not implying that six days necessarily mean six 24-hour periods. What a day means on earth is not what it means on Venus or Jupiter. Genesis specifies that by one day is meant one evening and morning – not 12 or 24 hours.}
Recently, the Prime Minister of India spoke to the United Nations' General Assembly against the Western tendency to have 'dominion over creation'. He advocated the view that man should seek harmony with nature, not authority over it. In his own country, however, he would like to assume authority over people and would have everyone believe that his exercise of authority is not only good for people but also necessary. And that is true of course. If men who have greater intelligence than any other creature, need human authority over them, would not the non-rational things and forces of nature require greater exercise of intelligent authority over them for order and development?
The Bible says that people who worship dead wood, metal or stones eventually become dead in their minds, too. Those who worship demons become demonic to the point of sacrificing their own children to appease their deities.
Another reason why we should not make images of God is because God has made His image Himself-man. Man is made in the image of God and therefore He is the one to be respected and served, not the idols made by human hands and imagination. That is sin.

3. Lack of the Fear of God

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name (Exod. 20:7).

Gods of stone, wood or metals do not save. But the living God does. He made man in His own image that man may have fellowship with Him and serve Him. Man has turned away from Him and consequently gone into slavery. But God still takes the initiative to rescue man and to enter into a covenant relationship with him. Even though we have sinned and joined the dark side, He is willing to be our God, our Father. He is willing for us to use His name, to have all the privileges and power that come from His name. But unlike other gods and goddesses, He is not a power that men can manipulate for their advantages through magic, sorcery, rituals, offerings or sacrifices. His name is not a mantra (sacred sound with occult power) like that of the demons, to be chanted for occultic power of mystical experiences. He is a person. He is a Holy God-a judge. Therefore, He is to be respected, worshipped and obeyed.

The proverb says that 'the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom'. A mind which fears God stays away from evil and loves truth and righteousness. Because it fears God, it ceases to fear man or the kingdoms of man. It also ceases to fear nature, but sees it as a mission field.
The first Commandment to have no gods other than the Saviour God deals with the state of our minds-whether we believe in truth or falsehood. The second and third Commandments which prohibit the worship of creation and exhort us to revere the living God, deal with the attitudes that result from our beliefs. It is not enough to believe in the Saviour God. We must revere Him.
Not taking the name of the Lord in vain implies a deep commitment to walk in integrity, with a sense of personal responsibility for our thoughts, words and actions. The truth is that we are morally responsible creatures, therefore accountable to God. This fact demands that we should build our lives on the foundations of the fear of God.
Can a business enterprise succeed where the workers have no respect for those in authority over them ? Can the larger human endeavour to find shalom - peace with prosperity - succeed without a fear of God born of a sense of human accountability to Him? For a finite creature living in God's universe it is sheer foolishness and arrogance to disregard and disrespect God. It will not go unpunished. The greatest of human minds are no more than those of little boys playing with pebbles at the shore of the sea of knowledge. Just as an astronaut is certain to destroy himself and his spaceship unless he obeys the instructions of others who are better informed than he, man destroys himself without humility, meekness and reverence towards the infinite, personal God, the Saviour God who has allowed us to use His name. This commandment means that He saved Israel from slavery; He is leading them to prosperity; ut He is a Holy God, not to be taken for granted or used for our vested interests.

4. Neglect of the Sabbath

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates (Exod.20: 8-10).
This fourth Commandment deals with the necessity to work for six days and to rest on the seventh day. Some people sin by not working diligently for six days, whereas others, driven by greed, unbelief or other circumstances do not rest on the seventh day. Either way of breaking this command results in poverty. The necessity of work flows out of man's special position in the world as God's vice-regent, implied

in the first three Commandments. It is not enough, not to worship creation. God put Adam in the Garden to 'till it and keep it', therefore human fulfilment comes from work. Not to work is sin.

A person who makes no distinction between creation and the Creator first begins to worship creation. Then he interprets creation as somehow unreal, and therefore a life of work as a life of bondage. His goal or salvation then becomes to go into an ashram (a-shram or non-labour), away from a life of action to a life of meditation. As the Western mind increasingly moves away from the Christian World view it also appears to be moving away from faith in work to a faith in meditation, magic, occultism, spiritism, yoga etc., as means of acquiring power over creation. Even cult movies such as the Star Wars or Star Trek series reflect this, often showing magic to be greater and more desirable than the powers of science and technology. This represents a gradual move of a culture from truth to deception, from responsible freedom to the slavery to superstitions and demons. We in India know the result of this intellectual suicide. This Commandment warns against it.
A life of meditation, when it means a negation of work, is a life of suppression of human creativity or a denial of the image of God in man. It dose not require academic expertise to know that a culture which does not put a premium on work comes under the grip of poverty. 'He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty' (Prov. 28:19).
P.T. Baur, of the London School of Economics, has challenged the consensus of the economists who think that the prosperity of a nation depends on its climate and natural resources. He did his pioneering studies in the rubber industry of South-East Asia in the 1940s and ' 50s and found that the Indians harvested half the rubber that the Chinese did when they were working on the same plantations. From this he learnt that it is not physical resources but human values and attitudes that make the critical difference between prosperity and poverty.
In my own experience of the rural life, I learnt that one important cause of poverty was that the high-caste Hindus worked only when forced to by necessity; otherwise they generally considered work to be degrading.
The work ethic of the Indians working for their Government is a handy subject for the cartoonists. But it is sad that so many of the educated youth in Third World countries bribe to get a Government job precisely because they believe that it means secured salary, perks and 'extra income' without much exertion.

The command to work for six days and to rest on the seventh implies that even though the Saviour God has delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt and is taking them to a promised land- 'a land flowing with milk and honey' (Deut. 26 and 27)- yet economic prosperity will not be there lying around to be picked up and enjoyed. No His people will have to work for it.

Yet work eventually ceases to be meaningful and fulfilling unless it is seen as a part of the overall purpose of human life in relation to both creation as well as the Creator. If work is to be a vocation, a 'call' transcending drudgery, then it has to be seasoned with Sabbath rest. The Sabbath is not merely a physical and mental rejuvenation. It is holy. It is meant to service our hearts and minds with the divine perspective on life. Therefore, it is primarily a spiritual rejuvenation. It is the spirit which must govern our minds and bodies. Whether work is the never-ending drudgery of a housewife washing dishes and mopping floors or a watchman staying awake night after night, or a strenuous effort of an astronaut in space for months, the Lord's Sabbath can give meaning and inspiration to make their labour not only tolerable but also a work of art pleasing and satisfying. By keeping the Sabbath to the Lord your God' you bring your life and work under God. The work then becomes a 'call' It inspires the worker to persevere, to work for a cause higher than mere bread and butter.
St Paul says that a man who does not work but steals as his means of livelihood, must begin to work after he comes to Christ, not merely to be able to work after he comes to Christ, not merely to be able to eat, but so that he can create enough wealth to be able to give to those who are in need (Eph. 4:28).
To disobey this command is to sin with far-reaching socio-economic consequences.

5. Dishonour for parents

Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land (Exod. 20:12).
Man cannot exercise authority over creation, without being himself subject to authority. Only those who honour authority over them, can handle the power of authority over others.
The family and parental authority are the sources of respect and obedience for authority, and wisdom comes from age and experience. Honouring parents is the necessary preparation for a life of useful work, which is taught in the first four Commandments. To dishonour parents or other authorities is sin: it leads to a chaos of conflicts and unhappiness. Respect and obedience for authority lead to order, peace, fruitfulness and life.
This fifth command to honour parents underlines the importance of family life. In some societies individualism is destroying the family. In others, collectivism often destroys the family as the primary educational and economic unit. Both individualism and collectivisation are, therefore, sinful.
Israel was a patriarchal, tribal society. The `family' was not merely a social unit, but a civic, economic, military and political entry, too. So this command implies not simply that we honour our fathers and mothers but that we be law-abiding citizens, respecting authority.
We have seen in the previous chapter that an assumption underlying the preaching of the Kingdom of God was that the Roman empire was the fourth beast of Daniel 7:7 or the empire of iron of Daniel which was smashed to pieces by the stone of the Kingdom of God (Dan. 2:34, 44-5). St. Paul learnt from his own experience, however, that the grace of God was not absent even from wicked, totalitarian kingdoms. The

Jews would have killed Paul, had it not been for the Roman law which held that an accused had a right to defend himself before a judge as well as to make an appeal to higher authorities, up to the supreme court of Caesar himself. Therefore Paul taught Christians living in Rome to pay taxes and respect civic and political authorities (Rom.13:1-7). It is only by a life of consistent obedience that we earn the right to disobey human authority when that has to be done in order to obey the higher authority of God.

When family is the business enterprise, it does not require any imagination to see how to break this Commandment will result in poverty. Can an enterprise be profitable without respect for and obedience to superiors?

God says we must honour and obey those over us so that we 'may live long in the land'. One very important cause of the relative weakness of the economic life of Third World countries is that family-owned economic enterprises are suspected, whereas artificial co-operatives, societies or state-controlled 'public sector' companies are promoted. More often than not these ventures fail because they do not do justice to 'human factors' in economic life. In contrast, Japanese experiment has shown that even large multinational Japanese experiment has shown that even large multinational companies do better if a family spirit is injected into management.
But the command to 'honour your father and mother' is not to be obeyed primarily because of its economic benefits. In fact it is sinful to respect only those who have economic or intellectual power.

Children may well have more knowledge or money than their parents, but that does not justify disrespect for poor or illiterate parents. If parents are to love and care for powerless, illiterate infants then when children grow up, they should reciprocate respect and care for parents who may by then have become powerless. A society which does not care for parents will soon lose the rationale for caring for children too. God says that if you wish to live long in the promised land, you must honour your father and mother. And we should note that mother is to be respected and obeyed as much as father.

Old-age pensions, retirement benefits and other forms of social securities for the aged are to be welcomed as positive developments. But when these become substitutes for the love and care of the children for their parents, then these measures, instead of being expressions of the respect for the parents, become an expression of the selfish individualism of a society which is bound to be as destructive of the family as collectivism. The promise of shalom-that you may live long in the land-is dependent on the continuity of right relationships in the family

6. Murder

The Commandment 'You shall not murder' (Exod. 20:13) implies that man has a God-given right to life of which he cannot unjustly be deprived. God is pro-life. Jesus said he came to give life abundant, whereas the one who gives death is a robber. Man as the creator of wealth is more important than land, cattle, capital or machine. It is not enough to respect only God or parents. We must respect all of human life, including those under our care and authority.

One of earliest lessons I learnt in our development work in the rural areas of a dacoit(bandit) infested district was that a chief cause of poverty was the absence of the security which comes from a stable law and order system; where to have wealth means to invite robbers, people prefer either to remain poor or move out of the villages to the more secure context of cities. Those who are able to save a little money in the village choose not to invest it in a rural-based enterprise. The commercial banks are often reluctant to invest in perfectly viable projects in villages, because of lack of security.
A society which cannot put the security of human life as its top priority cannot hope to rise above poverty. Therefore the sixth Commandment not to commit murder, is fundamental for prosperity.
Like all sin, murder begins in our minds, in a lack of a clear understanding of who man is, in a lack of respect for human life. The evolutionary view that far from being sacred, life was a product of blind chance meant that Hitler, who believed in the doctrine of the survival of the fittest, could first order execution of all the terminally sick patients in Germany and then of six million men, women and children, whose only crime was that they were born to Jewish parents. Reverence for life implies that our right to life is not absolute. We do not have a right to suicide. `My life' is not mine-it is God's gift to me. Besides, I have debts to repay to my family, my society and to my God. So it is important that we develop an attitude of respect and gratitude for life.
In India socio-religious sanction for murder of infants and burning alive of widows became possible without any Hindu guru challenging the evil, because the doctrine of reincarnation of the soul meant that life is not something sacred but a bondage or sansara. The goal Moksha (Salvation) was understood as cessation of our individual existence, i.e., merging of our individuality into Brahma (the Impersonal


Philosophies that imply a low view of human life are to be shunned as evil. But we must recognise that we may hold to the correct doctrine and yet in practice hate our brothers,, which, said Jesus, is as bad as murder in God's sight (Matt. 5:21-2).
Today, atheistic secularism justifies taking away human life by giving it a less objectionable name than murder, such as abortion or euthanasia. Once the doctrine of the sanctity of life has been rejected and a philosophy of death accepted, we have already lost the battle for development. For the secular mind, poverty issues are more important than pro-life issues because it puts the purse above the person. Politicians are always talking about the poor because the poor have votes whereas unborn babies don't.
Jesus, however, says that human life is far more important than economics, i.e. what we shall eat or wear (Matthew 6:25-34). The command not to commit murder defines the boundary of our authority, as well as constantly holding before us the purpose of our salvation and of all our work, i.e., life.

7. Adultery

God says, 'You shall not commit adultery' (Exod. 20:14). One of my frequent themes in our villages is that the economic bullock cart of India is moving very slowly because it is being pulled only by one bull-the male. The woman is usually confined to the chores of the home. The reason for women's enslavement is rampant sexual immorality. We cannot afford to give freedom to village girls to go to high schools in towns because we don't trust our men to leave them alone. Therefore, they often have to remain uneducated, unskilled and treated as economic liabilities. Even in the West the growing acceptance of the single-parent family almost inevitably means a poor family, and emotionally handicapped children. Very often the system of social security gives financial incentive for claimants to remain single-parent families. This not only impoverishes them but puts a financial strain on society, too, which ultimately cannot but

be destructive to moral values, to the institutions of marriage, family and economic life as a whole.
We can give freedom to our women only when we trust our men. Trust is possible only in a society which has a high sexual ethic. A low sexual ethic first results in the breakdown of marriage and then eventually in loss of freedom for women, as a means of protecting the family. Both have far-reaching economic consequences.
In 1980 my wife and I were invited for a lecture tour of Holland. On the first night our hosts put us up in a Christian hostel in the middle of the 'red light' district of Amsterdam. In my lectures that week I often joked with my audience.
`I thought I was coming from an underdeveloped country to a developed society. But on my first night here I learnt that I have come from a culture that is about a thousand years ahead of yours. What you have in Amsterdam now, we had in our "temples" In Khajuraho a millennium ago and we know well where that road leads.'
Young people today often live in tension. On the one hand, there is the tradition that you can depend on your parents for financial needs only as long as you are unmarried. On the other hand, the marriage age is being pushed back because of the need for academic specialisation to get good jobs. More and more people are resorting to premarital sexual relationships. In some countries this seems to be gaining social acceptance.
There can be no doubt that once sex is permitted outside of marriage, there is not much hope of protecting the institutions of marriage and family. The way out of the dilemma should be family support for married children, instead of encouraging them by default to live together before being married.
To break God's law for personal convenience is extremely dangerous and in the long run destructive of stability, peace and prosperity.
During 1975-7 when India went through its brief phase of totalitarianism called 'Emergency', I was amazed to discover that even our population control measure-of forcefully sterilising men-failed in spite of the brutal use of the state power because of the low sexual ethic in the countryside. It was the village women who resisted the programme. The reason was simple-if they became pregnant after their husbands had had a vasectomy, how could they 'show their faces to anyone'? They did not think that it was possible for them to protect themselves from the lust of other men around them. Therefore the could not allow their husbands to go through the vasectomy operation. Thus the sin of adultery became the real hindrance to the control of a growing population.

8. Theft

The Commandment 'You shall not steal' (Exod. 20:15) implies that I have a right to property of which I cannot be deprived unjustly. Security of life and property create a context in which economic development can take place. A society which cannot protect the wealth of its citizens from thieves or a state which robs its citizens of their wealth through unjust tax structures or by denying them the right to property, cannot hope to get out of the clutches of poverty. On the other hand, if the citizens steal the taxes which should go to the Government, they impoverish and weaken their society. Therefore, the command 'You shall not steal' is another pillar on which a prosperous society stands. The sin of theft breeds poverty.

The Indian Government is rocked today by scandals that almost two hundred and fifty thousand million rupees have been hidden away by Indians in foreign banks as 'black money'. Much of this money has been generated by the politicians and bureaucrats as illegal bribes on imports and exports. But much of it is also money generated by legitimate business which is not brought into the country to evade taxes. The businessmen feel that the Government will steal their money through unjust taxation. So they prefer to steal taxes from the Government themselves. We have a joke: When a politician steals public property in the West he goes to jail; when he steals it in India, he goes to the West-preferably to the Swiss banks. Some national leaders feel that the present situation is worse than the British Raj taking away to England the wealth that Indians had created.
One of the ways in which the business community stole the wealth of the ordinary people in Biblical days was through 'unjust weights and measures'. Moses prohibited such theft in his law. The prophets denounced it as sin. But today many economies lower the value of their currency as the simplest way of stealing the wealth of the people-in the name of 'development'. When people ultimately lose faith in Governments' paper money, the country goes through the upheavals of bankruptcy.
This practice of stealing by devaluing currency, which is the modern equivalent of using changeable weights and measures, seriously hinders progress in poor countries. It serves as a disincentive to saving. A person who saves a hundred thousand rupees to enable his child to start a commercial enterprise may find that by the time the child is ready, the value of his savings has gone down to (say) only seventeen thousand rupees. In contrast, a person who had taken a loan of a hundred thousand rupees may find that it was very profitable to have been in debt because the real value of his liability over the years has decreased on its own to only seventeen thousand rupees. It then becomes wiser to have liabilities instead of savings, for fear of theft of its people's savings by the state, cannot get out of its poverty.
Property rights, like the 'right to life' are not absolute. In the Jubilee legislation, for example, the Lord says, 'The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine' (Lev. 25:23). A man who becomes a drunkard or a gambler cannot have the right to sell off his capital assets on the grounds that 'it is my land' any more than he can take his own life on the plea that 'it is my life'. Ultimately the land is not his. It is God's gift to him. He is required develop it for his children and grandchildren, not fritter it away.
Some interpreters think that Leviticus 25:23 implies that we have no property rights. Form God's statement 'the land is mine,' they somehow derive a socialism which says 'the land is the state's ' Nothing could be farther from the truth. Jubilee law implies that private ownership is so fundamental that basic capital assets in Israel could not even be sold. This is not a question of taking sides in an academic debate between the right and the left. The future of a whole society depends on whether or not its people have security of property rights. A man is likely to recharge his soil and develop his land best, if he knows that his descendants have to live off that land for generations to come. The family ownership of capital is the best way to preserve and strengthen the eco-system. The ideologies that deny property rights to families destroy their capital. Why would a man plant a tree and nurture it unless he is either paid for it or he has a reasonable basis for thinking that his children and grandchildren will get the timber and fruit from that tree? It is folly to deny property rights to people and then demand that they plant trees or recharge soil. Economic development is built on the foundation of security to property implied in the command, ‘Thou shall not steal.’

9 False Witness

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour (Exod.20:16).
Personal integrity is fundamental for a just social order. A few years ago a Sikh, who had done business both in India and England for years, taught me the significance of honesty to poverty and prosperity.
He said to me, ‘Why don’t you settle in England and do business here; it is very easy and much more rewarding.’
I was surprised how a man who could not speak one correct sentence in English could succeed in business in England. So I asked him, ‘Why is business easier in England than in India?’
‘Because everyone believes you here, ‘was his reply. As a businessman he knew the relationship of truthful witness to the economic prosperity of a society.
Successful commercial activity is built on trust, which in turn depends on the truthfulness of the people.

Where people do not respect their own words, they create conditions of conflict, chaos and suffering.

They build a society on the premise of distrust.
In 1980, I walked with a friend in Holland to a dairy farm. There was no one in the sales room. He opened the tap of the milk container and filled his jug. Then he put a banknote in the money bowl lying there, took out the change from the bowl, put it in his pocket and started walking back home.
I was amazed. ‘If it were India,’ I said, ‘you would probably take home both the milk and the money. But then, in a flash of insight, I saw the relationship of moral integrity to economic prosperity.
‘If the farmer had to employ a salesman,’ I said, ‘our children would get less milk than they do now, because it would be more expensive. In any case, if people are dishonest how can you trust a salesman? We have milkmen in India, but we can never trust that they have not mixed water in the milk.’
In 1983, I was again in Holland, waiting with my daughter for a tram in Amsterdam. I asked two American girls, Where can I buy tickets for the public transport system?
‘Why do you want to buy tickets?’ they asked, rather surprised, and added, ‘We have been going round the town for three days now, and no one has bothered to check whether or not we’ve bought tickets.’
‘You should be grateful,’ I said, ‘that you still have enough honest people here that the system can cope with a few dishonest ones. If the proportion of the dishonest grew, then they would have to employ inspectors to check your tickets and then the tickets would cost more. Dishonesty would spread to the management and maintenance of these trams, too, and you would have too many break-downs and accidents, and you would wreck a beautiful system.’
In one of our projects we enable peasants to solar dry potatoes in to wafers. Then we grind the wefers into potato powder. One peasant farmer whose family has found this to be a very profitable project was pleading with me, ‘Why don’t you allow me to set up a grinding unit in my own home for making powder?’
I replied, ‘If we can set up the powder-making unit in your home we can sell powder cheaper than anyone else in the world, because we shall eliminate packing, transporting, warehousing costs of wafers. But the problem is that wheat flour is so much cheaper than potato powder. How can be I sure that you will not mix it in the potato powder to make more money? The costs of dishonesty in India are so high that the Dutch can sell their powder to us much cheaper than we can sell ours in our own country.’
The consequences of dishonesty on economic life are bad enough, but when false witnesses destroy a judicial system, then a society has to reconcile itself to living in oppression and violence. Principles of justice and civilisation then give way to the law of the jungle-‘might is right.’ Eventually the judiciary and the State themselves lose all legitimacy because the State becomes most corrupt and oppressive in using the judiciary to pervert justice. Stalin and other Communist dictators made a mockery of justice in eliminating millions of their opponents through sham judicial trials, which were among the darkest episodes of our century. But even in countries like India which have inherited a fair and independent judiciary from the British, the ruling powers are now using the judiciary to protect criminals and harass and punish political opponents through resort to false witness. This cannot but destroy the legitimacy of the State itself.

10 Covetousness

You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, of his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour (Exod. 20:17).
The tenth Commandment takes the earlier nine Commandments from the external sphere - idolatry, murder, theft, adultery, etc., to the inner attitude. Our faith in God’s goodness and love for us must result in contentment and thankfulness. Our respect for our neighbours and their property must mean that we work for what we want to and need to have, instead of coveting what our neighbours have. I must create a house I can be proud of instead of coveting my neighbour’s I must work at loving my own wife, to have happiness in my home.
Under the impact of Socialist thinking, many of our leaders in India and in some other Third World countries have told us that we are poor because the Western world is exploiting us. The way out of poverty, therefore, is for us to get their money. All exploitations, of course, must cease- though we must realise that often our own leaders are the greatest exploiters of our countries - but coveting our neighbour’s wealth ultimately is an attitude that cannot help. If I have a right to enjoy the wealth I create, so does my neighbour. Exploitation is nothing but the result of covetousness.

Not having a covetous disposition means not only contentment, thankfulness and industriousness - to earn what we want - but also an attitude of loving our neighbour and giving of ourselves to others. We have a right to protect our properties, but it does not mean that we should hoard what we have, irrespective of the needs of others around us. Not being covetous means that we respect and care for our neighbour’s rights and needs. This creates the environment of harmony and co-operative action necessary to fulfil our human destiny on earth.

Covetousness is a result of our lack of faith in God and a lack of love for our neighbours. That is why it is a destructive sin.

Sinfulness, Repentance and the Dignity of Man

A reform movement is built on the assumption that man- including the insignificant and enslaved man - is worth fighting for. How does the Christian view that man is a sinner provide the basis for a fight for the dignity of man?

Logically man became human - a creature endowed with free will and moral choice - only when he was given the command, ‘Thou shalt not.’ The concepts of responsibility and dignity have no meaning without a real choice being given to man. The command gives man the opportunity to exercise his free will. Instead of obeying his instincts alone, he can make real moral choices too. Instead of obeying instructions as a robot, he can choose to obey out of love and gratitude.

It was unfortunate that man exercised the option of choosing to disobey, to sin, to alienate himself from his Creator. The choice to sin meant believing something false and following Satan. By his choice man went from light into darkness. His mind was darkened; his heart was hardened; and his conscience became increasingly insensitive to truth. The spiritual life of man was dead. He ceased to have fellowship with God and he grew to love the darkness of evil. He became a slave to sin, that is, increasing compromise with sin meant decreasing freedom and power to choose what is right (Rom.7:14-24). As sinner man is guilty-worthy not of respect but of punishment, of eternal separation from God, i.e., hell.
But the Good News is that man is still an object of God’s love. God loved man enough to send Jesus to take man’s sin upon Himself on the cross. Jesus became sin for us. He took our punishment. He died so that we may find forgiveness and life; so that we may come out of darkness into the joy of God’s light. For a sinner, a life of dignity begins in repentance. The view that the human creature has a dignity means that man is a responsible creature. Individuals are personally responsible for sin. To repent is to own responsibility for one’s choices.
As slaves of sin we may have forfeited the power to choose what is right, but we have not lost the ability to choose to repent of our sin. A great man is one who shoulders great responsibilities. True greatness therefore must begin by owning responsibility for oneself. For a sinner who has broken God’s Commandments to own responsibility means to repent; to ask for forgiveness; to get right with God; to be born again; to get out of the slavery of Satan and begin a life of obedience to God-a life of responsibility to walk in truth, in the light. This is salvation-to find forgiveness and reconciliation with God through repentance and faith. This is also the beginning of a holistic reform.
Ordering our lives conscientiously, or walking moment by moment with a deep sense of personal responsibility within the framework of truth, releases that human initiative, energy and creativity which can generate prosperity and lasting peace.

Salvation and Social Reform

The God who set the Jews free from the slavery of Egypt told them how they could both maintain this freedom and turn it into prosperity.
So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or the left. Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess (Deut. 5:32-3).
Sin breeds poverty, Repentance from sin and obedience of faith result in shalom.
St. Paul says that salvation means that a man, who was dead in transgressions and sins, has died with Christ -because Christ died for our sins-and has risen with Christ to newness of life. ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come’(2 Cor. 5:17).
The renewal of society begins with renewal of individuals who pass from death to life, from unrighteousness to righteousness. It is a modern folly to assume that the Key to the economic prosperity of a society depends primarily on its collective programmes, communes or cooperatives. This misguided belief moves even Christians to spend their energies in trying to work exclusively for ‘community organisation’ or ‘community development’. The fact is that very often no entity called ‘community’ exists in a given situation. In our villages, for example, where many Christians and secular groups are working for ‘community development’ nothing called community exists. What exist as social realities are individuals, families and castes. A reform movement which seeks to go to the roots, must therefore go to the individuals and families.
The true key to shalom lies with the quality of life the people lead. It will help us to see the relationship of salvation to social reform if we see the necessity of relating justice to righteousness. The Scriptures say that justice and righteousness are the pillars of God’s throne, i. e. Kingdom. In the Kingdom of Satan the two are separated.
Righteousness is the personal dimension of moral law; justice is its societal expression. More often than not, the world replaces righteousness with ideology. Then ideology, not rightness of an act, determines whether it is judged just or unjust. The consequences of this are terrible.
For example, the Bible says that a dispute should be settled on the basis of right or wrong (righteousness), and the judge should show partiality neither to the rich nor to the poor (Leviticus 19:15). In many countries, such as India, socialistic ideology says that the law should protect the interest of the poor. A landlord or landlady is assumed to be rich and a tenant to be poor. The tenant can stay in the house and not pay the rent for years, but the landlord cannot get possession of the house without prolonged, expensive litigation. The result is that people consider it foolish to invest their wealth in building houses and renting them out. They prefer to hide their money in secret Swiss accounts, away from the sight of the tax authorities. The poor then have to live in slums or in the streets because wealth is not being invested in the business of housing - which should normally be a very attractive business, considering the demand.
Illustrations can be multiplied to show that if justice is separated from righteousness or God’s moral law and attached to an ideology, then justice becomes oppression and hurts the poor and the weak whom the ‘ideology’ was seeking to serve in the first place. It is like Communist ideology which claims to be the dictatorship of the proletariat but ends by denying the proletariat the rights to organise themselves into unions or even to speak freely in their ‘own’ system.
When Jesus asked us first to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (justice?) before bread and clothes are added unto us (Matt. 6:33), he spelt out the necessity of salvation to shalom.
In search of bread the poor are not to follow the revolutionary who takes up the banner of justice rooted in ideology, even if argument is that God is biased towards the poor, therefore the state and the law should also be biased. God is concerned with righteousness. He calls the poor to repent of their sin, including their sin of faith in the secularised idols of ideologies. Salvation (or clothing ourselves with righteousness) has to precede shalom. Justice must grapple with issues of righteousness (right and wrong) or the personal dimensions of moral law.
Salvation is necessary for social reform because the Kingdom of God is built on righteousness and justice, whereas the kingdom of Satan is often built on ideology and injustice.
In the preceding pages we have seen the roots of social evils in our individual sin and of shalom in our righteousness. But it is important to remind ourselves that social reform is dealing with societal issues. As individual may be righteous, freed from the power of sin in life and yet not be free to be his creative, enterprising self in his own country.
For example, simple hard-working Indians perform economic wonders in Europe or America or ever in some Asian and African countries - where they may not even have the elementary political power of a vote. But within India the same people find that they cannot prosper because they do not have the right political connections. The political-economic Satan has been bent by the powerful to suit their vested interests. In such situations the tasks of the reformer is to break the chains of oppression, so that the individuals are free to be themselves. Therefore, having reminded ourselves that socio-political freedom is worth something only if the people are free from the power of sin in their individual lives, we should briefly reconsider the significance of the role of an evangelist to the issues of social reform.
As evangelist who seeks to convince people that they are not just living in the kingdom of Satan, but that they are personally responsible for sin, spreads critical awareness. He seeks to inspire people with hope for a better future. He gives them faith that a change for the better is possible. He seeks to bring them out of the kingdom of Satan, into the Kingdom of God -to a state of heart, where individuals will bow before God and refuse to compromise with evil, even if it costs them their lives. Thus the evangelist becomes the forerunner, pioneer or leader of a reform movement.

Paul : An Evangelist

Paul has become a model of an evangelist who holds evangelism to be his priority and sticks to it. Paul claimed that he preached nothing but Christ and Him crucified. He exhorted Timothy to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim.4:5). But for Paul, evangelism was a most potent, viable and God-given tool for reform.

Paul’s evangelism did not aim at simply renewing people’s hearts. Christ, according to Paul, was making all things new (2 Cor. 5:17). Salvation begins in the heart, transforms the mind and is expressed in the behaviour, life-style and relationships of an individual (Rom. 12), who becomes a new man in Christ. But Paul was excited about the great mystery of the Gospel because it was creating a new race (Eph. 2:11-12). Existing religion had become walls that separated Jews and Gentiles. The Gospel was breaking down barriers-the very things which gave social identity to people. The Gospel was creating a new man. That is why Paul’s preaching of salvation was seen as a threat to the social status quo and opposed both by Jews and Gentiles.

Paul: A Reformer

Paul was persecuted because he was perceived to be a troublemaker, a man who was turning the status quo upside down by his preaching. The Thessalonian Jews said to the city officials, ‘These men [Paul and Silas] who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here’ (Acts 17:6). The Jewish lawyer Tertullus accused Paul before King Felix, ‘We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world’ (Acts 24:5).

When Paul was arrested in Jerusalem (Acts 21), he was at the temple. He did not believe in Jewish ritualism, yet under advice from James and the elders of the Jerusalem church, he was financing the purification ritual of four Jewish converts. Paul willingly submitted to what he believed to be slavery, i. e., economic exploitation in the name of religion (Gal.3 and 4), in the larger interest of the fellowship of believers and in order to earn the right to be heard within the Jerusalem church.
Paul was not evangelising in Jerusalem, but keeping a low profile. Yet he was the one who was arrested. James and the other elders were ‘converting’ the Jews, but they were not arrested. Paul who was not witnessing about Jesus, but observing Jewish rituals, was arrested and the Jews were anxious to do away with his life. Why?
James, the Jewish converts and other evangelists were not persecuted because ‘all of them are zealous for the law’ (Acts 21:10). They were part of the Jewish sub-culture. Their message no longer had a cutting edge in their society.
Paul, however, was arrested, not because he was preaching the ‘simple Gospel’ but because the Jews said that he ‘is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place [the temple]’ (Acts 21:28).
Jesus had taught that Israel needed to do only two things for salvation, i. e. repent and believe in Him. The implication of this is that the Jewish Establishment had become irrelevant for Israel’s salvation. The temple, in fact, had become ‘a den of robbers’ (Matt. 21:13), the Jewish leaders had become a pack of ‘wolves’ (Matt.10:16). Jesus had rejected the temple and declared that it would be so thoroughly destroyed, that not even two stones would remain joined (Matt.24:2). The temple, the heart of the Jewish Establishment, had become the seat of corruption, exploitation and oppression of the common man. God, the Father, had vindicated Christ’s rejection of the temple when He made the curtain of the temple split in two from top to bottom (Matt.27:51).
Yet, the temple and the Jewish legalism which Jesus had rejected were gradually creeping back into the life of the early Church. The Church was becoming culturally contained within the Jewish status quo. Instead of setting people free from the slavery of the law and the Jewish Establishment, their evangelism was beginning to reinforce their hold. The elders of the Jerusalem church seemed pleased that the new converts were ‘zealous for the law’. The Church stood in danger of becoming a tool of the corrupt oppressive Establishment. No wonder it was no longer persecuted. It wasn’t a threat any more. But Paul was still a troublemaker. He had been insisting that Christians who were not living out the social implications of the Gospel were hypocrites (Gal.2:11-13), carnal (3:1-3) and cowards (6:12). They were compromising with the Gospel because they did not want to be persecuted. Paul insisted that Christians who were compromising with the surrounding Jewish culture by going back to the law were not merely backsliders; they were backsliding away from the grace of Christ into slavery from which Christ had set them free (Gal.5:1-12).
Paul said that he was not persecuted because he preached the cross (everybody did that) but because he preached cross only (Gal.5:11; 1Cor. 2:2). The ‘cross only’ meant that circumcision, law, the temple and sacrifices were irrelevant. These were religious means of enslaving people, and slavery was not an abstract concept but social oppression and economic exploitation. The Gospel, for Paul, was the power of God for salvation, not only from sin but from slavery to the law as well. It was a force for reform.

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