Bondage vs Freedom


  • Responsibility vs Irresponsibility

    Where does responsibility toward one's neighbor begin and end? Where does ones responsibility for one's children begin and end? Where does responsibility toward one's parents begin and end? Is responsibility toward our fellow man "unconditional?" What does God's Word say about the matter?

    Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) (Eph 6:2; Mark 5:10; Ex 20:12, &c.) Honour - "to honor [so uniformly A.V.], to have in honor, to rever, venerate;..." (Thayer, p 642.) Notice that honour is not implying unreserved support of another; rather honour simply holds them in reverence. We find elsewhere in God's Word the responsibilities to and the limits upon those responsibilities to family members.

    The fifth commandment encompasses all authority, containing God's laws concerning the responsibilities of both those under and those in authority, e.g., servant/master, child/parent. It also lays the foundation for our responsibility toward one's neighbour. Writing in 1765, Pastor James Durham commented concerning the fifth commandment:

    In the precept we are, 1st, To consider the object, father and mother. 2d, The duty, honour. 1st, Again, concerning the first, the duty that we owe to all relations, whether they be above us, inferior to us, or equal with us. This is clear from Christ's summing all the second table, and consequently this command with the rest, in that comprehensive general, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; and therefore our neighbour in general must be the object of this command, as well as the rest, and so it taketh in all the duties of honour that every one oweth to another, whatever be their place. There is a duty of honour and respect for from every one to every one; and so, Eph. V. 22, it is pressed upon wives towards their husbands; and, I Peter, iii. 7. Upon husbands toward their wives, which must be comprehended here. Thus father and mother are here to be largely and synecdochically ("synecdochy, In rehetoric, a figure or troup by which the whole of a thing is put for a part, or a part for the whole; as the genus for the species, or the species for the genus, &c." Webster, 1828.) Understood, one sort of relations being in a figurative manner put for all the rest. 2d, Under them are comprehended all superiors for place, in church or commonwealth, who in scripture get the title of fathers, as magistrates, supreme and subaltern (subordinate, Webster, 1828, ed.), ministers and all church-officers, teachers, overseers, and all in the place of fathers, I Cor. Iv. 15. Yea, they who are to be esteemed as such, for gifts of learning, wisdom, grace, and piety, Acts vii.2. or for their worldly means and outward estate, as Joseph was, Gen. xlv. 8. Or for their age, and the reverence due to them on that account, 2 Kings, ii. 12. ; in a word, any sort of eminency putteth one in the roll of fathers largely taken, though they be not properly such. 3rd, We are called in the first place to look to the duties of this relation, as it is domestic, such of a master over the servant, of a husband over the wife, &c. And then cometh the carriage of one towards another in general, and though most properly the duties of parents, mediate or immediate, over their children or nephews, be here pointed at, which is most literal, yet the former also in included, all particulars of that kind being, by a figure, comprehended under one...
    If it be further asked, Why all superiors, yea, all neighbours, are spoken of as fathers and mothers? Answ. These reasons are obvious from the scope. It is, I. To shew that the duties of this command are mutual amongst all relations; it giveth superiors their due, yet so as that it teacheth them also how to carry toward their inferiors, that is, to be fathers to them; and that the relation necessarily implieth a mutual tie; therefore this command doth not only direct inferiors in their duty towards superiors, but also superiors in their duty towards inferiors. 2. They get this name to make their subjection to each other, and their mutual relations and duties the more sweet and kindly, when the subjection is to be given as by a son to a father, and when it is exacted and expected as by a father from a son; which consideration should be kindly motive to all mutual duties, and also an inducement to hide infirmities, and to construct tenderly of failings. (Mr. James Durham, the late minister of the gospel at Glasgow, THE LAW UNSEALED; OR, A PRACTICAL EXPOSITION OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Printed by D. Schaw, Lawnmarket, 1802. To which are prefixed, the commendatory epistles of two famous English divines, Dr. John Owen and Mr Jenkyn, 1765. Pp 282, 283. I changed the old English spelling on many of the words.)

    Thus Durham rightly points out that all forms of subordinate/superior relationships are included in the fifth commandment: servants/masters, wives/husbands, children/parents, laymen/church leaders, citizens/civil authority, pupils/teachers, &c. The fifth commandment, being the first of the six dealing with man's relationship to his fellow man, presents the very basic foundation for the relationship of one individual with another - neighbor to neighbor - on all levels of society.

    Now the question arises: "Who is my neighbour," or "Who is my fellow man for whom God holds me responsible?" Desiring to justify his irresponsibility, a certain lawyer said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? Christ's answer clearly told the man that he was responsible before God for those in need whom Divine Providence brought him into contact. (Luke 10:25ff.) However, is the responsibility "unconditional," or unlimited?

  • Christian Responsibility

    God establishes His will concerning proper responsibility toward the neighbour by giving His Word concerning the poor. One of the primary commands in the New Testament is to remember the poor (Gal 2:10), but we must return to the Old Testament for a proper understanding of one's responsibility toward those in need.

    And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase. I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God. And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant: (Lev 25:35-39.)

    Contained above are God's laws concerning the poor. V. 35 assumes that the normal way of life is debt free; however, there are times when, through not through sloth nor negligence, one comes into poverty. At that time, the person borrows money or sells his property. In addition, v. 35, shows that God's people must have concern for the stranger. John Gill (1696-1771) rightly commented on v. 35:

    And if thy brother be waxen poor, &c.] An Israelite, as Aben Ezra, be reduced to a low estate, through afflictions in body, or in family, or through losses in trade, or want of business, or through one providence or another:

    and fallen in decay with thee; in his worldly substance: or "his hand wavers", or "fails" {p}; so that he cannot support himself and his family, has not a sufficiency, or it is not in the power of his hands to do it; and it is not owing to sloth and negligence, but to unavoidable want and necessity:

    then thou shalt relieve him; not merely by sympathizing with him, but by communicating to him, and distributing to his necessities; holding him up that he may not utterly fall, and strengthening his hands, that he may have a supply for his present wants:

    [yea, though he be] a stranger or a sojourner; whether a proselyte of righteousness, who is circumcised, and in all things conforms to the true religion; or a proselyte of the gate, who takes it upon him not to worship idols, and eat things that die of themselves, as Jarchi notes:

    that he may live with thee; continue in the land of Canaan, and not be obliged to quit it, and be laid under temptations of apostatizing from the true religion professed by him, and so far as he is come into it, which would bring a worse death than corporeal upon him; or that he may have a livelihood in some tolerable manner at least, and even live comfortably and cheerfully. (Online Bible.)

    The poor are thus defined as those reduced to a low estate through no fault of their own: They are not reduced by their own slothfulness and/or negligence. Their circumstances were unavoidable, for Divine Providence brought about the conditions in which they are found. (Eph 4:28 and James 1 and 2, along with other passages, imply that God leaves the poor among us to test our love for, i.e., obedience to, Him.)

    V. 36, the poor are specifically protected from usury - usury and interest are the same word: Lending to the poor ledeth unto the Lord, and the Lord will repay, with interest, Proverbs 19:17. Exodus 22:25 and Leviticus 25:36, 37, prohibit usury in the context of helping the poor among God's people: The poor are not to be loaned anything in their time of need with interest attached. Since Deuteronomy 23:19, 20 (Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury: Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.) is given on the bases of Exodus 22 and Leviticus 25, apparently usury was only forbidden when lending to the poor among God's people.

    In other words, those, even among God's people, who borrowed for "consumer goods" to make life "better" or so they could have "bigger and better" are lawfully subject to interest. They have no grounds to complain against high interest rates nor to complain against the "thieving" bankers and credit card companies with high interest rates: They borrowed money to serve their idol - covetousness, their desire for more, better and/or bigger. But the poor neighbour did not borrow because he was controlled by covetousness; rather, he borrowed because Providence placed him in his sad estate. (Cf., Pro 16:33.) Moreover, evidently the poor could not be required to repay, but the poor must be defined properly as those who are not in their situation through their own slothfulness and/or negligence.

    Observe Bonar's 1846 comments concerning Leviticus 25:35- 46:

    Further: an Israelite must shew his brotherly feelings if (ver. 39-41) one of his countrymen be reduced so low in poverty as to be sold for debt, like the widow's two sons, 2 Kings iv. l. He must treat him as only a hired servant, and even in that case detain him no longer than the jubilee. The reason is very precious (ver. 42): "for they are my servants." The Lord will not leave any of His purchased ones to the cruelty of others. Woe to those who use a believer harshly! They touch the "apple of His eye." Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? Why persecute ye Jesus? "The year of His redeemed " is near.

    Once more: an Israelite may have slaves and bondmaids from the heathen, and these he may retain as slaves for ever. In this there lies a type. It is not that Moses, or the Lord speaking by Moses, sanctions slavery. He gives no right to one man over another's person, except where there is sin and crime to be punished, as in the case of criminals. But here the Lord wished to punish the Canaanites and other heathen nations, because of their heathenism; and of course the Lord has a right so to do. His decree, therefore, is this: that heathens shall be exposed to bondage, and Israel shall take them as their slaves. Slavery here is evidently altogether another thing from modern slavery; for -1. It proceeds on the Lord's permission and command. 2. It is the consequence of sin in the enslaved. 3. It was equivalent to perpetual imprisonment, a penalty inflicted for crime. And while it is a penalty paid by rebellious ones who cleaved to idols, it is so overruled as to exhibit in type the future exaltation of the sons of God in the time of the jubilee of earth. It shews "the liberty of the sons of God " (Rom. viii. 21), and their dominion... (Bonar, Leviticus, 464, 465. 1846.)

    Those bound by anything other than God's Law-Word are fair game for anything that comes along. They are already bound by - slaves to - the lust of the flesh, serving the idol of covetousness; they, by their heathen practices, exempt themselves from the protection of God's law. However, the heathen slave could convert to, serve and obey Israel's God as revealed through His Word, and he would no longer be considered and treated as a heathen.

  • Neighbours/Children/Parents

    The above brings us to the heart of the matter: What about a neighbour who comes into poverty? What about children and parents who come into poverty? Where does duty and responsibility to one's fellow man start and stop?

    Concerning the release of the poor (Deut 15:1-6), Dr. Rushdoony says:

    Short term loans are alone permitted. No godly man has the right to mortgage his future indefinitely; his life belongs to God and cannot be forfeited to men. Thus, every kind of debt by believers, whether as charity or for business reasons, must be a short term debt. The sabbath is basically and essentially rest rather that worship, and basic to the sabbath rest is debt-free living. Long-term debts are clearly a violation of the sabbath, and many churches that profess to be devout sabbath-keepers are flagrant sabbath-breakers here. The normal life of the covenant man is to be debt free, to owe no man anything save the obligation of rendering tribute, honor, fear, and custom wherever due, and of rendering that love where is the fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13:7- 8). If this and all other laws of God be kept, there will be "no poor" among the people of God. This is a firm and unqualified statement; it presupposes that the godly man can keep the law to that degree necessary to receive this blessing.
    Fifth, the unbelieving are excluded from the charity required by this law, both the interest-free loans and the termination of the debt in the sabbatical year. The ungodly are already slaves to sin by nature; the true slave cannot be weaned from slavery, and it is foolishness to treat him as a free man. The godly are free men by nature; in times of distress, they need relief to regain their freedom. Freedom cannot be given to a man who loves slavery, and it is foolishness to attempt it by means of money. Regeneration is his only solution.
    Sixth, on citing their deliverance from Egypt, God reminds His people that the purpose of His law is to deliver man into freedom, even as He delivered them from slavery to freedom. The purpose of the laws governing interest, and the purpose of the whole law, is man's freedom under God. To speak of deliverance from the law is to speak of deliverance from freedom. The law cannot be freedom to the sinner, but rather a sentence of death for his failure to keep it. The law-breaker is a man in slavery to his sin, a man unable to live in terms of freedom. The law therefore is a continual indictment and a death sentence to him, in that it underscores his importance and his inability to rule himself: "what I hate, that I do" (Rom. 7:15). To the redeemed, however, the law is the way of freedom.... (RJ Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, I.479. This book is kept in print, and is available from Ross House Books, Box 67, Vallecito, CA 95251.)

    Clearly, money will not solve the problem for those captive to sin, i.e., covetousness. Whether saved or unsaved, covetousness leads to debt-slavery. When a person rejects God's law of freedom (freedom from covetousness, in this case), underscoring his or her inability to rule self, he or she rejects the positive benefits of God's law. In other words, when people refuse to be self-controlled, they also reject assistance from others, charity. Can the godly finance the lack of self-control in others? Can one who through an intentional lack of self-control be kept from poverty, or will that one bring others to poverty with him or her? Can the godly finance idolatry (lack of self- control) in the lives of others? Notice the Spirit's instructions:

    Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. (Col 3:5-7.)

    Children of disobedience are not limited to the children of the devil; the Heavenly Father has many such children. (Cf. Heb 3:12, 19; 4:11-unbelief, disobedience, marg.) Thus God's Word prohibits supporting others in their idolatry. The Christian's first responsibility is to God as revealed through His Word. Accordingly, though the situations may be sad as we watch neighbours, close friends, fellow believers and/or loved ones (child, parent, brother, sister, &c.) drown in a sea of debt, if there is no effort on the part of the one involved in the idolatry to bring self under control, then he or she has placed him or her self beyond the help of the godly. That "captives" cannot be helped enough to prevent their own destruction.

    So where does responsibility enter in our relationship to our fellow man, e.g., neighbor, friend, loved one, &c.? Again, we refer to Dr Rushdoony:

    An important aspect of Biblical law is its doctrine of responsibility. In a law previously considered, Exodus 21:28-32, it was established that animals are responsible for their actions, and an ox goring a person was sentenced to death. Animals are clearly held to be accountable. But responsibility also rests with the owner of the ox: if the ox's previous behavior indicated that it was a dangerous animal, and the owner "hath not kept him in," then the owner is also responsible. Responsibility is thus not a one- way street. Both owner and animal have a responsibility. This being case law, the reference is to the ox, and to more than an ox, as St. Paul made clear with respect to the law concerning the muzzling of an ox treading out grain (Deut. 25:4; 1 Cor. 9:9; I Tim. 5:18).
    In terms of this, certain observations can be made. First, a parent is responsible for a child if nothing is done to curb, punish, or bring to judgment an irresponsible or delinquent child. If a man is responsible for the actions of an ox, he is certainly responsible for the actions of a delinquent son, if he "hath not kept him," if no attempt has been made to prevent the son from giving vent to his delinquency.
    Second, the responsibility of the parent does not absolve the child of his responsibility. The goring ox is always guilty; the owner is only guilty if His negligence can be proven. The prior responsibility is always that of the acting party. The owner or parent can be an accessory to the crime only if he has been delinquent in his responsibility.

    Third, transgression beyond a certain point ends responsibility. Thus, in the law of the delinquent son (Deut. 21:18-21), the parents' responsibility to provide for and protect their son ended with the son's delinquency; their duty and their moral responsibility then became denunciation of and separation from their son.
    As previously noted, responsibility is not a one-way street. The responsibility ends when that child refuses to submit to the godly authority and discipline of the parents.
    The same is true of the responsibility of children for their parents. Again, it is not a one-way street. To cite illustrations which will throw some light on this problem: A daughter assumed responsibility for her sick father when the brothers rejected their responsibility. As a devout Christian, she felt duty-bound to care for her father, who remained in her home as an invalid until death. During the more than ten years in her home, the father was a bed patient much of the time. Because he was only interested in the sons and grandsons who would carry on his name, he treated his daughter and her family as non-entities or at best as servants, with never a word of gratitude. He made out his will in favor of his sons and their sons, although his sons were both prosperous. He gave lavish gifts at holidays to his sons and their sons, and never a gift nor a thanks to his daughter and her family. Clearly, the daughter's interpretation of the law was faulty. As surely as an ungodly son must be cast out and turned over for judgment, so an ungodly father (for his conduct revealed him to be such) had no place in her home, having denied plainly any responsibility to it...
    Another instance: a mother felt duty-bound to use here meager funds to help her only child, and ungrateful man whose income was good and whose sense of responsibility was very bad. The mother limited herself severely to provide him the luxuries he demanded as necessary to maintain a pretended social position. Again, the relationship was lawless on both sides and required breaking.... Thus, we may say that, not only does transgression beyond a certain point end responsibility, but fourth, if responsibility is maintained beyond that point it becomes a robbery. Where a juvenile delinquent is tolerated or protected, or a lawless parent allowed to be an affront to the family's faith and authority, the other members of the family are robbed of their due. Unconditional honor and service are due to God alone, not to man. St. Paul's admonition is "Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour" (Rom. 13:7). No relationship between man and man can be absolutized. We have no absolute bond which ties us unconditionally to any man, either to obey or to love him. Marriage is dissolved by certain transgressions. The parent's duty to the child is nullified by his incorrigible conduct. The child's duty to the parent is limited by his prior obedience to God and the maintenance of God's law-order. In every human relationship, the only absolute is God's law, not man's relationship.
    Fifth, not only does the absolutizing of a human relationship involve theft, in that the indulgence of a delinquent (i.e., disobedient to God's Word, ed.) family or society member is the robbing of another, but it also involves theft God-ward as well as man-ward. It is an infraction of God's order to indulge evil. It involves robbing one person of his due in order to reward or indulge another, and this means also the violation of God's order to continue man's disorder.
    To repeat again, responsibility is not a one-way street. If the ox, an animal of limited intelligence, is accountable for his acts, then every man in his station is also responsible. In every relationship, there is responsibility on every side by every person....
    But a world without responsibility is a world of the dead. (Ibid, 481- 484.)

  • Conditional Responsibility

    If an animal must be responsible according to God's Law-Word, how much more must a neighbour, child, parent and loved? Delinquency (irresponsibility as defined in the terms of God's Word) on the part of the person forfeits others' responsibility toward that person. Thus a neighbour's "delinquency" forfeits one's responsibility to him; a child's "delinquency" forfeits other's responsibility toward that child; a parent's "delinquency" forfeit responsibility toward that parent. In fact, continued support of the delinquent person, neighbor or loved one, makes the supporting one a theft: he or she is robbing from other family members to support the delinquent one in his or her delinquency-the supporting person has become party to the "crime." Furthermore, one's relationship to the Lord - converted/unconverted - does not determine if that person can be robbed or not.

    A neighbor's responsibility toward a neighbor ends if the poor neighbor refuses to exercise self-discipline, clearly showing he is a slave to his covetousness, idolatry: More money will not solve his problem. A parent's responsibility toward a child ends if the child refuses to submit to the parents' godly discipline and authority: More money will not solve the problem. A child's responsibility toward a parent ends if the parent refuses to exercise self-discipline and yield to the authority of God's Word: More money will not solve the problem.

    Unconditional acceptance, honor and service are due to God alone, and to give these things to delinquents sets others up as gods.

    We should note here the tremendous push to get every one to accept everyone else "unconditionally;" regardless of what that person might be involved in, e.g., Sodomy, we are being told everywhere that we must "unconditionally" accept and support that person in what that person has chosen to be or do. Such an idea is antichristian, and makes the ones accepting the rebellious partakers of the wrath of God which will come upon the rebellious.

    Where does responsibility toward the neighbor begin and end? Where does responsibility for children begin and end? Where does responsibility for parents begin and end? Where does responsibility for loved ones begin and end? Is responsibility toward our fellow man "unconditional?"

    No person is "unconditionally" responsible to another. Every person, however, is "unconditional" responsible to God alone as revealed in His total Word. Our responsibility toward others must fit within our responsibility to follow the Word of God to the best of our God given ability, grace.

    But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.Cor 11:3.)

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