“Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens.” -Exodus 8-11a.
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter ourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in” – Matt 23:13
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the story of Exodus. In the passage above, we see Pharaoh “dealing shrewdly” with the Israelis. He put a heavy burden on them in the hopes of keeping them down. I suppose the thought was that if they had to work tirelessly to meet his demands, they would be broken and warn out. We see later in the passage that he tries to kill all the male children. One can only presume that part of his original strategy was to limit procreation by means of excessive exertion. If they’re too tired to make babies, they won’t make babies – population control. Pharaoh’s plan didn’t work out though. The Israelites got their work done and continued to multiply. (As an aside, praise God for the Egyptian midwives, who were ordered by Pharaoh in verse 16 to perform an early 4th trimester abortion if the sonogram revealed the child was a boy – but they refused, fearing God instead.)
I suppose the Israelites could’ve thrown their hands up in exasperation and said “God, we would continue to grow, but the government’s burden on us is too great, so we’ll just stagnate here until you deliver us.” They didn’t do that though, they kept at it, doing the simple things that would make them stronger as a people.
There’s a powerful lesson in that. That we must press ahead, doing what we know to be right, even when extremely heavy, unwarranted, and unjust burdens have been laid upon us … perhaps even by government authorities.
I, of course, speak of the current nanny-state environment in this country and its impact on our progress as a nation. (Did I just say “progress”? – don’t worry, I’m not a progressive.) But here, I’m not just referring to its deleterious effects on the population. We could go on and on about how government programs have destroyed families, crushed the human spirit, and at great financial strain caused tremendous harm to what would have otherwise been happy, productive, vibrant people. Instead though, I want to focus on the response of the church in the face of this mess.
I have heard too many on the left point to social problems and claim “the government should do something.” But I have also heard too many on the right point to the same problems and say “that’s the government’s mess now.” No. I disagree. Pharaoh has laid a heavy burden on us, but we ought to be working to deliver people from the oppressive regime. Just as the Israelites came home from a hard day at work and found time to, well, procreate; we need to find time, in the midst of heavy taxation (both direct and indirect), to apply our time, energy, and resources to rescuing those in need. Particularly our brothers and sisters in Christ who are trapped in this web.
Just as the government has become too easy a banner for conscientious cowards on the left who want to help (with other people’s money), it has become too easy a scapegoat for those on the right who want a reason not to lift a finger. I guess none of us want to do anything hard. But sometimes hard is what is called for.