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    Socialism and the Law of Sowing and Reaping

    April 22, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    I have a habit that I have maintained on and off for almost eight years. Shortly after Si and I were married, an older and wiser woman than I handed me a little tiny Bible reading schedule. With said schedule, I would be able to read through the Bible in a year, Proverbs thirty times in a year, and Psalms two or three times {I don’t remember which}. Instead of accomplishing this, I got pregnant, suffered through nine long months of incessant nausea, and had a beautiful baby boy. However, the habit of reading Proverbs thirty times a year has never permanently left me. Whenever I become convicted that I lack wisdom, I realize I have forgotten this practice, and I quickly resume it.

    This is not to say that Proverbs is the sum total of all Biblical wisdom, for it would be silly to say such a thing. But Proverbs is set about as a practical guide for life that is easily understandable; it has a way of getting into my brain and soul, even when my mind has turned to Mommy Mush through lack of sleep.

    The Law of Sowing and Reaping

    If you have ever planted a garden, then you know that you cannot reap what hasn’t been sown. Granted, occasionally the wind will sow a volunteer for you, and if it isn’t a weed, then it is embraced with gratitude as a special blessing from the Lord. However, as a general rule, on good soil, a farmer plants a seed, cares for a plant, and reaps a harvest.

    This is a natural law, a way in which the world works.

    The Bible uses this imagery to explain another natural law, which I call the Law of Sowing and Reaping. This, too, explains a way in which the world works. An example would be Hosea 8:7 which says

    For they sow the wind
    And they reap the whirlwind
    The standing grain has no heads;
    It yields no grain.
    Should it yield, strangers would swallow it up.

    In this instance, Israel is worshipping idols. This is what is referred to by “sowing the wind.” The idols are nonsense, made by men and nothing more. There is nothing to them. But there is a consequence to such behavior, which is to say destruction and ultimately death. There is cause and effect here: sowing the wind means reaping the whirlwind.

    Proverbs is less cryptic, though. For instance, Proverbs 11:18 says that sowing righteousness will lead to reaping a great reward. In contrast, Proverbs 22:8 assures us that sowing wickedness means reaping trouble.

    Cause and effect. Cause and effect.

    And Proverbs is full of this sowing and reaping, even when the terminology is not used. For instance, much is said about what happens when a person is slothful:

    The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
    But the soul of the diligent is made fat.

    Proverbs 13:4

    Laziness casts into a deep sleep,
    And an idle man will suffer hunger.

    Proverbs 19:15

    The desire of the sluggard puts him to death,
    For his hands refuse to work…

    Proverbs 21:25

    I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
    And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.

    Proverbs 24:30-31

    Sloth is equivalent to an unfulfilling life, spiritually, physically, economically, and so on. As a character flaw, its effects are evident when looking at the property of a sloth, for it has not been maintained. The sloth sometimes even starves to death because he refuses to work.

    Even the New Testament warned about this, and within the church there was a rule that if an able-bodied man refused to work, he was not allowed to eat. This is not to say that compassion has its limits, but rather that we are not to shield others from natural consequences.

    Sometimes natural law must be the teacher.

    And herein lies one of my major objections to socialism, for I believe that it is an attempt to deny this Law of Sowing and Reaping, to even rebel against it at times. This isn’t just disrespectful for the One who created the Order of things, but it also cannot be successful in the long run. The Law will always prevail because the Law is simply a description of how things actually are.

    Revisiting Jamestown

    Let’s look at Jamestown again, since this is a less controversial example of socialism, small scale though it might be:

    This had required that “all profits & benefits that are got by trade, working, fishing, or any other means” were to be placed in the common stock of the colony, and that, “all such persons as are of this colony, are to have their meat, drink, apparel, and all provisions out of the common stock.” A person was to put into the common stock all he could, and take out only what he needed.

    This “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” was an early form of socialism, and it is why the Pilgrims were starving. Bradford writes that “young men that are most able and fit for labor and service” complained about being forced to “spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children.” Also, “the strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes, than he that was weak.” So the young and strong refused to work and the total amount of food produced was never adequate.

    This was a clear violation of sowing and reaping. Here we have a situation where some men were sowing more than others. They may have been sowing smarter, or harder, or better, or whatever, but it was more than other men. The natural law would say that, more often than not, these men would then reap more than others as well. But the colony’s economic system threw a wrench in this. All the men were forced to bring their harvest, their earnings, to the common stock. And then they were given a share in every man’s harvest, according to their own need.

    This was extremely discouraging to men. There was no reward for harder labor, or smarter labor. And so the men that had potential were given to sloth.

    Sloth can come from an internal character flaw, or it can be born of discouragement, which I think is what happened here. Actually, I’m pretty sure of it as, when Jamestown decided to practice distributism, a form of capitalism where each family had a share of land in private ownership where they could practice the natural rhythms of sowing and reaping, the situation turned around and Jamestown became more successful.

    But What About Christian Generosity?

    I’m going to raise the objection which often arises when studying this situation because all evidence points to the majority of the Jamestown settlers being Christians. Wasn’t it greedy for these men to want to keep all that they had earned?

    My answer, quite simply, is no. At least, not in the way I understand the situation. I think the question is a wrong one, for I’m not sure the real desire was to literally keep everything that had been earned. The desire was a desire for ownership, in this case ownership over their own earnings and profits. This is a natural, healthy craving, to enjoy the fruit of our own labor.

    The Law of Sowing and Reaping does not exist in tension with the call on Christians to practice generosity. After all, if one does not reap, one has nothing to share. Earlier this year, a verse we memorized was Ephesians 4:28:

    He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.

    If we are only allowed to keep what we need, then we become as one who steals in that we have nothing to share, nothing to be generous with.

    In the book of Acts, the early church is described as “holding all things in common.” Many will declare that this is God’s stamp of approval on socialism. Matthew Henry, however, would disagree. He wrote about Acts 4 and 5 saying:

    They did not take away others’ property, but they were indifferent to it. They did not call it their own; because they had, in affection, forsaken all for Christ, and were expecting to be stripped of all for cleaving to him. No marvel that they were of one heart and soul, when they sat so loose to the wealth of this world. In effect, they had all things common; for there was not any among them who lacked, care was taken for their supply.

    In the situation of Ananias and Sapphira, who wanted to pretend to share all they had, while secretly holding back a portion,

    Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?

    “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

    We see here confirmation of Henry’s observation that the “holding of all things in common” was not a requirement of the law or of the Church, but rather a quality of the heart.

    Freedom and Generosity

    In 1828, Noah Webster put this phrase in his definition of generous: free to give. Generosity is an action of a person and is only noble and virtuous when voluntary. When the state confiscates the bounty of its citizens and redistributes that bounty to other citizens against the will of the people, this is far from generous. This is legalized theft, among other things. A State cannot be generous, for it is always giving something it has taken from someone else. In the instance of printing more money, the State is taking from its citizens as inflation is taxation, a slogan for a sign I should have made for the TEA Party but didn’t think of until a day later.

    I want to talk more about the relationship between socialism and vice, and also freedom and virtue, in my next post.

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    1 Comment

  • Reply Rachel R. September 17, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Can you tell that I am catching up? lol

    This: “Whenever I become convicted that I lack wisdom, I realize I have forgotten this practice, and I quickly resume it.” really jumped out at me. Ouch. I am going to try to keep this in mind.

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