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Acts 4:32-5:16 by Robert Dean
Note: Due to technical difficulties, the first several minutes of the video are not available. However, the audio file (MP3) contains the entire class.
Series:Acts (2010)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 46 secs

Investment, Wages, the Role of Religion. Selected Verses. Acts 4:32-5:16


There was a clear warning in the Old Testament that if government gets very large then the trajectory of government, because of the inherent depravity of the human heart and the trend toward power accumulation, is towards increased taxation and a reduction of freedom.

The time of 1 Samuel 8 was when it had come out of the period of the judges but was not in the period of the king. It was at the very end of the period known as the judges, covered in the book of Judges and the book of Ruth, and the first eight chapters of 1 Samuel also take place during the judges, and the last judge is actually Samuel. Samuel now is quite old and his sons have all become apostate, were not responsible, and the people recognize that they cannot rule the nation.

1 Samuel 8:1 NASB " And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel… [3] His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice." One of the things seen throughout the Mosaic Law was the emphasis on justice and righteousness in dealing with people economically. It is just and righteous for people to own property, to control their property, to make as much money as they can from their property and to pass that wealth on to the next generation. That is righteous according to the Mosaic Law. But according to the Mosaic Law the poor and the rich were to be dealt with in the same way. In a court of law the judges were not to take into account the economic status, social status or political power of the people before them.  Now we see the situation where Samuel's sons have turned their backs on the Lord and on the training that He gave them.

Parenthesis: One thing noticed in the last decade or so is that we have an epidemic in this nation of the next generation of children who have rejected what their parents have stood for and have rejected the truth of Scripture. More every year we see this estrangement between parents and children.

Remember that the theme in the book of Judges was that everyone did what was right in their own eyes. They let the culture of relativism seduce them, and there is probably nothing more seductive to the sin nature than a culture of relativism and a culture of socialism. This is because both relativism and socialism absolve the individual of any responsibility or accountability for their life. Samuel's sons got sucked into this. 1 Sam 8:4, 5 NASB "Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, 'Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.'" (Give us a socialist system to judge us, just like all the European nations—same principle) They were saying: 'We want to be like everybody else, we don't want God to be our King.' That is essentially what they are saying.

1 Samuel 8:6, 7 NASB "But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." And Samuel prayed to the LORD. The LORD said to Samuel, 'Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.'" It is a spiritual problem. That is the foundation here. It starts with the rejection of the authority of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; it starts with the rejection of the absolutes that He has revealed; now they just want to do it like all the other pagans.  

1 Samuel 8:8 NASB "Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also." The reason there is wealth and prosperity in some parts of the world and poverty in other parts of the world has nothing to do with money; it has everything to do with theological belief. That has been documented in a paper that was written in the early 1980s by a man at the London School of Economics. [9] "Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them."

Samuel then tells the people what the consequences of this are going to be. They have just asked for big government. Instead of having freedom with limited government when they get a king they are going to have big government, and this is what big government is characterized by—increased taxation, taking away freedom, taking away opportunity. 1 Samuel 8:11 NASB "He said, 'This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place {them} for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots.'" He is going to increase the military and they would have to feed and supply all of the soldiers, so that would mean increased taxes. [12] "He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and {some} to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots." The government now is in the business of production; agriculture is now the responsibility of the government rather than the individual.

1 Samuel 8:13 NASB "He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. [14] He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give {them} to his servants." This is different from verse 15; this is eminent domain, where the government is now going to say: Look, you have a great piece of land there, we can really manage that better as the government than you can as an individual. You have a great business there; we can make it more profitable and more equitable if we run it than if you run it as a private owner. [15] "He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants." That is theft by government. But because the government is operating under authority there is no authorization here for revolt against the government. God doesn't say at the end of this that if they do this you can overthrow the king. He is saying that the result of this is they are reaping the consequences of the bad decisions of your fellow citizens, so what you are going to get is what you deserve; don't revolt, there is no justification there.

1 Sam 8:16, 17 NASB "He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use {them} for his work. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants." Now he is going to increase taxation. The trajectory here is that the government gets legalized theft (violating the eighth commandment) because of power.

1 Samuel 8:18 "Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day." "For yourselves"—whose responsibility is it that you get the government that you have? [19] "Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, 'No, but there shall be a king over us, [20] that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.'" They don't want to be responsible for their bad decisions.

What we see here is that in the Old Testament there is specific warning against the encroachment of government in the area of economics and taxation, and that that is the trend of history, the normal trajectory of every government.

The importance of investment and personal accountability. Matthew 25:14 NASB "For {it is} just like a man [analogous to God] {about} to go on a journey, who called his own slaves [analogous to Israelites] and entrusted his possessions to them." What He is going to point out here is the failure to utilize what God has given, but that is not the point we want to focus on here. [15] "To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey." The principle here is that God is the ultimate owner of our resources and He distributes the talents and the wealth as He will. So He is the ultimate determiner of things. Some have more than others, and because God distributes that way it is by definition righteous. 

Matthew 25:16 NASB "Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents." This is what is interesting, because in all of the distortions of the usury laws in the Middle Ages—that you couldn't make money by investing money—here it is a recognition of the legitimacy of using money to make money, investing in something and selling it so that the investment doubles (increases) its money. [17] "In the same manner the one who {had received} the two {talents} gained two more. [18] "But he who received the one {talent} went away, and dug {a hole} in the ground and hid his master's money." He doesn't exploit that which his master had given him.

Matthew 25:19 NASB "Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. [20] The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, 'Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.' [21] His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'" God praises him because he doubled his money.

Matthew 25:24 NASB "And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no {seed.} [25] 'And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.' [26] "But his master answered and said to him, 'You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no {seed.}'" He didn't say: You poor impoverished person. You just got born into the wrong socio-economic level, were a victim of prejudice, so we are going to take the five talents the first guy made and give it to you! [27] "Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my {money} back with interest. [28] Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.'" Clearly Jesus understood that charging interest was valid under the Mosaic Law. [29] "For to everyone who has, {more} shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. [30] Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Punishment for irresponsibility. In other words, under the first divine institution there is personal accountability and if you are lazy, are inept and you waste what God has given you, then there are negative consequences. 

Another passage is Matthew 20:1-16—principles about employers and the rights of employers to determine wages; not wage and price controls, not minimum wage law.

 Matthew 20:1 NASB "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. [2] When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard." A denarius was not a lot of money but it was about the common every-day laborer earning. He agreed to this, so that means they had negotiated a deal. This was the best deal the laborers could get. It also indicates that what underlies this is a contract and the legitimacy of a contract between an employee and the employer—an agreed-upon wage. [3] And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; [4] and to those he said, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' And {so} they went." Now they don't negotiate for a wage. He just says that at the end of the day he would pay them what is right. [5] "Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. [6] And about the eleventh {hour} [5pm] he went out and found others standing {around;} and he said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day long?' [7] "They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' [8]   When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last {group} to the first.' [9] When those {hired} about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius."

That didn't make them feel real good! They were having issues with the landowner now. But the principle is that the landowner has every right to determine what the wage is and the one who works for it (the first ones hired) has the right to negotiate for that wage, and they could have said no. Matthew 20:10 NASB "When those {hired} first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius." They had an assumption that was based on the concept that they would do something that they had not negotiated for; they had unrealistic expectations. [11] "When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, [12] saying, 'These last men have worked {only} one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.' [13] But he answered and said to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? [14] Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.'"

What we see in both of these parables is an emphasis on personal responsibility. All of the laws that have been passed in the last 60-70 years from social security up to the last health care bill are built on shifting responsibility from the individual to government. The more we shift responsibility to government the less freedom we will always have. What happens is that as a culture we have voluntarily given ourselves to tyranny and to control of government.

Scripture teaches a key principle: the responsibility of the individual. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 we have the principle that those who don't work don't eat. The Bible emphasizes the fact that we are to be compassionate to the poor. We have limited resources and we have responsibilities as to how we are going to utilize that for the poor, but it is the responsibility of the individual, not the responsibility of government.