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Under Your Own Vine and Fig Tree
By Marshall Foster
Like most Americans in our prosperous and blessed history, George Washington desired to live peacefully under his “own vine and fig tree” without fear. However he sacrificed half of his life in selfless service and warfare to insure this dream for future generations.
History clearly details for us the only proven plan to prosperity. The pages of history are filled with the poverty and tyranny that have dominated every nation. The few exceptions have followed a narrow, but liberating, way to sustained wealth and economic growth.
America’s Founders were Biblicists and understood that the pattern of economic death began with the first covetous murder of Abel by Cain. They knew that as men progressively turned from their Creator, they looked to enrich themselves at the expense of others. The ancients soon discovered that rather than kill others to get wealth, they could, through force and deceit, make those individuals slaves or servants. They then could confiscate (steal) the wealth of the people in the name of the state or the will of their fickle deities.
The economic theory and practice of all ancient societies, except for the Hebrew republic, was that of a forced big government bureaucracy or “command economy.” Professor Rodney Stark defines command economies as those in the ancient or modern world in which “both markets and labor are commanded and coerced rather than allowed to function freely, and the exaction and consumption of wealth is the primary goal of the state.” These command economies operate in nations in which the government controls the peoples’ wealth. They always lead people of all economic brackets to produce less and hide or hoard whatever wealth they have.
The command economies of the world kept virtually the entire human race in a near Stone Age standard of living for thousands of years. Even in the mighty Roman Empire the residents of Rome, most of who were slaves, subsisted in poverty. They lived off of the crumbs of the booty plundered from the world by the Roman legions. Except for the elite few, the people never progressed beyond living in mud and stick shacks or tenements. No matter how productive one individual or family might become, their wealth was always subject to arbitrary confiscation by lawless rulers.
It is only with the entrance of the Savior of the world and His life, words and transforming power that all the elements, principles, secrets to true success came together and created Western Civilization and Christendom. Other nations of the world were held back from innovation, freedom and prosperity by constant tyranny. Their religions were mystery cults that focused on the superiority of the past and deemphasized reason and progress.
In contrast, Christianity taught that each individual was created with infinite value and an immortal future. It taught that all individuals are to be treated equally before the law. Even Nietzsche, the father of modern atheism, had to admit that all human rights came from Christianity. Christianity was also future-oriented. It presented a reasoned and logical plan for economic progress and happiness. Only with the truth and power of the faith and its inerrant Word, could a governmental and economic system be developed that did not allow all the peoples’ wealth to be taken by the elite in power.
By 1215, the people, nobles and clergy in England having the Christian view of enterprise, private property and the limitations on civil power, created Magna Carta. With the base of English common law and the Ten Commandments, Steven Langdon, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote this primary document of economic, political and religious liberty. This set the stage for the explosion of Christian free enterprise 400 years later in the Protestant Reformation.
Magna Carta in essence was a stand against the tax, spend and steal policies of out of control government (King John). It contained a long and detailed list of private property rights. It restricted taxes and import duties. It provided representatives to hold the government accountable to obey its provisions.
Nations without the rule of law and Christian economic principles have never been able to sustain a lasting economic renaissance. For example, in the 11th century in China, a strong privately owned iron industry developed in one province. Huge profits and high paying jobs resulted in the region. But when the Chinese emperors realized that commoners were getting rich they said that this violated Confucian values and social tranquility which was built upon a rigid class structure. In their view, only royalty should possess wealth. So they declared the iron industry a state monopoly and the economy collapsed. The Chinese did not escape tribal poverty until Christian free enterprise principles were initiated 1,000 years later in modern China – after the communist leader Mao died. This same pattern of economic tyranny dominated all continents for 5,000 years, until the rise of biblical economic truth.
How does this economic history give us hope in our desperate situation today? It gives us tremendous hope because most Americans still have the biblical work ethic deeply imbedded in their hearts through the heritage passed down to us by our ancestors. Even today, our people know that it is wrong to steal private property and to turn over our businesses and most decisions of life to an all powerful state. We have inherited the world’s greatest heritage of economic liberty. Why? Because for the first time in human history all three of the freedoms necessary for prosperity – economic, political and religious - were established in one nation.
In our current crisis we must re-ignite the passion and conviction that our inheritance of Christian free enterprise and family ownership of property is a sacred trust before God, not just a personal preference or economic theory. We must be united in what Patrick Henry called the “holy cause of liberty” that is to be protected with our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor. God’s honor, not just our personal wealth is at stake.
We still have the skeleton framework of a Constitution and founding Declaration of independence that calls us to stand against the yoke of tyranny. But do we have the resolve such as that of Joseph Warren, the great patriot doctor and Christian, who led from the front at the battle of Bunker Hill in 1775? He spoke of how, “our fathers, having nobly resolved never to wear the yoke of despotism, and seeing the European world, at that time, through indolence and cowardice, falling a prey to tyranny, bravely threw themselves upon the bosom of the ocean, determined to find a place in which they might enjoy their freedom, or perish in the glorious attempt.” Dr. Warren, covering the retreat of his men, out of ammunition, died with a bayonet in his chest, in the final moments of that battle.
Our liberties, as one of our founders said in a Connecticut newspaper, are “a sacred deposit which it would be treason against Heaven to betray.” May we learn this sacred deposit, apply it to our lives and share it with all who will listen. Then, if necessary, we must stand against any future tyranny that would usurp God’s truth. It is treason against heaven to do any less.
Editor’s note: Dr. Marshall Foster is the founder and president of the World History Institute and the Mayflower Institute, a non-profit educational foundation. Marshall and the Institute have been dedicated, since 1976, to teaching and reclaiming America’s Godly heritage. Dr. Foster, best-selling author and keynote speaker, has effectively and dynamically communicated biblical truths and principles of our founder’s miraculous success story. This article appeared in the World History Institute January Journal 2010 and is used by permission. For more information, please contact or go to:
World History Institute
Post Office Box 4673
Thousand Oaks, CA 91359