commentary: An Important Reality (Part 2)
Accepting a Challenge to Our Pride
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 05-Mar-11; Sermon #1035c; 13 minutes
State governments must balance their budgets, something that the federal government is not required to do. Washington DC, having the largest share of government jobs, has the largest per capita income of any city in the United States, with government employees earning considerably higher salaries than for comparable work in the private sector. Not only are the salaries higher, but the health benefits are richer. No one in the federal government ever earns a poverty-level salary. Federal government employees have been conditioned to expect that the government "owes" them these entitlements. We, as future employees of God's government, must understand that we are not "owed" anything. Pride blinds from seeing the destruction ahead if we refuse to sacrifice. If we are willing to sacrifice, the Lord will provide.
Last week I commented on the still-ongoing collective bargaining issue dispute in Wisconsin, where the media says that the government's unionized workers are against the government. This makes a very good story for the media to exploit. However, in most all recent cases in American history, whenever collective bargaining between these two groups takes place, in practical fact, it is not the workers against the government, because politically, they are on the same side. Thus, wage agreements between the two tend to be on the liberal side, and this causes tax increases for the people.
When the state governments are caught in a tight budgetary situation, they at least tend to put up a fight in order to hold a line on spending. There is a reason for this, and this is because in most states, the government administrators are required by law to balance the budget. And this is a major reason why the governor of Wisconsin is making such a determined effort to hold down the union wages and even to destroy the union if possible. He has good reason to hold the line, because Wisconsin's budget is several hundred million dollars in arrears.
However, in some cases with the federal government, no such restraint exists. And that's too bad. The federal government administrators are not required by law to balance the budget, so historically, they have made little effort to do so, and thus the federal government is now $14 trillion in debt. It's not just because of union bargaining—not at all. But this $14 trillion is so huge, I know we really have no appreciation for the negative effect that is the result.
However, we are beginning to feel its effects, and it will get worse—much worse—as nations who trade with us lose their confidence in our ability to function fairly because the dollar's value will collapse as a trading instrument, and perhaps this will even destroy our way of life.
The principle regarding what is happening in Wisconsin is no small matter, and every tax-paying citizen should be concerned. We either get control of government spending or we continue the agonizing process of destroying ourselves financially.
Perhaps these illustrations will give us a bit of a grasp of the reality of what is occurring. Are you aware that Washington, D.C., a city where a very large part of the citizenry, works for governments (federal, state and city), now has the highest per capita income in the United States? That's your federal taxes at work. Federal government employees, job-for-job compared to the private sector, uniformly earn higher wages than their neighbors doing comparable jobs in the private sector.
I want you to listen to this quote from USA Today, March 3, 2010:
Overall, federal workers earned an average salary of $67,691 in 2008 for occupations that exist both in government and the private sector. [These facts that USA Today is quoting came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Data of the United States government.] The average pay for the same mix of jobs in the private sector was $60,046 in 2008. That's a $7,645 difference between a federal government employee and a private sector employee. The salary figures do not include the value of health insurance, pensions, and other benefits. These benefits averaged [hold your hat on] $40,785 per federal worker in 2008 versus $9,882 for private sector worker, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That makes a difference in people holding the same type of job between the federal worker and the private sector worker of $38,539 per person.
We're beginning to see why the wage standard is so high in Washington, D.C.
It's no wonder this is an issue, because people are beginning to understand what's at stake here. No one working full time for the federal government earns a poverty wage level job. All of those working at that level, all of them are in the private sector. Whether one earns a lower middle class wage, a middle class wage or an upper middle class wage, federal workers, job-for-job, almost always received higher incomes. There is nothing even at all about the distribution of wealth, and the difference is almost always in the benefit package and these become an entitlement to which the government employees really hang on to. And as we are seeing in Wisconsin, they are not easily surrendering. These entitlements are like a, I.O.U. promise of future payments because they work for the government.
Let's consider something here. We, too, work for a government, the government of God. Our God makes many promises concerning our future. But there is something the Bible makes clear and that we must learn regarding our relationship with this God, who is our government. This that we must learn and accept is that our Government owes us nothing. The emphasis in understanding this lies in the word "owes." Here is where the danger comes in for you and me, because this greatly offends our pride—because we like to think, in virtually every case, we are really something.
Pride does this to us, and this is part of the reason why that statement about Jesus in Hebrews 5:8 says this—and it is important: "Though He was a Son, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. [He was not immune.]"
What we are dealing with here is a general principle regarding our life under God our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. We aren't owed a thing by our Government. We aren't entitled to a thing, not even our next breath. We must come to grips with the reality that nothing in life remains the same for very long. To believe that we are entitled to unending good is devastating to one's attitude when facing a change, especially an unexpected change. Now, why? Because one's pride is threatened. It fights back through a destructive attitude to retain its power over our behavior.
And this is exactly what the union workers are doing in Wisconsin. It's a natural reaction, and it's understandable. Their pride is motivating them to ignore the bigger picture that Wisconsin is going broke and they are the first being called upon to sacrifice right now.
There is a major lesson involved in this for us because similar things occur to us. We are, in reality— each one of us—a very tiny part of a huge operation that our Government is carrying out. I'm talking about God. Let's briefly consider how a man who was not Jesus responded to a call from his Government to sacrifice. In Genesis 22, God called upon Abraham to sacrifice. I mean, a major sacrifice. Abraham did not go into a blue funk. He did not blame others. He did not cry out to God that this was unfair. He showed his mature understanding by responding positively to carry out the sacrifice. We know what happened. This occasion inspired him to say something very meaningful for our benefit. He named the place that this occurred, "The Lord will provide."