I had to really think and pray over doing this last sermon in our theology of evil series, because aside from the devil, the god of our age in Australia is wealth. We are a stupidly rich nation, in so many ways. And many of these ways are good. Australia is really the land of plenty. We have plenty of money, plenty of land, plenty of open space, plenty of awesome beaches, plenty of natural resources, plenty of coal, uranium, natural gas, and so much more. Australian soil is not the most fertile in the world, but we have so much of it that we can make up the difference by quantity if not with quality. This is a rich nation, and this is also a rich Church, so speaking to the dangers of wealth can be like telling the chubby guy his cookie is not good for him.
So let me start this way: communism is one of the dumbest forms of society conceivable. Nazism is just as bad, and feminism has a higher death toll than both of those two systems combined (abortion). But communism is so obviously dumb. It impoverishes a nation, it empowers the particularly wicked to get into positions where they can do maximum damage, it centralizes mediocrity into the halls of power, and it is inevitably self-defeating. The fact that communism is so popular still in the modern world after all the damage it has done, is all the proof we need that influential elements in film, media and academia, which are all responsible for shaping minds, are in the hands of its perpetrators and their descendants. That is the only way that its teachings can continually be whitewashed in the minds of young westerners.
I say this, so there is no confusion, nothing I say in criticism today of our modern economic system comes from a place of sympathy to communism. I despise communism as much as anyone despises Nazism. I think it is horrible and disgusting we didn’t outlaw communism decades ago when we had the chance. To me Nazism and Communism are different sides of the same evil coin.
But, what is interesting is that right now many former communist countries are on the rise, and virtually every western nation is on the decline. We have nicer things, that is for sure, but there is one thing in history that is more effective at destroying a people than any political ideology: that is unrestrained wealth and greed. That is what our system has become.
In real terms the government views us all as economic beings, and we spend most of our time acting as such, and this is not good. Prosperity can be both a blessing and a curse, and the Bible warns us, desperately, about this, and one of the most famous passages about the Devil in scripture is in this very context. Because being enamoured with your prosperity is exactly the mistake the devil made.
So, today I want to speak to the evils of our free trade system, and how the Devil uses it to corrupt us. I think this is so important for us all here, especially because of our wealth, because the Bible puts a lot of focus on warning those of us at ease, how dangerous that ease can be for our souls.
1. The Devil Corrupts With Abundant Trade (Ezekiel 27-28). If you are sceptical of my position that the Bible condemns free trade, turn your Bible’s to Ezekiel 28, and we will begin there. Because it was while I was meditating on this passage that I decided I had to do this sermon. Because I couldn’t get out of my head what it said. Ezekiel 28:11-18 – “11 Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me: 12 “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. 14 You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. 16 In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. 17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. 18 By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you.” How can I do a theology of the evil one without preaching on this passage?
1.1 I think this is clearly about Lucifer. Now Ezekiel 28:1-10 is directed to the ruler of Tyre, or prince, and this passage is directed at the King. It could be the same guy, but many interpreters, including myself, see here a hint of the power behind the king of Tyre, a fallen guardian cherub that was in Eden? None other than Lucifer, or the Devil.
1.2 Twice it mentions how this “king” corrupted with his “trade”. Interesting. But what does the word trade here mean? Well, let’s read the context, all of chapter 27 and part of chapter 28 – “27 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Now you, son of man, raise a lamentation over Tyre, 3 and say to Tyre, who dwells at the entrances to the sea, merchant of the peoples to many coastlands, thus says the Lord God: “O Tyre, you have said, ‘I am perfect in beauty.’ 4 Your borders are in the heart of the seas; your builders made perfect your beauty. 5 They made all your planks of fir trees from Senir; they took a cedar from Lebanon to make a mast for you. 6 Of oaks of Bashan they made your oars; they made your deck of pines from the coasts of Cyprus, inlaid with ivory. 7 Of fine embroidered linen from Egypt was your sail, serving as your banner; blue and purple from the coasts of Elishah was your awning. 8 The inhabitants of Sidon and Arvad were your rowers; your skilled men, O Tyre, were in you; they were your pilots. 9 The elders of Gebal and her skilled men were in you, caulking your seams; all the ships of the sea with their mariners were in you to barter for your wares. 10 “Persia and Lud and Put were in your army as your men of war. They hung the shield and helmet in you; they gave you splendour. 11 Men of Arvad and Helech were on your walls all round, and men of Gamad were in your towers. They hung their shields on your walls all round; they made perfect your beauty. 12 “Tarshish did business with you because of your great wealth of every kind; silver, iron, tin, and lead they exchanged for your wares. 13 Javan, Tubal, and Meshech traded with you; they exchanged human beings and vessels of bronze for your merchandise. 14 From Beth-togarmah they exchanged horses, war horses, and mules for your wares. 15 The men of Dedan traded with you. Many coastlands were your own special markets; they brought you in payment ivory tusks and ebony. 16 Syria did business with you because of your abundant goods; they exchanged for your wares emeralds, purple, embroidered work, fine linen, coral, and ruby. 17 Judah and the land of Israel traded with you; they exchanged for your merchandise wheat of Minnith, meal, honey, oil, and balm. 18 Damascus did business with you for your abundant goods, because of your great wealth of every kind; wine of Helbon and wool of Sahar 19 and casks of wine from Uzal they exchanged for your wares; wrought iron, cassia, and calamus were bartered for your merchandise. 20 Dedan traded with you in saddlecloths for riding. 21 Arabia and all the princes of Kedar were your favoured dealers in lambs, rams, and goats; in these they did business with you. 22 The traders of Sheba and Raamah traded with you; they exchanged for your wares the best of all kinds of spices and all precious stones and gold. 23 Haran, Canneh, Eden, traders of Sheba, Asshur, and Chilmad traded with you. 24 In your market these traded with you in choice garments, in clothes of blue and embroidered work, and in carpets of coloured material, bound with cords and made secure. 25 The ships of Tarshish travelled for you with your merchandise. So you were filled and heavily laden in the heart of the seas. 26 “Your rowers have brought you out into the high seas. The east wind has wrecked you in the heart of the seas. 27 Your riches, your wares, your merchandise, your mariners and your pilots, your caulkers, your dealers in merchandise, and all your men of war who are in you, with all your crew that is in your midst, sink into the heart of the seas on the day of your fall. 28 At the sound of the cry of your pilots the countryside shakes, 29 and down from their ships come all who handle the oar. The mariners and all the pilots of the sea stand on the land 30 and shout aloud over you and cry out bitterly. They cast dust on their heads and wallow in ashes; 31 they make themselves bald for you and put sackcloth on their waist, and they weep over you in bitterness of soul, with bitter mourning. 32 In their wailing they raise a lamentation for you and lament over you: ‘Who is like Tyre, like one destroyed in the midst of the sea? 33 When your wares came from the seas, you satisfied many peoples; with your abundant wealth and merchandise you enriched the kings of the earth. 34 Now you are wrecked by the seas, in the depths of the waters; your merchandise and all your crew in your midst have sunk with you. 35 All the inhabitants of the coastlands are appalled at you, and the hair of their kings bristles with horror; their faces are convulsed. 36 The merchants among the peoples hiss at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more for ever.’” 28:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord God: “Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas’, yet you are but a man, and no god, though you make your heart like the heart of a god— 3 you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you; 4 by your wisdom and your understanding you have made wealth for yourself, and have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries; 5 by your great wisdom in your trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth— What we see here is God, through Ezekiel, condemning an economic system much like ours, with abundant free trade, and incredibly free movements of people.
1.3 Tyre and Sidon were a great trading super-power in this era. They had colonies all over the Mediterranean, and beyond. Their most famous colony was Carthage, and their most famous general was Hannibal, whose name meant “Lord of thunder”.
1.3.1 The Greeks called them Phoenicians, the Israelites called them Canaanites, which they were.
1.3.2 And they became rich, rich beyond belief, because for centuries they dominated the sea routes, and trade routes. They were not a military super-power, but an economic super-power, and sea power. Like Britain was really.
1.4 It is pretty obvious that “trade” here means, what we would mean, trade between nations. In this case free trade and free movement of peoples, among the nations around them. Phoenicians would take their wares to whoever would buy them, and trade in everything, freely, and this is guaranteed to make you rich, but also look at this – “4 by your wisdom and your understanding you have made wealth for yourself, and have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries; 5 by your great wisdom in your trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth—”
1.4.1 They became rich and they became proud. It is rare to speak to a wealthy man and not see this pride. Because wealth can corrupt us.
1.4.2 Nothing in this world is good for us, without boundaries. Whether money, food, sex, possessions, land, pleasure, etc, etc. If we do not put boundaries around it, it will destroy us. Note what Ezekiel said about Lucifer – “16 In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. 17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. 18 By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you.”
1.4.3 Here “abundance of your trade” and “unrighteousness of your trade” are synonyms. When any good thing is taken too far it corrupts us. This is exactly what happened to Tyre and Sidon, and if you believe these verses here are referring to the evil one, then he was behind it.
1.5 The Devil used unrestrained trade to destroy this people. If overly abundant trade is bad for us, how can free trade not be evil?
2. Unrestrained Trade is inherently evil – God actually set up the Israelite system to protect his people from the excesses of free trade, because biblically speaking any earthly thing without boundaries is evil, including trade. I know this is a radical statement to make, but I think Ezekiel 27-28 proves it, and I will show you more Biblical proof. One of the foundational principles of our modern west is: you can freely trade your possessions however you like with whomever you like, correct? This is how we modern Aussies think. We learnt this from the Brits and Americans. Is this God’s position? No, absolutely not! Let’s look at what the Bible says.
2.1 Naboth’s Vineyard – we looked at this last week, let’s look at it again – 1 Kings 21:1-3 - “21 Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2 And after this Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house, and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.” 3 But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”
2.1.1 Now the reason Naboth would not do this, is because he was a righteous man, who was seeking to follow the law of God. Numbers 26:52-56 tells us – “52 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 53 “Among these the land shall be divided for inheritance according to the number of names. 54 To a large tribe you shall give a large inheritance, and to a small tribe you shall give a small inheritance; every tribe shall be given its inheritance in proportion to its list. 55 But the land shall be divided by lot. According to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit. 56 Their inheritance shall be divided according to lot between the larger and the smaller.” Their land was called an inheritance, because it was not really theirs, it was for them, their children and their children’s children.
2.1.2 Israel really only had possession of God’s land, if they used it as God would have them use it, Leviticus 25:23-24 – “23 The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. 24 And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land.” How much wiser is God’s system compared to ours? If properly followed, this system protects any Israelite from becoming intergenerationally destitute. It also prevents any Israelite, including the king, from hoarding all of the land. And it does not use anything like communism to achieve these goals. It is just a lie of the devil that capitalism and communism are the only options.
2.1.3 God set up a system with boundaries, and within those boundaries there was a degree of freedom.
2.1.4 But I hear the gears turning: Matt that is Old Testament, we don’t have to follow that law. Sure, but let me ask this question: are our possessions and finances ours or God’s? Can we therefore just do with them as we see fit?
2.2 Command The Rich – No, as Paul tells us, 1 Timothy 6:17-19 – “17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” Again, God puts limits on how we can use our money and resources: charge or command the rich “to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share…”
2.2.1 So, the New Testament puts limits, or boundaries, on how we can use our wealth, just as the Old Testament does. We cannot use it freely, we have to consider the poor (Galatians 2:10) and consider how we can bless others.
2.2.2 Now there is freedom within these boundaries, you are free to be creative in how you do this, but we are not free to ignore these boundaries.
2.3 Men must provide – Indeed, here is another restriction – 1 Timothy 5:8 – “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
2.3.1 Paul, whose entire worldview was based on the Old Testament as interpreted through Jesus, says we are not free to trade at will, we must consider our family, including extended family. Indeed, this is exactly what the Old Testament passages were designed to do, keep the wealth in the family as much as possible.
2.3.2 So, any trade would have to be guided by these principles.
2.4 Bonus example – This example crosses over both Testaments, Proverbs 13:22 – “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.” There is this myth that once your kids grow up, they should have to look after their children on their own, to learn about life. But the Bible’s perspective is that our wealth is not just for us and our kids, but our kids and their kids.
2.4.1 Therefore, we are not free to just use it how we want, we are to make sure what we have and trade will be benefit our children and our grandchildren. This puts limits on our trade.
2.5 Free Trade Is Not Biblical – Just looking at what we have covered so far, a system just focused on making you rich, is not good or biblical. Indeed, it would lead to your ruin and your people’s ruin. A trade system that listens to the Bible would require guidelines that -
2.5.1 Keeps the peoples land, their land, not selling it to other nations,
2.5.2 That considers how the poor can be sustained, not just out competed and squeezed out,
2.5.3 A recognition that your wealth is not yours, it is God’s, and therefore can only be used according to scriptural principles,
2.5.4 And the trade would have to benefit your family, and family in general, not split the family apart like our modern system. These are the bare minimum requirements for a godly system. Another way to put it is boundaries.
2.6 Boundaries - Our heavenly father is the God of good boundaries, and freedom is only expressed within those boundaries.
2.6.1 Now who is the god of no boundaries? The Devil. Free trade is inherently a wicked position, because it is based on an inherently Satanic principle of “no boundaries.” We should not be surprised that it has corrupted us so badly. You should think of free or promiscuous trade, like you do free, or promiscuous sex – it might be fun for time, but eventually you’ll get an STD.
2.6.2 If we ever are promoting a system with no boundaries, or loose boundaries, we are not imitating the God of the scriptures, but the God of this world.
3. But Free Trade Makes You Rich? True, no one denies this. But rich is the not the primary goal of righteousness. Making money the primary motivation is a trap we humans fall into, too often. We wouldn’t fall into it, if it was not tempting and attractive. Paul warns us about this - 1 Timothy 6:2-10 – “5…people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
3.1 An undue focus on wealth is evil. Is our society unduly focused on wealth? Absolutely. Can godly principles help make you successful? Yes. Is success synonymous with godliness? No! As Paul says, to think that godliness is a means of gain is depraved – “people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” Rich is not the goal for Christians. Blessed is the goal, and blessed can come in wealth, and it can come in poverty.
4. There are many downsides of free trade –
4.1 Free trade harms family - Unrestricted trade can make you rich, but it also harms the family, because it requires free movement of people, hence family move away from each other. This lowers natural support networks, puts higher pressure on families, and incentivizes having less kids.
4.1.1 Ironically, how much money do people spend on before-school and afterschool care, day-care, babysitting, and other care, because they moved away from family to make money?
4.1.2 How many people do you know, who have worked hard to gain worldly wealth and prestige, would give it all up to have their family back? The Bible teaches us the wisdom of making what we have serve us, and God, not the other way around.
4.2 Free trade encourages a culture that worships money, because everything is a commodity, including people. The problem with this mindset is that your nation becomes willing to sell anything for financial gain, and before you know it, you have very little ability to manufacture anything, homelessness is increasing, other nations own your land, and you stand exposed before the world, with big hoards of wealth, and no way to protect them. Sound familiar?
4.2.1 This also makes people replaceable, because you only see them in economic terms, rather than as fellow countrymen. This is why so many business leaders will move their business overseas, or hire cheaper foreign labour, because their only loyalty is to money. This is not good for a nation.
4.3 But its biggest danger is its biggest advantage: it makes you rich, and nothing is more dangerous to the unprepared soul than riches. As we have become richer: have we become happier and more moral as people? No, we have become fatter, more divorced, more non-Christian, more arrogant, and more sterile.
4.3.1 Riches can cause us to forget these words of wisdom – Proverbs 30:7-9 – “7 Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: 8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9 lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
4.3.2 This is wisdom, our free trade system is not based on this wisdom. It is based on the strong conquering the weak, to gain as much as possible. That is survival of the fittest, and that is pagan principle, not a Christian one.
4.4 Prosperity is not always a blessing, sometimes it is curse, that destroys a people: Proverbs 1:32 - “32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” We can evaluate our modern system with this simple test. If our nation’s wealth is due to God’s reward or the Devil’s schemes to destroy us, then there are ways we could tell -
4.4.1 If it is God’s reward, then we would expect our nation from the leaders all the way down to exemplify righteousness, righteous laws, righteous standards, righteous ways of living, and thankfulness to God.
4.4.2 But if it is the devil fattening us up for the day of slaughter, we could expect that our wealth would be producing decadence, obesity from gluttony, moral decay, population decline from falling birth rates and other issues, and all manner of depravities being practiced.
4.4.3 Now which do we see? God has a warning for such people - James 5:5 – “You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.”
5. Application – There are many practical ways to apply this.
5.1 As Christians we should trade and use our finances in ways that honour God, honour our nation, preserve the interests of our family, and even extended family, and we must consider the poor. We are not free to do as we want.
5.2 Disconnect from Babylon’s system as much as you can. Grow, trade, build, according to your ability. We need to stop structuring our lives like the pagans. Chasing things like the pagans.
5.3 Resist splitting and fracturing your family, as much as possible, just to chase prosperity or wealth. A humble life with lots of family is better than a rich life alone. Free movement of peoples has accelerated the death of Christian society, because those who would pass on the culture to our kids were either too busy, or too far away, to do so. So, we left it to the public schools, low and behold, here we are, a pagan nation again.
5.4 Remind our politicians through voting and advocacy, that they are stewards of the Australian society, not members of an international elite. How was allowing Asian prawns with white-spot disease to be sold here not deeply wicked? How is selling our resources to countries that can use them to build military equipment to invade us, not the height of stupidity?
5.4.1 The desire for trade often over-shadows bloody obvious wisdom.
5.5 Remember, nothing we have is ours, and therefore, we are not free to do with it as we wish, we are free to do with it as God commands. We might not be able to change how our whole society views money and trade. But we can be the lights God has called us to be, and as things get darker, we will shine brighter.
6. Conclusion - Free trade is a clever trick of the Devil, that he has used to thoroughly corrupt us, let’s be wise to this scheme and his other schemes, and not allow him to continue to run circles around us. Let’s pray.