Conviction vs. Preference
…Let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up (Dan.3:18).
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
The men who uttered these statements, held Biblical convictions about how they ought to behave. Holding Biblical convictions and acting on them got them into trouble. They knew it would get them into trouble, but they acted on those convictions, anyway.
This is what men and women in the Bible did. When Abram heard that his nephew Lot had been kidnapped, he acted on his convictions. He took his life in his hands, and went and fought, and rescued Lot (Gen.14:12-16).
But there was a lot more to Abram’s convictions, than just being willing to put his life on the line for a relative. That was physical courage, but God requires of us much more than that. When the king of Sodom said to him, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself” (Gen.14:21), Abram responded with a statement that the modern church steadfastly ignored:
I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich’ (Gen.14:22-23).
Refusing money or property that shouldn’t be taken requires convictions, and a clear sense of priorities. Moses did similarly. When Moses saw one of his brethren being beaten by an Egyptian, he killed the Egyptian (Ex.2:11-12). But once again, this was more than a case of physical courage. The Bible tells us of Moses, that he
refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward (Heb.11:24-26).
When shepherds came to drive away the daughters of the priest of Midian when they were preparing to water their flock, Moses “stood up and helped them [the daughters]” (Ex.2:15-21). When Jesus witnessed the corruption of the temple of His era,
He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables (Jn.2:15).
I’ve walked out of jobs three times, the first time being 1986. I was working in a really good Christian school in the Blue Mountains of NSW, where I’d been since 1981. But through the course of the year, I formed the conviction that my days there were coming to an end, that something else was coming up and I needed to leave. The school closed at the end of 1987.
In 1987, 900 hundred kilometres to the west, in Mildura, Victoria, I walked out of a service station job, when the boss wanted his staff to sell cigarette lighters with a naked girl on them. I left, and God provided another job immediately.
In 2005, I walked out of a well-paid educational position in Brisbane, because I’d formed the attitude that the management had become disingenuous with clients, compromising Biblical ethics in their pursuit of the vast sums of government money available.
Did those decisions cost me? Sometimes they cost me a lot. Am I sorry about any of those decisions, now? No.
Political leaders have sought to control the church, at least from Abram’s day. Little has really changed much. Political leaders want to extend and secure their power, and they don’t appreciate community rivals, whoever they may be.
When confronted by Moses and Aaron, Pharoah declared,
Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go (Ex.5:2).
But the modern church is a confused church. It’s been that way for well over a hundred years. It’s confused, firstly because of its dreadful theology, leading to all manner of false doctrine, ideological aberration and practical shallowness. These four things have led directly to one significant, deadly outcome: the church has been easy game for political manipulators. It’s forgotten it’s supposed to hold Biblical convictions, and act on them.
Like most successful twentieth century political leaders, Hitler was a master political manipulator. He knew how to get around the church of Germany. In fact, the church made it easy for him, because the Lutheran and Catholic churches (which were predominant in Germany), were State churches, funded from taxes. They didn’t understand that conviction and preference are two, vastly different things; thus they were compliant. They only knew this:
He who takes the king’s shilling, does the king’s bidding.
Hitler despised them, but he was politically shrewd and wanted their support. Of the German Protestants, Hitler said to one of his aides,
You can do anything you want with them. They will submit…they are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them.
Anyone who thinks that this was merely an aberration of Nazism is making a mistake. Hitler in his manipulation of the German church merely followed on from Bismarck, 50 years earlier. It’s normal now, all over the West.
The fact is, the church wants money, and it wants its people to get money. Where it comes from is rarely the point. So, if governments hold out wads of cash for Christian families in the form of some kind of Social Security payment or educational grants for “Christian” schools, what could be wrong with that? This short-sighted attitude leads directly to the political manipulation that Hitler utilised.
Money is not evil, but where it comes from is the critical factor. Modern governments want to control the electorate with money in the form of electoral bribes, and everyone’s used to it. It’s the new normal, but it’s manipulative and evil.
In the mid-1940s, the Labor Party in Britain decided to create a system of State-financed national health care. They knew that they would not readily gain cooperation from the private physicians of Britain. So the Labor Party created a plan. First, they made it illegal for non-participating physicians to sell their practices upon retirement, thereby extracting a major capital tax from the physicians. Second, they offered relatively high salaries (for the post-war years) to all participating physicians. Third, they offered high positions in the new, compulsory system to the leaders of the British Medical Association. Nye Bevan, the Labor Party’s master political strategist, who served as Minister of Health, promised Party leaders that the Party would gain the support of the medical profession’s leadership. “How?” he was asked. His answer shall ring down through the ages: “We shall stuff their mouths with gold.” So the Labor Party did, and the medical leadership capitulated, just as Bevan had predicted.1
Whenever the church becomes ambivalent about money, it has exposed itself to compromise and corruption, and this has always been deadly. A compromised church is a silent church, and a silent church is always ripe for judgment. Can you imagine Moses accepting a golden payoff from Pharoah, Elijah being paid by Ahab, or John the Baptist being silenced by Herod with gold?
Political leaders think, “This is how you do it. Throw money in front of them. That’ll fix ‘em.” But as The Animals sang, fifty years ago,
We gotta get outa this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do. We gotta get outa this place, girl there’s a better life for me and you.
The answer is not (generally) to leave the country. It is to understand that a game of cat and mouse is being played, and we’d best stay out of it. We have to do what godly people have been doing for thousands of years, when political leaders seem to hold all the political and legal aces: we hold to our Biblical convictions, and follow our own plan.
We must be careful to adopt the long-term strategy of the early church. They did not rise up against the Roman legions. They did not become guerillas. The Jews did, and they were scattered, becoming an identifiable minority to be persecuted throughout the Roman Empire. The Christians adopted a different strategy, although suffering intermittent persecutions-a strategy of avoiding a frontal assault on Rome. By 313 A. D., the Christians triumphed; a non-pagan Emperor came to power. 
Money in the hands of evil people is sometimes a lure dangled before believers. It’s especially challenging when those evil people are political leaders. But Abram didn’t fall for it, neither did Moses, and neither did Jesus.
One of the ways the godly foundations of the church must be re-laid, will be by the church asserting its independence again, turning away from all forms of illegitimate taxpayer funding. And when we renounce his thirty pieces of silver, Caesar won’t be able to control, manipulate and silence us.
Perhaps then by God’s grace, light will begin to shine on our path, again.
One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts (Ps.145:4).
 Quoted in William Shirer, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” 1968, p.329.
1 Gary North, (Ed.,) “Tactics of Christian Resistance,” 1983, p.146-147.
 Gary North, (Ed.,) “Theology of Christian Resistance,” 1983, p.xvi.