As a nation—and as our physical bodies—we become inflexible in our old age. Every movement becomes painful. Our loss of flexibility means that we are moving toward falling apart. In reference to nationhood, we have entered the time when parts must be propped up in order to continue. Congressional indecision is evidence of an aging process, for it is society that has voted into office those who find it difficult, as a society, to live in unity with one another. Our lack of flexibility means that the West is entering the years of a bipolar civilization.
Rome fell apart from within because it could not produce a unified society that wanted to work together for the glory of Rome. National pride gave way to petty special interests within that were centered around local matters. The greater glory of the empire could not overshadow the social divisions that existed within the empire. Once the control of the central government collapsed through inflexibility, the dangling dependent nations throughout the Empire went their separate ways.
In the gradual fall of a civilization, we start electing leaders we believe will fix our aging body. Since we are a business-oriented empire that was established on the foundation of two centuries of hard work, we will elect populist technocrats who major in success in the business world. Regardless of our technocrats’ experience in democratic functionality, however, we trust that if they have been successful in the financial world, then certainly they will make us successful again as we were great in bygone years. If our technocrats take our stock market to new levels, then certainly our nation is in good health and we will survive. We are forcing ourselves to believe a lie. We forget that great civilizations are not built on money, but on people. When money is used to manipulate people, then as Israel, the civilization is on its way out.
The financial world of printing money in collapsing civilizations of today lead the people to believe that the printed paper money will perpetuate the existence of an empire. But printing money produces inflation, and inflation further increases the gulf between the rich and the poor. The printing of money increases the shares the elite have in the financial institutions of the free-market society. The success of the financial institutions and stock markets, therefore, are deceptive. Because so much printed money is in circulation, its “appearance” in society shows up in overinflated financial institutions. Successful financial institutions and a high stock market deceives the populace into thinking that their economy is healthy. But there is a difference between a stock pile of gold and a stock pile of paper money. One pile indicates that an empire is truly rich. But the other indicates that an empire is built only on a pile of paper.
The destiny of the “paper empire” is terminal. When the empire cannot print enough money to pay the interest on the accumulated debt of the empire, then the empire is destined for a catastrophic financial correction. And when the correction comes, those who know these things about “paper empires” have already cashed out and sold their stock. In doing so, they further enrich themselves and their separation from those who lost fortunes in “Bitcoin bubbles.” The social result is that the financial and social gulf between the rich and poor is exacerbated to revolutionary tensions. The rich patron land owners are run from the land. Zimbabwean farmers have their farms seized. A social paradigm shift occurs, and thus a French Revolution (1789-1799), Russian Revolution (1917), and Latin American civilizations socially restructured with when the land owners gone (1950s, 1960s).
A society that has been born and bred on prosperity always forgets that the social norms of a society are always more influential in the future of the civilization than financial wealth. Must we return to the lessons that Israel learned in her rise and fall? Rome, as Solomon and Rehoboam, also tried the deception of taxation to produce a strong nation (See 1 Kg 12:10,11). The problem was that enough finances could not be produced to sustain the military and government systems that could sustain the nation. As a nation cannot tax itself into prosperity, so neither can the printing of wealth perpetuate a nation that depends on the same.
We have fooled ourselves when we think that financial health has priority over social norms. It is a morally healthy society that perpetuates civilization, not a stock market that is breaking new limits. In fact, aging financial health often works against social health because financial health is deceptive in reference to a morally degraded society. In a society that has prided itself on financial successes one after another, we forget that in a free market democratic society such successes place the majority of the wealth into the hands of the few. The problem with this inequity is that the few, as in the end of Israel, have few moral norms by which they can maintain their wealth in reference to the poor, who become the mass labor force of the society. The labor force that produced and maintains the empire, begins to be marginalized by the elite few. It is then that social cracks begin to appear in the civilization. It is then that the financially marginalized begin to consider revolution.
Among the disadvantaged, hope gives way to despair, and despair in a democratic society eventually catches up with the nation as a whole. The poor have no hope of being successful as the rich for whom they labor. They can only envy the Kardashians and imagine their life-style. The reason for this is that in a democratic free-market society, the cost of living bypasses the financial abilities of the labor population. Labor finds it difficult to survive because the wealth of the society is in the hands of too few people, who have, for example, priced all the houses out of financial reach of the poor. The masses who are on the bottom cannot keep up with the economy that is governed by the wealthy on the top of the food chain. In a democratic society, the majority that is now financially suffering, determines the future of the civilization.
In this social environment the rise of “prosperity prophets” infiltrate the religious sector of the populace. They preach a “prosperity gospel” in order to bring hope to the financially disadvantaged. They deceive the people into believing that they can use their faith to gain wealth. Because the faith of the deceived is often the last social norm upon which the disadvantaged have to maintain some hope, they bite into the deception that their faith can produce financial success, just as the rich.
The prosperity gospel preacher dresses himself in fine clothing. He wears gold in order to give the appearance of financial success. He orchestrates motivational assemblies before whom he stands as a successful pulpiteer who dangles an audience or religious puppets before him with an orchestra of stringed instruments who play rapturous concert music. In order to take his audiences into a hypnotic frenzy, people are supposedly healed and dead people raised.
The deceived ignore the fact that the “financial success” of the prosperity preacher came at the expense of a people who have been jilted into believing a prosperity religion of deception (2 Th 2:1-12). The prosperity preacher thus joins the exploiting rich in a declining civilization. He has bought into the culture of financial prosperity, and thus has convinced himself that the aging civilization of which he is a part, can be restored when the people of faith gain financial success. He exploits the contributions of his constituency in order to maintain his wealth. The religious constituency has been blinded to the historical reality that the Baal prophets of Israel were interested in bales of money.
In Israel it was the same in their final years before the captivities of Assyria and Babylonia. The prophets of God encountered the prosperity prophets who said that the end was not near. The prosperity prophets cried out, “Peace, peace” (Jr 6:14). But there was no peace. Doom was imminent. The “peace prophets” lashed out against God’s prophets who said that the end was near. God’s messengers, subsequently, brought upon themselves the “trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, also bonds and imprisonment” (Hb 11:36; see Hb 11:37-40).
The same prosperity preachers existed again when national Israel was coming to its final demise in A.D. 70. With the consummation of national Israel in view, Luke recorded that the prosperity preachers of the time, the Pharisees, were “lovers of money” (Lk 16:14). This group of preachers had even progressed in their covetousness to the point that the money that was to be given by the children to support their parents in their old age should be given to them as Corban. It was money that was dedicated in contributions to the prosperity preachers (Mk 7:9-13).
When preachers take advantage of the people in the offerings that the people should offer in their commitment to God, then they are no better than Hophni and Phinehas who siphoned off more than their share of the contributions that were offered by the people (See 1 Sm 2:12-17). As their judgment, these two prosperity preachers ended up dead because they took advantage of the people’s offerings to God.
[Lecture series will continue.]