In this episode, we continue our discussion on American history and how it affects Western psychology and modern institutions. Then we turn to the origins and value of self-governance, in particular, how Israel qualified as a self-governing nation. That is, until they found it too challenging and asked for a King. We close with an exhortation to embrace self-stewardship, to focus on the few things you can control and make the best of the resources and opportunities available. This is the foundation of true success.


Patrick Henry

You’re familiar with Patrick Henry and his give-me-liberty-or-give-me-death speech. It expresses much of the same sentiment. If you hear some of that speech in light of the context I’ve just given you, perhaps it will bring some new meaning. 

I’m going to take some excerpts from this speech and, in the course of doing this, I’m not taking historical liberties because no one wrote down the speech at the time. It was concocted from people’s memories. Apparently, Patrick Henry was such a riveting speaker that very little of what he said was recorded because the transcriptors would get so enthralled with listening to him, they would forget to write things down.

After the Constitution we’re under now was adopted—which Patrick Henry opposed, by the way—George Washington called him out of retirement to convince some of the states not to nullify the Constitution; he came out of retirement, and he gave this speech. 

At the speech, there was a giant audience because he was such an enormous draw. Essentially in the speech he said, you know, I told you not to adopt this Constitution; and you can’t really nullify it. You gave that right up. He dissipated the tempest at that point in time. As he was leaving, he turned to someone and said, “There’s going to be a war fought over this.”

Of course, we know the Civil War happened not too long later, within a hundred years. 

In his speech, he is answering some people who say we shouldn’t take up arms against the British. We should just negotiate. He stands, and he addresses the president of the meeting at this point. And he says,

Mr. President, no man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism as well as the abilities of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the house. 

And I love this because he builds this guy up, and now he’s going to tear him to shreds. 

But different men often see the same subject in different lights, and therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite of theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve.

Should I keep back my opinions at such a time through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason toward my country and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven which I revere above all earthly kings. 

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusion of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth. 

Hermann thinks current reality’s an acquired taste. It’s just him that says that, right? Patrick Henry understood that.

We’re apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth and listen to the song of that siren until she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who having eyes see not? Having ears, hear not? The things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? 

For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I’m willing to know the whole truth, to know the worst and to provide for it. I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that’s the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there’s been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves in this house?

I ask, gentlemen, what means this martial array?

The British had brought a bunch of troops into the Americas and were forcing them to be housed by American citizens. 

What can mean this martial array if it’s purpose is not to force us into submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy in this quarter of the world to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No sir. She has none. They’re meant for us. They can be meant for no other. They’re sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose them? 

Shall we try argument? Sir, we’ve been trying that for the last ten years! Have we anything new to offer upon this subject? Nothing! 

They tell us, sir, that we’re weak, unable to cope with so formidable an adversary.

England was the most powerful nation in the world at that point.

 But when will we be stronger? Will it be next week or the next year? Will it be when we’re totally disarmed? And when the British guard will be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope until our enemies have bound us hand and foot? 

Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people armed in the holy cause of liberty and in such a country as that which we possess are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There’s a just God who presides over the destinies of nations and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. 

The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone. It is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery. Our chains are forged. Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston. The war’s inevitable. Let it come. I repeat, sir, let it come. 

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, ‘Peace, peace!’ but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the North will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms. Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle? What is it the gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?

Forbid it, almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death. 

You can see that this intense desire to perpetrate self-governance is deeply engrained in the American psyche. As a matter of fact, it’s so deeply engrained, we don’t even know it’s happening. 

What is self-governance and where in the world did it come from? 

Self-governance is based on three things

Self-governance is a philosophy of governing that’s based on three important pillars.

The first important pillar is the rule of law. The idea that the law is bigger than any man. The law is above any lawgiver. And, of course, that can only be routed in a transcendent God. Rule of law. 

The second thing it’s founded on is private property. Private property ownership is necessary for self-governance. 

The third thing that it’s founded on is dispersed decision making. 

How God set up Israel

Let’s review how God set up Israel when he first formed the nation. The children of Israel were in Egypt, and what was their condition of governance? They were slaves. 

What did they own? They owned nothing.

How did they determine what to do and what not to do? Somebody told them.

How were decisions made? By their masters.

God brought them out. The first big major event that they had—I’m skipping the wars and so forth—the first major event they had was they went to Mount Sinai. What did they get at Mount Sinai? The law. The Ten Commandments. 

What was the essence of the Ten Commandments? What did the Ten Commandments really get across? What were the two big things? Love God and love others. If you think about the first commandments—there’s no other God, don’t have idols—it’s basically there’s only one authority that can tell you what to do, and it’s not a person. It’s not another god. 

Idolatry, if you think about it, is based in the idea that I can get what I want myself. All I have to do is bribe the appropriate authority. A priest. The statue. Whatever it is. OK, I can get what I want. 

But God is saying, “I will have none of that. I will tell you what’s in your best interest, and it’s authoritative. You can pretend it’s not, and it won’t change anything. I’m telling you what’s best. The ultimate of what’s best is love your neighbor as yourself. Don’t envy what they have.” 

How can you exercise loving your neighbor yourself and not envying what they have if they don’t have anything? You can’t do it. 

Private property’s actually embedded in the Ten Commandments because that’s how love happens. It happens when it’s voluntary. If you have a central authority that owns everything, you cannot have voluntary beneficial interaction. It’s all coerced. 

So right there at the Mount Sinai, God sets up the Ten Commandments.

How well was it received? They did really good for 40 days. Then they reverted right back to let’s get something we can control.

But when we honor God as God, which is basically saying, “You know best,” and we accept what our best is, which is rooted in how we treat other people, then amazing blessings flow. He promised it. 

They got the Ten Commandments, and then they booted their opportunity to take the land, wandered for 40 years, and a new generation arose that had not been slaves. This new generation that had not been slaves now goes into the Promised Land, and they take the high ground, and the fortified cities along the high ground. As soon as the major fortifications and the gate there, Jericho and Ai, and then all the cities along the high ground—as soon as that is taken, they divvy the land. 

How do they divvy the land? By family. The property’s given to the families. And property was allowed to be sold or mortgaged, but never without the right of redemption because that property was something that God had given. It was considered something holy.

When King Ahab, you may remember, goes to Naboth and says, “I want your vineyard. I’ll trade you for a better piece of property because I want this one.”  Naboth says, “God forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”  Because it was sacred. 

Of course, Naboth got killed and Ahab took it from him. Because they understood private property was their inheritance, their possession, what sustained them.

You get the law. You get private property. They dispersed the tribes, and they made their own decisions in their local areas. There was no central government. There was no mandatory taxation. They had a tax system and it was voluntary. 

Look at Judges 5 with me real quick. Judges is during this time where they’re supposed to do what was right in the eyes of God by choosing to do it. But too often they did what was right in their own eyes. In Judges 5, Deborah and Barak sang on that day. This was after they had defeated the Assyrians. 

“When leaders led in Israel,

When the people willingly offered themselves,

Bless the Lord!

When an army was raised against Syria, how was it raised? Volunteers. How did the leaders get chosen? They volunteered. Because this was a self-governing country. 

How did they do with their self-governance? When they chose to do well, they were blessed, and when they chose to do poorly, they were oppressed.

The people choose a king over self-governance

We come to 1 Samuel 8. This is the best illustration of self-governance I know. The people come to Samuel in verse 5,

and said to him, “Look, you are old Samuel”–– Samuel was the last judge under the period of self-governance,––”and your sons do not walk in your ways. They were corrupt. So they had a legitimate complaint. 

But here’s their solution: 

Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord.

And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.

This idea that we will adhere to the law because we choose to adhere to it, we will honor the property of others because we choose to honor it, and we will do right by our neighbor because we choose to do it, that is God’s best.

The people have rejected self-governance now. Their punishment is, as God normally does with his wrath, he’s going to give them what they asked for. 

I think ultimately the lake of fire is going to be people getting what they wanted. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against the unrighteousness of men, and God gave us over to our own lusts.

The thing greatly displeased Samuel, and he said, “Heed their voice.”

Verse 8. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also.

Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.”

Because this is going to be their punishment. 

So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king.

And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen—What’s happened? Are they volunteering now? Now they’re coerced for the army. 

He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.

What’s happened now? Forced labor. 

He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers.

And he will take the best of your fields—Now what’s happened? He’s going to take their property.—and your olive groves, and give them to his servants.

He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants.

Oh, for only a tenth. Taxes. Not voluntary. 

And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work.

He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants.

And you will cry out in that day—“I’m oppressed! I don’t own any property. My taxes are too high!” —and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”

Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, 

We have three reasons for it. Number one, we want to be like the other nations. We want to fit in. We don’t want to be exceptional anymore. 

Number two. We don’t want to make our own decisions. We want the king to judge us. We don’t want to be responsible for our own actions. We want somebody else to take that responsibility. 

Number three. We want to be taken care of. We don’t want to care for one another anymore. We want somebody to fight our battles for us. We want someone to care for us and provide us safety and security. 

America has a poverty line that’s the top three percent of income in the world and an average wage that’s above the top one percent in the world. The reason is because of love. Because to the extent we have honored love your neighbor as yourself, it creates massive amount of prosperity. 

That prosperity’s not always been handled consistently, as you know. Levi Preston and these guys said all these wonderful things but allowed slavery on the basis of race to continue. 

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln commented on that in his second inaugural address. He says at this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office,

There’s less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now at the expiration of four years during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phrase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation. Little that is new could now be presented. The progress of our arms upon which all else chiefly depends is well known to the public as well as myself and is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all with high hope for the future. No prediction in regard to it is ventured. 

I’m not going to predict what’s going to happen.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending Civil War. All dreaded it. All sought to avert it. 

While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place devoted altogether to saving the union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war, seeking to dissolve the union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties depreciated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than making it perish, and the war came.

One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves not distributed generally over the union but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew this interest was somehow the cause of the war to strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest with this object for which the insurgence would rend the union even by war while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration which it has already obtained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease.

Each looked for an easier triumph and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God. And each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any man should desire to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not that we be not judged. 

The prayers of both could not be answered and of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. 

Woe unto the world because of offenses for it must needs be that offenses come. But woe to that man by whom the offense cometh. If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribed to him? 

Finally, do we hope, fervently do we pray this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. 

Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword. 

As it was said 3000 years ago, so it must be said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous all together.”

We don’t have inaugural addresses like that anymore. Because although we have a self-governing nation and it’s been immensely blessed, to the extent that we’ve departed from it, there’s been a price to pay. 

We’re in the throes of another great conflict. This conflict is over whether we’re going to choose a king to take care of us, make our decisions for us, tell us what to do, distribute the property to whom they wish, determine what kind of behavior is appropriate for us; or whether we’re going to demand the government be accountable to us, take off our robes and exercise our citizenship rights. That happens when each one of us does our part to exercise self-governance within our immediate sphere of influence. 

Self-governance is doing unto others as we wish they would do unto us. Self-governance is taking the Ten Commandments into the market-place and exercising them unto God, not to man.

Self-governance is exercising our freedom to love others, not to bring coercion to others. 

Self-governance is taking responsibility for things we don’t have to take responsibility for, but taking responsibility because we choose to do so to bless others.

I hope you’ll pray for

our nation. We’ve been through this many times before. Levi Preston went through it. We went through it in the Civil War. We went through it during the great world wars. Now we’re going through it, and this time it’s a political conflict. It’s a cultural conflict. It’s up to us to do our part. The way we live and the way we pray.