How Long Will We Consent to Government's Overreach?

Dr. Karen Gushta | Truth in Action Ministries | Updated: Apr 05, 2013

How Long Will We Consent to Government's Overreach?

Andrew Breitbart developed a whole brand around his blog before he suddenly and mysteriously collapsed on a sidewalk not far from his home while taking a late night walk with his dog.

But the notion that government has now become just too big and overreaching did not die with him. Evidence continues to accumulate and the facts are piling up, just like the national debt. Civil governments, whether they be local, state or national, are arrogating more and more power to themselves. And with each additional power grab, another freedom is lost.  

In the upcoming Truth That Transforms television program, Jim DeMint, former senator from South Carolina and now president-elect of The Heritage Foundation, makes the point: “Things that are key to developing our culture are now in government’s control rather than the civil society so the principles, the morals, the whole way of thinking has been changed by a government overreach.”

One of the most telling examples of this is the current debate over marriage. The idea that any legislature could decide on its own that the institution of marriage should now include two members of the same sex indicates the level of hubris that exists among government legislators and reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of civil government itself.

As Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, founder and national spokesman of the Cornwell Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, points out, “The Bible tells us that the proper role of the state is to enforce justice — that is to prohibit, to prevent, to prosecute, and to punish crime.”

Beisner points to Romans 13 as the clearest statement of the role of civil government found in scripture: “The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 13 that the government is God’s servant to us for our good to execute vengeance on those who do evil and to commend those who do good.” When governments attempt to do more than that, says Beisner, they are overstepping their God-ordained sphere of authority. “[T]he provision of all sorts of benefits whether it’s food or clothing or shelter or healthcare or education or travel, transportation, any of those provision of benefits is not the task of the state or civil government.”

America’s founders wisely provided us with the Constitution to spell out the limits of the federal government. If they had not done so, there would conceivably be a whole universe of things that it could do “on behalf of the people.”

Constitutionally speaking, the states — not the federal government — have general jurisdiction. And so state governments can make laws in every area of life according to what is stipulated in their state constitutions, with the exception of the specific areas that the Constitution appoints to the federal government.

The federal government, on the other hand has limited jurisdiction, and it has only been given those powers that are necessary to carry out its expressed powers identified under the U.S. Constitution; i.e., military and national security, diplomacy with foreign countries, and regulating interstate and international commerce.

As the 10th Amendment states so beautifully and succinctly, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the stares, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

If only we had an administration and legislators in our state and federal governments who understood and believed this! Today’s welfare programs, entitlement programs, federal education programs, and now the national healthcare program are all examples of what has happened as the constitutional principle of limited government has been abandoned by those elected to support, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

When the federal government passes a law that requires its citizens to buy health insurance, it has taken a giant step in overreaching its constitutional powers, regardless of whether the Supreme Court reclassifies the law as a “tax.” Similarly, when the federal government requires its citizens to violate their consciences by paying for insurance to cover drugs that cause abortions, it has clearly overstepped its constitutional boundaries.

Not only do such overreaches violate the constitutional principle of limited government, they also violate God’s design for societies. God has ordained and established a number of “governments” that have legitimate authority to rule and regulate various sectors of culture and society. There is the government of marriage in which the husband is to be the “head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23). There is the government of the family in which children are to obey their parents and give them honor (Ephesians 6:1-2). There is the government of the church (Ephesians 4:11-12; I Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9), and there is the civil government (Romans 13:3-4).

None of these governments has the authority to usurp the proper governing authority of any other. And none is autonomous or independent of the others as Gary DeMar explains in his book God and Government:

[T]here are no independent governments, whether they be individual, family, school [as an extension of the family], Church, or national. Every individual, institution, or nation is responsible to other individuals, institutions, and nations. All are ultimately responsible to God.

“No matter what the sphere of government,” DeMar writes, “whether in creation or culture, whether through husbands, parents, teachers, Church rulers, or civil authorities — it is God who ultimately governs: ‘Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God’ (Romans 13:1)."

So when we see yet another piece of legislation, another government mandate, or another court decision that broadens the power of “big government,” let us remind ourselves of the constitutional principle of limited government and the biblical principle of God’s authority over all governments.

Then let us remind ourselves of one other principle, which was articulated by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #22: “The fabric of the American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of the consent of the people” [emphasis in the original].

The overreach of civil governments (at every level) is only possible to the extent that the people consent to it. The question is: how long will Americans continue to do so?  

Dr. Karen Gushta is a writer and researcher for Truth in Action Ministries. She has written and edited a number of books for Truth in Action, including her most recent, How Can America Survive? Others include The War on Children and The Mortgaging of America, a book of sermons by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy. (All are available at Gushta has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University.

Publication date: April 5, 2013

How Long Will We Consent to Government's Overreach?