Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Categories: God › Sovereign Rule › Laws of God › Politics

On Tuesday Ray asked if I would preach an Election Day Sermon - something that has a long history going back to the earliest days of our country. After praying about it some, I decided to do so. It's been a while since I've preached on politics. And I have titled the sermon, "Life, liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." These words from the Declaration of Independence are the issues around which this story of Naboth flows. The chapter begins with the civil government denying Naboth the pursuit of happiness and it ends with his very life being denied by that same government, but liberty was at stake in both those issues. In fact, you cannot deny any one of those three issues without eventually denying the other two. The very issues that led to the war for Independence in 1776 are the issues that God held dear in this passage. And yet they are flagrantly being ignored by most politicians, most citizens, and most of the over 50 political parties.1 You may not have realized that there were that many national parties, but there are.

Unlike a lot of Election Day Sermons, this one will not be telling you how to vote for candidates. Instead, it will be calling out virtually all of the political parties, with the exception of the Christian Liberty Party and the Constitution Party. It is an expose of what is Biblically wrong with our whole system. It is a spiritual check up of our nation. It is a call to prayer. But above all, it is a call to repentance for any ways in which we ourselves have become accustomed to Ahab's ways in our own nation.

The Erosion of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness (vv. 1-16)

Liberty and property (vv. 1-3)

But because the phrase "the pursuit of happiness" has been subject to so many interpretations, I want to define my terms. Many people misinterpret the Declaration's phrase, "the pursuit of happiness" as a selfish, hedonistic quest. But our founding fathers didn’t recognize happiness as the unalienable right, but the pursuit of happiness. The ability to pursue our own interests was interpreted as freedom from civil government and all of their incursions into ownership. The phrase “the pursuit of happiness” was originally interpreted to mean “the right to acquire, possess, and dispose of property,” whether tangible or intangible. And it really signifies the difference between slavery and liberty. If you cannot inherit or give an inheritance without being taxed; if you cannot purchase and sell without government permission and interference, our founding fathers would have said that you are a slave however free you may call yourself. And the first step in robbing liberty from the citizenry is to make encroachments upon property.

I want you to notice that this passage indicates Naboth’s right to own and control his property whatever the government wishes might be. And in this case, it was tangible property. In verse 2 even Ahab recognizes that the land belonged to Naboth and he must ask for it. "Give me your vineyard," he asks. The vineyard was Naboth’s to give or to withhold. He was able to say “No,” to government. You might say, “Well, who denies that today? The government has not taken away our land.” But I would beg to differ.

Government surveillance, roadside strip searches, asset forfeiture, and eminent domain are just four of dozens of ways that the county, state, and federal governments have intruded into private property. Taxation of property is another. Taxation of the land is a declaration of ownership of the land, as Karl Marx so correctly noted. If you think you own your house, just try withholding your property taxes and see how long you can live there. Your taxes give you a license to live there. Estate taxes and income taxes all have been interpreted by courts as a governments ownership. What you take home, you are allowed by the government to keep. Our founding fathers would not have stood for this. They fought to free our country from the very things that our politicians take for granted as proper. John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute said,

We no longer have any real property rights. That house you live in, the car you drive, the small (or not so small) acreage of land that has been passed down through your family or that you scrimped and saved to acquire, whatever money you manage to keep in your bank account after the government and its cronies have taken their first and second and third cut…none of it is safe from the government’s greedy grasp. At no point do you ever have any real ownership in anything other than the clothes on your back. Everything else can be seized by the government under one pretext or another (civil asset forfeiture, unpaid taxes, eminent domain, public interest, etc.).2

America’s founding fathers clearly saw that if they did not resist the government on the issues of unequal taxation (as Madison put it) and taxation without representation, they could not consistently resist government at any point of tyranny. Those who are one issue people (who will only fight on the pro-life front) need to realize that the three issues of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness all fall or stand together. If the government can successfully encroach in one area, it can encroach on every other area because there are no limits once Biblical limits are ignored.

Some Christians do not like the term “right.” And it is true, we have no independent or sovereign rights. But that is the very point that our founding fathers were making. They said that citizens “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” What God has given, let no man take away. They were not selfish when they gave that phrase. The 56 signers of the Declaration were quite prepared to forgo happiness as they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their honor to defend these rights and I believe 15 lost their lives, most lost their fortunes but none of them lost their honor. They considered the sacrifice worthwhile if their children could have a God-given liberty and be governed by principle.

Relinquishing the inheritance of our founding fathers (v. 3)

A second area that citizens have gradually relinquished is the inheritance of our founding fathers. That's what Ahab was asking Naboth to do. Look at the boldness of Naboth in verse 3. I’m sure this is something that mystifies moderns. He is not intimidated by power. And Naboth said to Ahab, “The LORD forbid that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you!” Naboth knew that because he was a steward of the land that he could not cave in to pragmatism. And being a believer, he probably despised the thought of his property being used by this wicked man. He was a steward of that property, and he knew that God would require him to answer for how he handled his affairs. This was what gave him boldness. And unless we are more conscious of God’s demands of us than we are of government’s demands, we will not have the courage to tell the government, “This far, but no further!”

I want to challenge God’s people to stand with the Naboths of our day who are being robbed of their inheritance and to bring the kind of prophetic rebuke that Elijah brought to Ahab in verses 17-29. Modern Ahabs have used every sort of pressure to get us to relinquish the inheritance of our fathers. It may not be tangible property. America’s founding fathers defined property much more broadly than we tend to. For example, Madison said,

...a man’s land, or merchandise, or money is called property... he has property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice of them... He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties, and the free choice of objects on which to employ them... when an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in His opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.” (in “Property,” 1792)

That’s what the pursuit of happiness was about - freedom from government intrusion into property whether tangible or intangible. A ruling of the Houston federal district court said, “parents give up their rights when they drop the children off at public school.” Are you really willing to relinquish this inheritance to the state? Many in government want to force us to send our children to public schools, and we must say, “No! God has given children as a stewardship trust to parents and we will not cave in to government demands to control education. We will not give up the inheritance of our fathers.”

And there are many aspects of our inheritance that the government has asked us to give up. The Child Protection Agency wants us to remove the rod from the home. The IRS on a number of occasions has asked churches to stop preaching on certain topics. This is giving up the heritage of our fathers. The Supreme Court has increasingly sought to remove Christianity from politics. But in early America, preachers were expected to give election day sermons and hold the government’s feet to the fire. Many politicians want to disarm the populace. The Health and Human Services has sought to make us entrust our health to the government. The Department of Commerce has sought to regulate business. The Department of Agriculture and other departments have robbed farmers of their heritage. And what is our response? Silence. Apathy.

The presidential candidates for the Democratic Party, the Reform Party, The Republican Party, and the Green Party are all willing to intrude to varying degrees in asking us to give up the heritage of our fathers. On all of these issues, our politicians have become increasingly Ahab-esque. Of the national parties, only the Libertarians, the Constitution Party, and the Christian Liberty Party have consistently withstood government on the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately the Libertarian Party wants government out of too much and wants legalization of prostitution, abortion and homosexuality. The Reform Party takes no stand on abortion of LGBTQ issues.

Republicans often promise to roll back the government, but rarely deliver. Lenin said, promises are like pie crusts, they are made to be broken. You may not consider these critical issues. But they were the kinds of issues that the war of 1776 was fought over. It is imperative that we see that to the degree we stop defending the pursuit of happiness in America, liberty and life will also be in jeopardy just as they were in this chapter. We must begin to say with Naboth, "The LORD forbid that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you!"

Few willing to take the risks of liberty (v. 3f)

The third related issue is that there are few people who are willing to take the risks of liberty. And there are risks in having liberty. You may not be able to cover your health bills, and you may have to defend your own home, and you may have more responsibilities than you anticipated. God gave Israel liberty from the bondage of Egypt, but when faced with danger they wanted to run back to the security of slavery in Egypt. They preferred the security of slavery to the risks of liberty. And so I blame the people of America just as much as the officials of America for lacking the boldness of Naboth. It is much easier to let the government secure our retirement. It is easier to let the government deal with medical problems, forgetting that it was government intervention which has created many of the problems. It is easier to let the government educate our children, and provide jobs. But Christ has called us to value liberty and to hate slavery. There are very few who would cry with Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Are we willing to take the risks that Naboth did in standing toe to toe with Ahab? Naboth risked death. Our risks are far less. We may risk getting a worse candidate if we vote our conscience rather than living under a big tent. Naboth not only lost his vineyard, but he lost his life by standing for principle. But, Elijah and God stood with him. The most important issue on election day is not winning the election, but winning the issue of principles; having God’s “Well done!” being spoken to us. We ought not to be as concerned about the lesser of two evils as we are about the elevation and promotion of good.

We need to see the issues of principle clearly once again. If Naboth seems foolish and unreasonable to you, then you do not value liberty like Patrick Henry did, or like the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence who became criminals the moment they signed their names to that paper. Why? For a tea tax? No, they saw clearly that the principle was liberty. God’s evaluation of Naboth’s battle is very high indeed, and it is a battle which has lasting significance to this day.

Who is servant: state or people? (vv. 4-5)

The fourth issue is, "Who is servant: state or people?" Look at verses 4-5.

So Ahab went into his house sullen and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no food. But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said to him, “Why is your spirit so sullen that you eat no food?”

In these verses we see the government angry at the citizen for failing to serve his wants. We risk that danger with the IRS today. Like modern government, Ahab got things mixed up. It is not the citizen who is the servant of the state, but the state who is servant of God for the people. Romans 13 calls the magistrate “God’s servant for your protection”(v. 4 Phillips). We have taken God out of the government and as a result we see little servanthood. Let’s stop treating the State as if it lacked accountability. The state is servant, not master, and it is time we started instructing what Paul calls the “powers that are ordained of God” (Rom. 13:1) that they have limits on their authority. There limits are to protect the good and to punish the evil. E. Who determines law, government or God? (v. 7) But it is precisely the definition of what is evil and good that is at stake. You can tell the god of a country by who defines its laws, God or man. Humanism is idolatry whether it is Republican, Democrat, Natural Law, Libertarian or Reform. We live in a humanistic society where man reigns supreme and God has been dethroned. The legislation that is pouring out of Washington DC seems to have no limits of Constitution and no limits of Scripture. But these parties that aspire to government also refuse God’s law. The Natural Law Party has nothing to do with Biblical Natural Law. It advocates the Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and the TM-Sidhi Program. The Libertarian Candidate Harry Browne recently mocked God’s law. Even Conservative politicians whom I may cast my vote for do not seem to understand that God defines what is a crime, not the government. Look at the fiat exercise of power in verse 7. Then Jezebel his wife said to him, “You now exercise authority over Israel! Arise and eat food, and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite. Here is authority that is exercised without any regard to law. Israelite kings were commanded not to go to the right or to the left of God’s law, not to add to it or diminish it. This means an extremely limited government, but more to the point, it means that there is an authority over government to whom we can appeal. If God is not the sovereign, we have tyranny. And it must be remembered that it was not just the Israelite nation that was bound to the law of God. Leviticus 18 says that the nations of Canaan were spewed out of the land precisely because they violated Biblical law. In Jeremiah 1:9-10 Jeremiah is called upon to preach against and to build up not just Israel, but all the surrounding nations. And he did so. He held pagan magistrates accountable to the Word of God. The book of Daniel is a book of bold confrontation of a minority against a pagan majority government. And Daniel rebuked Nebuchadnezar for failing to live under God’s rule and said, Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity. We need to do the same. Because of the testimony of faithful Jews in Persia, Artaxerxes imposed God’s law on all the nations according to Ezra 7, and it is no wonder then that Babylonian and Persian law borrowed so many things from the Bible.
America used to be proud of our Biblical heritage. Our seventh president, Andrew Jackson, said “The Bible is the Book upon which this Republic stands.” The Christian Coalition needs to have more boldness in consistently pressing for Biblical law. As far as I know, there are presently only two parties that have the boldness to side with President Jackson. The US Taxpayers Party and the Right to Life Party. And it wasn’t just Jackson. Even Presidents whom I would not have voted for have said the same thing. President Truman said, “This is a Christian nation.”1 Woodrow Wilson stated emphatically, “America was born a Christian nation.”2 The United States Supreme Court stated, “Protestant Christianity has been our established religion in almost every sense of that phrase... The establishment of Protestant Christianity was one not only of law but also, and far more importantly, of culture. Protestant Christianity supplied the nation with its ‘system of values.’”3 Court case after Court case has shown that Biblical law stands back of American law. That’s why we have the ten commandments on the wall behind the Supreme Court Justices. And yet our court ignores those laws. And Christians are afraid to say this because they have called for a strategy of incrementally victories. We have been incrementally losing point after point because the Christian Coalition has refused to articulate a clear cut vision for a Christian nation in theory and in law. Going slower toward the cliff of destruction is not a good strategy. We must have people who call us to do an about face. It is time that we let a Candidate speak who is willing to be a prophetic voice. I don’t care which candidate that may be. There are individuals in different parties who are willing to do this. But at this point, Howard Phillips is the only Presidential voice that I hear crying in the wilderness. Even the Libertarian Party supports Sodomy. The Party Platform promotes, “d. the repeal of all laws regarding consensual sexual relations, including prostitution and solicitation, and the cessation of state oppression and harassment of homosexual men and women, that they, at last, be accorded their full rights as individuals; e. the repeal of all laws regulating or prohibiting the possession, use, sale, production, or distribution of sexually explicit material, independent of ‘socially redeeming value’ or compliance with ‘community standards.’” They describe Biblical crimes as “victimless crimes.” We must be a nation under what James calls the “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25) or we will lose all liberty. Ask yourselves, “Does the Candidate you intend to vote for stand for or against these points?” These are the issues God cares about. F. The problem of decision making by non-elected officials (v. 8) But these verses not only show Ahab failing to take stewardship of God’s law, but they also show improper delegation of rule; relinquishment of rule to non-elected, non-governmental officials. He allowed Jezebel to rule without proper oversight. Verse 8 says, So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who were dwelling in the city with Naboth... etc. Letting her do this was abdication of rule. And much of the evil that comes out of Washington is perpetrated by non-elected officials in unconstitutional bureaus and agencies. Praise God that the Republican Platform promises to abolish many of these, but they at the same time commit themselves to never abolish other unconstitutional things such as Medicare and Social Security. The Libertarians and the U. S. Taxpayers Party stand strong on this. The recognize that we must have limited government. Government is so vast and bloated that our elected officials cannot possibly know all that is going on. They relinquish authority to bureaucrats who legislate by grant, contract and regulation, and that must end. If government was as restricted as our Constitution and the Bible says that it is, there would be no need for this. G. Legislating evil (v. 9ff) But what is even more reprehensible than this abdication of power to un-elected bureaucrats is the evil such independent agencies are legislating. And elected officials are also to blame. And don’t think that President Clinton is the only one doing this. Many Republicans are just as guilty. I praise God for faithful Democrats like Larry McDonald. I praise God for many Republicans who want to rule by principle but have been stymied by their own party. But I think it is not right; it is dishonest when the Christian Coalition refuses to expose the liberalism of Mr. Dole. If you want to vote for Mr. Dole, that is your business, but it is reprehensible to paint Dole with a 100% conservative rating as the Christian Coalition has done. This is the man who voted to fund the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the Legal Services Corporation and the National Endowment of the Arts. This is the man who gave China most favored nation status at a time when Christians are being repressed, tortured and even killed by China’s government agents. This is the man who passed the Brady Bill with only three Senators on the floor: Dole, Mitchell and Hatfield (See Congressional Record 11/23/94, p. S12363). I won’t tell you who to vote for, but don’t tell me that Mr. Dole has clean hands. I have had Christians say that the Libertarian Party is the answer, but their party platform says, “We oppose all restrictions on the sale of RU 486... We oppose legislation restricting or subsidizing women's access to abortion or other reproductive health services; this includes requiring consent of the prospective father, waiting periods...” We must tell Harry Browne that the government does after all have the responsibility of protecting life. Nor would the Natural Law Party, headed by John Hagelin be any better. His party platform also would protect abortion and homosexuality. Psalm 94:20 describes all such as “wicked rulers... who frame mischief by statute.” H. The failure of lower magistrates to resist tyranny (vv. 8-11) But it was not just the federal government at fault in this chapter. Verses 8-11 show the cowardice, silence and guilt of lower magistrates. There was an ancient doctrine in Israel of the Interposition of Lower Magistrates in Israel, and that was taken over into early USA philosophy. This doctrine says that a lower magistrate such as a governor or the Unicameral, has the obligation to protect his citizens from the tyranny of a higher government, to nullify unconstitutional federal laws and to even call citizens to arms or secession if necessary. You can think of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, the Hartford Convention of 1814, the South Carolina ordinance of nullification of 1832 and many others.
In verses 8-13 we see the elders and nobles of the city unwilling to do that; unwilling to buck the king; unwilling to do their God-given duty to uphold the Constitution. And Scripture holds lower magistrates as guilty today if they do not seek to stop the unconstitutional nonsense that the federal government has been shoving down our throats. Look for a candidate who believes in the doctrine of the Interposition of Lower Magistrates. There aren’t many out there. I am not going to tell you how to vote, but I am going to tell you to inform yourself and vote based upon the truth. I have the Party Platforms for every party if you are interested. This is a non-partisan sermon which is simply applying the truth. I. Twisting truth (vv. 12-13) And it was the truth that needed to be exposed in verses 12-13. There was lying under oath. I will not preach against anyone based on rumors. But if such perjury in high office is uncovered in the present administration it is the bounden duty to prosecute such government officials no matter which party they may come from including your own. This sermon is not a promotion of Candidates. It is an application of principle to our current situation. I received a letter from a prominent Congressman this past week calling for an exposing of shameless lies in the present administration. If he is even half right in what he says, then we have an evil administration indeed. J. Punishment without due process (vv. 13-14) Take the last issue under Roman numeral I, for example: the right of life. Naboth’s life was taken without due process of law, just as lives of millions of unborn are being taken without due process of law. But notice that Ahab didn’t do it himself, even though he is to blame. In verse 7 Jezebel says, I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite. She did it, not Ahab. When her deed was done, verse 15 says, And it came to pass, when Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, that Jezebel said to Ahab, “Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” Ahab didn’t even know it had been done yet. He could have pleaded ignorance. But though Ahab did not directly do it, he could have stopped the death. And so God instructs Elijah to put the blame on Ahab. Verse 19: You shall speak to him, saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Have you murdered and also taken possession?” What he was able to stop, he was responsible for. Ahab could not hide behind the skirts of his wife, and our politicians may not hide behind the skirts of the Christian Coalition or anybody else who wants to shield them. Certainly Mr. Dole stood strong against the highly publicized partial birth abortion ban. But is he really pro-life when he voted for fetal tissue research (2/18/93)? Is he really pro-life when he voted once again in March of 1996 to fund Planned Parenthood? Is he really pro-life when he voted for the Nazi style FACE bill (11/16/93) which is strictly designed to protect abortion clinics from peaceful protesters? One Christian Coalition leader I spoke with tried to defend Dole saying that he tried to block the bills, but there was no compromising and government would have been stalled. But isn’t life more important than a smoothly running government? The fact is he still voted for them. Is he really pro-life when he has publicly said that he will not have a litmus test on abortion for federal judges? Why does he support exceptions?
For those of you who are voting for Dole because of the federal judges he can appoint, I hope you are right. But you need to keep in mind three facts. First, he has said that he would not have a litmus test for judges. But Scripture gives a litmus test. It says that people are not qualified for the position of judge unless they can judge righteously (Deut. 1:16) and unless they “save the children of the needy” (Psalm 82:2-4). Secondly he has confirmed 182 of the 185 federal judges appointed by the President. It is pointless to think he will be compelled to appoint pro-life judges if he has been willing to confirm pro-death judges. Third, he allows for abortion in cases of rape and incest. We all know that this is an open door in hospitals for any abortion. Just as Ahab received God’s rebuke for failing to act where action was necessary, those who refuse to take a clear cut stand for life lose all reason for support. This is not a partisan sermon. I could support any of the parties in the first 50 years of America’s party system. I have no problems with the Right to Life Party or the US Taxpayers Party. I have no problem with individual candidates in the Republican or Democratic parties who support Biblical law. But it is time to stop compromising on principle and to say “Enough is Enough,” and that we will not stand for Democrats who preach compassion and murder babies, or for Republicans who promise the good life but will not impeach Supreme Court Judges who are robbing America of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. We will not stand for the Natural Law Party which violates God’s most fundamental law of the sanctity of life. We will not stand for a Reform Party which refuses to stand for anything much. We will not stand for the Libertarian Party which promises freedom from government but which refuses to stand for Liberty under God’s law. There is a vast difference between nebulous freedom and principled liberty. Russia under Lenin promised freedom. But a man made freedom is an unprincipled freedom which can mean one man’s tyranny over another. And the Libertarian Party has shown themselves capable of exactly that with their Platform on Abortion. Only as our nation once again declares itself to be under the law of the Bible will we have liberty. Pray for our country. I am convinced America is in more jeopardy today than it was in 1776, because now it is not just a foreign power that is our enemy. God has become the enemy of America. And the only remedy is bold preaching which results in the sackcloth and ashes that Ahab wore. May God grant this sermon such success, that our country may be spared from judgment. Amen.


  1. The parties are listed here by size and/or the number of votes for a presidential candidate: Democratic Party, Republican Party, Libertarian Party, Vermont Progressive Party, Independence Party of New York, Reform Party, Green Party, Conservative Party of New York State, Constitution Party, Conservative Party of New York Stat, Constitution Part, Working Families Part, Party for Socialism and Liberatio, Peace and Freedom Part, Women's Equality Part, American Delta Part, Legal Marijuana Now Part, Socialist Workers Part, American Solidarity Part, Prohibition Part, Workers World Part, Socialist Party US, Natural Law Part, Socialist Equality Part, Liberty Union Part, Transhumanist Part, Christian Liberty Part, Alliance Part, American Freedom Part, American Independent Part, Citizens Party of the United State, Freedom Socialist Part, Humane Part, Justice Part, Socialist Actio, Socialist Alternativ, United States Marijuana Part, United States Pirate Part, Alaskan Independence Part, Independent Party of Delawar, Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Part, Liberal Party of New Yor, Rent Is Too Damn High Part, Serve America Movemen, Charter Part, Independent Party of Orego, Oregon Progressive Part, Socialist Party of Orego, Sovereign Union Movemen, Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico Part, Working People's Party of Puerto Ric, Moderate Party of Rhode Islan, United Citizens Part, United Utah Part, Independent Citizens Movemen, Progressive Dan, Unity Part, Independent Greens of Virgini, Working Class Part, Approval Voting Part, Aloha ʻĀina Party.


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