I was talking with a man just the other day about the Fourth of July. He was really excited about it, not because it is the birthday of our nation, but because it is another holiday.
His company does not shut down on that day, but rather asks for volunteers to work the day. They never have trouble getting those volunteers because they offer to pay those who do work on that day double their regular wage. This individual had volunteered to work the day to get two day’s wages for one day’s work!
Why DO we celebrate the Fourth of July? Is it because of the national holiday status, and therefore double the wages? Or is there another, perhaps more significant reason?
The celebration of our nation’s birthday is something we all cherish and appreciate. Some cherish the day for the wages it brings. Others cherish the day for the family picnics, the reunions at the lake, the food, and the fireworks. But is there any other reason to celebrate this day?
In a day and age when our conversations turn more to “exit strategies” than “Declarations of Independence”, more to “filibusters” than “freedom,” perhaps we should review the fact that the price paid by our forefathers was not in any way inexpensive.
On July 4, 1776, the final draft of the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the 13 colonies in the Pennsylvania State House.
The representatives who attached their signatures to the document knew that the cost would be high. The individuals who signed that document paid a great price – every one of them – for their commitment to that cause which we so smugly enjoy today.
The men who committed their signatures to that document during that fateful summer in Philadelphia forfeited their futures, their fortunes, their families for the cause.
We all know about the Thomas Jeffersons, the Benjamin Franklins, and the John Hancocks, who penned their endorsements to the bottom of that document. But there were others, and perhaps none sacrificed so much as New Jersey delegate and signer, Abraham Clark.
He gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. They were captured and sent to the infamous British prison hulk afloat in New York harbor known as the hell ship “Jersey,” where 11,000 American captives were to die.
The younger Clarks were treated with a special brutality because of their father. One was put in solitary and given no food. With the end almost in sight, with the war almost won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for acceding to the British request when they offered him his sons’ lives if he would recant and come out for the King and parliament.
The utter despair in this man’s heart, the anguish in his very soul, must reach out to each one of us down through 200 years with his answer: “No.”
The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history. “And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
We should always remember what they did to gain our nation’s freedom lest we take for granted that precious commodity.
Liberty never comes cheap!
But as precious as that document is, and the freedom and the commitment it represents, the fact is that our lives were never intended to be lived in INDEPENDENCE, but DEPENDENCE – dependence upon God who made us, who has blessed us as a nation and as individuals.
Though not all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were followers of Christ, they all agreed to the principle that we as a nation are dependent upon God for the preservation and protection of our freedoms.
There was never any thought in their minds, modern interpreters of history to the contrary, of leaving God out of their decisions and out of our government.
Only in recent years has the concept of the “separation of church and state” become a constitutionally-debated issue. It was not something that was in the minds of those who signed that document that changed our lives so drastically.
The nation whose God is the Lord is a nation that will receive and retain the blessing of the Lord. It is the heart of pride which somehow suggests that we as individuals and as a nation can live our lives independent from the One who created us, and who gives us life each and every day.
Pride always goes before a fall. Independence Day may mean double wages for you, but perhaps this year it is time to take stock in your life and reflect on what your independence cost not only the men and women who paved the way for your freedoms, but also and more importantly to the God who sent His only Son so that you could be free from your sin, which so easily entangles you.
How much longer can God truly bless a nation filled with individuals who so openly and so freely express not only their independence from Him, but also their rebellion against Him?
That, my friends, is not freedom; it is indeed slavery – slavery to sin! (Check out Romans 8:15 and Galatians 5:1)
God sent Jesus to truly set us free. Check your heart today and ask God if there is any pride that is encouraging independence from total trust in God.
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at [email protected].