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DEVOTIONAL: Righteousness Exalts A Nation

Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people.

–Proverbs 14:34 (NASB)

Quick quiz. You’ve probably heard the phrase “separation of Church and State.” Is that text in:

A. The US Constitution

B. The US Declaration of Independence

C. Both A and B

Actually it’s a trick question, because the answer is: neither.

In fact, the phrase comes from a letter that President Thomas Jefferson of Virginia wrote to the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptist Association in 1802 to answer a letter from them written in October 1801. The fact that the Bill of Rights included “Freedom of Religion” in the First Amendment alarmed the Baptists. They were concerned, if the government could claim to protect religious liberties, the state might some day take those rights away too.

So, to allay their fears, Jefferson wrote his letter with those now-famous words, “thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” To understand the context of the letter and its timing, Jefferson meant, the government has no right to interfere in the affairs of the church.

However, in what has become a greatly misunderstood and wrongly-explained idea, many believe it means “religion has no place in public life, and the things of God have no space in the public square.” However, when one studies the times and lives of the American Founders, we realize they had no such intention.

July 4th is a time to celebrate America and its freedoms. In fact, July 4th, 2026 will be the United States’ 250th anniversary. What did some of our nation’s founders say about the proper role of faith and government?

“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.”

— George Washington, First US President

“Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God … What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.”

–John Adams, Second US President

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

–John Adams

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever…”

–Thomas Jefferson, Third US President, and Founder of University of Virginia

“Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. … Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us.”

— John Hancock, First Signer of the Declaration of Independence

“Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshipped.”

–Benjamin Franklin, Signer of Declaration of Independence and Constitution

Although the Founders all had somewhat different views as to the specific interactions of religion and government, the overall idea was, when people have a true religion, it gives them courage, self-control, and a moral code. Thus, they can largely govern themselves. In contrast, without self-control and social cohesion, people can’t rule themselves, a tyrant will step in, and liberty will die.

Virginia Patriot and Governor Patrick Henry put it this way: “It is when a people forget God, that tyrants forge their chains.”

What can you do to “let freedom ring”? Remember God and seek to obey His precepts.

S.D.G./S.G.D.

 

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