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Human Rights

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It is assumed that ‘human rights’ should be high on the agenda of all Christians. They are also top priority for humanistic, secular agencies. But, do we have ‘human rights’? We will look at this subject only briefly. Therefore, it does not pretend to be exhaustive or definitive; it is an indication or skeleton-model, and nothing more.

Firstly, let us look at the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which usually forms the foundation for most human rights debates.

U.N. Declaration of Human Rights

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights contains eight main headings or expectations. These are the most basic ‘rights’ expected for and by all human beings, according to humanistic theory (bearing in mind that the UN is fully Marxist):

  1. The right to life, liberty and security

  2. The right to education

  3. Freedom from torture, cruel treatment or punishment

  4. Freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention or exile

  5. The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty

  6. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

  7. The right to work, rest and leisure

  8. The right to a living standard adequate for enjoying health

Can Christians uphold every one of these ‘rights’? As always, scripture is our only sure guide. It is my opinion that Christians can Biblically uphold rights 3, 4 and 5 without any problem. Let us look at the other supposed ‘rights’ of Man, before we examine what God says in His word.

Right 1 - The right to life, liberty and security

The right to life, liberty and security sounds fine. But, can a murderer, for example, expect the same right to life as one who has not murdered? It seems so, for many murderers, even the most callous and most despicable, seem to warrant ‘life’ imprisonment rather than the loss of his own life.

Thus it is that we have a twist in this ‘right’, where someone who removes the right of another to life, is himself given the same right that he has destroyed in his victim. Hence, the loss of the death penalty in many countries, a loss effected without intellectual or moral truth.

It is also what is behind the ‘right to liberty’ even for killers and those who wreak mayhem in society. It is what causes all kinds of criminals to be ‘punished’ in almost hotel-like luxury, often at a level that exceeds their former lifestyle. And criminals now expect the same security as anyone else, even though they hold society to ransom and create fear and anxiety. The emphasis is not on punishment but on ‘rehabilitation’.

Gross genocidal criminals, such as General Pinochet of late 20th century infamy, and Saddam Hussein, were allowed ‘liberty’, even though they denied it to countless others, who they murdered. Even in human terms, the outworking of these ‘rights’ is absurd and actually penalise those who are law-abiding and sensitive to the notion of non-murder to get what we want.

Children in schools who hold teachers and others to ransom by being violent and abusive are given the same ‘rights’ as their fellows, leading to sub-standard education for the majority and an atmosphere of bullying that often has ended in the suicides of youngsters unable to cope with constant attacks. So, why should criminals and anti-social elements have the same security as does the rest of society?

Right 2 - The right to education

The right to education? Why? An education should be offered to all who appreciate it. As one who left teaching in schools because of the often violent and depressing hold wielded by young thugs, I can say that many children who wish to learn are held back by these thugs and by children whose only reason for attending school is to ‘have fun’ illegally or anti-socially. Any attempt to discipline them brings irate and violent parents around, who think nothing of swearing profanely at teachers and even hitting them.

Much time is wasted by teachers on these thugs. Frankly, it is not the task of a teacher to give a pupil lessons in how to behave or how to be civil. That is up to the parent. Any pupil who brings unrest or violence to a class should be kicked out, summarily!

It is said that if that is done, pupils will run amok in the towns and elsewhere. That is where a proper upbringing and regard for the law must be enforced amongst parents. Anyone who steps over the mark should then face the courts... and that is why we need tough and instant reactions from judges and the police. There is much to be said for the zero-tolerance attitude of, say, the Singapore police.

I have also taught teenagers who attend colleges of further education. Many of these, too, do not wish to be there, and though not as unruly as school pupils, they can nevertheless make things very uncomfortable for teachers, and impart an ethos of disregard to the others. Money is thus wasted throughout the education system on thugs and insolent youngsters who have no intention of learning. These youngsters have no ‘right’ to their education, when their aim is to oppose and attack. And, anyway, education is not a ‘right’ – take it away and no-one dies!

And if some of these thugs and wasters end up in young offenders units or prisons, they are offered unlimited access to educational courses – opportunities that are not on offer for hard working and law-abiding members of society. In some cases these courses have turned the criminal mind around and the one-time criminals ‘make good’. But, this is no excuse to make such opportunities easy, or to give them as a matter of ‘right’. Rights have to be earned, not lavished on those who despise society and its laws.

Right 6 Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Do we really have the ‘right’ to freedom of thought, conscience and religion? Think about it. Most people’s thoughts are conditioned by their peers, who expect certain conformity of thought. This is especially so in ‘closed’ societies, such as Christian churches, where the thoughts of each member are ruled by what pastors, ‘important’ members and denominational leaders think.

That is how we arrive at the conformity found amongst, say, Baptists or Congregationalists. Each denomination, and even each independent local church, has its often unspoken ‘rules’ of thought, plus its ‘official’ rules. And not everything is supported by scripture.

In this way, what we call an act or thought of ‘conscience’, is, really, an act or thought conditioned by those around us! Men and women rarely think and act according to their own God-given conscience, because their regard is more toward their peers than toward God.

Also, thoughts cannot be known unless they are put into action. Once we talk or act, others might reasonably assume that what we say and do are the product of our thoughts. But, this is not usually the case – they are really the product of what others expect us to say and do.

Right 6 is only a ‘right’ in human eyes, for no man or woman has the ‘right’ from God to think, or do, or have a religion, that opposes Him and His word. Rather, such ‘right’ is an human invention, and is a temporal allowance made by God. In eternal terms, this right can lead a man to hell and God’s wrath for ever. This ‘right’, in real terms, allows any man to do whatever he wishes to do, according to his conscience or religion. The trouble is, what one man believes is ‘right’ can be wrong in the eyes of other men and God. Conscience – the faculty for knowing right from wrong – is bound to be deficient and twisted if the person is not saved, because, without God, what is right or wrong depends on one’s perspective at the time.

The ‘freedom’ of thought for a Christian is bound by the freedom set by God, so it is not the freedom of unsaved people. The conscience of a saved person is led and tempered by the Holy Spirit, and not by earthly desire, ideas or theories. And as for religion – only the ‘true religion’ of Jesus Christ is acceptable to God.

In earthly terms, then, we may allow the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as an evil inherent in the unsaved man. The problem arises when we allow freedom of conscience, for that is how nearly all Christian or Biblically-based laws have been cast aside, in favour of humanistic, sinful ones.

The unsaved have an earthly ‘freedom’ (instigated by their own sinful minds and hearts, not by God) to think, act and worship as they wish. However, this is God’s prerogative and His patience, both of which will, on the Day of Judgement, cease to allow such sins to continue unpunished.

Right 7 The right to work, rest and leisure

Right 7 is rather like Right 2, for these are very subjective ‘rights’. Right 8 is of similar stature. Between them, they rely more on current opportunities and technological advance, than on any deep and meaningful truth. As a Christian, I see no ’right’ to work, but I do see a responsibility to work. As for rest – yes, there is a need to rest, but to speak of a ‘right’ to rest is very esoteric and flimsy.

A ‘right’ to leisure is even more flimsy. What is meant by ‘leisure’ if it does not mean ‘rest’? ‘Leisure’ can mean almost anything that a man wishes to do other than sleep and sit down! In many instances ‘leisure’ can mean acting out sin.

Most Christians take holidays and enjoy visiting other lands, for example. I see nothing sinful in that, because it is merely an extension of his time of rest. But, if the Christian becomes drunk on his holidays, then we are talking about a perversion of his time of rest and it is sin. We also have a simple fact – that many people cannot afford a time of leisure. They can rest, but cannot afford to pay for leisure times.

I suppose ‘rest’ can be defined as a period between times of work, whereas ‘leisure’ can be defined as an activity we do in that rest period. Rest is, in itself, necessary, healthy and neutral. But ‘leisure’ may, or may not, be in accord with God’s will. Another point – a large number of folk do not wish to work, when welfare payments are enough to give them what they want. So, why should these indolent people have a ‘right’ to leisure, or even rest?

Right 8 -The right to a living standard adequate for enjoying health

A similar retort can be made for this ‘right’. What gives a lazy, work-shy person the ‘right’ to have what others have? And, what is meant by a ‘living standard adequate for enjoying health’? My family and I lived in real poverty for thirty years. At times we had no food, no electricity, no gas and no coal. Yet, overall, we were relatively healthy.

Others in the same position might smoke heavily, depleting an already very small income, drink, and generally waste their money. In which way are taxpayers expected to sustain such a lifestyle? How much of their taxes is ‘sufficient’ to give the indolent or the wasteful an ‘adequate’ lifestyle?

If such folk, through waste and the pursuit of unhealthy habits, become ill, are we supposed to increase our support to counter the effects? That is what happens when someone smokes heavily and is admitted to hospital for a smoking-related condition. The same goes for heavy drinkers, those who take drugs, and others who deliberately put their own lives at risk (including homosexuals).

I have a personal problem, too, with giving to those who appear on our streets. Despite many arguments put out by liberal thinkers, many young folk (and some older ones) are on the streets because they despise authority and the need to work. They openly state that they will not work, because they can earn more by begging or by living off the State. But, they continue to accept help from the State when sick and demand any and all benefits they might obtain because of the laxity in the law (though those who want to work and are unable to find any, get less!).

Why should the rest of the world supply a living standard that they refuse to work for themselves? Of course, the same can be said of anyone from any income level – stupid habits and laziness are not just the province of the poor!

We can see from the few examples and arguments above, that the issue of human rights is not so clear. Even the unsaved might agree on many of the points raised, so why do we all support them as though they were inalienable rights from an absolute source? If they are not direct from God’s word, they cannot be from an absolute source, but are the invention of men. Now, let us see what God says about the issues above.

God and Human Rights

Now we come to the test of what we claim – what does God say? Any talk or debate about ‘human rights’ must stand or fall on what God tells us. If a right does not exist in scripture, then Christians may not legitimately allow such a right. Or, if such a right is allowed by human law, it does not mean that Christians have to accept it.

Right to Life?

“And the LORD God formed man (of) the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7)

This is the starting point for us. God created us and it is He Who makes us alive. It is He who literally puts the breath of life into us. Therefore, only He truly has ‘rights’. We cannot control this – if God decides a person is to die at birth, or before, then nothing we can do will prevent that. So, if we cannot control this, how can we insist on ‘rights’ by our own will and desire?

What about sustaining a life of liberty and security? Well, that is not really what God tells us. We have eternal security and life in Jesus Christ, but the same cannot be said about our life on earth!

“And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, thou shalt not eat of it: cursed (is) the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat (of) it all the days of thy life; the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground...for dust thou (art) and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

This tells us that earning a living will be tough and that we cannot expect an easy time. Any man who earns a high wage or who has an easy time, should thank God for His mercy and grace, and he ought to use his time and money very wisely, for God expects that man to assist others with his provision.

And what of liberty, especially for those who have done wrong? Generally, in scripture, we find that those who steal, for example, are not put in prison, but must make restitution. This is an excellent principle, for why should a criminal get away with a few years in prison, only to come out to enjoy the fruits of his sinful labours? In scripture, though, the man who kills gratuitously (first degree murder) must be put to death.

“Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, whish (is) guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.” (Numbers 35:31)

No liberty is extended to a first-degree murderer! No security! Just the death penalty. Yet, today, many countries imprison and give earthly security to murderers. Some are given opportunities not available to anyone else. One high-profile UK killer and gang leader spent his time in prison earning a degree in sociology and when he came out of prison he found a job as a university lecturer. What is wrong with that? Well, I remember my own journey through college – I had immense difficulty obtaining grants, which were not enough to live on. So I had to work very hard at a labouring job on my days off, at a time when I suffered great pain from a disorder of the joints. I was unable to go on to my honours year because I had run out of grant. And, after that, I was unable to go on to a doctorate because I could not afford it. (2011 note: I eventually earned a higher wage and paid for further education to PhD level, but was then middle-aged).

Yet our criminal graduate only had to attend his lectures; he had no problem of finding rent or mortgage, did not have to worry about paying fees or any other expenses, and did not have to work in order to survive. So, he had greater liberty and security than I did, though he was a criminal and I was law-abiding! God tells us that the condition we must comply with to receive His blessings, is our obedience.

“And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them.” (Deuteronomy 17:19)

“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)

The condition for spiritual life, liberty, and security, is obedience to Him. This obedience means that we believe Him and act accordingly. If we do not, then we have no life, liberty or security. Thus, no matter what the United Nations says, their grand Declaration can only apply to people whilst on this earth, and has no heavenly value.

“And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts” (Psalm 119:45)

“...the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)

We can see from these texts that liberty is the product of obedience to God’s word. The opposite is described as the ‘bondage of corruption’. Many today are under this bondage, so how can they possibly understand or receive true life, liberty and security? That is why we are warned never again to allow ourselves to come under the spirit of bondage (e.g. Galatians 2:4 and 5:1).

The unsaved, however, have no option but to be enslaved to evil and to obey their father, Satan, who ensures that their freedom and security are not made known in their lives. Really, the United Nations is demanding something it cannot deliver, for its members are also corrupt and have no freedom (as in 2 Peter 2:19).

Right to Education?

All that we wish to say is covered by the proviso set by God. That is, to obey and receive the promises of life, liberty and security, we must first be saved and must obey. The only education worth having is the knowledge of God... which we receive when we obey.

“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Peter 1:2)

“...and is renewed in knowledge...” (Colossians 3:10)

We can only be renewed through knowledge of Him. Only knowledge of Him and His commands is necessary for life, both spiritual and temporal. All other knowledge is earthly and restricted to out time on this earth. So, even if men obtain the best education offered by this earth’s masters, it will stand them no stead before God, if they are unsaved. So, what worth is education to those who are unsaved? There is no value!

Freedom of Thought, Rest and Leisure?

“Their inward thought (is, that) their houses (shall continue) for ever, (and) their dwelling places to all generations; they call (their) lands after their own names... man... is like the beasts (that) perish.” (Psalm 49:11,12)

Men love the sound of their own voices and love to gain pre-eminence by declaring their own thoughts. They think that they might enjoy the fruits of their labours, done without God. They truly believe that their name, and that of their family, will perpetuate. But, just as with brute animals, all will come to nothing.

Any man who is not saved works for his own worth and benefit. God says that such will perish. So, why fight for the thoughts of the ungodly to flourish? “The thought of foolishness is (sin): and the scorner (is) an abomination to men.” (Proverbs 24:9). “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus...”(Acts 26:9).

Thoughts that are contrary to the thoughts and Name of Jesus have no worth. So, how can anyone uphold the freedom of thought that acts against God? Christians cannot uphold a ‘right’ to thought that is sinful. We may say that all men may speak as they wish (for we cannot stop them doing so anyway), but we cannot stand by their claim to have a ‘right’ to think contrary to what God commands and says.

The principle of rest is found in scripture, even for those who are unsaved. This especially applies to resting on the seventh day:

“Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest...” (Exodus 23:12)

Rest always follows work, not indolence. After all, how can a man ‘rest’ if he has done no work? Even God worked before He rested! It is a sad reflection on society that those who wish not to work demand ‘rest’ from the state, and payment for it!

Very little is said about leisure in scripture, but it is referred to as a bonus, not a right. Indeed, leisure is mentioned only once, in a text that defines ‘leisure’ as having the opportunity to do something:

“And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.” (Mark 6:31)

Note here the link with ‘rest’? First we work, then we rest on the seventh day – modern rest periods of more than one day were alien to our forefathers! Leisure is to have the time to do something. Today, ‘leisure’ comes on our days off. In scripture ‘leisure’ is having time to do something, even during our work periods. Thus, the idea that leisure is apart from rest, is not found in scripture.

Standard of Living and Health?

What we call our ‘standard of living’ might well be called, in scripture, ‘good things’. There can be nothing clearer in scripture than the teaching that all good things come from God.

“And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall (give you)... great and goodly cities, which thou buildeth not, And houses full of all good (things), which thou filledst not...(etc)” (Deuteronomy 6:10, 11)

He gives us good things (standard of living) when we do nothing to deserve or gain them. These ‘good things’ are far better than those things we obtain by human hard work. In many instances the ‘good things’ for a Christian might bear no relation whatever to a ‘good standard of living’, but are ‘good’ because they are from the hand of God, for our spiritual welfare. Indeed, we are to seek spiritual things first, before God will give us any other kinds of good things.

“Your iniquities have turned away these (things), and your sins have withholden good (things) from you.” (Jeremiah 5:25)

God, then, does not give us a good standard of living if we disobey. However, it is also true that He gives a good standard of living to evil doers! So, what is the difference? Well, when He allows evil doers to gain in this world, it is a sign of Him giving them over to their lusts for power and money. They are gifts of their own making, and God lets them get away with them because they are a stumblingblock to their souls. As they get richer and have more, so their hearts grow harder and harder.

By contrast, the good things given to a Believer are his by grace and mercy. God decides that such a man will receive good things for a reason – to benefit not only himself, but also those in the Church of Jesus Christ. To such a man, such gifts are not for his own benefit alone and God gives them according to His own pleasure.

Not all Christians are given these outward gifts, and no Christian should think they are bereft of His grace if they do not receive them, for God’s gifts are given with the benefit of the individual in mind, not to his detriment. That is, if a Christian does not receive what is generally considered to be a ‘good standard of living’ then it can only be because God does not think it is beneficial to him at that time. However, He will give him other benefits of equal spiritual worth. All of God’s gifts are reflective of spiritual worth, not material worth.

So, no Christian has a ‘right’ to a particular level of income or living standard, for God will give him whatever is useful to him. Unsaved men have no right whatever to anything from God and He certainly has no interest in giving good things to those who oppose Him. Is it coincidence that the poorest nations on earth are also those that have rejected His Name and salvation? I do not think so. In which case, why raise their standard of living with public funds, when they reject God? Why use Christian funds to improve their lives, when they hate God?

Health, too, is in the hands of God. Bad health is ultimately the consequence of Adam’s sin, even if it is not the consequence of sin in our own lives. It is part of the general deterioration of worldly things, including our bodies. Very few Christians escape poor health at some time in their lives. However, we ought not expect God to give us good health, or the means to achieve it, if we directly and deliberately live a life that contradicts good health. This is because such a lifestyle brings down the habitat of the Holy Spirit, the temple of our bodies. Men who reject God may expect nothing by way of benefits or health, and have no automatic right to such.

We can see from the above that we have very few ‘rights’ from God. The only thing we have by right, is the punishment in hell for our sins! But, God removes this, in Jesus Christ. What is left is our need to obey Him. God does not speak of our rights, except in Jesus, who said that those whom He saves are forever His, by right. But, even this right is His! So, do we really have any rights? I do not think so. God is our Creator and it is He who has all the rights, not us!

When, then, you think about ‘human rights’, please think about the consequences of your thinking and actions on their behalf. Search scripture and discover that we have no rights, only obligations and responsibilities before Almighty God.

(2011 note: We now have homosexual rights. These are godless and without merit. They cannot and do not have any rights, when what they do is contrary to God’s word and morality. God says they do what is an ‘abomination’, which makes then ‘reprobate’. God will never give ‘rights’ to people who hate Him or who despise His commands).

© March 2001

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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
United Kingdom