I’ve heard a story of a grandfather who gave his granddaughter an old, dusty car that had been in his barn for years. She was appreciative but didn’t really need a car, and she certainly wasn’t interested in the work of trying to restore the car, so she thought she would sell it. Someone took a very quick look at it and told her it was old, outdated, and ugly. He offered to take it off her hands for $500. However, when she mentioned the offer to her grandfather, he recommended she first have it appraised. Appraised? It had been in the barn as long as she could remember – was it really anything worth even spending money for an appraisal? After some thought, she took her grandfather’s advice and had the car appraised. It was an extremely rare model and even in its current condition, was worth well over $250,000! She was floored. She had no idea! She returned to her grandfather and thanked him profusely for the enormous gift.
We are being lied to
In today’s world, we are being told lies about our Constitution every day. There are so many all around us who tell us our Constitution is old, ugly, and outdated – just like the young lady’s car in our story above. Our Constitution has been under attack and is in need of some work to preserve or restore it. People speak of our Constitution as if we need to just throw it out and get something newer, as if it is old and broken down and in hopelessly poor condition. The people who tell us these things are like the crook who offered to buy the young lady’s car for $500. Upon closer examination, like the car in the story, we find out it is worth far more than we ever imagined.
Principles of Limited Government
Our Constitution is based upon the ideas found in our Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, and we have been endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. No other government in history was built upon these great principles. These principles recognized that rights come from God and the people delegate specific powers – and nothing more – to government. This idea was developed and grew in the hearts of Godly men over the centuries. If you have never seen it, we recommend you watch a video by KrisAnne Hall called Genealogy of the Constitution. She does a great job of teaching the history of events for hundreds of years that led up to our nation’s Constitution in 1787. Watching Mrs. Hall’s video is a great way to celebrate Constitution Day.
The truths of the principles of limited government are great truths, and they are key to being a free people. These truths have been suppressed in recent years by those who hate limited government and would rather make the United States like other countries. However, we were never made to be like other countries. We were made to be exceptional – and that’s what we have been. It was never the plan to make us like the rest of the world. Thomas Jefferson had this to say about comparing our form of government with those in Europe,
“The comparisons of our governments with those of Europe are like a comparison of heaven and hell.”– Thomas Jefferson
Power of the Government Limited to the Enumerated Powers
One of the principles I believe is critically important is the idea of enumerated powers. We discuss this in depth in other articles like What are “Enumerated Powers”?, and in fact, we have an entire category with several articles that discuss this idea. This idea is covered in those articles, but for our purposes here I will just say that under other forms of government, the government can involve itself in any area. In our American form of limited government, we limit government jurisdiction to only those areas specifically delegated. In other words, if government is going to do something, there needs to be specific authorization for it in the Constitution. They can only do the items specifically listed. Our current President speaks much about Congress “codifying” unconstitutional principles into law. But all of our government – even Congress – is limited to the enumerated powers listed in the Constitution.
Write it Down
Think of it like this… open the Constitution to Article 1, Section1. Before you start reading, read it from the perspective that the government has no power whatsoever. When you get to Article 1, Section 8, you will get to a short list of things where Congress may act. Jot those down as you go. Keep going through the other articles, jot down things mentioned that Congress may do. Then make a new list for the Executive Branch – list only the things they are specifically authorized to do. Then do the same with the Judicial Branch. When you complete this process with all 7 Articles of the Constitution plus the 27 Amendments, for each of the 3 branches, you will have a complete list of areas where government may legitimately act. Anything else is off limits. By the way, as you complete this process, you will also find specific prohibitions where government may not legislate. Those are important limitations to note as well.
Avoid the Lie
Oftentimes, the media, and even those in office, will pretend that there is no limit to government power and they may do anything they can get the votes in Congress to pass. This type of thinking leads us into all kinds of unconstitutional things. Our government is designed to be limited. They can do nothing without specific authorization in the Constitution. The 10th Amendment to the Constitution says it like this, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Constitutional Rights of the People?
In beautiful contrast to the powers of government being strictly limited to the enumerated powers as found in the Constitution, the rights of the people are quite the opposite. The founders wanted it to be very clear that the people have many rights and those rights do not have to be specifically listed in the Constitution to be valid and held by the people. We often talk about our “Constitutional rights”, or maybe we choose specific rights, especially those protected by a specific amendment, and mention, for example, our “First Amendment rights”, or “Second Amendment rights”. The rights protected in the amendments certainly are our rights, and so it is fine for us to reference them as such, but, it is VERY important for us to understand that those rights are not granted to us by the Constitution, or those amendments. Our rights come to us from God, and the purpose of government is to secure and protect those rights. So, the purpose of the Bill of Rights, for example, is not to grant rights to Americans, but to specifically limit government from infringing upon rights already given to the people by God. Therefore, something does not have to be listed in the Constitution to be a legitimate right. The Ninth Amendment to the Constitution puts it this way, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
God given rights
So, if we did the same “write it down” exercise we did with government powers, we would not start with a blank page – we would start with a page filled with lots and lots of rights that God gives to people. They do not have to be specifically listed to be valid. Our rights come to us from God and the purpose of government is to secure, or protect, those rights, as described in our Declaration of Independence.
Difference in Government Powers vs People’s Rights
Many times, we tend to think that government may do anything they want unless the Constitution specifically says they can’t. In fact, many times, we pretend government can do things even though they are specifically prohibited from doing them in the Constitution (for example the Second Amendment). At the same time, we tend to think that in order for the people to have a specific right, it has to be listed specifically in the Constitution. Our Founders designed this to be exactly the opposite! Government powers are limited specifically to what is found in the Constitution. The rights of the people are not. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments clearly illustrate that beautiful contrast.
Celebrate the Constitution
In honor of the Constitution, let’s take this dusty old car out of the barn. Let’s do the research and once again see the incredible beauty and priceless value we have been given with our Constitution. Let us not listen to the evil advice of those who say our Constitution is old or broken beyond repair. Limited government is worth far more than even an expensive automobile. It is a rare jewel that must be kept, preserved and polished. We need to remember that government powers are specific to those listed in the Constitution, and the rights of the people are not. Don’t allow those who hate us to reverse those ideas! Let us also thank God for the gift we have been given and ask Him what He would have us to do to be a faithful steward of the citizenship He has blessed us with.