I ended up with a $20 bill in my hand over the weekend—not for long, I assure you. But for a change, I was still enough long enough to really look at the bill. The way I was holding it the words “In God We Trust” loomed large. It was almost as if I had never seen them before. They fairly leaped off the bill.
I paused and pondered. “In God We Trust.” For a few moments I allowed myself to be transported to 1776. Did the founders of this great country really trust in God? Who did they look to for direction in a time of great adversity, a time of the heavy hand of government taking away their individual freedoms and their ability to self-determine? We don’t have to look much beyond the words of the Declaration of Independence for a reasonable answer.
Fifty-six different men signed this document. Men from all walks of life, representing the diversity of the various colonies. They knew what they were doing. The Declaration of Independence represented the sentiments of all of those who took the quill, dipped it in the ink well and with their signature pledged to one another, their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
While written relatively quickly, the Declaration of Independence was not hastily or casually considered. Records show that some 86 changes were made including the insertion of three complete paragraphs, before the final vote on the document on July 4th. The deliberations and the number of and types of changes tell me that they were extremely careful about the wording.
In the opening paragraph of this incredible document, the signers make a bold statement regarding the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” with the word God capitalized. For those men, there was no doubt as to which god they were referring. This was God Almighty, the Creator God.
The second paragraph has that phenomenal declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Again, there was universal agreement among the signers that the Creator was the same as “Nature’s God.”
In the concluding paragraph, the colonists through their elected representatives to Congress, boldly declare their decision: “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown…”
Strong words. Frightening words. But I note that their trust was not in themselves, individually or collectively. Rather their trust and their appeal was to the “Supreme Judge of the world” to God Almighty. In those days, no one asked, “Who were they talking about using that phrase?” Everyone knew. It was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
For those 56 men who risked everything signing this document, “In God We Trust” was not a nice-sounding national motto showing up on paper currency. It was a rock solid belief. It was direction in the midst of oppressive circumstances. It was the light of hope in the midst of the darkness of tyranny.
How the times have changed. One of the most profound, world-changing documents ever penned referred 3 specific times to God. Today, some 238 years later, we seriously entertain abolishing the motto, removing it from coins, taking out “one nation under God” from the pledge and completely eliminating God from our culture and government.
I assert that such actions would be absolutely unthinkable to those who risked everything so that you and I could, as their posterity, live even today in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” So what does “In God We Trust” mean to you as you prepare to celebrate July 4th with friends and family? Is it just a nice motto or is it a bedrock belief lived out every day?