California Farmer 236:10 (May 20, 1972), p. 27.
A very thoughtful young man asked me recently, “Is it wrong to purchase goods made by slave labor in communist countries?” This is a very important question, and it raised basic issues which need to be understood.
On no scriptural basis can we condemn the purchase of goods made in communist countries as immoral. There is no ground anywhere in Scripture for such a moral judgment. Many of the products marketed in Jerusalem in Biblical days came from Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and other enemy countries where very often slave labor was used, but there is never any condemnation of goods made by an enemy or by slave labor.
We have no Biblical ground for making our country and its interests the test of faith and morals. To do so is in fact to sin seriously and grievously. Many people do get very angry at the idea of communist goods being sold in America, and they do insist that their purchase is immoral, but they cannot do so on Biblical grounds. These same people think nothing of taking the name of the Lord in vain, bearing false witness, or committing adultery or fornication (or associating with people who do). Obviously, they have another standard than a Biblical one.
However, while we cannot say that it is morally wrong to buy communist goods, neither can we insist that there is a moral wrong in refusing to do so. The question is one of personal choice and individual freedom. I myself will not buy such goods, but I cannot bind the conscience of other men by my private judgment. I cannot say that my course is a more moral one than theirs, nor a wiser one. It represents a personal judgment, a very strong one perhaps, and one that I may feel intensely about, but this is between God and me. Where God’s Word is silent, I must be silent. Man is not God. No man has the moral right to impose his private judgments on others. Only the Word of God can bind the conscience of man.
If I concede that a strong opinion by myself and others can bind men’s consciences where God is silent, then I must logically concede that the state or church can bind my conscience where God has not spoken. This I cannot do.
The situation of the peoples in communist countries is a very hard one. They are in effect all slaves, in that an anti-God social order assumes the role of God and orders men and society in contempt and violation of God’s Word. If I take a similar course, and bind a man’s conscience where God is silent, I have taken the same road that Marxism has: I have made man’s word a moral principle. I have then violated God’s first and basic law: “Thou shalt have none other gods before me” (Deut. 5:7).