It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. [Psalm 118:8-9 (NLT)]
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. [Francis Scott Key]
In one of those viral, supposedly true but probably not, inspirational stories, a wealthy man is said to bend over and pick up any and every coin he spots on the ground. When asked why he bothered to collect mere pennies, the man explained he didn’t pick up coins for their monetary value; he picked them up for the value of the message on them: “In God We Trust.” He believed the penny’s words to be God’s way of reminding him to trust the Lord rather than his wealth and considered every coin he found an opportunity to acknowledge his faith in prayer.
Thanks to Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase’s directive that, “The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins,” the phrase “In God We Trust” first appeared on a bronze two-cent piece in 1864. Our nation was in the midst of the bloody Civil War and those words were to profess the nation’s faith and trust in God during that turbulent time. The words were inspired by the fourth verse of our national anthem (written in 1814) that claimed “In God is our trust” as our nation’s motto.
In the 1950s, our nation was again embroiled in a war—the Cold War with the Soviet Union. In 1955, President Eisenhower signed a law requiring “In God We Trust” to appear on all U.S. paper and coin currency. The words were to differentiate us from the Soviet Union, a nation that promoted atheism and had passed anti-religion legislation. Unfortunately, there never seems to be a time when our nation is not in turmoil of some kind and we need to be reminded that our trust must be in God today as much as we did back in 1860s and 1950s!
Even though the front (or obverse) side of our nation’s great seal has the words E Pluribus Unum, meaning “Out of many, one,” that is not our nation’s motto. While it rightly reflects our country’s melting pot nature and how thirteen colonies came together to form one nation, “In God we trust,” became our national motto in 1956. Congress reaffirmed it as our motto in 2002, 2006, and again in 2011. The motto, explains historian Frank Lambert, “reclaims this notion that we’re a chosen people and that we were conceived under God and that we flourish under God, and we turn our backs on God at our own peril.” In spite of numerous legal challenges, the courts have upheld its use by saying that, rather than an official endorsement of religion, the motto is “ceremonial Deism.” As used by the Supreme Court, “ceremonial Deism” means that phrases like “In God We Trust” (or “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance) are nominally religious statements and practices deemed to be merely ritual and non-religious through their long customary usage. For a believer, however, there should be nothing nominal or merely ritualistic about trusting God! We must never forget that this one nation exists under God and we must place our trust in Him! We should also remember Lambert’s warning, that “we turn our backs on God at our own peril!”
If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under. [President Ronald Reagan]
He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you. [Psalm 9:8-10 (NLT)]
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