God has given me a love for history. When I was younger I must admit that like many kids I found the subject boring. Today, my library is filled with the words of many dead men. Dead in the flesh, yes, but alive in Christ, present with the Lord of Glory (cf. Phil 1.21-23).
During my undergraduate work I attended Nazarene Bible College (hereafter NBC). I answered the call to ministry as a standing member of the Church of the Nazarene. This is the church were I was primarily raised. I grew up a Wesleyan-Arminian. However, over time my convictions changed. (This history lesson in my life is a case study in how over time God changes the way we think and live in the world around us. Something very vital in our current day and age.)
Renewing My Mind
Paul tells his readers in Romans 12:2—
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (NASB).1
An appropriate question one ought to ask after reading such a verse is “How is my mind to be renewed?”
The answer is found a little earlier in the text:
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”Rom 11:33
The curious asks: “Okay, so God is rich in both wisdom and knowledge…how does that help in the renewing of our minds?”
Go back a little further and you will find this statement by Paul:
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”Rom 10:17
Our faith in God, which is a gift of His wonderful grace, is delivered to us through His Word. Christ Jesus as Lord is the Lord of the Covenants or COVENANT.2 Now to sum up rather quickly, our minds are renewed at the moment we are transformed into an heir with Christ (He as Lord, we as servants). Our faith—the object that we look to and trust in—is developed (by God’s gracious activity) through the hearing of His Word. When Paul is praising God’s wisdom and knowledge, he is referring to in that context of the wonderful gospel (good-news) that God has grafted the nations into His Son like a wild olive shoot. An unnatural but wonderful thing.
The first step…
So the first step in our mind’s being renewed is seen in the saving work of God through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. To have our object of faith changed to Christ, and this demonstrated in a confession of faith and a change of living, marks the journey of being non-conformed to the ways (thinking, speaking and acting) of this world (those whose object of faith is something else).
With me so far? Okay, good.
Knowing the Truth
Thinking along the same vein, I would like to turn your attention to a discussion on truth. Jesus says in John 14:6 (among other things), “I AM…the truth.” What does that mean, He is truth? Can you imagine one of your neighbors saying that to you one day as you are talking about current events. They give their opinion on this issue or that, and when challenged say to you, “I am…the truth.” Meaning that when they speak no falseness touches their lips.
Knowing Truth in John’s Gospel…
Recently, I heard a minister commenting on Jesus’ earlier claim in John 8:32 that “…the truth will make you free.” A lot of people reference this comment by the Lord, but I’m often taken aback at how few understand its meaning. Case in point, the pastor who was teaching a lesson on some Bible app said that this is in reference to Jesus. “He is the truth…if you know Him, then He’ll set you free.”
While I do not deny the assertion that Jesus is the truth—He is!—that is not what John 8:32 is saying. Contextually, Jesus was not merely making a reference to Himself in the form of “If you know Me, then you know truth and you will be saved.” Don’t get me wrong there is an element of truth, but is severely compartmentalized. “Progressive” Christians in some of the mainline denominations will tend to speak in a similar way when they say, “That our faith is not based on the Bible, but on Jesus. Knowing Him personally, the greatest revelation of God, is the only thing you need to be Christian.” Again, not entirely wrong. No doubt about it there are segments of truth here. But what is negated is the means to how one KNOWS Jesus.
If only we would learn to read the flow of thought in Scripture, then maybe so many well-meaning (I am making an assumption here that they are in fact well-meaning) would not commit such egregious errors and mislead others. Jesus says,
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”John 8:31-32
Speaking to those who professed belief in Him, Jesus’ response was that the test of faith would be whether or not they consistently lived (thought, spoke and acted) in accordance with His word. To “abide” is much more than merely acquiring mental knowledge. It is more than memorizing the text. Those things are noble pursuits to be sure, but they do not save you; they don’t free you. The test of whether or not one is a Christian is in how they allow the Bible (God’s Word/Christ’s Word) to shape and mold (conform/renew) their thinking (cf. 2Tim 3.16-17). As Jesus said to the same sort of individuals earlier in John’s Gospel:
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”John 5:39-40
The second step…
So the second part of having one’s mind renewed is after faith has been received through the hearing of the Word, we continue walking in it. As we mature or as our minds are renewed we are able to “appraise” or “discern” all things (1Cor 2.15). How so? Because “…we have the mind of Christ” (1Cor 2.16).
It is due to this fact that as I continued to learn God’s Word I began reading those who have gone before. Over time (about a 2-3 year period) I transitioned from a Wesleyan-Arminian theological bent to one more in line with Reformed theology. Tota Scriptura (all of Scripture) and Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone) became my watch, word and song.
Back at Nazarene Bible College
Though I was warned at NBC to not read the writings of Calvinism (nickname for Reformation Theology), I did so anyway. I would compare what they were saying with their Arminian counterparts with an open Bible in hand. I’m not sure if I ever entered the cage-stage like others speak of, but I do know that overtime those who were my brothers and sisters in Christ abandoned me for my convictions regarding biblical truth.
Original intentions confessed and realized…
Now I must admit that when I first began writing this post, this was not the direction I had planned on going in. What I originally wanted to do was share with you a quote from Richard Wurmbrand. It comes from his book Tortured for Christ. After reading through Foxes Book of Martyrs, I picked Wurmbrand’s book up and began to read it. Well, his writings along with Deidrich Bonhoeffer. Both men Christians that stood in a day an age when tyranny surrounded them.
After reading these works, I thought that my fellow students at NBC would benefit from hearing what they said. We were given an assignment in one of my classes that asked “Where we thought our nation was headed in light of the Christian message.” Referring to these works I said that if we were not careful and diligent we would soon be under the same sort of socialistic/communistic tyranny that these Christians experienced in the past in Europe. I was severely rebuked by the professor of that class publicly. They said that I was historically inaccurate and was making connections that need not be made. When I asked, “Could you give me specifics?” I was met with silence.
I’d rather be wrong…
Unfortunately, I was right in my assessment back in 2007 or 2008 (can’t remember the exact year). In closing, I would like to share with you the words of Richard Wurmbrand’s testimony in light of Stalin’s communistic regime. As you read it, compare these things with what we see going on in our sociopolitical climate and ask yourself, “Are we not falling a similar path?”
“Once the Communists came to power, they skillfully used the means of seduction toward the Church. The language of love and the language of seduction are the same…Jesus told us to discern between the language of seduction and the language of love, and to know the wolves clad in sheepskin from the real sheep. Unfortunately, when the Communists came to power, thousands of priests, pastors, and ministers did not know how to discern between the two voices.
“The Communists convened a congress of all Christian bodies in our Parliament building. There were four thousand priests, pastors, and ministers of all denominations—and these men of God chose Joseph Stalin as honorary president of this congress. At the same time he was president of the World Movement of the Godless and a mass murder of Christians. One after another, bishops and pastors arose and declared that communism and Christianity are fundamentally the same and could coexist. One minister after another said words of praise toward communism and assured the new government of the loyalty of the Church.
“My wife and I were present at this congress. Sabina told me, ‘Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ! They are spitting in His face!’ I said to her, ‘If I do so, you lose your husband.’ She replied, ‘I don’t wish to have a coward as a husband.
“Then I arose and spoke to this congress, praising not the murderer of Christians, but Jesus Christ, stating that our loyalty is due first to Him…Afterward I had to pay for this, but it was worthwhile.”3Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ, 28-29.
Questions and Final musings…
I apologize to my readers for the length of this quote, but I wanted you to get the entire context. Now, if you will allow me, I will ask some pointed questions. What is the difference between Socialism and Communism, are they not sisters? Stalin murdered Christians for their beliefs. He killed them for thoughts, which he viewed as Hate-speech directed toward communist philosophy. Millions died under his watch. What is the difference between him and the party that cries for the blood of our unborn, and threatens Christians for daring to speak against the moral wrongs in our society? Just as Wurmbrand faced the propaganda of the communist machine, are we not seeing the same sort of propaganda machine in corporate Media and Big Tech? Finally, where and when will you take a stand?
Standing rather then kneeling before the pressure of our times requires a renewed mind. A mind instructed, corrected, rebuked and training in the thoughts of God. The sad thing, and it is sad, is that many professed believers’ apparently get their marching orders from the godless culture surrounding them, rather than learning to abide in God’s Word. Clinging to things that have a form of godliness, but in all actuality are not godly at all, is a recipe for persecution, slavery and death.
1Unless otherwise noted the New American Standard Bible, 95’ update (NASB) shall be the English translation of choice in this document.
2All biblical covenants point to the One Covenant that God has established with His people; those that bear His image. Each covenant prior to the one revealed in Matt 26.28 and further explained in the letter to the Hebrews (see chapters 8-10), is being built upon in Scripture. They are all the same covenant foundationally speaking, but they do not reveal the totality of what God’s Covenant accomplishes in history until the unveiling of Jesus Christ, the Son. In short, God does not compartmentalize history or His people in the fashion that Dispensational Theology teaches.
3Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, , 2017), 28-29.
Answering your question “What is the difference between Socialism and Communism, are they not sisters?” these exist on a continuum. Communism is the far end of the continuum. Las a faire capitalism is the other extreme. Neither extreme works. In communism, everything is owned and operated by the state, which gives or takes according to what the state decides is best. In las a faire capitalism, the state doesn’t get involved in the economy beyond coining money and enforcing contracts.
Pretty much everything in the middle can be called “socialism” to one degree or another. We have socialist police and fire departments in almost every place in America. I highly doubt that your fire department or police department is a for-profit company. Our major military branches are not for profit companies. They’re run by the state. It used to be the norm for those to be private enterprises run for profit, though. There were problems with it. When the police are working for a for-profit company, it turns out there’s not much profit in helping the poor retrieve their stolen goods. When fire departments were run for profit, they would literally roll up next to a house that was in fire, check their enrollments, and if it wasn’t enrolled they would simply watch it burn. So if you were struggling, you could lose everything in a fire and it was no one’s job to save you. When militaries were run for profit, it sometimes turns out that big business is paying more than the little guy. So America is already socialist in these areas. And no one wants to go back.
In stark contrast, no one has ever figured out a reliable method of food distribution that doesn’t involve private ownership of the farms and food distribution. Sure, we have food deserts in America, but they’re on average bigger and worse in places where they’ve tried to socialize food production and distribution. It just doesn’t seem to work.
In other areas, it’s a mixed bag and you’ve got to look at the benefits and the drawbacks. You may have noticed that it’s primarily companies in countries with for-profit medical care that have produced treatments and vaccines for COVID. This is a known thing. Innovation is driven by profit. However, on the other side, countries with some kind of socialized health care generally have healthier populations, better access to doctors on average, and spend less per capita on these better results. I had an Economics teacher explain it to me this way: in health care there are three things and you can pick any two. The three things are widely available, innovative, and inexpensive. You can absolutely set things up to be innovative and inexpensive, but you won’t be able to build the network to distribute it without the capitol. You can make it widely available and innovative (like we have in America now) but it will be expensive. You can make it widely available and inexpensive (such as Canada has) but it won’t be innovative. Pick your two.
Our transportation is a mess of private and socialist systems. Our highways, freeways, and county roads are publicly owned. Like fire and police and military, this was not always the case. Roads were once privately owned and maintained. (In this case you have to go back to pre-Roman times, but it happened again after the fall of the Roman Empire in some places also.) But vehicle ownership and maintenance is private. Publicly owned vehicles tend not to be the best solution except in the highest population densities (yet. I suspect this will change with self-driving cars.)
Some resources to get started in really understanding the difference:
Lol. Thanks for the information, although the question was rhetorical. All governmental systems are prone to abuse. Wurmbrand’s concern was that to attempt to marry communism with Jesus Christ and the worldview that is developed from Him (biblically speaking) is a false union. This is likewise true of socialism and it can also be true of capitalism. Any form of government can be corrupted and used as a weapon against the people of the nation living under tyrants. A nations system of governing is only as good as the foundation upon which it stands. The nation that builds the house without the Lord builds it in vain. It is nothing more than a shoddy structure built on sand.
In 1sam 8 we are given an example of what happens when a people reject the Lord God as their cornerstone, they experience governmental overreach. They have positioned over them leaders who are hypocrites seeking to prosper their own name, while attacking those who live righteously (e.g., Saul trying to kill his son Jonathan for eating honey; David for being victorious over Israel’s enemies).
It is true that we now live in a society with a mixed bag approach. Elements of our life lean toward socialism (social security, Medicare, food stamps, education, and our tax system to name just a few).
Having bureaucrats and other “elite” (essential) people deciding what is better for the masses is wrong. Many of the places that civil government puts there nose in is a violation of their particular sphere of authority. Historically the one group that gets shunned, attacked, and forced to go under ground in communist/socialist countries is the Christian Church.
Anyway, I’ve checked out some of your sources and I at least get the gist of where you are coming from. I do have a follow up question though. The NBC news article you linked about the house that burnt down, who was in the right and who was in the wrong? The homeowner who refused to pay the 75$ fee for fire protection or the fire department who refused to come out the night of the fire?
In that case, I think the system was in the wrong. In the system they chose to implement there, everyone made to best decision available to them at the time. If you’re running a for-profit fire service, you have to consider the bottom line. If you’re only going to get paid when there’s a fire, you need to get paid more at every fire. Keeping the subscription fee low depends on only serving those who pay the subscription. One of the things that keeps the subscriptions low is all the subscriptions that never get used. That’s why, in the case of fire, a public option is almost always the better option. If people have to subscribe, there’s always someone that makes that hard decision to put off the subscription either in the hard gamble to put that money towards getting ahead or because they’re making the hard decision between paying for food or the subscription. The more people who pay into it, the cheaper it is per capita. I think the portion of my property tax that goes to fire is only like $15 per year, and the fire department won’t be checking their rolls if/when they pull up outside my house. Plus I’ve been able to call them and just have them monitor the situation (for a small $10 or so additional fee) when the neighbors get a little crazy with their fireworks or I was running a big burn.
In general, my policy is to listen to the experts in a subject that I don’t study extensively. I don’t like it when physicists or biologists stick their noses in my text-criticism or philosophy (because they do it wrong.) Then when I’m dealing in other areas, that inspires me to lack the hubris that would lead me to think I know as much as Mr Clifford about economics or Dr Carroll in physics. I’m incurably curious, and regularly listen to their lectures on their fields, but I only know enough about the subjects to recognize those who are speaking intelligently on them and who isn’t. I can tell that you are very well versed in biblical studies. I recommend more caution when venturing into subjects that you obviously spend less time and energy in. Remember, it is meekness, not pride, that is a fruit of the Spirit. It takes a strong man to say, “I defer to those who know more than me on this,” when it’s inconvenient to them personally. Are you a strong man?
My kids often ask me why I like to use “LOL” in my texts all the time. I’ve explained to them that’s my way of letting the person I’m speaking to know I’m being lighthearted. An unfortunate con to this form of communication is the inability to read human intent through facial expressions, hand motions, and body language. I’m not sure why you thought it was appropriate to accuse me subtly (perhaps not so subtle?) of hubris without speaking a little longer with me?
You ask, “Are you a strong man?” And to be truthful my desire is to be a bit playful—a little tongue in cheek—by asking for you to define strong. I’m physically strong, I’m strong under pressure, I’m a strong competitor, my will and determination have proven strong under great tragedy…so yes, I’m strong. But that’s not what you mean. You want to know if I’m strong enough to admit that I’m wrong. To that I can “yes” to as well. However, I don’t remember claiming to know everything about communism or socialism, but I do know from where they spawned. Karl Marx was not a good man. And though they weren’t that popular in his day, they grew like a little leaven in a measure of dough. Those individuals that later adopted his theories and put them into practice were some evil people. And those under them paid a heavy price. We are told in Scripture that it is God who determines the time and place where we are born. He gives us authority to work, own property, raise a family and influence the culture around us. Christians are to shape culture according to the dictates of Christ on earth as it is in heaven. We who know the Lord, who have been born from above, are the leaven that He has hid in the dough to grow a society set-apart for His glory. Some of the original founders of the nation who knew and believed this message concluded that they ( that we) were to be a city on a hill. That the gospel might go forth, change hearts and transform a land. Historically, this has placed Christians and their worldview in stark opposition with the type of civil governments we have been discussing.
I posed the questions about the fire protection fee and the responses of both parties involved (the one that refused to pay and the other that refused to render service) because I wanted a better idea of where you stop on the issue. The way you answered is probably how the majority of people would answer. I checked before I read your response and those I asked answered like you did. The underlying issue is that we see such aid as “a right.” Whereas I believe the appropriate response might be that it is a privilege. The service (goods) is something that we would think most people would want (fire protection), but some don’t. You used “hardships” as a reason…why? Why not admit that people don’t always spend money the way they should? People make bad choices all the time. Why assume it is “hardship” related? Why couch the scenario in those terms? My assumption is because that is the way we’ve been trained to think. We assume things are “rights” when the are privileges; we assume that when people do stupid things it must be because something bad happened. Rather than admit that all people are sinners and therefore make crappy choices sometimes. Another tendency that we might point to is the victim mentality. It is assumed by the reporters and possibly the people reading it that the person who lost their house to the fire is the victim. In one sense they were, but so was the fire department. We may not like the system they have (my township is volunteer and is funded through donations and sponsors) but they are not at fault when someone refuses to pay for the service. They have to feed their families and take care of those in the community that do support them. If the scenario was truly hardship related, there are other options available. Call the FD before trouble hits. Explain the situation and see if something can be worked out. Ask family and friends to help out. Or and this is where I believe Christians should step in…ask the local Church.
Don’t me wrong I believe we need emergency personnel. I support our police, fire and ems workers, but I’m not a big government kind of guy. But hey like you said “we can’t no everything”
I don’t actually know enough to know if you’re right or wrong. You’re correct, there is a strength in saying “I was wrong.” That’s a related strength that is neither deeper nor more shallow, but not the strength I was referencing.
In 2 Samuel 7, Nathan had to admit that he was wrong. That was difficult. But there was a moment before Nathan had to admit that he was wrong when Nathan was speaking presumptuously. Some of us learn that we previously spoke presumptuously and we were wrong. However, as the old saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day. Speaking presumptuously doesn’t guarantee you’re wrong. I’ve sometimes learned more about a subject and discovered that I was right about my conclusions, but for the wrong reasons. I know little enough about both your conclusions and economics to not know if you’re right or wrong.
One of the mistakes that many people fall into is thinking they have to have an opinion on everything. But what does Paul say? “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?… And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” Would you like economists to start preaching? If yes, then why do we need you? If not, why do you encroach on their area of study? Saying you were wrong could be hard, but I’m not in a place to say if you’re right or wrong. I do recognize an ear that’s trying to see, though. Can you admit that you’re speaking about a subject you don’t have a thorough understanding of and that you are speaking presumptuously?
You are factually incorrect on the origin of socialism, however. Socialism predates Marx. Both Charles Fourier and Robert Owen came before Marx. I don’t know if Fourier was the first. (Did I mention it’s not my subject?) Fascinating that someone who admits that he’s not competent to comment on the subject seems to know more about it than you. Perhaps that’s the Dunning-Kruger effect in action.
I’m not a big fan of the “rights vs privileges” language. The question of what is and is not a right and what is a privilege is never covered in scripture, so I’ll let legislators decide what is and what is not a right and what is and is not a privilege. My question is always, what is the best way to show agape love. And there are definitely cases of the Bible commanding economic distribution and cases of the Bible commanding free market all in the name of agape love.
Joseph worked through the state to collect grain and then distribute the grain. (Genesis 41) The rich are required to leave parts of their fields for the poor to glean. (Leviticus 23) But it also commands fair scales for trade, which implies free exchange. (Leviticus 19:36) Rather than making an idol of economics, I recognize that it’s Love and not the free market that is equated with God. (1 John 4:16)
Are you claiming that hardships don’t happen? I also said that they may have made the gamble to put that money towards trying to advance themselves. Are you saying that no one should ever take a risk, that they should always play it safe?
I find the “they should have asked the church” complaint to be disingenuous. Is your church equipped to fight fires? I know mine isn’t. I work as a treasurer at a church and I know for a fact that there are more people asking for help than there is help to go around. We coordinate with other churches, other nonprofits, and government programs and there’s still not enough help to go around. We still have months when we have to say, “There’s nothing we can do except pray. All the food has been given, all the funds have been spent. We’re sorry.” You presume that they didn’t reach out to their church.
But what does Christ say when asked who sinned to cause one to be born blind? “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:3) Who do you sound more like in this exchange: the apostles, or Christ? And what does Christ say about calamity following sin? “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3-5) I am only aware of one place where we are encouraged to investigate the lives of those seeking help, and that’s for those who are choosing a religious life. (So to speak.) (1 Timothy 3) Never is a field owner told to ask about the decisions of the ones gleaning in their field. Would you say that Ruth shouldn’t have been allowed to glean because she could have chosen to stay in Moab? I’m personally glad that the God of scripture sees things differently.
The language of “big government” is also something I’m not comfortable with. It’s not scriptural language and I’ve never gotten a clear definition of how you define the size of a government that’s consistently applied by either side of that debate. If “smaller government” is better, wouldn’t no government be the best? That would seem to go against the grain of Judges, which ends with the condemnation, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” So that at least implies that some government is better than no government. Past that, I don’t see anything in scripture that gives either a way to measure the size of government or a size that is preferred. David and Solomon seem to have had a “big government” in regards to public works. (Implied with 1 Kings 12: or would you expect them to have a yoke removed from a small government.) Yet the activity that led to the “big government,” namely the building of the Jerusalem Temple, was blessed. In the modern day, when someone says that they don’t like big government and/or taxes, I say I’m not comfortable disbanding the military, police, roads, and fire. Then I get told that those don’t count towards the size of government. Says who? Or on the other side, I say I’m not comfortable disbanding schools, transportation, police, or fire, then I’m told that those don’t count towards the size for them. Seems that everyone just counts the things they want to count in the size of government. It’s only “big” in whatever things the complainer doesn’t want. And I specifically notice that economists don’t generally use “big government” or “small government” language, which further implies to me that it isn’t a thing. In fact, I generally use the “big government” and “small government” language to recognize those who draw their economic theory from the traditions of men rather than either scripture or economists. Those who draw their ideas from scripture will use the language of scripture, those who draw their ideas from the experts will use the language of experts.
Hey man, I hope you had a good day of worship. So, I got your response early in the morning on Sunday, but I was a bit preoccupied with focusing on the material that I was covering that day. I apologize for the delay. Also, I would like to add that you are absolutely right socialism was not founded by Karl Marx. I misspoke, thank you for the correction.
Ironically, Marx was a socialist that mooched off others who had money. Now, his friends may have been the mix bag group of social/capitalist economic beneficiaries that you spoke of, I have no idea. I’m not in the know of every other nations political, economic or social system. Although I never claimed to be.
I appreciate the second comment you made about attempting to match my tone. It is good to know that this discourse is meant to remain civil. Often times I have been on the receiving end of some nasty individuals that claim that name of Christ. So, I want to thank you for your civility.
In your first response (the more lengthy of the two, just to avoid confusion) you hit on a variety of things that need to be addressed. Some of them, I would venture to say, need a few posts to deal with. I will try to deal with them as concisely as possible. Afterwards, if you prefer, you can state either your understanding, confusion, agreement or disagreement. I will give you the final word. If I find something that I believe needs explained or reiterated, then I will reserve the right to deal with it in a post.
Let’s get started:
This entire tennis match began with my rhetorical question of whether or not socialism and communism were sisters. Not that they were identical, but that they shared similarities along the same line of thought. Namely, that the government needs to have overarching control over the citizens of a said nation. Primarily focusing on property and religious beliefs. The latter is not normally identified as a true pillar of these theories, but since both eventually travel down the path towards a totalitarian mindset, it is there. The question is never whether there is a god of a nation, but what god?
Speaking on the matter of economics, I want to admit upfront that I’m not an economist. Never claimed to be. However, this does not limit my ability to speak (to preach) on the issue in question. I understand the underlying principles. My problem with socialism is that it assumes that my property (including the money I earn) is best dealt with in governmental hands, not my own. It is assumed that community is the higher standard than the individual. If I earn my money, I must have a portion of it dedicated to other “needs.” Who determines these needs? Well, those in government who know better.
You cite Joseph in Egypt and the gleaning of the fields in Leviticus 23. This form of “economic distribution” as you call it, is this an example of socialism? Hardly.
In Gen 41:57 we read that “all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all earth” (ESV). And in Gen 47:14-22 we see that when they ran out of money, they had to sell everything else that they possessed; whether, it be livestock, land, or themselves in order that they might live. The only exemption was given to those who served in Pharaoh’s court since he provided for them, no doubt from the tax that he charged against his people. (By the way I’m not opposed to taxes. It is only when the civil authorities assume to take as much or more than the Lord requires from us—i.e., tithe—that they overstep their bounds). Point being, they had to purchase the grain it wasn’t given to them free of charge.
In light of the Levitical passage who is being told to make the edges of their land available for the poor? Those that possess land (private property). But, is this an example of the government setting a mandate or the Lord telling His people how to care for their neighbors? In other words, was this enforced by civil authorities, or was this an issue where God was testing the hearts of His people? Israel was a covenanted nation that was rescued from Egypt in order to be a holy nation, a priesthood to the Lord. This act was a test of whether or not they would heed His voice; whether or not they loved their neighbor. There was not Levitical police corp running around to enforce this. It would do us well to notice that there is a distinction here between Church and State. Israel was the Church of God (cf. Acts 7.38) and if they failed to care for their members, then where was the love. Bear in mind that this was not enforced in the sense that we see today in our nation where the civil government gleans from the edges of our checks in order to provide for the welfare state that they have established.
Fighting fire and thoughts on socialism…
This brings me to some other issues you highlighted in your response with my comments. The family that lost their home to the fire refused to pay for a service that was made known to them. They made a calculated choice that the 75$ needed to go elsewhere. That is perfectly fine, it was their right to do so as it was their money. But that decision, like all our decisions, carries with it consequences. In this case they refused to pay for a service, that would have prevented them from losing their property. The FD is not the guilty party here. They have workers that work based off of those wages (I would presume). They have families of their own. They put their lives at risk every time they attack a fire.
As far as I know we don’t really know whether it was a hardship or a poor choice by the family that lost their home. Using John 9 as a way to refute what I was saying is not accurate. I was not saying that they were sinners and that’s why the house fire came. Nor was I claiming that they were guilty of more sin than their neighbors (your citation of Luke 13.3-5) that did pay for the service. My point was that sinners (of which we are all) make poor choices. And we should be men or women enough to live with the consequences of such choices. Rather than appeal to pity that this family was having a rough road to hoe, why don’t we just admit that we don’t know why they didn’t do it. But what we should also admit is that the service was not owed to them. No one has the right to force another individual to put their life on the line, if they were unwilling to pay the laborer for his work.
Let us not forget that laborers are worthy of their wages. Socialism attempts to muzzle the ox and/or put limitations on what a person can have of their own effort. To assume that you have the right to something just because someone else has it is to confuse “rights and privileges.” Some people are more blessed than others, should we make it mandatory to take what they have earned or inherited just to make it fair for everyone else? I have a friend who has worked his butt off and is now a millionaire that owns businesses and provide works for hundreds in the community in which he lives. Should someone else force him to give of what he’s earned to provide for others? Isn’t that a matter of the heart rather than a matter of the state?
On Church aid…
You were confused by my statement regarding asking for help. You wrote, “I find the ‘they should have asked the church’ complaint to be disingenuous.” First, it wasn’t a complaint, it was a suggested solution. Second, your inquiry about the church fighting fires isn’t well thought out. Of course, I wasn’t suggesting that the church fight fires, but they could explain to the local church the “hardship” they were having and ask for the funds in exchange for some work or even a love gift.
On big and small gov…
As for the subject of “big vs small government.” In order to answer the question of which is correct we would need to define the purpose and role of government. If we can identify those, then we could properly diagnose the function of government, and thereby understand the size it should be. According to Scripture the civil government is provided by God for the purpose of protecting the good and punishing the evil (Rom 13.1-7; cf. Deut 16.18-20). We need civil government because people are born sinners (Eph 2.1-3). All sinners sin and some of those sins are crimes. Criminal activity needs to be punished swiftly in order to stifle such behavior in the future (e.g., Deut 24.7; also see Eccl 8.11). The Old Testament establishment of Israel shows us a decentralized system of government. There were separations of power (spheres of authority) between ecclesiastical and civil leaders. There was a multi-tiered system of judges (Exod 18.17-27), with Moses having the final say. Each tribe’s land was a sovereign area to be governed by that tribe, and yet they were unified one nation under God. Many of the ways in which we find our nation was formed here in the U.S.A. was based on the pattern laid out by God in ancient times. Though it must be granted that there were also aspects of Greco-Roman influence as well, given the thrust of the so-called Enlightenment Period.
So, when I say small government I mean a government that deals specifically with executing justice and protecting the people from harm domestically and internationally. Big government makes the civil sphere of government the Nanny State where they attempt to address every societal problem as if they are god. I would recommend reading God and Government by Gary DeMar at American Vision as he has spent a large portion of his life dedicated to this particular area of expertise.
I had a day. No worries about timelines in replies. We all have real lives. It’s one of the primary reasons I prefer text to in person debates and/or discussions. If it takes you two weeks to get back to me, it takes two weeks. Then if I need to I can skim the previous conversation to remember where we were at.
Ugh. I had a day. The panic zombies can go away now. My son is developmentally disabled and has trouble eating, and his favorite food has been very difficult to track down all year. Of course the panic zombies come out and make it harder. I spent most of the day driving all over the place looking for food. I found some. I’m glad this is happening now and not three years ago or we would have ended up checking him in to a hospital for malnutrition a few times. I’m glad we’ve finally reached a point where there are substitutes he can eat in a pinch.
I know very little about Marx himself. My main areas are text criticism and theology and the only way he comes up there is he didn’t much like religion. Like most things, he’s only one voice in a broad movement. Nothing is ever static. Some of those who took on his theories, such as Mao and Lenin, took that to a whole new level. On the other end, the Hutterites have a religious socialist society, Charles Fourier’s socialist ideas hinged on seeking divine will, Northern Ireland is socialist and has a state religion, and of course Thomas More’s “Utopia” has a very socialist feel to it even though it is a Christian fiction. (No private property, no money, etc.) To cast the idea of socialism as inherently antagonistic to religion is contrary to the available evidence. The evidence would indicate rather that socialist ideas in-and-of-themselves are neutral, and the religious/socialist tension is artificial.
Right at the start you hit on the biggest problem. You define socialism and communism to share a line of thought. Namely, that the government needs to have overarching control over the citizens of said nation. That is not a principle of socialism. That is the principle in totalitarianism. I’ve heard communism defined as socialism plus totalitarianism, but that’s an informal definition. It tends to feel very accurate.
Taken from https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/democratic-socialist-countries
“Democratic socialists, however, do not think the government should immediately take control of all aspects of the economy. Democratic Socialism focuses more on providing basic needs to all people, such as health care and education.” And in principle, your primary argument is that taxes shouldn’t be used to provide for the basic needs of all people. In Northern Ireland, they seek to provide for the common good through healthcare for all and similar programs, and provide religious liberty.
From where I sit, knowing what I know from my study of the history of theology, I find myself wondering who is feeding you these lies and what else they might be lying to you about.
For my part, my concern is that the people who need help get help. If my experience with churches, both as an individual in need and as a church treasurer, were different, then I might be more inclined to say that we should turn to churches for help. I still think that churches have their place and that careful consideration needs to go into each area to decide what the best course is. However, I spend a lot of time in my Bible and I find the “my property” and “my money” statements concerning. Is it your money? For me, it’s God’s money. (Psalm 24) If God’s purposes (the care for the sick, the immigrant, the poor, the widows, and the orphans) will be best accomplished through the community, then that’s how I want it done. (There’s always the relevant question “is it the best way?” But that’s why I said we need careful consideration in each area to find the best course.) Once we’ve set our goals I think that the economists should be the ones to help us determine the best way to get there. Luke 16:12 says that we are to have responsibility over each other’s wealth. Didn’t Christ pray that we all be one? Didn’t Paul call us to count others as more important than ourselves? Doesn’t the author of Hebrews call us to share what we have?
I know you’re going to counter that you’re not trying to hord the money, and I want to clarify that I’m not accusing you of hording the money. I’m not accusing you of greed, I’m accusing you of inefficiency. You end up accidentally being the one that James accuses, telling those in need to be warmed and those who are hungry to be filled even when you don’t provide for it. (James 2:15&16) It seems to me that you want to have the pride of swooping in like a superhero, even if it means you can help fewer people. I want the most people helped, even if I don’t get the recognition. (And again, there are probably times when that’s best handled through public means and other times when that’s best handled through private means, and that’s why economists go to school for eight years to learn all that.)
In the Joseph example, you are right, it wasn’t provided to why except Pharaoh’s Court for free, but it was taken from the people for free. There’s no record of Pharaoh buying it. He just took it. (Genesis 41:35) Then later he used it for the public good. He also took advantage of the situation and turned the place into a slave state. Since God doesn’t seem to pass judgment on that, neither will I. That Pharaoh seems to be portrayed as having his people’s best interest at heart, and God doesn’t seem to have a problem with truly benevolent dictators.
You ask if the laws about gleaning were enforced by civil a authorities. Leviticus 23:22 comes after Leviticus 23:21, which tells us that these are statues. Leviticus 10:9 says that if the sons of Aaron break the statue not to drink when on duty they will be killed. The Sabbath day is another statue, which has various civil punishments for violation. I think we can infer that this wasn’t just a suggestion that was tested, but an expectation that was enforced.
And even if it was a suggestion to test their heart, I would rather be the one passing that test.
In the case of the family making the decision to not pay, I specifically said that the fire department was not at fault. I’m not sure what your point in that section is. My point was that if they had socialized fire coverage then they wouldn’t have been making that choice at all. Again, I want them to be protected, you seem to be looking for a way to swoop in and play superhero. I don’t care if I get recognized for my part in helping them as long as they get help. You seem to only want to help if you’re getting recognized.
Have you ever been in the place of making the hard choices? I have. My son has a genetic abnormality. When he was little, our insurance stopped paying after $1 million each year. We maxed out that $1 million keeping him alive before he got home. We owed more on medical debt than we paid for our house until he was ten. We maxed out every means of help available to us. I’ve made the decision not to eat for two weeks at a time so that he could. That choice had consequences. I have to live with them. How do you know that the family didn’t reach out to the local church in their hardship, and that they weren’t already extended to the limit of what the Church would give? I would rather see people not having to make those kinds of decisions. And again, I want the best solution to make sure everyone gets the help they need and once we’ve made our priorities I’ll listen to those who have studied the question in depth to answer the how we get there question. The people who study that all seem to say that a socialist approach is great for some things and terrible for others.
For you to stand back and automatically go to the place where someone is suffering hardship and say that they need to live with the consequences of their choices because we don’t know why they made them sounds a lot more like Satan than God. Did God leave you in the consequences of your choices? Or did he extend you grace? When you finish the Lord’s Prayer three times a day like I do, that I want my errors forgiven as I forgive others, or do you replace that with “leave me in my sins as I leave others in their sins?”
If your friend really cares for the poor in his community, then how that money gets from his account to caring for them should be a secondary concern. If he’s more concerned about his taxes than the poor, then is he serving Mammon or God? As to the question of if it’s a matter of heart or state, I would say both. If all he does is pay the taxes that help the community then that is all that’s required but it also reflects poorly on his heart. On the flip side, if he opposes taxes that are put to the benefit of the poor in his community in the interest of self-protection then, as I’ve detailed above, I also worry that he’s seeking glory or seeking to serve Mammon rather than God. But what does Christ say to the one who has put up all his money and seeks rest for himself? (Luke 12:16-21)
Regarding your paragraphs addressing big and small government, the Israelite government got involved in family affairs. They decided who could and could not get married. (See Ruth.) I’ve already discussed how leaving crops for gleaning was a statue. Tithes were collected to be distributed among the poor. Solomon decided which mother was to raise a child. In Numbers, we read about inheritance laws being modified to protect women. Who could and could not inherit which land was regulated. The idea that it wasn’t a “nanny state” concerned with solving societal problems is based on human tradition, not on a serious read of scripture. Can you find any examples of “nany state” activity being condemned?
I let your post simmer for a few days as I thought about what you said. I know that in my last response I said I’d give you the last word reserving the right to offer an explanation or to reiterate a point somehow missed in a post. And so, I thought about writing a post in reference to some of the subject matter we’ve been tossing back and forth, but I felt that might seem to a bit too mechanical rather than personal.
I wont’ be long in addressing what I believe is the foundational issue between us. I think it would be fair to say that we both take the Bible seriously. I also believe that if both of us were pressed we would say that we hold the Christian faith dearly. Am I on target or have I overshot the mark?
Where we find our disagreement is in how we are reading the Bible. This is because we share some differing operating assumptions. I’m not a mind reader, so I won’t attempt to read yours, but when I look at the world around me I want to interpret it through the lens of Scripture. I understand that the Triune God of the Bible is the Creator of heaven and earth. He has made mankind (male and female) in His image. Therefore, we are to think His thoughts after Him. In other words, we are to reflect His mind in all areas of life. This includes politics and economics.
I also understand that God gave civil government to brandish the sword (i.e., execute judgment) against evil; specifically, criminal activity. In this way the civil magistrate (leader) serves God as an extension of His righteous retribution. We need this sort of governance because we are by nature sinners, and if sinful people are given a pass then havoc is unleashed on society. I think that if we are honest we have seen some disheartening examples of this across our nation. (Please note: I make a distinction between sins of the heart, which the civil government cannot judge, and sins against society that are identified as crimes or criminal activity.)
I need to make this distinction clear because it is for this reason that I do not believe socialism is a good system. Civil government is meant to uphold justice, not attempt to meet the needs of the people. Notice that I say “civil” government rather than just government. Government speaks to more than what is commonly thought of in our present day. There are three key spheres of government (family, Church, and State) with three spheres of authority within each category. Thus, there are natural limitations where one may operate given the particular sphere of government being referenced.
I also want to reiterate that I said at the very beginning of our dialogues that any particular form of civil government can be abused. The problem with socialism and her more hateful sister Communism is that they assume to encroach upon the areas of governance behind their sphere of authority. Take for example education, who is responsible according to God’s Word to educate children? Are they wards of their parents or wards of the state? God is very clear that parents have authority over their children. Parents are the ones charged with educating their children. This does not mean that every parent is able to prepare their kids for college, but the parent is charged with making sure that those who do align with their values.
Parents also have authority to exercise discipline, to provide for, to encourage and train their children to be godly men and women…to be a benefit to society, exercising godly dominion. But parents do not have authority outside of their particular governmental sphere. In other words, God does not authorize me to parent other people’s children. But He also does not authorize the state to interfere in such things either. Over time this has changed as we have allowed more and more control to be granted to civil authorities.
Now I could hash this out and discuss every major issue that we could think of, but I won’t. This is just to give you a basis to see where I am coming from. I’d have the same problem if my neighbor who has been wronged took it upon himself to act like Batman (a vigilante) and serve up his own form of justice, rather than allow the civil authorities to address it. In such a situation that would be a person (self-governed) acting as if he were judge, jury and executioner (i.e., god), when vengeance is to be reserved to the Lord. And, depending on the nature of the sin (heart or crime) will determine how that judgment is to be executed. “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, life for life….”
Okay, so onto your comments…
You wrote, “For my part, my concern is that the people who need help get help.”
I couldn’t agree more, but its our methodology that is at odds not our desires. The question is: “From where should people get the help they need?” You seem to believe that taking money of others through taxation is the best method. Whereas, I see personal responsibility, family and friends, and as the ministry of the Church as venues where people get the help they need. I agree that each situation needs to be analyzed for the best approach, but leaning on the civil government to do the work appointed to others is not the solution. I also agree that such an approach will require a lot of work to get weaned off social programs instituted by the state, but sometimes doing what is right is tasking.
A follow up inquiry is to make sure that those who say they are in “need” are truly in need. Let’s face it some people with a hand out have their hand out because they are unwilling to what is necessary to keep themselves out of trouble. In those cases, their “needs” are really byproducts of poor choices.
You wrote, “Have you ever had to make hard choices?”
Yes, I have. Now I can read this question two ways. That you are encouraging me to think of hard choices I’ve had to make and be more empathetic. Or, you are assuming that I have not really had to make hard choices. Or perhaps, not as hard as your own? My advice is to not assume either. Shouldn’t I be given the benefit of the doubt…?
You wrote, “…you seem to be looking for a way to swoop in and play superhero.”
I’m not sure why you want to make this personal. But you have. You seem to know my heart better than I do. You make this “superhero” assertion twice. Why? Because I believe we need to be responsible for the choices we make in this life? That some of the things that we do have lasting consequences? Do not the Scriptures teach that we will reap what we sow?
The Bible teaches personal responsibility, familial responsibility, church responsibility, and civil governing responsibility. The first three categories deal with the issues that we are going back and forth over. You mention Jesus, Paul and the author of Hebrews with three questions tied to each. Granted they are important questions, but each one centers around one key issue—the Kingdom of God/Christ.
Jesus prays for unity, yes, but not unity exclusively as if we are all supposed to be unified (one) with all people. The unity He prays for is with God—i.e., having a mind devoted to God the Father through Him via His holy word (cf. John 17.17). The early church in the book of Acts had unity of thought as seen in the Acts 2:42; 4:32. They were a unified family (the Church), but they were not unified with the rest of Israel (many of whom were apostate). Paul’s sentiment (Phil 2.3) is given to the household of faith, as is the portion of Hebrews you reference (Heb 13.16). These are principles of the Christian faith, yes, but they are given to the Church of Jesus Christ. Not buildings, but His people. This is how the household of faith is to live. This is NOT marching orders for the civil government, but the Church.
You wrote, “…I spend a lot of time in my Bible and I find ‘my property’ and ‘my money’ statements concerning. Is it your money? For me, it’s God’s money.”
What is concerning about my property or my money statements? Of course all things are God’s, I didn’t realize that was a dispute between us? But if we take the logic here presented that all money is God’s, and so we shouldn’t make claims about our property being ours or our money being ours, then why the commandment: “Thou shall not steal”? Why all the case laws regarding theft on your neighbors property (cf. Exod 22)? Not only are we told that taking our neighbors possessions is theft of property, but so is the attempt to steal the land that they owe (Deut 19.14; 27.17). And when God gives orders for how we are to lend to our family notice that He calls it their money: “You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit” (Lev 25.17; also see Deut 14.25-26).
What do you suppose the Israelite’s said back in those days when discussing property or money that they had acquired? This is “my money” and “my property” that the Lord has provided for me through the means of “my labor” (cf. Deut 8.17-18).
Again, the concern for my neighbor is demonstrated with how I am willing to use the blessings of “my money” and “my property” that God has provided me. Mainly godly men and women were granted with great wealth, but their godliness was demonstrated in how they treated those in need (Deut 15.7-11). This generosity is a person by person, family by family, or a local church consideration, not to be used as social programs to be instituted, manned and enforced by the civil government.
You wrote, “For you to stand back and automatically go to the place where someone is suffering hardship and say that they need to live with the consequences of their choices because we don’t know why they made them sounds a lot more like Satan than God. Did God leave you in the consequences of your choices? Or did he extend you grace? When you finish the Lord’s Prayer three times a day like I do, that I want my errors forgiven as I forgive others, or do you replace that with ‘leave me in my sins as I leave others in their sins?’”
Come on now, I thought I was a superhero? On a more serious note, “Why infer that I’m like Satan?” You are confusing categories of thought here. Sin and consequences share some capital, but they are not the exact same thing. If I drink and drive and kill someone, I might be forgiven by God for the transgression, but I will suffer the consequences of my choices (cf. Exod 21.28-29; Josh 7.19-26). Granted I chose a more extreme case, but the same is true of even what one might consider minor choices. If I neglect to meditate on God’s Word routinely, then it is likely when sin comes at my door I may more easily succumb to the temptation (Psa 119.11). God will forgive our transgressions, but He does not remove the scars of our choices (i.e., consequences).
To jump to the conclusion that I do not forgive or pray that other people to be forgiven seems to be an uncalled for comment. Why does it appear that you keep questioning my motives?
And finally, the reason why my friend ought to be concerned how his money is being handled is just that, it is his money. He worked for it. He labored and sweat for it. For another to reach into his wallet and take it, is theft plain and simple. It might have the safety of being called just a “tax,” but it does not make it ethically right. Not only do those taxes hinder his ability to provide for his own family, but they also hamper his ability to grow his business to provide more work for the community, not to mention better benefits for those that are good workers.
If the state was so effective in handling these issues, then the War on Poverty among other things would have verifiable evidence on their side. But they don’t. And neither does any other country that claims to be able to meet the needs of their people. They fail to do so. They claim they need more money. They raise the taxes to pay for more programs, and all the while the noose is ever tightening on the citizens of said nation.
I definitely agree that both start from the place of taking the Bible seriously. Let’s just say that I’m less convinced that either of us take “the Christian faith” seriously, but I say that to you as a compliment. I say this as someone who used to very often, after being told, “But Christians believe…” would simply reply, “Oh, well in that case I’m not a Christian. I believe in the Bible.” I think that we’re both trying to get at the root of what the Bible says, and if that means chucking Calvinism, Arminianism, Catholicism, Sola Scriptura, or any other system that hinders getting to the text, that’s what we’ll do. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a particular problem with any of those in-and-of-itself, but I’m far more interested in Truth than slogans. And I get the same sense from you. I think that both of us would gladly hand the “you take Bible more literally than I do” award to the one who insisted that trees can talk based on Judges 9, and then gladly accept the “I’m more interested in truth” award instead.
I disagree about the principle source of our disagreement, though. In a very important way, I don’t think our disagreement has much to do with the Bible. I think that the root source of our disagreement is how we define “socialism.” For me, I’m defining socialism by looking at the history of its usage and the people who have adopted the term for themselves both historically and currently and how they have identified others that they called their own in-group. You seem to have constructed a particular cartoon caricature and complain about that caricature. (The technical term for this is a straw-man argument.) That’s why I keep appealing to history, and you keep trying to say what it “really means.” That’s why I keep quoting from scripture and you keep quoting your traditions.
There’s a sense in which I agree with you. I agree that the cartoon caricature is of something evil and something that’s bad for Christianity. It also happens to be a very small subset of the people who identify by that term. So all someone has to do to disprove you is say, “Well, I am a socialist and I don’t believe that, therefore you’re wrong.”
It’s very similar to the people who say, “Christians hate gays.” All you have to do to disprove that is say, “I’m a Christian and I don’t hate gays. Therefore those people are wrong.” Or those who say, “Christians support domestic violence.” All you have to do to disprove that is say, “I’m a Christian, and I stand against domestic violence.” Such arguments are very persuasive… but only to those who already believe it.
Beyond that, I think that you’ve adopted “socialism is bad” as a position, based on your cartoon caricature, and then proceeded to make a point of making sure your theology is as far from socialism as possible. I could be wrong about that, I hate to put the words in your mouth, and even if I’m right I don’t think you’ve done it purposely or consciously. We all fall into that trap sometimes. I know I used to fall into it all the time with Calvinism. I still definitely don’t identify as a Calvinist, but there was a time when I’d had some bad experiences with people who called themselves Calvinist and put as much ideological distance between myself and Calvinists. It kept me from seeing some really good points that Calvin and later reformers following in his steps made. More recently, I’ve had to be very cautious about how I deal with Textus Receptus adherents because I very early associated them with King James Onlyists. Turns out, they aren’t always the same. (Sometimes, but not always.) So I’ve had to take a long hard look at some conversations I’ve had lately and make sure I’m making the right argument.
I think that all the secondary issues that we have come out of that root problem. On some level, it’s more important to say that socialism is wrong than to affirm truth. If I named my rabbit “socialism,” you wouldn’t eat it. If socialists saved thousands of lives, you’d still have to denounce them. I think that this is made most clear by the fact that I am constantly appealing to scripture, and your reply is to appeal to American tradition. On this subject, you’ve allowed “American” to mean more to you than “Bible believer.” If it were not so, you would reply with scripture instead of your tradition.
I agree that when we look at the world, we are to follow God’s thoughts. I also agree that this includes politics and economics. I would agree that God gave civil government to brandish the sword against evil. I do take issue with limiting that to criminal activity. I take that on to counts. First, criminal activity is defined by the law. As soon as you make a law making something legal, it’s no longer criminal activity. Gay marriage is no longer a crime because the law has changed. Abortion is no longer criminal activity because the law has changed. We could change the definition of “criminal activity” to that activity which is criminal in God’s eyes. However, then I think we’re going to find ourselves agreeing with socialists a lot. Taking advantage of those who are poor is criminal activity in God’s thinking. Failing to provide for the sick and starving is criminal activity in God’s thinking. God’s justice includes providing for the poor and disadvantaged.
You said “Civil government is meant to uphold justice.” And yet, how does God define justice? What is the justice that God is concerned about? Psalm 82:3 “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9 “Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” Ecclesiastes 5:8 “If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.” Deuteronomy 24:17 “Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow’s raiment to pledge:” Psalm 112:9 “He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour.” Jeremiah 22:3 “Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.” Proverbs 29:7 “The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.” I think it’s worth taking a moment to point out that in the same word, צדקה is translated as both ‘justice’ and ‘righteousness,’ so most cases where you see one of those words you can read it as the other just as easily.
While I agree that it is the role of government to execute justice against violence, I don’t think this is the limit of government. I don’t find anywhere that scripture says, “But the king should not be concerned with the plight of the poor,” or “As long as the king protects free enterprise the poor will sort themselves out,” or anything else of that thought. Can you provide any?
Which is different than saying I think the Bible is against free enterprise or free exchange where that is what’s best for everyone involved. Free enterprise seems to be one of the tools God is happy to use, so simply to say, “God supports exchange of goods,” doesn’t show that God doesn’t also require and enforce the care of the poor. My belief is that both are tools available to us, and the primary concern should be what is best no matter what name it comes under.
You claim that there are three spheres of government: family, church, and state. That’s fascinating. I don’t find that distinction anywhere. I see Moses making distinctions about family in his role, and him taking a role as both the head of state and the head of the Church. I see Solomon taking his role as head of state to decide family concerns and called wise for it. I think that there are roles for family and Church and state, but I think that in the Bible those lines are very blurry and the primary concern is that justice is executed, not that everyone stays in their sphere. David acted in opposition to his government, taking on the mantle of a local Batman or Robin Hood, protecting the local people from oppression, and he is the one who acted after God’s heart.
You talk a lot about making sure that those who are in need are really the ones in need. If such a thing can be determined, I’m all for it. However, my personal experience has been that it is not always clear who is truly in need and who is not. I was making $15 an hour in 2006, but I had a two hour commute each way at 60 miles per hour. It was a recession, so it took me almost two years to find work closer to home. In the meantime, gas consumed a very large portion of my income, and I was making the decision to forgo eating so that we could pay my son’s medical bills. We applied to several churches for help. Some would give us help for one month, but once they learned what I was making they would cut us off. Between September and December of 2005, keeping him alive cost us $250,000. That was after insurance had finished paying their $1 million. The next year, insurance met their $1 million in March and then we put the next $500,000 it took to keep him alive on our credit card. If I continued working at that rate and didn’t pay anything except the medical bills, it would have taken me twenty four years to pay that off. If the Church showed any skill or ability in determining who needed help, I might agree with you. It was a pair of lesbians that came to our aid. Lesbians helped us where the Church wouldn’t at a time when I was starving so my son could eat. They helped by connecting us with government programs that deferred and reduced medical expenses. From where I stand, Lesbians are more righteous and better equipped to determine who needs help than the Church. And you are saying the exact same things as the churches that refused to help us: “You don’t really need help. You’ll be able to put that on a credit card and pay it back.” You ask to be given the benefit of the doubt, but you have not given the benefit of the doubt to anyone else so far in this conversation. I will give you the benefit of the doubt when I see evidence of you giving the benefit of the doubt. In principle you’re right, I would rather give you the benefit of the doubt, but I’m playing your game by your rules. As I said, I’m letting you set the tone.
You talk a lot about personal responsibility. Does Christ ever talk about personal responsibility? Doesn’t Christ take our sins upon himself? And what are his prerequisites? Does he ask how we got there or tell us to take responsibility for our actions or suffer the consequences because it’s not his fault? Is that how you evaluate those who enter your church? Do you tell them to take personal responsibility and tell them to deal with their own problems? If so, how are you representing Christ? If not, why does it matter if it’s you or the state?
The reason I say you seem to be (and noice the words “seem to be”) looking for a way to swoop in and save the day is because when I say that I want people to get help when they need it by whatever means is best, you are always quick to reply, “Well, only if it’s from the Church, and only if the leader of the church deems them worthy.” Why is it important that this comes from the Church? I certainly don’t find that in scripture. Can you provide any reference that says this should not come from the state? I can’t.
For my part, I find it very true that the government is great at times when we can just treat everyone the same and the church is great when we need to be more particular. If we take the stance that housing should be one third of the household income, then in a place with typical rents being $1000 per month, anyone paying less than $3000 per month to breadwinners should be considered thieves by the Church. Yet the state, the Church, and the family have no authority in your model to do anything to them. You set them up to be a law unto themselves. If I’m wrong, then who does have authority to tell them they are paying too little? Who has the authority to tell a landowner they are charging too much? If the employers get together and conspire to lower wages, who can stop them in your model? If landowners get together and conspire to raise rents, who can stop them in your model? You seem very eager to build loopholes to allow people to act unrighteously, and then to call it a personal error when someone gets into a problem. However we decide to solve that problem (minimum wage, requiring low income housing, some kind of ongoing assistance to make up the difference, something else entirely) the solution to that problem seems very much to fall into what you have defined as the sphere of the government. The Church cannot make laws telling others how to set their wages or rents, and even more so if they decide not to come to church. So our politics should reflect our desire to help solve this problem. You said that you have a friend who is quite wealthy. When was the last time you discussed with him appropriate payroll practices? How often do you preach to the employers in your congregation that they need to match their payroll to the needs of the congregation? I have never seen anything like that in any of your blog posts. You’re fast to say we need to examine the choices of those who come to you for help. But you never say we need to examine the choices of those who are rich. In fact, you are very careful to make sure that no one actually has the authority to examine the rich. The Church can’t. The government can’t. Their family can’t. Their position is just between them and God. How is that showing concern for the poor that they pay the lowest possible wages to?
James 2:5-6 “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?”
You say that the Bible teaches personal responsibility. Where? I see that the Bible teaches righteousness and justice. I see that the Bible teaches care and respect. I see that the Bible teaches that God hates unrighteousness. However, when I look for those who say you need to take personal responsibility (at least as you seem to be defining it) the only three I can find are Job’s accusers. Can you point me to any others?
Do you believe that the civil government should look to the Bible for guidance on policy? I do. I need to be careful when I say that: I think that having a state religion makes the same kind of nonsense as having a state science textbook. But just as I expect the government to look to real science as best understood in their borders when making decisions about issues science touches on, I expect them to look at God as best understood within their borders when determining what’s right and wrong. Beyond that, you are starting from a place of assuming that most of those who are in hard times get there and stay there because of poor choices and not because of a lack of opportunity. Strangely enough, one of my favorite podcasts spoke to that very issue today.
The best studies available actually indicate that most people given help actually reduce their drug and alcohol use and use that money to get ahead. According to the economists to study the question (which I’ve said repeatedly should be the ones we’re listening to) the problem is that they don’t get enough help. According to them, the problem is we’re creating too many barriers to help. I have also read in other places that for certain specific types of help, the best course is for the government to give the money to churches and let the churches distribute it with very few restrictions on the churches. Something to do with governments being better at collecting money and churches better at distributing it or something along those lines. (I don’t know where or which kinds of help at this moment, I find economics boring generally and was just reading it because it was recommended by a theologian I respect. Sadly, I can’t even remember which theologian.) To me, it sounds like we should be taking a page from Christ’s book, and saying, “My son, your sins are forgiven,” and then applying our help as though their sins are actually forgiven. You claim to forgive, and yet your statement is not, “I have forgiven so I will help,” but rather, “I have to examine how they got here first. If it’s their fault, then they don’t deserve help.” How is that forgiveness? I think that you and God have very different definitions of forgiveness. I would feel different if your blog was as eager to call out the choices of the rich, to tell the rich that they are to be judged more harshly, and other such Biblical things. Your primary concern when it comes to money and choice seems to be to ensure that the poor are called out for their choices, though. If you’ve said something that I’ve missed, then by all means show me. I will admit that some of your posts I’ve only skimmed and maybe I’ve missed something.
If the entire economy is God’s (as I believe it is) we should be concerned that it is going to God’s purpose. You speak of theft. Do you know what else was called theft? Withholding help from the needy. (Ezekiel 22:29) Are you working with God’s definition of theft, or man’s?
So, I went back and reread our lively discussion over the past week. I stick with what my rhetorical question at the end of my last blog post implied: socialism and communism are sisters. They are related in their desire to have control over a person’s property and wealth, and how that wealth needs to be distributed by those that governing officials deem are in need. Communism is by far the most radical of the two, but as Hegel and Marx surmised the one leads to the other when logically followed (socialism towards communism). Or as you noted they are on a “continuum.”
I am not inventing a caricature (a straw-man) so that I might tear it down. I am concerned about the direction that our nation is heading in. I am also concerned that so many well-meaning Christians want to see the government as the solution to meet people’s needs. Government does not produce it leeches. It is a parasite that feeds off the labors of its citizens. It then pacifies them by promising to meet their needs (i.e., housing, food, income, jobs, education, etc.), all the while engorging itself as it gets larger and larger. Something that we can readily attest to in our day. There was a time when this was not always the case. You may think that this is an improvement, but I do not.
By the way, if it “happens in a very small subset by the people who identify by that term,” then it isn’t a caricature. I’m not exaggerating anything, as you’ve noted it does exist. We disagree as to who would fall under that category, but that is fine. Whether it is a large or small group once momentum is gained by the small group, others get caught up in it as well; like a snowball going down a snow covered hill. (https://thegreggjarrett.com/not-pretty-rep-elect-victoria-spartz-warns-socialism-creates-destruction-and-misery/).
Bear in mind it is the principle that I’m concerned about. The principle of socialism teaches that society is best served when your property and wealth is used to meet the needs of the collective citizenry. As I’ve noted before God gives us the ability to produce wealth, He provides us with the talent and abilities to labor, to fill our particular niche in this world, He blesses us so that we are a blessing to others. He also puts safeguards to ward off those with covetous eyes from taking what is ours without our permission. At the same time, as you’ve pointed out, He warns us to be generous with what we’ve been given. We are commanded to take care of widows and orphans, to be loving to our neighbors—even those we might count as enemies.
And so, I find it ironic that you don’t believe the Bible teaches personal responsibility. Are we not personally responsible before the Lord? You bring up several biblical passages in an effort to rebuke me, are you not highlighting that I have a personal responsibility before my neighbor? To my community? Am I not personally responsible for being faithful to my wife, for rearing my children under the discipline of the Lord, for overseeing Christ’s flock with great care, for being a good citizen in the nation in which I live? Personal responsibility (self-government) is taught all throughout Scripture. It was a failure of our foreparents from exercising their personal responsibility to God, to each other that caused them to sin and bring upon their offspring the curse of sin.
Which brings me to something else you noted about my comments regarding consequences for the choices that we make. This too is taught from the beginning of Scripture to its very end (Gen-Rev). Adam and Eve sinned and though they were forgiven having their sins covered by the mercy of God (cf. Gen 3.21 compared with Gen 3.7-8). But God’s forgiveness did not remove the consequence of their sinful choice, for they were judged/cursed (Gen 3.15-19) and driven from the garden (Gen 3.23-24), a picture of their removal from a fellowship once had. And since you highlighted David, who is identified in Scripture as “a man after God’s own heart” I would like to remind you that though he was forgiven for his sin against Uriah the Hittite and more importantly his sin against God, he still suffered great consequence for what he’d done (2Sam 112.11-14).
Categories of thought need to be distinguished. Forgiveness does not mean that consequences evaporate. Forgiveness occurs when one does not hold any record of wrong doing against the person in question. When God forgives us in light of the gospel we have been set free by the Son (John 8.36), but this does not remove the consequence of our sin in a spiritual sense or physical sense. Spiritually, Christ paid the debt we owed. His life purchased our forgiveness. His sacrifice bought our freedom. Physically, or perhaps a better way to say it, as we live in this world now, we still bear scar tissue from the sins of our heart. Examples: A person might be forgiven of pornography, but the mental scars from that sin are something that individual will have to live with for the rest of their life. Putting that sin to death will be a daily venture (i.e., carrying of the cross).
And to answer your question, “Does Christ ever talk about personal responsibility?” Yes, he does. Though the subject matter changes depending on the context, the overarching concern is always: “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5.48; cf. Lev 20.26; Heb 12.14). Bear in mind that Jesus’ theology is built off the Old Testament. And so, when He does not mention something specifically that does not mean He had no thoughts on it or that He somehow disavowed Himself from its teaching; He is Lord of both covenants. Apart from God’s Torah how can one hope to know how they are to live?
As for the rest of your comments, I will be quick.
Three spheres of government (Family, Church, State) are real areas of governance and they are taught in the Bible. Children honor your parents (Exod 20.12; Col 3.20), congregation honor your elders (1Tim 5.17; Heb 13.17), and citizens honor your leaders (Prov 24.21; 1Pet 2.13-14). Each head is to be honored (shown respect and obeyed as they lead in righteousness), but above them all is Jesus Christ (Col 1.15-19).
What authority are these three spheres to be governed by and govern others? The Law-Word of God. Children are to be reared by godly parents in godly homes, so that they become godly citizens, but it is Christ’s Church that speaks into the other two spheres of authority (family and state). It is the calling of the Christ’s assembly to go forth amongst the nations “making disciples,” “baptizing” into the name of God, and “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt 28.19-20).
As you pointed out in an earlier response we need separate moving parts (eyes, ears, fingers, toes, hands, feet, legs, arms, etc.) in order to live effectively in this world. We can’t be all things. However, it is the role of Christ’s Church—Christian men and women—to speak the truth into these “moving parts” so that when they function they do so in a godly fashion. This can only happen as people are redeemed by the Lord. Salvation is necessary before change occurs; lasting change anyway.
For a nation to function effectively, it must be founded upon God’s Word. His law (including the case laws) offers guidance in order for all spheres of government to function properly.
As to why I’ve never wrote on the rich. Well, as you know our time is limited. And our areas of study are also limited. I can only cover so much material in a day. Like you I am naturally curious, but I’m only one person. That being said, your point doesn’t prove anything (argument from silence). You have to infer that I don’t speak on the subject, but your inference is groundless.
If you’d take a moment and just listen you might hear what I’m actually saying. I believe God grants wealth and the ability and opportunity to make it. I also believe that we are held accountable by the Lord to be cheerful givers with what we have been given. For the Giver (God) is cheerful when He gives good gifts. This applies to the rich and the poor. There are selfish, sinful people in both categories. Both types of people will end up in hell, just as much as the faithful among them will end up in heaven.
I realize that you have some emotional stock in this exchange of words between us. I empathize with your plight in getting what your son needs. I also understand that in this the local Church has failed you. That is disheartening. But please refrain from equating me with them. In the same breath please understand that this is an area that I strongly believes needs to change. We have become dependent upon the government and the chief reason is because we have mismanaged the Church.
You say that you are a treasurer, my uncle is a treasurer at a neighboring church in an adjacent town. We have talked before about the difficulties they have in meeting their own needs. Why? Because as a church they have overextended themselves. They built a new building they didn’t need. They waste money on programs that are largely unnecessary. And they have a denominational structure that requires a percentage of their income to cover missions.
I think you raise a great point in that the lesbian couple acted more like the church than the church did. That is shameful to those that bear the name of Christ. Two things need to happen to remedy the situation in the church, and if the church is reformed, then so will follow the local community and outward. Change happens from the bottom up, not the top down. Well lasting change anyway. So, what are the two things? The first is tithe. God’s people or people who claim to be God’s people need to give what is owed to the Lord…to the Lord. Secondly, the local church needs to stop wasting money on building projects and programs (or how about not going into debt over them—nothing wrong necessarily with those things if done correctly), and start thinking about applying what is taught in Scripture regarding those in need; widows, orphans, aliens…stuff like that.
Final word on discerning whether someone has a need. I’ve been challenged on this before, so you’re not the first. How does one determine need? I mean besides the obvious “I need a PS5,” when it should be stated “I want a PS5.” I think your situation warrants a real need. I don’t know all the details (nor am I asking, nor am I wanting them), but it appears to be a legitimate need. But what of a local drunkard? Say, he’s on the corner begging for some money. What do you do? If I don’t know him, I offer him some help. I buy his lunch, get him a warm cup of joe…that sort of thing. If I do know him, then I’m in a better place to weigh the situation. Suppose he just wants money…says he “needs it.” Do I just give him money? No, I’d be a fool to do that. I’m not giving money to a known drunkard. We are supposed to be wise as serpents, Jesus said. We are to test all things, adhering to what is good, Paul said. And as you’ve said all circumstances need to be considered. That is all I’m saying.
I think that’s about it for me. I’ve said my peace. If you still strongly disagree with me that is fine. We will have to agree to disagree. I just don’t think its necessary at this time to keep hashing this out. In all seriousness, I’m really glad you commented. Gave me some stuff to think about. God Bless.
While I do generally prefer text to verbal debates, one of the disadvantages is that they do tend to grow uncontrollably. Each issue gets dealt with, which raises individual extra issues, and so on. I can understand if that is wearing on you, so I’ll try to refocus on one question I think might be the principle point I contest in your gospel.
You claim to get your principles from the Bible. I say that they are not coming from the Bible. Let’s settle that once and for all. Where in the Bible do you find an instance of someone being denied financial support from the Church because of their past or ongoing poor financial decisions?
In opposition to that, I see Christ saying, “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” What verse are you reading to mitigate that?
Alright, I’ll bite. Where are we in Scripture expected to discern needs? Given the fact that we are told to discern (test) all things, adhering to what is good (1Thess 5.21), and we are explicitly warned not to believe every teaching proffered in the name of the Lord (1John 4.1; cf. Prov 14.15), I would expect that this would include discerning between “needs” and “wants,” as well as, the “circumstances” surrounding the situation. (I will add at this point that I am not in favor of “silver-bullet” texts, as our theological concerns out to be drawn from the entirety of what the biblical record affords).
There are two explicit cases found in the New Testament where Paul delineates between those who have real needs and those who do not, as well as prerequisites having been met before said needs are addressed.
The first deals with widows:
(1) “Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is please in the sight of God” (1Tim 5.3-4; ESV).
Notice that Timothy, a presumed elder in the Church, is to discern between those who are really widows and those who are not. We are commanded to give to widows in need, but we are also commanded to first discern that need. A true widow is one without any family. If she has children and/or grandchildren, then it is their responsibility to “honor their mother.” Her immediate family, not the local church is being commanded to do this. This is what Timothy is being told to preach (1Tim 5.7).
(2) “She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day…” (1Tim 5.5).
A widow is defined as one who is alone in this world. She depends on God and sets her hope on Him, and therefore, her needs are to be met by His beloved Son through His body on this earth. To ignore her would be a travesty that God would most certainly be indignant about (Exod 22.22-24; Psa 68.5)
(3) “If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows” (1Tim 5.16).
This merely reiterates the point I’ve been making. Discernment is necessary in determining needs. A widow who has children or grandchildren is not alone, and they are to honor her as Scripture commands (1Tim 5.8). There is also a warning against unbelieving widows offered in contrast with those who are faithful and believing (cf. 1Tim 5.9-12). This verse (v.16) instructs the married Christian woman who has a member of her extended family widowed, but not yet old enough to meet the requirements to be enrolled on the “needy” list of the church (v. 9), to take care of her as you would a mother. In this way the local church would not be over burdened and could meet the needs of others.
The second deals with the one who refuses to work:
Scripture has much to say about the slothful in society (e.g., Prov 12.24, 27; 19.15; 23.21; Matt 25.26). We were created to work (Gen 2.5, Eccl 3.22) to the best of our ability (Eccl 9.9-10), knowing that God is pleased by such efforts (Eccl 9.7). Therefore we should not be surprised when Paul offers the following statement:
(1) “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” (2Thess 3.10-15)
Here we see an explicit command how to handle one who refuses to work, “…let him not eat.” In other words, don’t provide food for him if he is unwilling to do what God has commanded. This principle is clearly drawn by Paul from the Law-Word of God. It is a basic assumption given in Scripture that we are to work all the days of our lives. We are to be productive people. We are to provide for ourselves, the needs of our families, and the needs of our extended family (the local church).
Notice the warning that if such a person does not obey this edict, the other members of the local church are to take note of them and have nothing to do with them. They are to cut ties of fellowship so that he is ashamed of his sinful behavior. Not to treat him as an enemy, but to warn him as a brother in the Lord to do good as they are doing (cf. Matt 18.15-17; 1Cor 5.5; 2Cor 2.5-9).
I hope this clarifies my position. I do not believe the Church of Jesus Christ should be in the habit of denying assistance when a true need has been reported. I believe it is our chief responsibility to meet the needs of our families and extended families (local body of believers), as well as any other we may come into contact with in the world. However, I believe it is vitally important for us to discern the difference between professed needs and wants; as well as, whether or not that individual is seeking to do their very best in this world. If they are working hard and are in a pinch, then Christians need to be there to offer loving aid. If a person refuses to do what is right, then why waste resources? Jesus says a laborer is worthy of his wages (Luke 10.7), but he condemns those who refuse to work (Matt 25.26, 30).
If you squander your livelihood on frivolous things, then you will end up eating pig slop (Luke 15.13-16). While it is true that the Father in that particular parable embraced his long lost son, the son’s attitude had changed from a rebellious sinner to one who was willing to work as a slave (Luke 15.17-21).
Biblical truths…not traditions. Although, they have been traditionally held within the household of faith.
Neither of the cases you provided have to do with prior choices. And specifically, neither of those address the concern you had, that the person might be a drunk. Since neither of those address the question I asked, how can you call denying someone help because you disapprove of their lifestyle (their drinking, as one concrete example you’ve given) as biblically justified? That seems to me very much to be a tradition of men.
Yes, they do. Read them.
A person who refuses to work is refused food (2Thess 3.10). That person does not deserve to eat. He is not to have his “needs” met by the local church. Refusing to work is a prior choice (the antecedent) and warrants the following action (consequent) “…let him not eat.” That one is glaringly obvious and from it alone we might draw a working principle.
The unbelieving widow is also denied aid by the local church (vv. 9-11). Paul sets up the category distinction between those who may or may not be on the list. Age is one requirement (60 years), but there are others,
“…having been the wife of one man [a one man woman], having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work” (1Tim 5.9b-10; NASB).
Contrast with “younger widows,” again one requirement established by Paul as before, but there are others,
“…they want to get married, thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge. At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention” (1Tim 5.11b-13).
They break their pledge to remain a widow and get married (prior choice), they do not work but are idle (prior choice), they gossip and are busybodies (prior choice)…each and every one an antecedent to the consequent response: they are not to be on the books in the use of the local church’s funds.
Again, not tradition but Scriptural teaching. Stating your opinion (which you are entitled to) does not mean that you are accurate. You may not like the conclusions drawn, but they are plainly derived from Scripture. The Bible is not an exhaustive book of ethics any more than it is on any other subject. But it lays down proper foundations from which we might draw accurate conclusions.
A drunkard is not different than the glutton or the slothful person who refuses to do what is right. Yes, they need saved, but we cannot save them. We present them the truth in love. We help them as we are able. But there comes a time when you need to make a discernment between casting pearls at swine and helping those others that God puts in your life. We cannot help everybody. A person that does not want our help, cannot have their needs met. And it is foolish for you or me or anyone else to attempt to do so. If that seems harsh or unloving, then we will have to disagree and leave the judgment as to who is being more faithful to the Lord.
By my read, the younger widow is being provided for by her family, so there’s a question of who should provide for her, not a question of if she should be cared for.
Drinking and not working are not inextricably connected. I know a lot of people who drink to excess every weekend and still work full time. I know a lot of people who drink to excess, but also volunteer. You seem bound and determined to set yourself up as judge over who gets the money and to read “drinking” in places it’s never mentioned.
1Tim 5:9-11 list the requirements that allow for a widow to be placed on the local church’s role. Age is one requirement, being a godly woman is another. “A widow is to be put on the list only if she…” (v.9). This is a conditional clause. If she meets the hypothetical “if,” then she receives aid. If she has family, then they are to meet her needs. And the unspoken if, the antithesis to godly widow, is “if” she doesn’t meet those qualifications, then she is judged accordingly.
The young woman, likewise has restrictions, and these are because of youthful passions that may or may not be bridled.
Drunkenness is not the same as drinking. Drinking in excess, like eating in excess, is the path towards drunkenness. Drinking and eating are not sins in Scripture. Drunkenness (i.e., being a drunkard) and gluttonous behaviors are. They are evidence of an unrestrained individual; someone who cannot govern themselves, because they are not themselves governed by the Spirit of the Lord (i.e., unsaved). Refusing to work (slothfulness) is likewise sinful behavior, which is why Paul tells the Thessalonians to rebuke the man. He needs his sin highlighted so that he might repent.
A person who works and drinks excessively as you point out is on the road to disaster, but they are not there yet. Eventually, the behavior at home will catch up to them and they will possibly lose their job, lose their ability to drive, harm someone else in the process, or cause irreparable harm to their own bodies. Not to mention the strain this may put on their personal relationships.
Odds are, however, if a person is working full time and they are being good stewards of their money, then they will not “need” assistance from their family or the local church. Circumstances change I am well aware of that, life has its ebb and flow, but that may force them to work an extra job, get rid of some of their creaturely comforts, or whatever the situation calls for. I do not deny extreme cases—emergent cases—but they are not the norm.
And by the way, we are all called to make judgments (John 7.24; 1Cor 2.15). This is true for every believer, and it is most certainly true for the elders/overseers of Christ’s flock for which I have been ordained to do. I take the charge very seriously, for as you pointed out (perhaps indirectly) the local church’s money is really God’s money. I’m a steward charged (as are fellow elders) with faithfully dispersing it where it goes in consideration of the congregation and the needs of her members or those in the community to where we are reaching out.
Also, I’ll keep in mind that any paragraph with “LOL” near the end is probably tongue-in-cheek. Just because it’s a serious subject is no reason to be devoid of humor. I’ve tried to match your tone, and you’ve remained serious and appropriate, but I can easily follow your lead if you move to a slightly more irreverent and humorous tone like I’m more accustomed to.
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