Sunday, May 18, 2014

“Spirit and Mind” –> Being Poor Is Not A Virtue

Luke 6:20:  “Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

Well we start off this post with a bang.  I label that it is not a virtue to be poor, but then I immediately list Luke 6:20, where our Christ says, blessed are the poor. The reason that I can say this is because scripture is easily read, but difficult to understand.  I cannot tell you the number of times that Luke 6:20 has been used to justify the lack of financial diligence by those in the Christian church.  Those of the “poor” persuasion try to use this and the other scripture on calling out that the wealthy have issues to strongly support their lack of willingness to be financially savvy. 

The first thing to do when doing correct exegesis is  make sure we are quoting the fully context of the scripture we are looking at.  Let us look at the full passage in Luke:

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.

Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.

Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.

Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

This is the context of the scripture.  Now that we have the entire scripture, we can explain what is happening.  At the time when the Man-God walked this earth, there was a perception that the rich received their money because they were godly.  The more rich you were, the more godly you must be.  The culture went a bit further, and then it called out that if you were poor, then the hand of God was against you.  If you were poor, then this was because you had a spiritual problem in your life.  This can be drawn from the Old Testament, if you look at certain verses.  (Proverbs 10:3 “The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry….”)

Now, either extreme is not a holistic look at scripture.  If you read the above, you will see that the message is extraordinarily simple.  There are two classes of people on this earth.  The first category of person is somebody who is is hungering and thirsting after God and righteousness.  This person may be rich, or this person may be poor.  In this message, to this audience, our Lord was saying a difficult saying to force them to listen and ponder.  This message is difficult for us to hear today, but we must listen.

Our Lord is turning the culture on its head and saying by saying that being poor is not bad in itself.  Matthew quotes the same general message, but in the version in Matthew, it is clear that the Lord is calling out that the hunger (and lack of money) is of a spiritual nature.  If you are satisfied with you life thinking you have it all together (spiritually and fiscally), you are simply screwed.  The more riches (and spiritual self-satisfaction you have), the more you are headed down the spiritual ladder.

The secret of the scripture is that life is a grid, and to understand the scriptures, we need to understand the grid that our Lord refers to.

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The first line on the grid is our understanding of our spiritual wealth.  The first thing to realize in this life is that all of us are poor spiritually.  I do believe that as we go on our walk with the Lord, and if we open up ourselves to the act and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we can lower our sin nature, and overcome many sins.  Some people believe that there is a second work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification, and in their version of sanctification, the Holy Spirit comes in and removes our tendency to sin.  In essence, we walk this earth and never sin.

I have met those that believe in this doctrine, and I find that they all suffer issues of pride, and if not pride, then some other thing.  I have yet to meet he person that truly has no human nature.  The more the church declares they are spotless, the more I find that they gossip.  I believe that any reading of the scriptures calls out that while we strive to holiness, we also realize that we are very far away from what we should be.

This first axis of knowledge is “Knowledge of Spiritual State.”  The more that you say that you are spiritually rich, the more you are in horrible trouble.  The more than you realize that you are still struggling to attain the goal of a truly spiritual life, or the more that you hunger after a right state (because you know you are Spiritually poor), the more blessed you are.

The other axis is very similar to this axis.  This axis is much easier to recognize, however.  This axis is the axis of the “Amount of money I have.”  Unlike the Spiritual axis, it is exceptionally easy to understand this number.  You look at your bank account.  You understand your assets.  You either have money or you don’t. 

So we have a two axis grid.  One axis is easy to recognize, and the other axis is not.  Christians run into real problems when they start to somehow to equate one axis with the other axis.  There are two major issues.  If you are rich, and you say “this indicates that I am spiritual, you are literally in the danger of Hell Fire.  Our Lord made this exceptionally clear when he said, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” in Matthew 19:24.  I believe that any holistic reading of the scriptures will have you understand that Christ is speaking to those that believe they are spiritually rich.

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If we return to our grid, we can show this.  If you say you are spiritually rich, and have lots of money, you are basically screwed.  You cannot fit a camel through an eye of a needle, and there is not indication that when Christ spoke these words, he had some other bigger “eye of a needle” in mind.  (Some say he referred to a famous gate, but this is simply not supported by history.)  What Christ meant is “you are going to hell.”

Shocking?  Yes.  True?  Yes.

The absolute best that the rich can hope for is tragedy so they lose their riches.  They no longer have the ability to hand out money to the poor so they can feel good about themselves.  Pray for disaster for the rich Christians, because this is the open door for them.

As a mater of fact, you are better to be fiscally poor, even if you are self-satisfied in your spiritual life, because being poor is highly stressful.  The constant stress of being poor will force you to deal with the fact that you don’t have it all together.  Being poor is the pits because you will find that you constantly fail as you deal with the pressures of being poor.  There is a chance for you in this box, but to be truly saved, you need to realize your spiritual poverty.  This is very important because there has been a belief that somehow being poor is going to get you into heaven.  This is absolutely not true  You have the same risk as the rich person.  However, you are fortunately that experience has shown it is the poor that often are set up to make the move.

Where you want to be is on the right side of the grid.  If you have enough money, this is absolutely good.  This will surprise some of the readers of this blog, but I hope to quickly cover this so more in a second because it is a massive insight.  Just as important, if you have no money, and if you expect to grow in spiritual growth, you must learn how to handle money.  This is so misunderstood by the Christian Church, I will repeat:

The Scriptures say that understanding how to handle money is the secret to Spiritual growth.

Some day, I might do a bit of exegesis on Luke 16 and the parable of the shrewd servant.  The core of the story involves a servant that misused his master’s money to gain favor.  The morale of this story is that the servant looked at money as a tool, and not an end in itself.  He understood how to use money, and because he understood how money could be used, he is recognized by God (or the master) in the story as having an extremely capable virtue.  Now the servant was misusing his role, but he had a valuable virtue.  So, much so, that our Lord caps off the parable by saying the following

So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?

What  shocker for us in the Christian faith. In a story that is very confusing to many that read it, you find a truth that we all must understand.  Knowing about wealth and money is the gate for you to have any Spiritual riches.  The truth is that money is central to our faith, and I’ve read that 11 of the 39 parable talk about money.  Money was something on top of our Lord’s mind, and it should be on the top of our mind.  I encourage you to mine the scriptures to find all that it says, but here are some of the principles that I have derived:

  1. Managing money is a central core of the Christian faith, and we must seek to make wise money judgments or face no Spiritual growth.  This means we manage the money, and it does not manage us.
  2. We are to be prosperous when we can be prosperous so we need to owe no man (or government) anything.  People that simply take welfare and expect the government to take care of them are committing sin if they have the capability to take care of themselves.
  3. On the other hand, if we see real needs, then the Christian must work wisely to support those in needs.  We need to be beyond cautious in saying “you don’t need my help.”  If we don’t help those in need, we are in danger of the hell fire.  We can neither easily ignore the poor, nor can we simply give out money to excuse our guilt.  Instead, we must carefully use our wealth and seek truth.
  4. We are to get to a point in our life where we don’t need to rely on somebody else for our living.  This frees us to follow God whenever and wherever he wants.
  5. The next principle is akin to the last principle, don’t owe money to anybody.
  6. To seek money for fame or power is a grievous sin, and thinking that wealth is equal to spiritual capability is on the road to damnation.
  7. Don’t give publically so that others will say “they are so generous.”
  8. Our wealth must be use to spread the gospel and take care of physical needs.
  9. Don’t spend more than you earn.
  10. While you should eagerly seek wealth, do not allow this goal to choke out Spiritual growth.
  11. Use your wealth to take care of those in your family, and don’t force this burden on anyone else.  If your family needs money, and you are capable of earning, then you must earn it.  This is a much higher calling than “doing a job that is pleasing.”

If you read these 11 principles, you will see a common thread.  We are to seek wealth so that we can use it for ourselves and give it to those in need. The best place for giving is inside of the family and the Church.  Governments cannot know what a person needs, however, friends and family can.  Money given to two families that “look the same” is dangerous.  One family may need it.  The other family may become dependant (and crippled) on it.

Our use of money is a core of our faith, and we need to spend serious time thinking and meditating on the use of it.

image Now, I consider John Wesley to be one of the most Spiritually insight individuals that have walked this earth.  His writings of a practical nature, and unfortunately the genius of practical literature is often thrown away because people say, “Oh, now that I’ve read it, that is obvious.”  I believe that Wesley nicely take the above theme and crafts a much crisper and deeper understanding of the true nature of money. 

If this post hits a nerve, I can think of no better thing to do that to read his sermon 50 on the use of money.

However, he had 3 principles, which may be better than the 11 I have.  If you live your life according to this, you will be blessed:

  1. 1. Gain all you can, without hurting your neighbor
  2. 2. Save all you can
  3. 3. Give all you can

Ah John, you call to us beyond the grave.  I hope we can hear your voice.

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