Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I'm afraid I'm that I'm not supposed to be like this

I've been reading St. John of the cross and some of the other Christian mystic writers and i've really been convicted. One of the first things you will notice when you read works by Christian mystics is that they focus a great deal on poverty. You will be hard pressed to find a Christian writer from this tradition that will discuss contemplative prayer or experiencing the Living God without calling for the denial of all earthly goods and sacrifice for others.
While reading these books, I started thinking about Christ saying that there will always be poor. This is completely true. There will always be poor and there will always be suffering. Unfortunately, this verse has been used to make the church complacent. we all figure that since there will always be poor, then there is no rush to care for them. But as i thought about this more, i said to myself, "why does the poor have be "them"?" Yes, it is inevitable that there will be poor because we are in a fallen world where people take far more than they need and even intentionally withhold from others to fulfill their sinful plans. But we seem to have automatically put the role of poor on others, why not take it on ourselves? why not give up as much of our money and belongings as we can and put an end to unintended poverty? There are around 2 billion Christians in the world, granted some of them are already poor, but imagine if the church eliminated the starvation and suffering caused by lack of money. This would be the greatest attestment to God and his love since His Son hung on a tree. Not to mention, this is following Christ's model of poverty. Which brings me to a bit of a side rant.

Jesus was poor!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Someone get Benny Hinn and his cohorts the memo. Jesus was poor and so were the disciples. Before I start looking at the Biblical evidence for this, let me point out that when the Bible refers to the poor, there is a much different meaning than what we think of. In the greek and later the Roman culture, there were two catagories of poor. There was "poor" which basically meant that you had enough to live, no more. The life of the "poor" was horrible. they were able to eat and to live though meagerly. But as people who had little money and little or no land, they were easily victimized. The second catagory was "slave." Slaves had nothing besides what was given to them. Without the food given by their masters, they would die. Now that we have clarified that, let us look to scriptural evidence for Christ's poverty.

1) He was born in a stable (Lk. 2:7) . if Christ has been born into a rich family, then they would probably have had a caravan and set up tents to stay in, not have to rely on a inn. Some people will point to the three wisemen and say that their gifts were God providing riches for Jesus. This is certainly a possibilty, but we don't know how much gold was given or what the worth of the other gifts would have been. Plus, we don't know what purpose God had for those riches. it is entirely possible that they were used to fund Jesus's exodus into Egypt. Either way, to assume that these gifts were a sign of God's desire for Jesus to be affluent seem to ignore the rest of the gospel accounts.

2) He and his father were carpenters (Mt. 13:55) . A Carpenter during the time of Christ was by all accounts a lowly job. A man would not become rich from such a profession nor would a rich man ever do such a job.

3) Jesus lived in Nazareth (Mt. 2:23) which was a poor agricultural community.

4) Jesus did not have a permanent home (Mt. 8:19-20). Keep in mind that things were much different back then, people couldn't just travel around and renting a place to stay using their credit card. If you didn't have property, you were poor, plain and simple.

5) When Jesus asked the disciples to feed the people who had heard him teach (Mk. 6:32-44), they could only get the equivalent of $28 worth of bread. Not a whole lot for 13 people even in those days.

6) they would have to sell their clothes to buy a sword (Luke 22:35-36). if they were all rich then they would need to sell anything to buy a sword.

7) In order to pay the temple tax, the disciples had to get money from the mouth of fish (Mt. 17:24-27). Again, something unnecessary if they were well off.

8) He was buried in someone else's tomb (Mt. 27:59-60). If he were rich, he would have had a family plot or purchased his own tomb.

There are a ton of other verses that point to the poverty of jesus and his disciples, but i think we've touched on the big ones. Heck i haven't even touched upon Jesus's teachings, but I doubt that anyone will seriously try to say Jesus wants everyone to be rich based upon his teachings ("blessed are the poor," "it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven," etc) . let me put one thing to rest though before I move on. Some believe that since Jesus asigned someone to be treasurer (Judas) that they had a lot of money. I must say, thi conclusion is jumped to with so little hesitation that Evil Knievel would be impressed. Judas was given the common purse because the disciples were living communally. Just as in Acts, Christ and his followers shared everything. Their ministry was funded by friends and through offerings. I don't know how one could assume that just because someone was responsible for the money that they must have had a lot of it. Go to any poor struggling church and you will see that having someone in church of the money is just as if not more important than in a well off ministry.

back to my main point. Christ suffered so that others wouldn't have to. he worked himself regged and was asked several times to rest by his concerned mother and family. He spent all the money he had to feed others. And finally he was tortured and murdered for the sake of others. Some people try to milk his sacrifice for everything they can get out of it. They claim that faith in Christ brings abundant living here on earth and in heaven. They are half right. Faith in Christ will lead to fulfillment of all things. But it is not in the way they think. Christ's death returned us to a proper relationship with God. It allowed us to once again be in His presence and know his will. Now we can begin to live as He intended, loving Him, loving each other, and loving the world he created. We will have abundance because we no longer desire more than we need, and what we need he provides through his creation. By his creation I mean us, his children, whom he uses to provide for the world. if we all begin caring for eachother, we will be cared for. If we die doing so, if we starve, if we become sick, then we must remember, this life is not necessary. It is only the heavenly world we hope for that is needed. It is only our heavenly and eternal Father that is needed.

"Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life."

That's my rant for today. i think tomorrow I may go over earthy suffering.
Dan, 9:35 AM | link | 9 comments |