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March 23, 2012

Comments

I'm commenting to concede that spreading 'the truth' about Christ IS a lesser goal than spreading material wealth if 'material wealth' includes having enough to eat and safe drinking water.

A (not the) story of 18th century England is not an understanding of poverty.

RonH

If you believe in Christianity, why is making things more comfortable for a few days, months or years more important than insuring benefits that will last for the next trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion quadrillion millennia?

I that not like avoiding an innoculation that will cure a debilitating disease because the needle might hurt for a few minutes?

Trent,

That's some serious retirement planning you're doing there. But even in the immediate, I think of Proverbs 18:14 -- "A man's spirit will endure sickness, but a broken spirit who can bear?"

As to those who would knock the Church for fulfilling its mission, I'd go more with 18:2 from the same book.

I'm not saying not to focus on the near term. I'm saying that to expect the church to focus primarily on the near term at the expense of the long term is to ask it to behave against it's own beliefs.

18:2 keeps coming up more and more in my thoughts.

Trent,

That's the beauty of the Good News. It's a comfort to your immediate circumstances, and a guarantee of eternity. Go into many church basements on a Friday night for the Recovery-type groups, and you find men and women who are pleased to know they'll have life with Christ forever, but who also desperately need him right now to get through this day, and this hour. No amount of material aid will heal their spirits.

Amy

"an economy in the long run"

Yes of course. That is what it is always about. The long run is all important. It doesn't matter who dies in the short run as long as it is for the greater good in the long run. Same old excuses.

Dear Amy, this is the kind of economy that fueled Winston Churchill's treachery in a broken promise to my people who were killed off to the tune of 30 thousand in 1945 in the killing fields of Slovenia and all for the greater good in the long run. This kind of economy is a detestable evil and anyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus should hang their head in shame if they subscribe to it. As if we are in God's position to know what is for the greatest good! It was because of this mistaken idea of what was the greatest good that my people had to live under the twisted perversion of Socialism from 1945 to 1991. That's 47 years of living under the Socialist rule. Do you have any idea what the treatment of dedicated Catholics was like in a Socialist state? The greater good? Really? When will Americans learn the lessons of history instead of the lies their fellow salesman tell them?

Louis,

"it’s the values of a nation that affect the economy. Where virtues like honesty, frugality, and diligence are valued, and the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and property rights are respected, people are free to create, trade, and prosper."

I don't see how you get from that to Socialism. What you're protesting against is indeed evil, I just don't see where it's what Amy is suggesting.

"it’s the values of a nation that affect the economy. Where virtues like honesty, frugality, and diligence are valued, and the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and property rights are respected, people are free to create, trade, and prosper."

I don't see how you get from that to Socialism. What you're protesting against is indeed evil, I just don't see where it's what Amy is suggesting."

I am sure that she is not suggesting it. Neither did Churchill when he turned his back on the Domobranci had his troops disarm them pack them on cattle cars and send them back to the Socialists under Tito to be slaughtered en-mass and this after promising to protect them. It was all done for the greater good as he sided with the Socialists against the Nazis. Is that the honesty she was referring to? Or was honesty and keeping your word sacrificed for the "greater good"? Just how quickly will the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and property rights be respected when they are found to stand in the way of the "greater good" or someone's mistaken idea of what that is? I don't trust mankind to know what the greatest good is and for good reason since history is littered of examples of mankind getting it wrong. When it comes to that "In God I trust".

Louis,

Respectfully, I think you're seeing a bogey here where none is. Again--you are completely right that Churchill's actions were inexcusable and evil. But I think that you may be straining a reading of her words that is uncharitable, because a small portion of them resonates with the betrayal your people endured. Nowhere do I see her suggest that "the long term outweighs the short term." And if that were implicit, the long term to which she is referring is the Kingdom of Heaven, and making efforts to get people there.

If you trust in God, then remember the word of his Son, admonishing us not to store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust will devour them, but to keep our treasures in heaven. Because where your treasure is, so is your heart.

Or, look at it on a more practical level. Nowhere is anyone saying "Leave folks to rot for the greater good". It's more like "It might help more to improve the quality of people's lives to educate them than just to drop some grain in a square and call it a done day."

Bennett

""It might help more to improve the quality of people's lives to educate them than just to drop some grain in a square and call it a done day.""

This is true, but both extremes can exist. If people are dying of starvation, that grain drop could save their lives. You can't sacrifice the short term for the sake of the long term. They are both important and should be given equal weight. I think that the mistake described in this piece is to give one more weight than the other. There is no way to improve people's long term life if they die because of short term needs. Both short term and long term should be given equal importance, but first things first and the short term has to come first or the long term is just an intellectual discussion about people that no longer are. I think that an excessive focus on the long term to to the detriment of the short term is placing the cart before the horse and that is a fatal mistake.

Louis,

She never said that we should do any of that, though. You've put words into Amy's mouth. You're right that it does no good to "teach a man to fish" if he starves to death while you're doing it. But nobody's really encouraging that that be done. I read Amy as justifying why spiritual work is important, as well as material aid. Else we aren't missionaries, we're just a Peace Corps with prayer beads.

Bennett

"She never said that we should do any of that, though. You've put words into Amy's mouth. "

Not exactly. I am complaining about the words that weren't in her mouth, so to speak, and should have been.

It is quite clear what the focus of this article was in the last portion of it:

"If you’re interested in thinking more about how values, economics, and Christianity fit together"

I don't see "immediate needs of the needy" on her list. I'd like to know why it didn't make it there. It belongs. If left out, this becomes nothing more than an academic exercise with questionable practical value and I have already raised some of those questions.

Helping people in this world is important, and one should do what one can to try to avoid making things worse, but if one thinks that the long term is not more Important than the short term then I think they have missed what it means to accept Christ.

I disagree that they have equal weight. If assumes that death is the end of everything. That makes sense for an atheist, but not for a Christian. How is it a good thing to have someone spend eternity in a bad situation when you could have changed that? I don't think that in that regards people will spend eternity thanking you. They don't have equal weight because they don't have equal consequences.

We have far to many people ruining their lives because the short term benefits of doing something is given equal or greater weight to the problems that may last forever.

Trent

"Helping people in this world is important, and one should do what one can to try to avoid making things worse, but if one thinks that the long term is not more Important than the short term then I think they have missed what it means to accept Christ."

When it comes to temporal matters and I think that those are in view they are both of equal weight, but the order I mentioned is important. When it comes to eternal matters, you have a point. But to assume there is no distinction is just another human mistake. Both eternal and temporal issues may have moral ramification, but Jesus made it clear that failure to meet temporal needs of people is like doing that to him. He made those things equal with his affirmation of equal weight.

"I disagree that they have equal weight."

I respectfully disagree and I think I have joined Jesus' side on this.

Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

From his words it is quite clear that WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION! Not just to teach men to fish, but to feed them until they can.


"If assumes that death is the end of everything."

No such assumption is being made here.

"That makes sense for an atheist, but not for a Christian."

It made good sense to Jesus and that's good reason to re-examine the issue.

"How is it a good thing to have someone spend eternity in a bad situation when you could have changed that?"

I agree with you on the issue of eternal issues, but both temporal and eternal are being dealt with in the bible. It doesn't turn a blind eye to either and I think we would do well to do the same.

"I don't think that in that regards people will spend eternity thanking you. They don't have equal weight because they don't have equal consequences."

Again, I think you are mistaken. If you do not feed the hungry, how is it that you are getting the message of the gospel out? A Christian's actions and words should reinforce each-other and if Christianity is incapable of supplying the temporal needs, why would anyone believe that it is capable of providing for the eternal? Surely our God is great enough to do both. If we don't do our part, then this message doesn't get out and people need this message desperately.

"We have far to many people ruining their lives because the short term benefits of doing something is given equal or greater weight to the problems that may last forever."

I am not talking about short term benefits, I am speaking of moral responsibility to help with short term problems that can lead to eternal ramifications as is illustrated in Matthew I quoted.

You make good points, Louis.
It occurs to me that this may be why God blessed Christendom with such material wealth over the past several centuries. Not as a reward, but as a blessing to further His Kingdom on earth.


Where did I say that we should not feed the hungry?

My point is that they will not thank you if they spend eternity in Hell, but you pat yourself on the back for the fact that you gave them some soup once. Is that not the same error the Pharisees made when they would brag about all the wonderful things they had done, but neglected to actually prepare the people for Heavan?

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." John 6:51

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28

BTW, I regularly give money to efforts to provide food, water, and medicine to people in need. I think I should do that, but if you don't do the whole Jesus saves thing, you are not doing anything to keep them from an even worse fate and that isn't helping in the long run because spending an eternity seperated from God is more significant that a few years hardship on Earth.

I think you should do both, but they are definitely not equal.

The Methodists made such an impact on their nation that in 1962 historian Élie Halévy theorized that the Wesleyan revival created England’s middle class and saved England from the kind of bloody revolution that crippled France.

One must be careful with topics like this that it doesn't lead down the path of the "prosperity Gospel". I think the statement above is indicative of the type of thinking that God has when he graciously brings a people out of poverty and provides for their needs.

In fact, Jesus himself tells us in Luke's Gospel not to worry about tomorrow and gives the examples of the flowers in the meadow and the sparrow in the field as illustrations of God's provision for his own, but at the same time we should not equate that provision with material or worldly wealth.

For instance, Jesus also said that His food was to do the work of the One who sent Him, and, further, that He as the Son of Man had no where to lay his head at night. Doesn't sound a whole lot like material provision.

Also, Paul wrote that he had learned how to be content in all circumstances; remember that included prison, beatings, kangaroo courts, torture, etc.

So, certainly God has the capability to bless his people with material wealth, but it's not intended for private consumption. He does so always with a purpose and view for those blessings to be used in furtherance of His Kingdom, and as a Christian we should not expect for God to make us materially prosperous simply because we're a "Christian". To purport anything different is to preach a different Gospel than the one found the Scriptures.

So feeding somone and not preaching the Gospel is exactly the same effect as preaching to them and letting them starve?

I think the benefits were that the idea was out there that the state should intervene to make sure the people were taken care of rather than enforce the rights of the landed gentry and leaving the workers to fend for themselves while at the mercy of their landlords and employers.

ArthurK

"So feeding somone and not preaching the Gospel is exactly the same effect as preaching to them and letting them starve?"

In the context of our responsibility as followers of Jesus, YES! We should neglect neither. Either way it is a sin of omission. The motivation as always is because of what God did for us and it is for that reason that we should WANT to do both. But that is a bit of a side issue. The important point here is that we should not place emphasis of one over the other. The reason is that it may be misleading if we do. There has to be a balance struck and folks should realize that this balance exists within the christian life.
I realize that Amy's emphasis is a response to a particularly unbalanced view...that of ignoring the values that help a nation to thrive. However, this reactive response is not superior to a proactive Christian living that includes both short term and long term considerations. I think that apologetics has a place within Christendom, but it tends to be a reactive rather than a proactive approach. I think we need both and we should be aware of that fact.

You think keeping someone from spending an eternity in Hell is no more important to giving them a sandwich?

How can avoiding consequences that will last forever not be more important than temporarily alleviating an issue?


Matthew 16:26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
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Mark 8:35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
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Mark 8:37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Apparently bowl of soup.

Isn't this reminiscent of the type of deals that the Devil is supposed to make with people? "Don't worry about the soul. Giving this sandwich is just as pleasing to the lord as helping him accept Jesus' offer" he might say.

Chuckie,

A bowl of soup, or perhaps "a mess of pottage." (Gen 25)

Esau did not come out on the best side of that deal.

Louis, you are completely misunderstanding and misrepresenting what I’ve said here. My point, exactly as I stated it, is this: “Rather, it’s to point out that more than anything else, it’s the values of a nation that affect the economy.” Certain values are necessary for a healthy economy—values that Christianity cultivates. I honestly don’t see how you move from this to charging me with calling for sacrificing some people “for the greater good.” Saying what will happen in the long run if a country does not have these values is certainly not a call for sacrificing people for the greater good. This post is not about advocating a particular policy; it merely notes that when people believe the gospel and follow Jesus, their behavior changes in ways that affect the nation’s economy for the better.

As I said, merely providing material goods won’t bring a nation out of poverty. Perhaps you missed the word “merely.” Goods given to meet immediate needs, when that is all that’s offered, will be used up, and will never end dependence. But goods for immediate crises plus a change in the nation’s values (including respect for immaterial things like property rights) produce a stable, growing economy. Nowhere do I say that we shouldn’t help people who are starving to death with their immediate needs. I’m not sure how you got that from this.

I don't see "immediate needs of the needy" on her list. I'd like to know why it didn't make it there.

Louis, this is not an instructional post on how to help the needy. Rather, it’s a post about how the immaterial values of Christianity affect the material economy—that is, it’s about how values, economics, and Christianity affect each other (which is why those were the words I used).

However, even when thinking in terms of the practical rather than the abstract, this is an extremely important topic because if we don’t understand it, we cannot properly help nations, as a whole, escape the kind of crushing poverty that nations in the West (as a whole) have risen out of.

The question must be asked: “Why did the West rise out of poverty?” That question is of the utmost importance for any undeveloped nation trying to build a new, stable, growing economy.

This is the big-picture question. And nowhere does this big-picture question preclude help to individuals for immediate crises along the way.

I encourage you to watch the videos I linked to and see what you think.

This post also has something to say about the Christian worldview. Since Christianity is true, when a nation lives by it, that nation's health will generally be better than if it embraced opposing values. This is a statement about wisdom, not about earning blessings from God. Proverbs aren't promises--that is, they aren't laws for gaining health and wealth; they're generalizations about how wisdom and righteousness contribute to stable lives. They generally create more stable lives because they reflect the character of God and direct our behavior in the ways in which we were created to act.

I should also point out that if you read the article I linked to (the one this post is centered on) you'll see that when he gives the detail of the fourth main way their values where affected--"a new view on money"--a big part of this was their charity. They gave the money they earned to people in need, and so, lifted them up:

Finally Wesley told Methodists to “Give all you can.” He pointed out that all money comes from God, and that people are not the owners, but only the trustees, of God’s money. He said that God wants believers to make sure that they and their families have adequate food, housing, clothing, tools and savings to do all the work which God has appointed for them to do. He then stated that any money beyond these necessities must be given to the poor. “Render unto God not the tenth, nor a third, not half, but all that is God’s (be it more or less) by employing it all on yourself, your household, the household of faith, and all mankind in such a manner that you may give a good account of your stewardship.”

Charity has always been a part of Christian values.

Chuckie,

In what context are you using the word "important". If someone starves to death before they can grasp the good news of the gospel, would it not be more "important" to feed them before you threatened them with hell? I know if my family and I were starving and impoverished to the point of death and a missionary bearing good tiddings and food that I desperatly needed said "before you eat, and I do hope you don't die in the process, let me explain something very difficult and life changing to you." I'm not sure how I would respond amicably.

I don't think the idea was to hold a sandwich above the head of a starving man and scream "repent or die" at them.

I think the point was that you had two options. One had short term consequences and one had extremely long term consequences. You have the opportunity to address both, but in doing both which has the higher priority?

The claim has been made that the two were completely equal. The addressing of the long term consequences have absolutley no right to have any priority over the stort term ones.

It is not surprising that the idea is contraversial in a culture where when given the choice between paying for university or college courses or a nicer car or an X-Box, or a bigger flat screen TV often does not go to the courses.

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