Archive for April, 2011

Why Wealth is a Good Thing

I have been reading Wayne Grudem’s book “Politics According to the Bible” and he was referring to one of Jesus’ parables about talents and it struck me that Jesus commended the creation of wealth. In the 19th Chapter of Luke we read:

15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

In a parallel passage in Matthew 25 we read:

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

These passages have meanings that go far beyond the specific ability to generate wealth, as they speak to us of our need to develop our God given gifts. This concept is reinforced in Romans when Paul tells us:

6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Scripture is clear that we were made for a purpose and we should seek to fulfill the purpose for which God made us and generating wealth is a valid purpose, not just because the two parables specifically referenced that but because generating wealth is not a bad thing. We are told in 1 Timothy 6:10 that “…the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” and in Matthew 6:24 that “You cannot serve both God and money” but these scriptures refer to our attitudes towards money and not the money itself. Jesus in His parables commended the generation of wealth He did not commend loving money or serving money.

Letting my mind wander, I thought about what was good about wealth and I was intrigued by the great benefits that wealth brings to a society.

  • Exceptional Medical Care
  • Better and more nutritious food
  • Ability to provide disaster response
  • Ability to be generous with those less fortunate
  • Improved Communication
  • Ability to travel
  • Access to knowledge from all around the world
  • Computers!
  • Space exploration
  • Underwater exploration
  • Clean Energy
  • Clean Water
  • Good music at your fingertips
  • Safer buildings
  • Airplanes
  • Ocean Liners

Many boring, mundane and taken for granted things on this list and I won’t bore you with any more of my musings about the benefits of wealth creation. Maybe you would like to add your own?

I know there is danger when we talk about money, wealth or the generation thereof. There are usually two camps that Christians will gravitate towards, but they are both heresy. We could err on the side of the Kenneth Copeland health and wealth heresy, or we could err to the side of the Tony Campolo/Jim Wallis socialism heresy.

These extremes are not helpful. A healthy Christian perspective will realize just what Jesus realized – the ability to create wealth is a good thing. We should embrace that and see wealth and money as a tool that is not only used for the advance of the kingdom but for the service and blessing of society as a whole.

From a political perspective, it is in vogue these days to demonize the rich and demand more and more tax revenues from them, but perhaps a more biblical attitude would be one of gratefulness and admiration for those who are good at creating wealth. Just saying.

Is This What Democracy Looks Like

There has been a lot written recently including this piece in OpEdNews.com, about all the uprisings around the world, particularly in the Middle East, but also in England and Wisconsin, describing this as how democracy works, but I am not too sure. As Americans we tend to see people demonstrating against oppressive regimes as signs of democracy and view them sympathetically because of our own founding as a country in declaring our independence from England. I think this is a mis-reading of our founding and it leads to the wrong conclusions when looking at revolutions around the world, and in Wisconsin. 

In 1776 the thirteen colonies had their own governments, their own court systems and their own elections with many rights protected by the Crown. The thirteen colonies were established to govern the territories of America. The American revolution was not to displace those structures but a revolution to establish those structures as the ultimate governing authorities independent of the control of the Crown. In every revolution or demonstration that we are watching in the world today, these circumstances do not exist.

Governments are established by God to establish order and to punish the wrong-doer and to reward those who do right and we have an obligation to be subject to those who are in authority over us. How can we look at the mobs in the streets, or the rebels taking up weapons to oust their leaders and say “this is what Democracy looks like”? Unless there is a structure in place to establish order, the uprising only lead to chaos.

My take is that we should not be too hasty in lauding these “democratic” revolutions.

Social Issues vs. Economics

An interesting debate is emerging for the Christians and really any American, who want to be involved in the political process for the 2012 elections. Are economic issues the driving force or should moral & ethical issues be the focus. A recent editorial piece by Scott Baker of the Blaze “Growing Evangelical Clout Shapes Political Debate With 2012 Looming” raises this question, but is this really a choice?

When I read this piece a couple thoughts crossed my mind: Is one more important than the other? Can they actually be separated? As Christians, should we advocate on moral issues? After all we are not trying to convert anyone to Christianity through politics, nor are we trying to set up a theocracy or establish a Christian nation.

I know many Christians are turned off by the political process and some might become too involved in the political process, but in our role as citizens of a republic if we make no choice we are making a choice, so it is incumbent upon us to be wisely engaged. How do we do that?

When I hear the debate about economics vs. social issues, I always think of the verse from Deuteronomy 30:15 “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity”. It is interesting to me that life and prosperity are linked and death and adversity are linked. God gave the Israelites a choice. If they chose life (vs 19) they would live and prosperity would be part of that choice. Is God is promising or at least indicating that prosperity will follow a national choice for life and that adversity or destruction will follow a choice for death?

I have always thought that the most important issue facing any nation or any government was the issue of life. To the extent that a nation values the life of each individual citizen, to that extent they will be blessed. If a nation is not willing to protect the lives if it’s citizens it forfeits legitimacy and destroys its most valuable resource. We intrinsically understand this to be true when we call for the ouster of dictators such as Sadaam Hussein, Idi Amin or more recently, Moammar Gadhafi. These were/are men who abused their authority as rulers because of their abuse of their citizens. In the U.S. we say that our President governs with the consent of the governed, and on a basic level that is true of any government or at the very least by not killing its citizens. That is a chilling thought in light of the 50M plus children killed in utero since 1973?

As Christians we know the value of life, we know that each of us were knit together in our mothers womb and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and that we are His workmanship, created for good works that we should complete them for Him. The non-believer may not know that and may not even care, but the truth is true not just for Christians. If we want to seek the welfare of our nation, we will advocate strongly for life. If we as a nation choose life, prosperity is likely to follow. The reverse is not a guarantee.  

So I think I have the answer to my first question. Life & the moral issues are more important than the other in God’s economy. The choice of life precedes the prosperity that follows. We should push for and endorse and advocate the moral issues first and foremost, while at the same time being careful to not push for or endorse or advocate for Christianity. Our advocacy on moral issues (life, marriage, promiscuity, etc.) must be on the basis of natural law. We do not want a theocracy as that is unhealthy for the church as well as the society but the discussion of natural law and the dangers of a theocracy will have to wait for another day.

It is interesting that prosperity is linked to the choice for life. They can be separated but they are also closely tied together. Even though there is this close relationship there is definitely a primacy with life. Prosperity surely follows the choice of life, but life does not follow if we pursue prosperity because the scripture is equally clear that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. For those friends of ours who think economics is the primary issue, we can appeal to this by pointing out the economic benefits that ensue from correct moral choices and national policies.

Back to Scott Bakers piece then it would then be inappropriate to focus on fiscal issues in the 2012 elections and to put the moral and ethical issues on the back burner, as some (Mitch Daniels/Haley Barbour) would like to do. The issues of life and prosperity are linked, but prosperity follows life and does not lead. For more than one reason, it is important for us to never cede this ground.

First and foremost, as Christians we do not cede this ground because we want to obey God and please Him and every human is an invaluable treasure, given by God to this nation for the welfare and blessing of the nation. He is the one who told us to choose life.

While that is the highest reason for protecting life, as representatives of Christ in this world we want to seek the welfare of the community that we are a part of. The best way to seek the welfare of this nation is to advocate, agitate and argue for a strong life ethic. We want the nation to experience the blessing that each unique individual is and what they have to offer to the society as a whole and so we emphasize the importance of life for the welfare of the nation. Prosperity follows the choice for life.

How do we choose life? Eliminating capital punishment? Eliminating war? Eliminating poverty? Eliminating discrimination? Eliminating homophobia? Sometimes we complicate the issue by bringing in separate and unrelated issues, but for anyone serious about the issue of life, we need to think about who is currently killed in this nation with virtually no protection from the law. Those would be the most innocent victims. We will need to start there if we are going to begin to stand for life. The unborn are increasingly vulnerable and we need to do all we can to change that. As Christians we should be the conscience of the nation and we should press for leaders that will honor and respect and protect life. Who will de-fund Planned Parenthood. Don’t sit on the sidelines and don’t put these issues on the back burner for the “more pressing economic issues”. Life trumps all.

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