Up at Night #10 – Intellectual Dishonesty
by MW Cook
Well, it actually doesn’t keep me up at night. I sleep well in spite of the staggering dishonesty I convince my brain to partake in. But the fact that this does not keep me up at night, keeps me up at night.
– I think that it’s pretty important to be born from above. This is because when someone came and privately asked Jesus for spiritual advice, that’s what he told him (John 3). And he made it sound serious, too. And when Jesus says something serious, I find it very logical to pay attention to it.
– Conversely, I do not seem to think it’s all that important to help the poor, even though Jesus and many prophets and apostles said we should (Proverbs 19:17, 1 John 3:17, James 1:27, and exactly one jillion more quotes). I may talk about it a lot, but I never seem to translate the talk into the kind of action Jesus suggested. Funny, eh?
Of course, I’m comparing apples to oranges, aren’t I? I mean, in John 3, Jesus was talking about salvation! Not morality. He was telling Nic how to enter into that wild and awesome Kingdom of Heaven that he was always talking about. It’s different, right?
I thought it was. I hoped it was. But I’m not so sure anymore.
Remember the rich young ruler who asked how to get to heaven (Luke 18:18-23)? Jesus says, be good. The guy replies, I am! Jesus says, go sell everything and give it to the poor. Then you’re in.
Thankfully I’m a clever person. I have a solution. I can postulate that Jesus had a deeper, not-so-obvious spiritual meaning when he told that young ruler-guy to sell his stuff. I can probably postulate a good enough meaning that I won’t actually have to do anything. Maybe I’ll just say that Jesus meant he ought to be willing to sell his crap. Yeah. It’s a heart issue, right? I can be willing to do that. So long as I don’t have to actually do it.
And what about when Jesus talks in Matthew 25:31-46? That one’s tougher. Jesus says that he’s going to gather everyone up and reject anyone who didn’t help the poor. What can I do about that one?
Oh! I got it! We are saved by faith, not works! Paul trumps Jesus! QED!
I hate it when my sarcasm is uncomfortably close to how I really live. I wonder in how many more places of my life I’m willfully blind and dishonest.
Matt, I find that it’s mostly people who actually HAVE left all to follow Him to be the ones who obsess about whether they have given up all to follow Him. :)
found your blog off a post you made on Carl Medaris’ site – now i just check in now and again to see what’s up with you.
Just to take the rich young ruler as an example: what Jesus is addressing here is the “non-negotiable” in his life. I’m borrowing heavily from a sermon i herad by Matt Chanlder – a brother i love and who frequently rocks my brain. He said in that sermon something like ‘we accept a shallow form of Christianity b/c we know if we were to allow Him to press in deeply, He’s goin to bring up the non-negotiable.’ It’s that thing in our lives where we say, “God i love YOU and i’ll follow You and go wherever You lead … oh, except there! … and there too!” Jesus wasn’t calling us all to sell everything and be poor like the ascetics – he was pressing in on this guys’ “non-negotiable” and exposing his heart. That is gonna look different to all of us. But we DO all have at least one to be sure and it IS most certainly an idol that must be destroyed if we truly want all He has for us in this life.
It’s definitely more a heart issue than an outward issue. If he sold everything he had, but still wanted it back, then all that would’ve changed is that now he would also be a hypocrite!!
If on the other hand, his possessions were no longer his god, but Jesus was, suddenly, it would be easy to sell everything. It would also be easy to hold things lightly and give them away…or use them for God’s glory (stewardship)….
Jesus never made this a norm for everyone (think of friends he visited like Mary/Martha/Lazarus….he fully enjoyed and appreciated their abundant and luxurious hospitality)…but I agree with the last poster…he was always challenging the “non-negotiables” in people’s lives. In this case, he hit the nail exactly on the head. This was the one thing this man WASN’T willing to give up. For us, it might be something totally different. The concept is the same, though.
But isn’t the main non-negotiable in our society our comfort and coin? Aren’t we the rich young rulers of the world? I’m not trying to be argumentative, I honestly trying to figure out why the early church can sell all they don’t need so that they eliminate poverty while I don’t have to. I cannot help but feel inconsistent. It doesn’t matter how I try to explain it to myself, I still keep coming back to the haunting fact that the first followers of Jesus lived in utter simplicity so that there were no poor among them.
How can I say I’m willing to give 100% of my money to Jesus when I live own the superfluous while some people die for lack of bread?
Yes, it is a big issue for our society. It is in poor societies too. They lust for wealth like we do, but it looks different. I definitely remember seeing that in Africa. The “means” are different, but the heart motivations are IDENTICAL.
But we’re not talking about our society. We’re talking about us as individuals. If this was the case for everyone, why didn’t Jesus say this to everyone, especially the rich people he met? Nicodemus was told to be born again. To the adulterous woman, he said “Go and sin no more”. To Zacchaeus, he told him to repay what he had stolen. To his disciples, he told them to follow him (and leave their occupations). He met them at the “issue” they struggled with, and challenged that.
I find it really interesting that Jesus told the rich man to sell all and follow Him, and he wasn’t willing to. Jesus knew what his response would be, and that’s part of why he said it. He could have said the same thing to all his rich friends who followed him (Nicodemus, Mary/Martha/Lazarus, rich women who supported him and I’m sure, many others) and they would have done it in a heartbeat. But He didn’t!It wasn’t an issue for them, so He felt no need to challenge it. They were already using their resources to serve the Lord.
I also think we have to be careful not to use the first church in Acts as our example for everything. This is a historical narrative, not an epistle. You don’t find this kind of teaching (sell all, live communally) in the epistles and it doesn’t appear to be repeated in other churches that are planted.
I do agree with you, though, that we need to have a lifestyle of giving. There are far too many western Christians who see the money they have as being theirs. It isn’t. We’ll give account for how it was spent. Because we’ve been given so much more, we are responsible for more.
My question for you would be, how would giving up all you have actually help poor people? It would feed a few people for a short time, but then YOU would need to be fed by others! :) It’s such a short-term “solution”…which is why I don’t think the Bible mandates it.
If on the otherhand, you commit to a lifetime of giving and using your resources to help the poor (here and there), that’s a whole different thing.
Eventually we have to stop be-moaning our wealth and start using it the way God intended! I’m not saying you’re not doing that, but alot of Christians have this attitude of “complaining” about how unfair our wealth is, instead of seeing it as a stewardship that we are called to use to relieve burdens and bring hope.
It isn’t just our wealth…it’s the access we have to resources, communication, Bible teaching, freedom, etc….this is something we need to steward and use for the Lord. You and Ruth are both doing that and that’s a good thing!