So What's This All About?

In case you didn't know, I'm in the multi-year-long process of posting a Christian devotional at the TAWG Blog. The TAWG Blog is, and always will be, mostly apolitical. For the most part, Bible-believing Christians will find little to disagree with there. But I also firmly believe that God's word can--and should--inform everything in life, and this should include politics and popular culture. How should we vote? How should we respond to hot topics such as abortion, capital punishment, taxes, and other issues? Which party, if either, is closer to the Biblical ideal? Tony Campolo and Ron Sider, Evangelicals whose political leanings are on the Left, have made the case in several of their writings that God wants his followers to vote politically on the Left more than on the Right. At times, some of them have gone so far as to equate voting on the Left with obedience to Christ, either subtly or not-so-subtly contending that the converse is true as well: If you vote Republican, you're sinning against the Savior.
I don't agree. I think that to the degree they actually resort to the Bible, they're misinterpreting it. With a whole bunch of caveats, I think politically conservative positions are a lot more compatible with the Scriptures than the Leftist positions.
Just to clarify, I would never accuse people who disagree with me--especially siblings in Christ--of what they accuse me of. I don't judge my own heart, much less anyone else's, and I don't equate political disagreement with theological fidelity to God. I have no reason to doubt their love for the Lord and "for the least of these," but I believe that they're sincerely wrong.
So there are two main purposes for this blog. One is to make a case for my political beliefs based on Scripture. The other is a bit more vague, basically to work out my political beliefs and figure out what's based on Scripture and what's based on my own biases. I certainly don't have all the answers. Some of this stuff I'm still figuring out. And I'm certainly open to correction. As long as you make your case civilly and based on Scripture, feel free to make a comment, and I promise I'll post it and consider your arguments thoughtfully and prayerfully. Who knows? Maybe we'll learn a little something from each other.
May God bless our common striving together towards both the "little t" truth and "Big T" Truth. Our watchword here is a line from C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle: "Further up and further in!"

P.S. -- Below on the left is "Topics I've Covered" which lists everything I've posted topically. It's come to my attention that some people would like to see everything just listed for them. If that's you, you can get it here. Thanks to my friend Stephen Young for the tip!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

“Income Inequality” Part Two

          If no one deserves any blessings in this life, then why are some people wealthier than others? I don’t know. The Bible says that ultimately any blessing comes from the Father, but does that mean that if someone’s rich it has absolutely nothing to do with hard work or with other decisions they’ve made in life? It has nothing to do with financial decisions they’ve made, whether to save or to squander their resources? If so, that’d seem to flatly contradict the book of Proverbs, which is just as inspired as the Gospels and the epistles of Paul, right? The book of Proverbs has plenty of financial counsel, on how to be wealthier than you would be if you didn’t follow it: Shun laziness, be careful to save, avoid addictions, etc. How do our financial decisions interact with God’s sovereign plan? Um, that’s a great question. But the fact is that the same Bible tells us that A) God is the One who sovereignly decides how “exalted” we’re going to be in this life, and B) The financial decisions we make can impact how prosperous we are. It’s really the same thing with salvation: God is sovereign, and people are responsible for the choices they make. How exactly his sovereign decisions interact with out free will is a mystery we’re not going to really solve in this life.
            So how can I apply the above? Well, when it comes to your own wealth, that’s a complex question. But when it comes to someone else’s wealth, it’s actually pretty cut and dried: Mind your own business. Don’t worry about what someone else makes. Don’t begrudge someone else their blessings.
            Let me make a case for this by taking us to the last chapter of John’s Gospel. The Lord Jesus called Peter to “follow” him, both literally and figuratively. When he did, Jesus issued some slightly dark predictions about Peter’s end, strongly hinting that Peter wouldn’t be dying of old age, but would instead be martyred. Peter looked behind him, saw John walking behind them both, and asked his Lord “What about him?” Jesus’ answer? “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Please allow me to paraphrase: “I love you Peter, but that’s none of your business. If I want to keep him alive until I return while I let you die a martyr’s death, that’s no concern of yours. How I choose to bless or not bless someone is my concern. Your concern--your only concern--is to follow me.”
            My friend, if we could internalize those five words I highlighted above (“What is that to you?”), that’d revolutionize our walk with Christ and completely eliminate the slightest trace of envy and covetousness from our hearts. How God chooses to bless or not bless someone is no concern of mine. If he chooses to make someone else so wealthy that they could buy or sell Bill Gates on a whim while he keeps me on the Ramen Noodle diet my whole life, that’s not my concern. First and foremost, my Lord doesn’t owe me anything but judgment, but also it’s doubly not my concern how he chooses to bless someone else.
            Let me point you to another passage, a parable from Matthew, titled in the NIV as “The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.” I’m not going to summarize it for you, since it’s a pretty straightforward story; just please click on the link and read the passage. But let me point out something to you: In this story the landowner, representing God, is not fair. He doesn’t give everyone an hourly wage. He gives the first workers what they agreed to, but he gave the Johnny-Come-Lately much much more than he even expected, nevermind what he deserved. But what I really want is to note his response to the grumbling workers: “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?” Wow. Sounds like a pretty strong endorsement of property rights. Of course, this is a parable, commonly known as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” The primary application of this passage is God’s sovereign prerogative to bless those whom he wishes to bless and to withhold blessing as he wishes to withhold it. But his original hearers of this story apparently would’ve assumed that what any landowner who said what this landowner said would’ve been perfectly within his rights: What you own is pretty much yours to do with as you please.
            So the question that I keep stumbling over is: In light of what we’ve just read, why is any concern over any type of “income gap” considered legitimate among Christians who supposedly hold a high view of Scripture? I don’t know. I’m not their judge, so I can’t say. All I can say is “I gotta calls ‘em as I sees ‘em.” As best as I can tell, any concern--much less this obsession—with how much someone makes versus how much someone else makes is completely unscriptural.
            Wait a minute. There’s one passage I mentioned before, the lone portion of Scripture which Christians on the Left might be able to use to sustain their argument that income inequality is a concern of the Lord’s. What about the Year of Jubilee? If you’re not familiar with it, that’s fine. We’ll tackle it in the next posting. 

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