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, July 2, 2014

Why Does Why Matter? A Conservative Christian’s Look At Motives, Part Two

            At the last posting, we discussed how motives are extremely important in our relationship with God and our close relationships with other people. But there’s a good reason why I emphasized the word close in the last sentence. I’d like to make the case that in a lot of relationships we have with people--even in the vast majority of them--motives matter very little.
            Let’s imagine two stockers working side-by-side at Wal-Mart. Stocker A is a strong Christian. He loves his Savior and wants to please and honor him above everything else. And because of this, he takes the completely proper attitude towards his work. He works “for the Lord,” not just his human boss. He put every effort into stocking the shelves as best he can. Because of his heart motivation, he strives to be the best stocker Wal-Mart has ever seen. On top of this, he’s a great husband and wonderful father to his family.
            But Stocker B, he’s not a Christian. In fact, he’s an atheist. He’s not a nice guy. He acts like a jerk towards his wife, and he’s not a very good example to his kids. But because of his personal pride, he can’t stand the thought of A being a better stocker than he is. So he’s in constant competition with A to be the better stocker, both in speed and accuracy. And let’s assume for a moment that although he’s an atheist, he’s too scared of his boss and/or has too much pride in himself to try to make himself look better by cheating or by sabotaging A’s work. So let’s stipulate—for the sake of this thought experiment—that B is really a good stocker.
            And let’s throw one more twist into this little picture. What if. . . A wasn’t really that good a stocker? What if he puts the cold medicine where the toothpaste is supposed to go? Or despite his wonderful motivations, he accidentally puts out rotten fruit? Or he forgets about the pallet of shoes he was supposed to bring out, and some shelves are empty when they shouldn’t be?
            So here you are, walking into Wal-Mart, looking for medicine for your sick kid. Or maybe you need some groceries for your family. Or maybe you need to buy some new shoes. Here’s the incredibly important and clarifying question: Do the respective motivations of A or B affect you in the slightest? If you could sit down and interview these stockers and ask them about their family and religious life, would you? Would that matter to you?
            Of course not. You don’t give it a second thought. Now naturally you want everyone to be a follower of Jesus, and everyone should be a good spouse and parent. But none of that matters when your child is sick, or you want some non-rotten bananas, or when your shoes are about to give up the ghost. You walk into the store, and you assume that things are going to be where they’re supposed to be located. Now let’s say you can’t find what you’re looking for, and you get to interview stocker A, and you find out he’s the reason. And let’s take it a step further and suppose his defense is 1) “I’m trying my best!” 2) My motives are pure. In fact, I’m doing this for the Lord!”, and 3) “On top of that, I’m a great father and husband!” What would your reaction be? Probably something like “Well, I’m glad that he’s a wonderful husband and father, and I’m certainly glad he loves Jesus, but I need some groceries. I need him to be a competent stocker.”
            Per usual, Jonah Goldberg puts it way better than I could:

Correct me if I’m wrong: If a policeman arrests a rapist because he’s bucking for a promotion, the cop still did the right thing, didn’t he? If you build houses for poor people in order to make amends for your failed presidency, it’s still nice that poor folks get a roof over their heads, right? If your boss’s motives for giving you a raise conflict with your own, but he gives you one nonetheless, you’re still going to take it, aren’t you? If my wife makes me lamb chops because she wants to get me to put up the storm windows, it’s still a good thing she made me these nuggets of tasty goodness. If . . . you get the point.

            And let’s expand our view of the picture somewhat. How many people were involved in getting, say, a can of carrots on the shelf? Someone had to pick the carrots. Someone had to load them onto a truck and take them to a processing plant of some type, where they were cleaned, cut up, mixed with other materials, canned, then shipped or driven by truck over many miles. Then someone had to unload the truck, arrange it all, and finally put it on the shelf. Think about how many people had to be involved in that, not just the physical labor but the organizing of it all. We’re talking thousands of people. You only see the end result: hundreds of cans of carrots on the shelves to choose from.
            And how did that label get on the can so that you can know that they’re carrots and not beets? Someone had to design the label, print it, and apply some type of adhesive (or some other means of getting the label to stay on).
            And who made the can?
            And who designed the truck that carried the can to you?
            And who drove the truck?
            And who made the gas available to put into the truck that brought it to you?
            Now let’s go back to our question: How much did the motives of all these people—thousands upon thousands--affect you personally? A few of them might be Christians who’re working to glorify their Lord, but most aren’t. Most are just trying to earn a living. They’re in it for the money. They never know your name, and you never know theirs.
            But you still have the can of carrots available right in front of you on the shelf.
            And the cold medicine.
            And the shoes.
            And the smart phone.
            And the milk.
            And. . . whatever.
            Why am I making such a big deal over this? Because all these people are serving you. They don’t know your name, but they’re serving you. They’re bringing that can of carrots and everything else to you.
            Every day you’re helped and served by millions of people who never know your name, and you don’t know theirs. You don’t know their motivations for helping you, but you can bet it’s probably not because they love you personally. In fact, it’s a pretty safe bet that the vast majority of them aren’t doing it because they love Jesus. The vast majority are doing it because they want money. They want to be paid. They have bills to pay just like you do.
            But the cold medicine is available to your kid just the same. And the bananas aren’t rotten. And you were probably able to find shoes that fit you. In all those scenarios, the motivations of the people serving you didn’t matter one whit.
            Hundreds of years ago, Adam Smith—considered to be “the father of modern economics” wrote An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, usually shortened to The Wealth of Nations. In it he laid out the case for the Free Market System as the best way to provide the most good to the greatest number of people. His most famous quote: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”
            I actually do have a point here, and it really does relate to Scripture. And we’ll get to that in the next posting. 
            Before we go there, however, I'd like to introduce one of my heroes, Dr. Walter E. Williams. In this short 5 minute video he presents the argument that profits are what make our standard of living possible, even if peoples' motivations aren't 100% beneficent.

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