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The Plain Truth About Christmas

The Plain Truth About Christmas

I don’t want to seem like a Grinch, but what bothers me about this time of year is how we (the human race) celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Instead of celebrating His birth, we are too busy celebrating a pagan holiday, not the truth.

So, where did we get Christmas? . . . from the Bible, or paganism?

Here are the astonishing facts which may shock you! Test yourself. How much do you know of the origin of the Christmas tree—of “Santa Claus”—of the mistletoe—holly wreath—of the custom of exchanging gifts?

WHEN I was a very little boy, I was taught to hang up my stockings on Christmas eve. When I was awakened the next morning, they were filled with small toys and sacks or little boxes of candy and nuts. And beside the mantle, from which my stockings hung, a Christmas tree has suddenly appeared, decorated with shiny tinsel. And on it hung presents. Other presents for us children were piled on the floor underneath. I was told Santa Claus had come down the chimney during the night and left all these things.

But did I question what my parents told me? Of course not. I accepted it—took it all for granted. Didn’t you?

Stop and think a moment! Very few have ever reflected on why they believe what they do—why they follow the customs they do, or from where those customs came. We were born into a world filled with customs. We grew up accepting them without question.

Why? Sheep instinct? Well, not exactly.

But by nature we do tend to follow the crowd, whether right or wrong. Sheep follow others to the slaughter. Humans ought to check up where they are going.

How—when did Christmas originate?

Does Christmas really celebrate the birthday of Christ? Was Jesus born on December 25th?

Did the original apostles, who knew Jesus personally and were taught by Him, celebrate His birthday on December 25th? Did they celebrate it at all?

If Christmas is the chief of the Christian holidays, why do so many non-Christians observe it? Do you know?

Why do people exchange presents with family members, friends, relatives at Christmas time? Was it because the wise men presented gifts to the Christ-child? The answer may surprise you.

Most people have “supposed” a lot of things about Christmas that are not true. But let’s quit “supposing” and get the facts!

What Encyclopedias Say

The word “Christmas” means “Mass of Christ,” or, as it came to be shortened, “Christ–Mass.” It came to non-Christians and Protestants from the Roman Catholic Church. And where did they get it? NOT from the New Testament—NOT from the Bible—NOT from the original apostles who were personally instructed from Christ—but it gravitated in the fourth century into the Roman Church from paganism.

Since the celebration of Christmas has come to the world from the Roman Catholic Church, and has no authority but that of the Roman Catholic Church, let us examine the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition, published by that church. Under the heading “Christmas,” you will find:

“Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church . . . the first evidence of the feast is from Egypt.” “Pagan customs centering around the January calends gravitated to Christmas.”

And in the same encyclopedia, under the heading “Natal Day,” we find that the early Catholic father, Origen, acknowledged this truth: “. . . In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners [like Pharaoh and Herod] who make great rejoicings over the day in which they were born into this world” (emphasis mine).

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1946 edition, has this: “Christmas (i.e., the Mass of Christ). . . . Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church. . . .” It was not instituted by Christ or the apostles, or by Bible authority. It was picked up afterward from paganism.

The Encyclopedia Americana, 1944 edition, says: “Christmas. . . . It was, according to many authorities, not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church, as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth. . . .” (The “Communion,” which is instituted by New Testament Bible authority, is a memorial of the death of Christ.) “. . . A feast was established in memory of this event [Christ’s birth] in the fourth century. In the fifth century the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ’s birth existed.”

Now notice! These recognized historical authorities show Christmas was not observed by Christians for the first two or three hundred years—a period longer than the entire history of the United States as a nation! It got into the Western, or Roman Church, by the fourth century AD. It was not until the fifth century that the Roman Church ordered it to be celebrated as an official Christian festival!

Jesus Not Born December 25th

Jesus was not even born in the winter season! When the Christ-child was born “8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night,” (Luke 2:8). This could never have occurred in Judaea in the month of December. The shepherds always brought their flocks from the mountainsides and fields and corralled them not later than October 15, to protect them from the cold, rainy season that followed that date. Notice that the Bible itself proves, in Song of Solomon 2:11 and Ezra 10:9, 13, that winter was a rainy season not permitting shepherds to abide in open fields at night.

Song of Solomon 2:11 (NKJV)
11 For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.

Ezra 10:9 (NKJV)
9 So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth of the month; and all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain.

Ezra 10:13 (NKJV)
13 But there are many people; it is the season for heavy rain, and we are not able to stand outside. Nor is this the work of one or two days, for there are many of us who have transgressed in this matter.

“It was ancient custom among Jews of those days to send out their sheep to the fields and deserts about the Passover (early spring), and bring them home at commencement of the first rain,” says the Adam Clarke Commentary (Vol. 5, page 370, New York ed.)

Continuing, this authority states: “During the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and day. As . . . the first rain began early in the month of Marchesvan, which answers to part of our October and November [begins sometime in October], we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole summer. And, as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could He have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground, the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact. . . . See the quotations from the Talmudists in Lightfoot.”

Any encyclopedia, or any other authority, will tell you that Christ was not born on December 25. The Catholic Encyclopedia frankly states this fact.

The exact date of Jesus’ birth is entirely unknown, as all authorities acknowledge—though if I had space in this blog I could show you Scriptures which at least strongly indicate that it was in the early fall—probably September—approximately six months after Passover.

If God had wished us to observe and celebrate Christ’s birthday, He would not have so completely hidden the exact date.

How This Pagan Custom Got into the Church

Then how did this pagan custom creep into the Western Christian world?

The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge explains clearly, in its article on “Christmas”: “How much the date of the festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia (Dec. 25) following the Saturnalia (Dec. 17-24), and celebrating the shortest day in the year and the ‘new sun,’ . . . cannot be accurately determined. The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence. . . . The pagan festival with its riot and merrymaking was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and in manner. Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ’s birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival.”

Remember, the Roman world had been pagan. Prior to the fourth century, Christians were few in number, though increasing, and were persecuted by the government and by pagans. But, with the advent of Constantine as emperor, who made his profession of Christianity in the fourth century, placing Christianity on an equal footing with paganism, people of the Roman world began to accept this now-popular Christianity by the hundreds of thousands.

But remember, these people had grown up in pagan customs, chief of which was this idolatrous festival of December 25th. It was a festival of merrymaking, with its special spirit. They enjoyed it! They didn’t want to give it up! Now this same article in the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge explains how the recognition by Constantine of Sunday, which had been the day of pagan sun worship, and how the influence of the pagan Manichaeism, which identified the SON of God with the physical SUN, gave these pagans of the fourth century, now turning over wholesale to “Christianity,” their excuse for calling their pagan-festival date of December 25th (birthday of the SUN-god) the birthday of the SON of God.

And that is how “Christmas” became fastened on our Western world! We may call it by another name, but it’s the same old pagan sun-worshipping festival still! The only change is in what we call it! You can call a rabbit a “lion,” but it’s still a rabbit, just the same.

Again from the Encyclopaedia Britannica: “Certain Latins, as early as 354, may have transferred the birthday from January 6th to December 25, which was then a Mithraic feast, the birthday of the unconquered SUN . . . The Syrians and Armenians, who clung to January 6th, accused the Romans of sun worship and idolatry, contending . . . that the feast of December 25th, had been invented by disciples of Cerinthus. . . .”

The Real Origin of Christmas

But if we got Christmas from the Roman Catholics, and they got it from paganism, where did the pagans get it? Where, when, and what was its real origin?

It is a chief custom of the corrupt system denounced all through Bible prophecies and teachings under the name of Babylon. And it started and originated in the original Babylon of ancient Nimrod! Yes, it stems from roots whose beginning was shortly this side of the Flood!

Nimrod, grandson of Ham, son of Noah, was the real founder of the Babylonish system that has gripped the world ever since—the system of organized competition—of man-ruled governments and empires, based upon the competitive and profit-making economic system. Nimrod built the tower of Babel, the original Babylon, ancient Nineveh, many other cities. He organized the world’s first kingdom. The name Nimrod, in Hebrew, is derived from “Marad,” meaning “he rebelled.”

From many ancient writings, considerable is learned of this man, who started the great organized worldly apostasy from God that has dominated this world until now. Nimrod was so evil, it is said he married his own mother, whose name was Semiramis. After Nimrod’s untimely death, his so-called mother-wife, Semiramis, propagated the evil doctrine of the survival of Nimrod as a spirit being. She claimed a full-grown evergreen tree sprang overnight from a dead tree stump, which symbolized the springing forth unto new life of the dead Nimrod. On each anniversary of his birth, she claimed, Nimrod would visit the evergreen tree and leave gifts upon it. December 25th was the birthday of Nimrod. This is the real origin of the Christmas tree.

Through her scheming and designing, Semiramis became the Babylonian “Queen of Heaven,” and Nimrod, under various names, became the “divine son of heaven.” Through the generations, in this idolatrous worship, Nimrod became the false Messiah, son of Baal the Sun-god. In this false Babylonish system, the “Mother and Child,” (Semiramis and Nimrod reborn), became chief objects of worship. This worship of “Mother and Child” spread over the world. The names varied in different countries and languages. In Egypt, it was Isis and Osiris. In Asia, Cybele and Deoius. In Pagan Rome, Fortuna and Jupiterpuer. Even in Greece, China, Japan, Tibet is to be found the counterpart of the Madonna, long before the birth of Christ!

Thus, during the fourth and fifth centuries, when the pagans of the Roman world were “accepting” the new popular “Christianity” by hundreds of thousands, carrying their old pagan customs and beliefs along with them, merely cloaking them with Christian-sounding names, the Madonna and “Mother and Child” idea also became popularized, especially at Christmas time. Every Christmas season you’ll hear sung and chanted dozens of times the hymn “Silent Night, Holy Night,” with its familiar “Mother and Child” theme. We, who have been born in such a babylonish world, reared and steeped in these things all our lives, have been taught to revere these things as holy, and sacred. We never questioned to see where they came from—whether they came from the Bible, or from pagan idolatry!

We are shocked to learn the truth—some, unfortunately, take offense at the plain truth! But God commands His faithful ministers, ” Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins.” (Isaiah 58:1) Shocking as these facts are, they are the plain facts of history and the Bible!

The real origin of Christmas goes back to the ancient Babylon. It is bound up in the organized apostasy with which Satan has gripped a deceived world these many centuries! In Egypt, it was always believed that the son of Isis (Egyptian name for “Queen of Heaven”) was born December 25th. Paganism celebrated this famous birthday over most of the known world for centuries before the birth of Christ.

December 25th is not the birthday of Jesus the true Christ! The apostles and early
true Church never celebrated Christ’s birthday at any time. There is no command or instruction to celebrate it in the Bible—rather, the celebrating of birthdays is a pagan, not a Christian custom, believe it or not!

Thus the ancient idolatrous “Chaldean Mysteries,” founded by this wife of Nimrod, have been handed down through the pagan religions under new Christian-sounding names.

Origin of Holly Wreath, Mistletoe, Yule Log

Now, where did we get this mistletoe custom? Among the ancient pagans the mistletoe was used at this festival of the winter solstice because it was considered sacred to the sun, because of its supposed miraculous healing power. The pagan custom of kissing under the mistletoe was an early step in the night of revelry and drunken debauchery—celebrating the death of the “old sun” and the birth of the new at the winter solstice. Mistletoe, sacred in pagan festivals, is a PARASITE!

Holly berries were also considered sacred to the sun-god. The Yule log is in reality the “sun log.” “Yule” means “wheel,” a pagan symbol of the sun. Yet today professing Christians speak of the “sacred yule-tide season!”

Even the lighting of fires and candles as a Christmas ceremony is merely a continuation of the pagan custom, encouraging the waning sun-god as he reached the lowest place in the southern skies!

The Encyclopedia Americana says: “The holly, the mistletoe, the Yule log . . . are relics of pre-Christian times.” Of paganism!

The book Answers to Questions, compiled by Frederick J. Haskins, found in public libraries, says: “The use of Christmas wreaths is believed by authorities to be traceable to the pagan customs of decorating buildings and places of worship at the feast which took place at the same time as Christmas. The Christmas tree is from Egypt, and its origin dates from a period long anterior to the Christian Era.”

What About Santa Claus?

Surely dear old Santa Claus is not a creature of pagan birth? But he is, and his real character is not so benevolent and holy as many suppose!

The name “Santa Claus” is a corruption of the name “St. Nicholas,” a Roman Catholic bishop who lived in the 5th century. Look in the Encyclopedia Britannica, volume 19, pages 648-649, where you’ll read: “St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, a saint honored by the Greeks and Latins on the sixth of December. . . . A legend of his surreptitious bestowal of dowries on the three daughters of an impoverished citizen . . . is said to have originated the old custom of giving presents in secret on the eve of St. Nicholas [Dec. 6], subsequently transferred to Christmas day. Hence the association of Christmas with Santa Claus. . . .”

Through the year, parents punish their children for telling falsehoods. Then, at Christmas time, they themselves tell their little children this “Santa Claus” lie! Is it any wonder many of them, when they grow up and learn the truth, begin to believe God is a myth, too?

Is it Christian to teach children myths and falsehoods? God says 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16) It may seem right, and be justified by human reason, but God says “12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) “Old Nick” also is a term for the devil! Is there a connection? Satan appears as an “angel of light,” to deceive! (II Corinthians 11:14; Revelation 12:9)

2 Corinthians 11:14 (NKJV)
14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.

Revelation 12:9 (NKJV)
9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

And so when we examine the facts, we are astonished to learn that the practice of observing Christmas is not, after all, a true Christian practice, but a Pagan custom—one of the ways of Babylon our people have fallen into!

What the Bible Says About the Christmas Tree

But if the Bible is silent about telling us to observe Christmas, or recording any such observance by the apostles or early true Church, it does have something to say about the Christmas tree!

This will come as a real surprise to many. But here it is:

Jeremiah 10:2-6, “2 Thus says the Lord, Do not learn the way of the Gentiles. . . . For the customs of the peoples are futile; . . . For one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple.”

There is a perfect description of the Christmas tree, termed by the Eternal as “the way of the heathen—the custom of the people.” We are commanded not to learn that way or follow it! It is also viewed in this passage as idolatry. The fifth verse shows that these trees cannot speak—cannot walk—must be carried. “Do not be afraid of them, for they [the trees] cannot do evil, nor can they do any good.” They are not gods to be feared. Some people misread this to make it say there is no harm in having a Christmas tree, but that is not what it says.

Is Exchanging Gifts Scriptural?

But when it comes to the most important part of all in this Christmas observance—the Christmas SHOPPING season—the buying and exchanging of gifts—many will exclaim triumphantly, “Well, at least the Bible tells us to do that! Didn’t the wise men give gifts, when Christ was born?”

Again, we are due for some surprises, when we learn the plain truth. First, let’s look at the historic origin of trading gifts back and forth, then see exactly what the Bible does say about it.

From the Bibliotheca Sacra, volume 12, pages 153-155, we quote, “The interchange of
presents between friends is alike characteristic of Christmas and the Saturnalia, and must have been adopted by Christians from the Pagans, as the admonition of Tertullian plainly shows.”

The fact is, this custom fastened upon people of exchanging gifts with friends and relatives at the Christmas season has not a single trace of Christianity about it, strange though that may seem! This does not celebrate Christ’s birthday or honor it or Him! Suppose someone you love has a birthday. You want to honor that person on his or her birthday. Would you lavishly buy gifts for everyone else, trading gifts back and forth with all your other friends and loved ones, but ignore completely any gift for the one whose birthday you are honoring? Rather absurd, when viewed in that light, isn’t it?

Yet this is exactly what people the world over are doing! They honor a day that is not Christ’s birthday by spending every dime they can scrape together in buying presents to trade back and forth among friends and relatives. But I can say by years of experience that when the month of December rolls around, almost all professing Christians forget to give gifts to Christ and His cause almost altogether! December always is the most difficult month to keep Christ’s work from dying! People are too busy trading gifts back and forth among themselves to think of Him and His Work, it seems. Then, in January and even into February it seems they have to catch up from what they spent for Christmas, so they seldom get back to normal in supporting Christ and His Work before March!

Now consider what the Bible says about giving gifts when Christ was born. It is in Matthew 2:1-11. “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?’ . . . And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold and frankincense, and myrrh.”

Matthew 2:1-11 (NKJV)
Wise Men from the East
2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Why Gifts Presented to Christ

Notice, they inquired for the child Jesus, who was born KING of the Jews! Now why did they present gifts to Him? Because it was His birthday? Not at all, because they came several days or weeks after the date of His birth! Was it to set an example for us, today, to trade gifts back and forth among ourselves? No, notice carefully! They did not exchange gifts among themselves, but “they presented unto HIM gifts.” They gave their gifts to Christ, not to their friends, relatives, or one another!

Why? Let me quote from the Adam Clarke Commentary, volume 5, page 46: “Verse 11. (They presented unto Him gifts.) The people of the east never approach the presence of kings and great personages, without a present in their hands. The custom is often noticed in the Old Testament, and still prevails in the east, and in some of the newly discovered South Sea Islands.”

There it is! They were not instituting a new Christian custom of exchanging gifts with friends to honor Christ’s birthday. They were following an old and ancient eastern custom of presenting gifts to a king when they come into his presence. They were approaching Him, born KING of the Jews, in person. Therefore custom required they present gifts—even as the Queen of Sheba brought gifts to Solomon—even as many people today take a gift along when they visit the White House for an appointment with the President.

No, the custom of trading GIFTS back and forth does not stem from this scriptural incident at all, but rather, as quoted from history above, it is the continuance of an ancient pagan custom. Instead of honoring Christ, it invariably retards His Work, often sets it back, at the Christmas season every year.

Does It Really Honor Christ?

There are two arguments often used to justify Christmas observance.

1) Many will reason this way: “But, even though the exact date of Jesus’ birth is unknown, should we not select some date to celebrate as His birthday?” The answer is positively NO! Did you not notice the statement quoted from the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthdays.” The celebration of birthdays is not a Christian, but a pagan custom, observed by sinners!

2) But, many still reason, “Even so—even though Christmas was a pagan custom, honoring the false sun-god, we don’t observe it to honor the false god, we observe it to honor Christ.”

But how does GOD answer in His Word? “30 Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them [the pagans in their customs] after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.” (Deuteronomy 12:30-31 NKJV).

God says plainly in His Instruction Book to us, that He will not accept that kind of worship, even though intended in His honor. To Him, He says, it is offering what is abominable to Him, and therefore it honors, not Him, but false pagan gods. GOD says we must not worship Him according to the “dictates of our own conscience”—a term we often hear. But Jesus says plainly, “God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). And what is truth? God’s Word—the Holy Bible—said Jesus is truth (John 17:17); and the Bible says God will not accept worship when people take a pagan custom or manner of worship and try to honor Christ with it.

John 17:17 (NKJV)
17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

Again, Jesus said: ” 9 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9). Christmas observance is a tradition of men, and the commandments of God, as quoted, forbid it. Jesus said, further, ” 9 He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition..” (Mark 7:9)

That is precisely what the millions are doing today. They ignore the commandment of God. He commands, regarding taking the customs of the pagans and using them to honor or worship God: ” 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way.” (Deuteronomy 12:31) Still, most people today take that command of God lightly, or as having no validity whatsoever, and follow the tradition of men in observing Christmas.

Make no mistake! God will allow you to defy and disobey Him. He will allow you to follow the crowd and the traditions of men. He will allow you to sin. But He also says there is a day of reckoning coming. As you sow, so shall you reap! Jesus was the living Word of God in Person, and the Bible is the written Word of God. And we shall be judged, for eternity, by these words! They should not be taken lightly or ignored.

We’re in Babylon, and Haven’t Known It

Christmas has become a commercial season. It’s sponsored, kept alive, by the heaviest retail advertising campaigns of the year. You see a masqueraded “Santa Claus” in many stores. Ads keep us deluded and deceived about the “beautiful Christmas spirit.” The newspapers, who sell the ads, print flowery editorials exalting and eulogizing the pagan season, and its “spirit.” A gullible people has become so inoculated, many take offense when told the truth. But the “Christmas spirit” is created each year, not to honor Christ, but to sell merchandise! Like all Satan’s delusions, it appears as an “angel of light,” is made to appear good. Billions of dollars are spent in this merchandising spree every year, while the cause of Christ must suffer! It’s part of the economic system of Babylon!

We have professed to be Christian nations, but we’re in Babylon, as Bible prophecy foretold, and we don’t know it! “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.”—now soon to fall—is the warning of  Revelation 18:4.

Revelation 18:4 (NKJV)
4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.

This year, instead of gift trading, why not put that money into God’s Work?

What Are the Seventy Weeks of Daniel?

The “seventy weeks” prophecy is one of the most significant and detailed Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. It is found in Daniel 9. The chapter begins with Daniel praying for Israel, acknowledging the nation’s sins against God and asking for God’s mercy. As Daniel prayed, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and gave him a vision of Israel’s future.

The Divisions of the 70 Weeks

In verse 24, Gabriel says, “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city.” Almost all commentators agree that the seventy “sevens” should be understood as seventy “weeks” of years, in other words, a period of 490 years. These verses provide a sort of “clock” that gives an idea of when the Messiah would come and some of the events that would accompany His appearance.

The prophecy goes on to divide the 490 years into three smaller units: one of 49 years, one of 434 years, and one 7 years. The final “week” of 7 years is further divided in half. Verse 25 says, “From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’” Seven “sevens” is 49 years, and sixty-two “sevens” is another 434 years:

49 years + 434 years = 483 years

The Purpose of the 70 Weeks
The prophecy contains a statement concerning God’s six-fold purpose in bringing these events to pass. Verse 24 says this purpose is 1) “to finish transgression,” 2) “to put an end to sin,” 3) “to atone for wickedness,” 4) “to bring in everlasting righteousness,” 5) “to seal up vision and prophecy,” and 6) “to anoint the most holy.”

Notice that these results concern the total eradication of sin and the establishing of righteousness. The prophecy of the 70 weeks summarizes what happens before Jesus sets up His millennial kingdom. Of special note is the third in the list of results: “to atone for wickedness.” Jesus accomplished the atonement for sin by His death on the cross (Romans 3:25Hebrews 2:17).

The Fulfillment of the 70 Weeks
Gabriel said the prophetic clock would start at the time that a decree was issued to rebuild Jerusalem. From the date of that decree to the time of the Messiah would be 483 years. We know from history that the command to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem” was given by King Artaxerxes of Persia c. 445 B.C. (see Nehemiah 2:1-8).

The first unit of 49 years (seven “sevens”) covers the time that it took to rebuild Jerusalem, “with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble” (Daniel 9:25). This rebuilding is chronicled in the book of Nehemiah.

Using the Jewish custom of a 360-day year, 483 years after 445 B.C. places us at A.D. 30, which would coincide with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9). The prophecy in Daniel 9 specifies that after the completion of the 483 years, “the Anointed One will be cut off” (verse 26). This was fulfilled when Jesus was crucified.

Daniel 9:26 continues with a prediction that, after the Messiah is killed, “the people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” This was fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The “ruler who will come” is a reference to the Antichrist, who, it seems, will have some connection with Rome, since it was the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem.

The Final Week of the 70 Weeks
Of the 70 “sevens,” 69 have been fulfilled in history. This leaves one more “seven” yet to be fulfilled. Most scholars believe that we are now living in a huge gap between the 69th week and the 70th week. The prophetic clock has been paused, as it were. The final “seven” of Daniel is what we usually call the tribulation period.

Daniel’s prophecy reveals some of the actions of the Antichrist, the “ruler who will come.” Verse 27 says, “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’” However, “in the middle of the ‘seven,’ . . . he will set up an abomination that causes desolation” in the temple. Jesus warned of this event in Matthew 24:15. After the Antichrist breaks the covenant with Israel, a time of “great tribulation” begins (Matthew 24:21, NKJV).

Daniel also predicts that the Antichrist will face judgment. He only rules “until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (Daniel 9:27). God will only allow evil to go so far, and the judgment the Antichrist will face has already been planned out.

Conclusion
The prophecy of the 70 weeks is complex and amazingly detailed, and much has been written about it. Of course, there are various interpretations, but what we have presented here is the dispensational, premillennial view. One thing is certain: God has a time table, and He is keeping things on schedule. He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and we should always be looking for the triumphant return of our Lord (Revelation 22:7).

Recommended Resource: Daniel: The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentary by Walvoord & Dyer

Related Topics:

What are the seventy sevens in Daniel 9:24-27?

What is going to happen according to end times prophecy?

Race, The Cross, & Christianity

This afternoon, my wife and I watched the moving The Help staring Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, and Emma Stone as Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan.

Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter (Emma_Stone) is a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends’ lives — and a Mississippi town — upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. When she arrives home, she finds that her nanny and family’s maid Constantine Jefferson (played by Cicely Tyson) is gone. Skeeter sees the chance of writing a book about the relationship of the black maids with the Southern society for an editor from New York. First, she convinces Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) to open her heart to her; then Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) is unfairly fired by the arrogant Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is a leader in the racist high society, and Minny decides to tell her stories after finding a job with the outcast Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain). Soon eleven other maids accept to be interviewed by Skeeter that also tells the truth about Constantine. When the book “The Help” is released, Jackson’s high society will never be the same.

Barak Obama, in his new preface to his older book Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, quotes William Faulkner to show that history is never dead. He describes the difference between the time the book was written and the time he was writing the new preface.

The book was published in 1995, “against a backdrop of Silicon Valley and a booming stock market; the collapse of the Berlin Wall; Mandela – in slow, sturdy steps – emerging from prison to lead a country, the signing of peace accords in Oslo.” He observed that there was a rising global optimism as writers announced the end of our fractured history, “the ascendance of free markets, and liberal democracy, the replacement of old hatreds and wars between nations with virtual communities and battles for market shares.”

“And then,” he says, “on September 11, 2001, the world fractures.”

“History returned that day with a vengeance; … in fact, as Faulkner reminds us, the past is never dead and buried – it isn’t even past. This collective history, this past, directly touches our own.”

The United States has been treating evidence of racism, prejudice, and discrimination, and not the causes, since the Civil War. Slavery; “separate but equal”; segregated pools, buses, trains and water fountains; workplace and housing discrimination; and other forms of bias and animosity have served as painful barometers of the nation’s racial health. They have been, however, treated like the pain that accompanies a broken leg. The effort was to treat or reduce the agonizing symptoms of the break rather than fix it.

In our faltering efforts to deal with race in this country, a great deal of time is devoted to responding to symptoms rather than root causes. That may help explain why racism, prejudice, and discrimination keeps being repeated.

The Bible has much to say on racial intolerance in both testaments. The good Samaritan story of Luke 10:25-27 was an attempt by Jesus to expose the wrongful attitude of racial intolerance that existed between the Jews & Samaritans during the time of Jesus. In Matt 28:19 Jesus told his followers to go out and make disciples of all nations and this would include all people groups. Jesus never said to only make disciples of some people groups, he said Òall nations. Also, Paul in Galatians 3:28 condemned racial intolerance in the church. Racial discrimination should not be a part of the true regenerated Christian.

The first thing to understand is that there is only one race—the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. All human beings have the same physical characteristics (with minor variations, of course). More importantly, all human beings are equally created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to lay down His life for us (John 3:16). The “world” obviously includes all ethnic groups. God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14-16). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.

Ephesians 2:14-16 (NKJV)

Christ Our Peace

 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died. Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this should not be. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Those who practice racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to stop and repent. “13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Unfortunately, humanity has twisted the Bible to try to justify human fears and prejudices. Some consider the “curse of Ham” to be an excuse to hate those of African descent. Others insist that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death and deserve our ridicule. Both views are patently false. The Bible tells us that God’s judgment is not based on appearances but what is on the inside (1 Samuel 16:7), and those who do judge according to appearances do so with evil intent (James 2:4). Instead, we are to treat one another with love (James 2:8), regardless of ethnicity (Acts 10:34-35) and social standing (James 2:1-5). Christian love negates all prejudice, and the Bible condemns racism.

A new year will be upon us soon. What will it take to put our racism, prejudices, and discrimination aside and unite as ONE in Christ Jesus?

Let Him Who Boasts Boast in the Lord!

Hatred as the Echo of Love

I hope you will agree with me that in order to love deeply, there are things you must deeply hate. You could think of examples yourself. To love children deeply you must hate any mistreatment or neglect that destroys them. If you love clear-headed kindness and respect, you have to hate alcoholism and drug addiction. If you love freedom, you have to hate slavery and totalitarianism.

The reason I start with this observation is because I am about to tell you something God hates, and I know that the word hate by itself has a negative and unattractive ring to it. But I want you to realize from the very outset that God’s hatred is the reflex of his love.

The only reason anybody should hate anything is because it replaces or ruins something beautiful and wonderful. Hatred should always stand in the service of love. If you hate anything, it should be because you love something more. So, when I tell you that God hates something, I want you to hear that hatred as the echo of His love. He hates what He hates because it replaces or ruins something beautiful.

God Hates Human Pride

More than anything else in the world, God hates human pride.

  • Proverbs 6:16–17(NKJV) says, 16 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood,
    18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.
  • In Psalm 101:5(NKJV) David speaks for God and says, Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, Him I will destroy; The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, Him I will not endure.
  • Proverbs 16:5 (NKJV), “Everyone proud in heartis an abomination to the Lord;
    Though they join forces, none will go unpunished.”
  • Isaiah 2:11 (NKJV), The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, The haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.
  • Jeremiah 50:31 (NKJV), 31 “Behold, I amagainst you, O most haughty one!” says the Lord God of hosts; “For your day has come, The time that I will punish you.
  • Jesus said in Luke 16:15 (NKJV), 15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”
  • And in Acts 12:23 (NKJV) it says that 23 Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.

Pride as the Root Problem in the Corinthian Church

God hates human pride. And this is the root problem in the church at Corinth. Let’s take a quick survey of the letters to Corinth to see if this is so, and also to see just what pride is. Ask these two questions as we go: is pride the root problem at Corinth, and what actually is pride?

Is Pride the Root Problem at Corinth?

  • 1 Corinthians 1:29 — “29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.”
  • 1 Corinthians 1:31 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
  • 1 Corinthians 3:7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:21 21 Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours:
  • 1 Corinthians 4:6— ” . . . that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
  • 1 Corinthians 4:18 — “18 Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you.”
  • 1 Corinthians 5:2 — “And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.”
  • 1 Corinthians 8:1 — “Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 — “Love suffers long andis kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed updoes not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there          are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”
  • 2 Corinthians 1:9 9 “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, . . . .”
  • 2 Corinthians 3:5 5 “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, . . . .”
  • 2 Corinthians 4:7 7 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9 9 “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

It is not hard to see that the root problem in the church at Corinth is pride. And it is not hard to see either what that pride is.

What Is Pride?

  • It is boasting in self and not the Lord.
  • It is taking credit ourselves for what God alone can do.
  • It is relying on self and not God.
  • It is feeling sufficiency in our own strength and not in God’s.
  • It is the disinclination to admit that we are mere earthen vessels so that another gets the glory.
  • It is the unwillingness to admit weaknesses that may accent the power of Christ.

What God Loves That Makes Him Hate Pride

What’s the beautiful thing that is replaced or ruined by pride? What does God love so much that he must hate pride with all his might? The answer is plain from all these texts.

  • He loves the heart that boasts in the Lord.
  • He loves the heart that gives Him credit for what He alone can do.
  • He loves the heart that relies on His power.
  • He loves the heart that wants Him to get the glory in all things and that wants the power of His Son to shine in our weakness.

And if you have caught on to the essence of Christian Hedonism, you will know that when God delights in this, He delights in the deepest, most satisfying human experience possible.

Because:

  • We were made to boast in God.
  • We were made to give Him credit for all good.
  • We were made to rely on His power.
  • We were made to magnify His glory and His all sufficiency in our weakness.

This is the source of all ultimate joy and satisfaction. If God were to delight in anything less than our boasting in Him, He would be an idolater and He would be a killjoy. Pride diverts our capacity for exultation from the galaxies of God’s glory to the gutters of our puny achievements. It is a decorated dead end street.

Therefore, God hates pride. And we should hate in ourselves what God hates in us, and wield the sword of the Spirit as best we can to slay this dragon in our souls – PRIDE.

Five Steps in Paul’s Combat Against Pride

So, what I want to do is take you with me through Paul’s thought process in 1 Corinthians 1:18–31. It comes to a climax in verse 31 with the words, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” So really what we are asking is, how does Paul guide a person from being proud and self-reliant into being a person who exults in God and not self?

May that happen for all of us as we follow the Word of God.

I see at least five steps in Paul’s thought in these verses.

  1. Recognize What We All Want to Boast In

The first step is the basic fact of experience that humans want something to boast in, but not God.

Verse 22:  22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;

“Signs” are the display of power and “wisdom” is the display of intelligence. So, the underlying point is: some people get their strokes through power and others get their strokes through intelligence. It might be your own power or intelligence, or it might belong to someone you can associate with (as was the case here in Corinth).

It might be a World Series ball team in your city that you boast about, or it might be your alma mater, or the company you work for, or a friend, or even a religion, or a church. Pride can boast in itself directly or it can boast in itself indirectly by association. So, two absolutely incompetent ballplayers may brag about the ball team in their city as though they had anything to do with making the team good.

I think God created man with a deep desire to boast in something great, but sin came into the world and made every one of us hate to boast in God. So, we seek for displays of power and displays of intelligence and we make these our gods. It might be the power of a tractor pull, or a rocket booster, or a motorcycle, or biceps that look like grapefruits, or (if you are a woman) the power of a shapely figure. Or it might be an A-average in school, or an advanced degree, or a published article, or a merit scholarship, or investment savvy, or the ability to win at Trivial Pursuit.

The Greeks craved eloquent displays of intelligence and the Jews wanted amazing displays of power. One man says, Show me something great with your mind, and another says, Show me something great with your body. But no one ever says (apart from the Spirit; 1 Corinthians 12:3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.), Show me God. Sin has blinded us.

  1. Affirm God’s Superiority Over All Else

So, the second step in Paul’s thought is to affirm what everyone denies, namely, the superiority of God over all the power and wisdom of the world.

Verse 25:  25 “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

In other words, it is a great tragedy when your quest for power and wisdom stops short of God. Because God is a treasure of power and a treasure of wisdom infinitely greater than any of the things that excite you in this world.

Paul wants to stamp this truth on us so deeply that he risks some dangerous language about God, doesn’t he? He says that when God is as foolish as He can be, He is still smarter than all the wisdom of men. And when God is as weak as He can be, He is still stronger than all the power that man can unleash.

When God stoops to hold a child on His lap, He also holds the subatomic particles of that child’s flesh in existence by the power of His thought. And when He stooped to let Himself be mocked and beaten and crucified and stabbed, He destroyed the power of Satan over His people, He covered the sins of millions of sinners, and He vindicated the glory of His name.

How foolish for us to seek wisdom and power in the world and not in God when the weakness of God is stronger than any power in the world and the foolishness of God is wiser than any wisdom in the world!

  1. Describe How God Deals with Human Pride

So, the third step in Paul’s thought is to describe how God deals with man’s love for human intelligence and power. It is stated in verse 19 and in verse 21.

  • Verse 19: 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
  • Verse 21: 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

He Blockades the Way of Self-Reliance and Pride

Here’s the way I would put this in my own words: In His wisdom God decided to blockade all the roads that men are building to heaven by their own power and intelligence, and to put in their place one narrow gate and one hard road, namely, the Calvary road and the gate of the cross.

There are two ways that God destroys the wisdom of the wise and frustrates the cleverness of the clever.

  1. He blockades their self-reliant quest for God—that’s what the first half of verse 21 means: “In the wisdom of God the world did not know God through wisdom.”
  2. He preaches Christ crucified as the only way to God. This destroys the wisdom of the wise and frustrates the cleverness of the clever because it is so humiliating to cast yourself on the accomplishments of a bloody redeemer.

Look at verse 30: 30 But of Him [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—

He Opens Only One Way to Glory: The Cross

You can easily see why the cross is the end of the line for human pride. Picture a well-respected American businessman, a banker, lawyer, doctor, well dressed, well groomed, being taken out the gate of the city to the garbage dump and being stood in front of a post with a naked man hanging by the nails driven through his wrists, covered with blood, gasping for his last breaths, and being told, “This, sir, is wisdom and righteousness and holiness and redemption. Will you kneel down here and cast yourself on him for mercy?”

In other words, God has chosen a way of salvation that devastates human pride. “That! You want me to bow down before that! You think I need that! Don’t you see how I am dressed! Have you seen the car I drive! Don’t you know where I work! Don’t you know how much money I make! And you think I need that heap of bloody flesh! What do you think I am, a dog? A worm?”

23 “. . .  but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks [Gentiles] foolishness, . . . .” (verse 23). 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (verse 18).

So, in His wisdom God cuts off the way of pride and frustrates man’s reliance on human power and human wisdom. And then He opens a way to glory and to God that proud man cannot stand, namely, the way of the cross.

Why? Is it because He hates man? No. It is because He hates pride. When God blockades the road of pride, he blockades the road to destruction. And when He routes you onto the Calvary Road of brokenness and humility and faith, He routes you to glory and to God—and in the presence of God is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11 11 “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”)

  1. Explains God’s General Choice of People

Therefore, the fourth step in Paul’s thought here is a kind of warning: there are not many powerful or shrewd people who respond to the saving word of the cross.

Verse 20: 20 “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”

Verse 26–28: 26 “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, . . .”

In other words, not only has God blockaded the pathways of pride and opened the way of the cross, but He is also opening the hearts of many foolish and weak and low and despised people along with a few upper-class people, in order to put to shame those who boast in power and wisdom and class and achievement.

Why? This brings us to our last step.

  1. Declares the Purpose of God in Acting Accordingly

It is stated negatively in verse 29 and positively in verse 31.

  • Verse 29: 29 “. . . . that no flesh should glory in His presence.”
  • Verse 31: 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

The purpose of God in the creation of man and the salvation of sinners is that we might boast in HIM. This is God’s will for you today. God is speaking in these words very clearly. And what He is saying is this: turn this very moment from all boasting in yourself. Don’t seek your pleasure any more in your own wisdom, or your own strength, or your own looks, or your own achievements. Look to Christ crucified and see what becomes of it all.

Paul said in Galatians 6:14, 14 “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

So, I call you to come to Christ and die — and to live. And the promise of God is this: there is no greater life, no greater joy than to boast in Him!

God, I call upon your name. This country has fallen into turmoil due to the election of one man. This is wrong. All eyes are on President Elect Trump instead of focusing on you and seeking your wisdom and strength as to how to deal with this situation. There is rioting in the streets instead of prayer, there is discord and discontent among peoples of this country instead of a cohesive and unified focus on You and what You want, the country is divided and your word explicitly tells us that – 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. (Mark 3:25 (NKJV)). So, what to do? We as a people, a nation seek your guidance during these troubled times. Help restore peace to our streets and communities, help bring our leadership together under one God, one nation. You put into office who You felt would do the best job. Please help this nation understand that and to abide by Your decision and wisdom and not their own. I thank you for the privilege of praying for peace and prosperity under our new leadership. I thank you dear Jesus for dyeing on the cross in order to restore us back to God, giving us an avenue, a gateway to God and all that He was, is and will be. Thank You. In Your precious Son’s name I pray, Amen.

Jesus on Money

Jesus had some strong words about money. Many Christians find his teaching hard to accept. Here are some examples from his challenging teachings.

Woe to the Rich

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus set out his core teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Luke records the version he gave after he had descended to the plain and called the twelve disciples. He covered money in this teaching.

Looking at his disciples, he said:
Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep
(Luke 6:20,21,24,25).

This is fairly straightforward. Jesus had coming to turn the world upside down. Those who have plenty already will be disappointed. Mary had prophesied the same thing before Jesus was born.

He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:53).

Those who are poor will be satisfied and made comfortable.

These prophecies will not be fulfilled by force or through a revolution. They will be fulfilled voluntarily through giving and sharing. They were fulfilled by the early church, but they are not so often fulfilled in the modern world. This is a challenge. If the gospel is working effectively, the poor and hungry should be lifted up and be satisfied.

Seek the Kingdom

Christians should have a different attitude to wealth. We are not to worry about our life and basic things such as what to eat and drink.

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? …. O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them (Matt 6:25,31,32).

For most of Jesus listeners, the daily battle for survival was totally real. Most of their day would be devoted to finding something to eat. Getting new clothing was an ongoing struggle. Jesus teaching was a totally radical outlook on life. How could they stop worrying about food, when starvation was often only a few hours away?

Jesus suggested a totally different approach.

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt 6:33,34).

This message was very clear to Jesus listeners. Most were totally worried about what they would eat tomorrow. By going out to listen to Jesus, they had probably missed an opportunity to earn tomorrow’s food. The idea that they could stop worrying about tomorrow by focusing on the kingdom was absurd.

However, the people who followed Jesus in Acts 2 and 4 saw this become a reality.

There were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:34)

This was not the result of gold dust falling from the sky.

They shared everything they had (Acts 4:32)

 Believers no longer had to worry about what they would eat tomorrow.

Most modern Christians do not have to worry about what they will eat tomorrow. We tend to assume that Jesus teaching means that people who seek God’s kingdom will prosper. That is not what he meant at all.

New King

People who follow Jesus have a new King. This is important because a king owns all the property within his Kingdom. He will assign some property to his followers, but they will only hold it while they remain in his favour. People who opposed the king could have their property confiscated without compensation. The name of this practice is “eminent domain”.

When Christians decide to “seek the kingdom”, all their possessions become the property of their new king. Giving a tenth of what they own is not an option. Everything they own now belongs to Jesus, and must be used as he directs. This produced the change of thinking recorded in Acts 2 (cf Luke 12:22).

No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they shared everything they had (Acts 4:32)

This was not unusual behaviour, but the natural outworking of the Kingdom. Nor was this joint ownership of property, but an acknowledgment that their possessions now belonged to Jesus.

For modern Christians, seeking first the Kingdom means surrendering all our income and wealth to the Holy Spirit and using it as he directs. If he tells us to sell our property and give it away, that is what we must do. It no longer belongs to us, but to our king. If the Holy Spirit tells us to share our possessions, then we have not option. From reading Acts, it seems that the Holy Spirit likes telling people to share, so we should not be surprised if that is what he asks us to do.

Counting the Cost

Jesus warned his listeners to count the cost before choosing to follow him. A king who goes into battle without working out if he has enough troops to win is stupid. Jesus illustrated this choice with a reference to money and wealth.

So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned (Luke 14:33-34)?

The cost we have to count is real. To be a disciple of Jesus we must give up all our possessions. The Greek work for “give up” is “apossetai”. It means “renounce” or “say goodbye”. Those who follow Jesus must say goodbye to their possessions. They might still be close by, but they no longer belong to the believer. They belong to Jesus, so the Holy Spirit can use them as he chooses.

That changes our questions. We should not ask, “Can I buy a new television?” Rather we should be asking the Holy Spirit, “What do you want to do the money in the bank account that has my name on it?” “What do you want to do with the wealth that used to belong to me?” If we asked these questions, we might be surprised at what the Sprit tells us to do. If we don’t ask these questions, we will be like salt that has lost its flavor. If we are not willing to say goodbye to our possessions, we cannot expect to influence our culture.

The Rich Young Ruler

One person who was unwilling to say goodbye to his wealth was the rich young ruler. He had asked Jesus what he needed to do to obtain eternal life. When Jesus told him to keep the commandments, he said he had kept them all since he was a boy.

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property (Luke 18:22-23).

This man was very rich. The only way you could get rich in Jesus time was to collude with Herod or with the Romans, so the young man was lying when he said he had kept all the commandments. He was living on wealth that had been stolen from its owners. The young man was a ruler. To retain this position, he would have had to collude with the violence of the Roman political and military system.

Riches and rulers go together. For example, Mary prophesied:

He has brought down rulers from their thrones.
but has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:54,55).

When rulers fall, the rich suffer, because their riches came from their links with the rulers. That was true in Jesus time, and is often true today.

Mathew records that the young ruler owned much property. The word used for possession is “ktema”, which is not the word generally used for possessions in the New Testament (uparxis). I have wondered why Matthew used a different word for the rich young ruler. I found a possible answer in the Lexicon of Ardnt and Gingrich (B218). They quote a reference which uses this word to mean “acquire in reward for wickedness”. The wealth that this man controlled was probably the rewards of wickedness. He could not retain the fruits of unrighteousness and follow Jesus. We too must get rid of all wealth that is the fruit of unrighteousness behaviour, if we are serious about following Jesus.

Owning Property

Many Christians respond to Jesus teaching by asking, “Can a Christian own property?” The New Testament answer is “No”. Christians cannot own property. The reason we cannot own property is that we have a king. When we commit to Jesus, all our property belongs to him. We cannot own property, because we and everything we hold belongs to him.

Many Christians ask a different question. “Do I have to sell everything I own?” This question does not make sense, because a Christian does not own anything. Everything we owned transferred to Jesus when we surrendered to him. We cannot sell what we do not own.

A different question is more relevant. “Can a Christian hold property”. The answer is yes. We can manage Jesus property on His behalf. We can act as His steward. The key is a shift in attitude. We no longer own property, so we cannot “claim our possessions as our own”. They belong to Jesus, so we must use them as the Holy Spirit directs. That changes everything.

The Holy Spirit will tell some people to sell their property. He told Barnabas to sell his property (Acts 436-37). Barnabas obeyed and it opened up a wonderful ministry as an apostle to Asia Minor. I am sure he had no regrets.

The Holy Spirit may tell other people to use their property for a particular purpose. He told some women to use their property to support Jesus.

Joanna the wife of Cuza Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means (Luke 8:3).

These women held their property as stewards, but the Holy Spirit prompted them to use it to support Jesus. In the same way, The Holy Spirit told Joseph of Arimathea to pay for Jesus to be buried (Matt27:57-58).

The answer to every question about property is simple. Jesus ons it all. He may allow us to hold some of his property as stewards, but we cannot call our it own. Good stewards must use his property as the Holy Spirit directs. The answer to all questions about property is to obey the Holy Spirit.

The Tough One

Jesus understood the human heart.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:34).

Humans always focus on the place where our treasure is kept. If our treasure is savings in a bank, our focus will be on work and the bank. Jesus does not want his people to be distracted, so we must store our treasure in heaven.

There are two reasons why people store up wealth. One reason that people store wealth is so they can sit back and enjoy life. The context of Jesus teaching about treasure is the parable of Rich Fool. His farms produced a great crop, so he built new barns to store his crop. He said to himself.

You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry (Luke 12:19).

Jesus called the rich man a fool, because the very day that he said these words, he would die. Storing up wealth, so we can take life easy and party is not an option for God’s people. The word for “laid up” is used to describe hoarding. Jesus put this challenge another way when he said,

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke18:15).

A Christian cannot have a good life by eating and drinking and being merry. We find peace by serving Jesus. We must be careful that greed for possessions does not distract us from serving him. Those who have taken on a spirit of greed might need to give away their possessions to break this spirit.

The second reason that people store up wealth is to provide security for the future. We store wealth for a rainy day. We save money, so we can provide for ourselves, if we are sick. We fill a purse, so we can retire at the age of sixty-five. All these actions are done to take care of tomorrow. Jesus ruled them out, when he told us to trust God for the future.

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt 6:34).

Storing wealth for security into the future is pointless, as no earthly store is safe. If thieves do not steal it, corrupt bankers will steal it, or monetary inflation will slowly eat it away. Wealth can never provide security in an uncertain world.

Jesus did not pretend that the future will be free of problems. He knows that we will face trials, but he tells us to prepare by storing up treasures in heaven.

Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven where no thief comes near and no moth destroys (Luke 12:33).

True security comes from treasure in heaven.

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out (Luke 12:33).

The best way to shift wealth to heaven is to give to the poor.

Unacceptable Teaching

Jesus teaching about security does not make sense in the modern world. Our security is based on treasure on earth. We have superannuation funds for our retirement. We have insurance to protect us against the risk of crisis. We keep a nest egg in the bank for use in an emergency. Not only are these things treasure on earth, but they tie up a resources that could be used for God’s work.

Jesus says that we should not need these things, but we would not feel secure without them.

The reason for this dilemma is that we have not understood what Jesus was saying. He gave the reason why we should not need treasure on earth for our security, why we should not be afraid.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32)

The reason that we should not be afraid is that God has given us the kingdom. The reason that we do not need treasure on earth is that God has given us the kingdom. The reason that we should not need insurance and superannuation is that God has given us the kingdom.

The early church had received the kingdom. The kingdom they received was manifested through giving and sharing.

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:32-33).

These Christians had said goodbye to their property. They had stopped referring to property they held as their own. They were one in unity and love. The Holy Spirit was present with them. Giving and sharing became normal. The result was “no needy persons among them”. They no longer needed life insurance or superannuation, because sharing had made them redundant.

Better Solution

Caring and sharing is the best solution to the problem of security. Resources that were previously tied up in personal security accounts were no longer needed, because individuals trusted the body of Christ instead. The gospel of the kingdom had transformed their lives so much that they felt secure in the love of the Christians around them.

Modern Christians focus on Jesus teaching about treasure in heaven and feel uneasy. The reason is that we have missed the point. We focus on not worrying about tomorrow, and find it too hard. Jesus’ main point was that we have the kingdom. People with the kingdom do not need storehouses on earth.

The Kingdom comes first. Obeying Jesus teaching about wealth is not practical in the modern world because we do not have the Kingdom. We are not “all together in the same place” (Acts 2:44) (Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common.) We still consider our property our own. We do not give to everyone who has need. We do not have the Kingdom, so of course we need insurance and superannuation and money in the bank.

The solution is to “Seek first the Kingdom of God”. When we get serious about the Kingdom, we will sell our property and move close to the other Christians that we are connected with. Once we are together in one place, we will be able to love one another by sharing and caring for each other. When sharing and caring are normal, we will find that we do not need insurance or a nest egg in the bank. Instead, of storing money in case to provide for ourselves in a day of trouble, we will be saving to help others in their day of trouble. Treasure on earth will be irrelevant, because we have the treasure of the Kingdom.

Understanding the Problem

Before applying the New Testament teaching on money, we must understand the nature of the problem we are attempting to solve. The problems with our culture are very different from those faced by the people in Jesus time. In New Testament times, most people already lived in close community. Shopkeepers had their homes and shops on the same street. Trades people tended to live close to people with the same trade. Many people still lived in villages. Lack of community was not the core problem. Being together was easy.

The problem that really made the people miserable was that most land had been accumulated into large estates. The Romans and Herod handed land out to the people who were loyal to them. This land was often confiscated from innocent and ordinary people. As land was the main source of capital in those times, people who lost their land faced persistent poverty.

The other way to gain wealth was to get your nose in the trough of the various temple scams. That option was reserved for those with the right connections. A pilgrimage to the temple made most people worse off. Even those who were poor would have to buy a couple of pigeons. The temple system robbed the ordinary people and did not provide any economic support.

Permanent employment was rare, so large numbers of landless people faced a hand-to-mouth existence by getting casual work whenever they could. In Jesus parable of the Vineyard workers, so people only got work for a few hours a day (Matt 20:1-8). That was a normal situation. People spent their time standing in the market place hoping some work might turn up. What a precarious existence. No wonder the vineyard owner decided to be generous.

The shrewd steward is another example. Without a job, his choices were sparse.

My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg (Luke 16:3).

The commentators tend to say that he was lazy or proud, but he was actually being very realistic. If he could not get work as a day laborer, he would have to beg.

The actions taken by the early church were an attempt to deal with this problem of persistent poverty and economic insecurity.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need (Acts 2:44-45).

They believers sold land to reverse the accumulation of property and to relieve the widespread poverty.

The Modern Problem

Our modern problem is different. Uneven distribution of wealth is still serious, but it is not the “show stopper” it was in Jesus time. Most people in the Western world have escaped subsistence and own some property.

The big problem eating the heart out of our modern culture is the collapse of community. Industrialisation, globalisation and urbanisation have eliminated the links between people that once held society together. Family members can travel all over the world to live and work. People and families live in isolation.

The collapse of community is greatest in modern cities, where migration and urbanisation have broken down traditional community relationships. Social mobility prevents stable relationships from developing and family life is breaking down. People become cogs in the corporate machine and life is often characterised by loneliness and personal insecurity.

Modern suburban culture creates barriers to communication and encourages individualism. As communities are breaking down and fear is rising, high fences are going up between houses isolating people from each other. This isolation means that most people do not belong to the community where they live.

This isolation and dislocation of urban society has been accompanied by the aggregation and accumulation of political power to the modern state. We now face the bizarre situation where needs are concentrated in individuals, but power and money is concentrated at the national level. This leaves families and individuals powerless before a faceless government.

To restore to cohesion of our societies, real community will have to restored to our societies, but it is not clear who will do it. Politicians have an inbuilt tendency to push power and money to the top, which will weaken society.

Isolated Christians

The church should be strengthening the foundations of society, but this is not happening. Western society has been shaped by the automobile and the church has gone along for the ride. Whereas the early Christians were “all together in one place”, modern Christians drive to church, just as they drive to work and to shop. The church is almost as socially fragmented as the rest of society. This is sad, because Christians are supposed to be experts on fellowship and loving one another. We should be strengthening local communities.

The collapse of community and our fragmented lifestyle prevents us from living out Jesus teaching on money. We have to build up treasures in superannuation and insurance schemes, because we are not part of Christian communities that will support us in time of trouble. We do not have relationships with Christians committed to providing financial support to each other. Isolated Christians have no choice but to fend for themselves by storing up treasure on earth. The most urgent need in our society is the restoration of local community.

Different Order

Acts 2 provides a solution to our isolation. The early church was altogether in one place, so they sold their possessions and property. In the modern world, the antidote is the same, but the order is the other way around. Our problem is that suburban property prevents us from being together. The solution is

Selling their property and possessions (Acts 2:45).

Once Christians are willing to sell their properties so they will be able to move closer to the other Christians that they relate to.

All the believers were in one place (Acts 2:44)

Our ultimate goal is to love each other, as Jesus loved us. We can only do that if we are Ltogether.

Some of those who sell their houses to move closer to other Christians will be selling down. This will release a surplus that can be used to provide financial support Christians who lack resources.

They were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need (v44).

When Christians live closer to each other, serious sharing becomes a practical alternative. Community life will be restored to our neighborhoods, when Christians sell their houses and buy houses together to live in one place.

This radical change will not happen by accident. Locality-based apostles working street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood can change our societies from the bottom up. The process is described in Apostolic Way.

The Shrewd Steward

The parable of the Shrewd Steward contains important teaching on money, but it is often misunderstood, because people assume that the rich man in the parable represents God.

There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.”

The manager said to himself, “What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to Beg-I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.”

So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” “Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,” he replied. The manager told him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.”

Then he asked the second, “And how much do you owe?” “A thousand bushels of wheat,” he replied. He told him, “Take your bill and make it eight hundred.”

The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly (Luke 16:1-8).

In Jesus time, the easiest way to could get rich was through theft or political collusion. When Moses led the children of Israel into Canaan, the land was divided evenly among the families, but by Romans times, that had all changed. Most of the land had been accumulated into large estates. The Romans handed out land to the people who were loyal to them. Herod did the same. This land was often confiscated from innocent and ordinary people.

Some of the people who lost their land were forced into a miserable life as tenant farmers. In return for the use of the land, they would have to give the rich owner, a proportion of their crops. The land owner held all the power in this relationship, so they could demand a large share of the crops. If the crop was good, the land owner would get most of it. If the crop was bad, the land owner would still take their due, and the tenant farmer would be left to starve. If the tenant could not produce enough to meet the land owners share, the balance would be added as a debt against the next year’s production.

This setup worked in the favour of the land owner. The tenant carried all of the risk, but got very little in return. The land owner gained a good return, but carried very little risk. He could easily replace a troublesome tenant farmer with another, because the countryside was full of landless peasants. The only risk for the owner was that he might fall out of favour with the political powers and have his land confiscated. This is why the Sadducees and the Herodians were so afraid of upsetting the Romans. They were big land owners with a lot to lose.

Wicked Wealth

Jesus listeners would know that the rich man in the parable had accumulated land by political collusion. This could not be God. The rich man was too cowardly to deal with his tenants, so he employed a tough steward to do his dirty work. The steward’s task was to squeeze as much as possible out of the rich man’s tenants. The wheat and olive oil owed by the other men would be unpaid rent and debts from the previous year. The bills referred to in the parable had been written by the steward. The steward probably knew that the amounts owed were unfair, but his job depended on his getting as much as possible for his employer.

The rich man treated the steward badly. He had done deals that favored his employer, but when he heard rumor against the steward, he acted on it without giving the steward a chance to explain. He terminated the steward’s position and demanded a full account (he did not know what he was owed). When the steward changed the bills, the rich man praised his behaviour.

He had gained his wealth by unscrupulously, so he respected the unscrupulous behaviour of his steward. One crook recognised another.

The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly (Luke 16:8).

The rich man and the steward were dishonest men. That is why the rich man cannot represent God.

Making Friends

Jesus explained the meaning of the parable. His first point was that the people of the world handle worldly people better than Christians do.

For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light (Luke 16:8).

This is a challenging word. The people of the Spirit should be experts at dealing with worldly people.

Jesus then described what we should do with unrighteous mammon.

I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home (Luke 16:9).

The first thing to note is that the usual translation of these verses is misleading, as the last three words are turned into a reference to everlasting life (eternal home). The word translated “everlasting” is “aionos”. It can mean “eternal”, but in the previous verse, it is the word translated as “their generation”, literally “sons of the age”. Jesus is talking about how Christians deal with worldly people, so this is not a reference to eternal life, but to the worldly generation. The context is making friends with the current generation, not eternal life. A more consistent translation of the verse would be as follows.

I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails, you will be received into the homes of this worldly generation.

When Jesus sent out the seventy-two a couple of chapters earlier, he told them to take no money, but stay with a person of peace (Luke 10:1-7). A man who had accumulated wealth like this rich man would not be able to go and stay in another person’s home, because he would be run out of town. Jesus is saying the Christians who deal with their unrighteous wealth wisely will be welcome in the homes of the worldly people of their generation.

Righteous and Unrighteous Wealth

Jesus speaks of unrighteous mammon. Mammon is a Syriac word for money and the idol of wealth. The wealth of the rich man was unrighteous mammon, because it had been gained by unrighteous means. The corollary of this is that there must be righteous wealth as well. Wealth that is earned by working hard to meet the needs of other people is righteous wealth. Any honestly earned money that is saved is righteous wealth. Any capital goods that have been paid with honestly saved money are righteous wealth.

In Jesus time, there was not much righteous wealth, because the only way to obtain wealth was to do deals with political and religious powers. There is plenty of unrighteous wealth in the modern world too, but it is possible to gain wealth righteously as well. People who work hard for their wages can gain righteous wealth. The owners of businesses that provide reliable goods and services that people need can gain righteous wealth.

Righteous wealth is not an obstacle to the gospel. Unrighteous wealth creates hostility, so it hinders the gospel. It can distract a Christian from God.

Leaving Unrighteous Mammon

Jesus warned that unrighteous mammon can prevent us from serving God.

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Luke 16:13).

We are servants of God. We cannot serve God and mammon. This creates a problem for wealthy people who become Christians. If their wealth has been gained righteously, it should not have a hold on them. If they are the owners of wealth that has been gained unrighteously, they have a serious problem, because they will be partly controlled by the spirit of mammon.

A new Christian is required to repent from all “dead works” (Heb 6:1). Repentance means turning around and going in a new direction. The old unrighteous life must be left behind. This means that the owners of unrighteous mammon must turn from their unrighteous wealth and leave it behind.

When rich people Christians repent and follow Jesus, they need to get rid of their unrighteous wealth. They cannot be servants of unrighteous mammon and a servant of Jesus.

Identifying Unrighteous Wealth

How do we distinguish righteous from unrighteous wealth? The key is in the way it was acquired. Unrighteous wealth will have been obtained through deception, theft, manipulation or dishonesty. In Jesus time, it was often acquired through collusion with the political and religious powers. That problem has not changed, but the form will be different. Today the government will often give a group of people a monopoly power over an aspect of the economy that enables them to become wealthy.

Most unrighteous wealth will be obvious. If it is not obvious, we can leave it to the Holy Spirit. He will convict the new Christian, if his wealth is unrighteous and needs to be “got shot of”. We can trust the Spirit to do this task. Christian elders must not get into the business of forcing new Christians to give away their wealth, whether it unrighteous or not. (The Ananias and Saphira incident probably occurred because people were coming under inappropriate pressure to give wealth away (Acts 5:1-10)).

Repenting from Unrighteous Wealth

To repent is to turn and leave something behind. There are four ways to repent from unrighteous wealth.

 1. Restore Capital

The best way to deal with unrighteous wealth is to return the capital to the people from whom it was extorted. The shrewd steward is a good example. He had previously squeezed the rich man’s tenants hard by enforcing exorbitant rents that made their lives miserable. He put things right by letting the tenants change their written tenancy agreements to a more reasonable rental. By halving the payment to 500 bushels of wheat, the steward made the tenants wheat farming economic. By halving the payment of olive oil to 400 gallons, the steward was making the farming of the olive grove economic for the tenant farmer.

The best option for the repentant owner of unrighteous wealth is to return some wealth to the people that were de-capitalized when the unrighteous wealth was acquired from them. If the asset cannot be returned, the rent should be reduced. This has the effect of re-capitalizing the strugglers.

  1. Make Restitution 

If the unrighteous wealth has been stolen from innocent people, the repentant owner should make fourfold restitution.

If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep (Ex 22:1).

Zachhaeus the tax collector promised Jesus that he would fulfil this command.

Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold (Luke 19:8).

He promised to make restitution for everything that was stolen. He could not identify all the people that he had stolen from, so he gave half his possessions to the poor as an alternative.

  1. Give to the Poor

Sometimes the new Christian will not be able to return their unrighteous wealth to the people from whom it was acquired. The owners may have gone away, or died, or simply be unknown.

 In this situation, the unrighteous wealth should be given away to the poor and needy.

Jesus challenged the rich young ruler to give all his wealth away, because it was unrighteous wealth that had been acquired by unrighteousness.

Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven (Luke 18:22).

The book of Acts records examples of new Christians selling their unrighteous wealth and giving it to the poor.

Sometimes the repentant rich person will give the money away themselves. In most situations, they will work with deacons they trust. Deacons will have relationships with a many people in need, so they can help the person give their unrighteous wealth to deserving people.

Deacons will provide advice to new Christians. They will know about needs that could be met. They will handle money that is entrusted to them, but they must not tell new Christians what to do

  1. Even Up Capital

The reason for the uneven distribution of wealth in the modern world is that capital is unevenly distributed. Yet Paul says that equality is an important goal.

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality (2 Cor 8:13)

This is a dilemma. Everyone thinks equality is a good idea, but no one knows how it can be achieved. Robin Hood tried to achieve it, by robbing the rich and giving to the poor. Socialists try and achieve it by taxing the rich and giving benefits to the poor. Neither of these methods has worked.

The Christian answer to the dilemma of equality in an unequal world is radical sharing, particularly sharing of capital. Those who have plenty of capital should give to those who don’t have much. This was Jesus solution to the problems cause by inequality of capital.

Sell your possessions and give to the poor (Luke 12;33)

Sometimes people will give food and clothing to the poor, but in many situations, providing the poor with capital (land, fishing boats, nets, tools) will help them more.

When helping people to give away unrighteous wealth, deacons should channel gifts of capital to poor people who have the capability to use it responsibly to be more productive. They would need to training in conserving capital and using it wisely. Transferring capital to the poor by giving and sharing will move the world closer to equality.

Christians should not hand out capital carelessly, as this would lead to serious waste. They should train up potential recipients, so they know how to care for capital and not dissipate it in pointless consumption.

Poverty and Work

When dealing with unrighteous wealth, there are several traps that must be avoided. The person who gives away all their unrighteous wealth might end up in poverty. The Christians around them will have to ensure that they have financial support. This will be quite humbling for the new Christian. They will go from a position of power and independence to a place of dependence on others. This will be had to deal with, but will be good for their character.

In the past, they have will have gained wealth by manipulation and control. They need to be taught how to earn their living by honest work.

He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need (Eph 4:28).

Making this change will be very difficult, so the new Christian will need strong support from Christian elders and friends.

Whoever is faithful with very little is faithful with much, and whoever is unrighteous with very little will also be unrighteous with much. (Luke 16:10)

If the person has been unrighteous with much, they will need to learn to be faithful with a little for a while.

Common Temptation

A common temptation is for the new Christian to say, “I will hang onto my unrighteous wealth, but I will use it for God’s purpose”. Christian leaders will often agree with this temptation, because they have some works that need financial support. This temptation is wrong for two reasons.

  1. The gospels say that unrighteous wealth should be given to the poor. This is just because the wealth was taken from the poor. The gospels never say that unrighteous wealth should be used to support Christian ministries. Support for Christian ministries should come through relationships, not through channeling unrighteous wealth.
  1. Unrighteous wealth is not neutral. It carries a spirit of greed and avarice. The new Christian needs to get free from these spirits that have controlled their lives. If they hang onto their unrighteous wealth, they will remain vulnerable to those spirits. They will be caught in an endless power struggle between their new master and their old master.

The unrighteous wealth is of no value to God, but it is can be a big burden for a new Christian. They must deal with it, before they can receive the true gifts that Jesus has for them. Some of the listeners could not accept Jesus teaching and it cost them.

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus (Luke 16:14).

Refusing to deal with unrighteous wealth is dangerous.

Belongs to Someone Else 

Parallelism is a poetic form that is common in Hebrew poetry. An idea is repeated in a slightly different form with the same message. Jesus used this method when interpreting the parable of the Shrewd Steward.

Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

And if you have not been faithful with another man’s wealth,
who will give you what is your own (Luke 16:11-12)?

The message of these two verses is the same. If we have not been faithful with unrighteous wealth, God will not trust us with true wealth.

The important thing is how Jesus described unrighteous wealth. In verse 11, he called it “unrighteous mammon”. In verse 12, he referred to it as “another man’s wealth”. Jesus is saying that “unrighteous wealth” really belongs to another person. The person with unrighteous wealth actually controls something that belongs to someone else.

The only faithful solution is to return that wealth to that other person. Often the “other person” will be unknown. However, if the other person has lost his wealth, he will most likely be poor. Therefore, the second best solution is to return the unrighteous wealth to the poor. This might not hit the right person, but at least it would go to “another person” who may have lost their wealth to someone else.

Capital is Important

When Deacons are assisting new Christian to give away their unrighteous wealth, they must be careful that they do not de-capitalize the Christian community. Deacons must understand the importance of capital. Capital goods are important, because they make humans more productive. Capital and trade are the keys to escaping subsistence (see Capital for more on this topic).

The Jerusalem Church

When the Holy Spirit fell on the day of Pentecost, land was the main form of capital in Jerusalem. Many people responded to the preaching of the apostles by selling their land and using the money to support those in need.

For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need (Acts 4:34-35).

This was an amazing transition.

There were good reasons for Christians in Jerusalem to sell their capital goods.

  1. Many of Jesus disciples had heard him prophesy that Jerusalem would be destroyed.

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down (Luke 21:5-6).

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you Look, your house is left to you desolate (Matt 23:37-38).

Jesus had given a set of signs that would warn when this was about to happen. Jerusalem would be surrounded by the Roman armies and totally destroyed. This prophecy was fulfilled in AD70.

The believers in Jerusalem understood that once the prophecy was fulfilled, property in the city and its surrounds would be worthless. It made sense for them to sell their property while it still had value. This is the reason why, so many Christians in Jerusalem sold their property.

  1. The rich people who had become Christians had gained their wealth through their place in the Roman political system. It was unrighteous wealth. These people had chosen a new King: Jesus. They could not retain land and property that represented loyalty to King Herod or Caesar, so they sold it. They would probably have lost their property anyway, once their new loyalty became clear.
  1. Some of the new Christians had obtained their wealth illegally.

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:36-37).

Barnabas was a Levite and Levites were not entitled to own land in Israel (Num 26:62). When he came to faith in Jesus, the illegal ownership of land would have weighed on his conscious. He probably could not return the land to its rightful owner (Lev 25:13), so he sold the land and gave the money to the apostles for distribution to those in need.

  1. The word used for possessions in Acts 2:45, 4:34 and Acts 5:1 is “ktema” or “ktetor” This is not the word generally used for possessions in the New Testament (uparxis). These nouns are derived from the verb “ktaomai”. It means “acquire” or “gain control over”. It refers to property that has been acquired, not bought. “Ktema” refers to unrighteous wealth that has been acquired by wickedness. The property sold by Christians like Barnabas and Ananias may have been acquired as a reward for wickedness.
  1. Much of the land in New Testament Israel was owned by absentee landlords. Some of these might have come Back to Jerusalem for the Passover and received the gospel. Barnabas lived in Cyprus, but he owned land near Jerusalem. Many of these absentee landlords would have sold their land when they received the gospel.

In each of these circumstances, the decision to sell the property was wise and good. However, the widespread sale of property created a problem for the Jerusalem. Selling capital goods and consuming the money is useful in the short term, but in the long term it leads to poverty. Without capital goods to make them more productive, people are forced into subsistence living.

De-capitalism 

The church in Jerusalem de-capitalized quickly by the rapid sale of land and property. This

produced an unintended consequence for the large numbers of Christians who had sold their property, but decided to continue living in Jerusalem. They remained in poverty until the city was eventually destroyed. By getting rid of their capital, but remaining in the city, they had consigned themselves to poverty.

Some of the Christians in Jerusalem may have misunderstood the timing of Jesus prophecy. He had given clear signs that would warn when the collapse of the city was close (Luke 21:7-24). This meant that that the disciples did not need to rush to sell their properties. They could wait until the destruction of the city was closer. The poverty in Jerusalem might have been the result of too many Christians selling their property too soon.

When Deacons are assisting new Christians to give away their unrighteous wealth, they must be careful that they do not de-capitalize the Christian community.

Hold Capital Lightly

Nothing in this world is certain. We never know what the future will bring. The capital of Christians can be taken from them at any time. If Christians work hard and consume frugally, they will gradually build up their capital. This may cause the enemies of the gospel to become envious. If persecution takes hold, their righteous wealth might be confiscated. If this happens, Christians should rejoice that they are able to share in the sufferings of Jesus.

You joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions (Heb 10:34).

The Christians referred to in this letter had lost their property. They rejoiced because they knew that God had given them the kingdom.

All our property belongs to Jesus, so if it is confiscated, he is the only one who has the right to be upset. We have not lost anything, so we cannot complain. We still have the Kingdom of God, so we have riches far beyond what we deserve. We can rejoice in the privilege of being part of the Kingdom.