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Hand Washing to limit the spread of COVID-19

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

My fellow beings. I come before you with a heavy heart. Our world is currently embroiled in a deadly battle against an enemy that takes no prisoners. An enemy that has no emotions, no sympathy for human life, serves the social function of designating a particular entity as a threat, thereby invoking an intense emotional response to that entity. An enemy that may also be conceptual; used to describe impersonal phenomena such as a disease, as the object of social anger or repulsion.

The enemy in this case is the Coronavirus. The new virus causes a disease called COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, the year it was discovered. The coronavirus is a respiratory virus first reported in China in December 2019. The illness has since spread around the globe, and the World Health Organization has characterized it as a pandemic. Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause a range of symptoms including a runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever and hard to breathe. Some are mild, such as the common cold, while others are more likely to lead to pneumonia. They’re usually spread through direct contact with an infected person.

Coronavirus

The coronavirus gets its name from the crown-like spikes on its surface, according to the CDC. (Corona is Latin for crown.) Including the newly identified form of the virus, there are a total of seven coronaviruses that can infect humans, the CDC says. Other well-known coronaviruses include SARS and MERS.

Various outbreaks of pandemic diseases, such as Ebola or the coronavirus, have prompted many to ask why God allows—or even causes—pandemic diseases and whether such illnesses are a sign of the end times. The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, describes numerous occasions when God brought plagues and diseases on His people and on His enemies, 14 for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. 16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you My power, so that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth. (Exodus 9:1416). He used plagues on Egypt to force Pharaoh to free the Israelites from bondage, while sparing His people from being affected by them (Exodus 12:1315:26), thus indicating His sovereign control over diseases and other afflictions.

Exodus 12:13 The New King James Version (NKJV)

13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

Exodus 15:26 The New King James Version (NKJV)

26 and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”

God also warned His people of the consequences of disobedience, including plagues, 21 ‘Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins.” “25 And I will bring a sword against you that will execute the vengeance of the covenant; when you are gathered together within your cities I will send pestilence among you; and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. (Leviticus 26:2125). On two occasions, God destroyed 14,700 people and 24,000 people for various acts of disobedience, 49 Now those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the Korah incident. And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand. (Numbers 16:49 and 25:9). After giving the Mosaic Law, God commanded the people to obey it or suffer many evils, including something that sounds like Ebola: 22 The Lord will strike you with consumption, with fever, with inflammation, with severe burning fever, with the sword, with scorching, 7 and with mildew; they shall pursue you until you perish. (Deuteronomy 28:22). These are just a few examples of many plagues and diseases God caused.

It’s sometimes hard to imagine our loving and merciful God displaying such wrath and anger toward His people. But God’s punishments always have the goal of repentance and restoration. In 2 Chronicles 7:13–14, God said to Solomon, 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Here we see God using disaster to draw His people to Himself, to bring about repentance and the desire to come to Him as children to their heavenly Father.

Coronavirus (4)In the New Testament, Jesus healed “every disease and every sickness, as well as plagues in the areas He visited, 35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” “10 And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. (Matthew 9:3510:1Mark 3:10) 10 For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. Just as God chose to use plagues and disease to show His power to the Israelites, Jesus healed as an exhibition of the same power to verify that He was truly the Son of God. He gave the same healing power to the disciples to verify their ministry, 9 Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.(Luke 9:1).

Matthew 10:1-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Twelve Apostles

10 And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and [a]Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the [b]Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.

Sending Out the Twelve

These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven [c]is at hand.’ Heal the sick, [d]cleanse the lepers, [e]raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, 10 nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.

11 “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. 12 And when you go into a household, greet it. 13 If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.

Footnotes:

a. Matthew 10:3 NU omits Lebbaeus, whose surname was

b. Matthew 10:4 NU Cananaean

c. Matthew 10:7 has drawn near

d. Matthew 10:8 NU raise the dead, cleanse the lepers

e. Matthew 10:8 M omits raise the dead

Matthew 14:1-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

John the Baptist Beheaded

14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Jesus and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” For Herod had laid hold of John and bound him, and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Because John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And although he wanted to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.

But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.

So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.”

And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. 10 So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus.

Feeding the Five Thousand

13 When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.

Mark 6:7-16 New King James Version (NKJV)

Sending Out the Twelve

And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts— but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.

10 Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. 11 And [a]whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. [b]Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!”

12 So they went out and preached that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.

John the Baptist Beheaded

14 Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.”

15 Others said, “It is Elijah.”

And others said, “It is [c]the Prophet, or like one of the prophets.”

16 But when Herod heard, he said, “This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!”

Footnotes:

a. Mark 6:11 NU whatever place

b. Mark 6:11 NU omits the rest of v. 11.

c. Mark 6:15 NU, M a prophet, like one

Mark 6:30-34 New King James Version (NKJV)

Feeding the Five Thousand

30 Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. 32 So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.

33 But [a]the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him. 34 And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.

Footnotes:

a. Mark 6:33 NU, M they

God still allows sickness for His own purposes, but sometimes disease, even worldwide pandemics, are simply the result of living in a fallen world. There is no way to determine whether or not a pandemic has a specific spiritual cause, but we do know that God has sovereign control over all things, 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36) and will work all things together for the good of those who know and love Him 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).

Coronavirus (3)

The spread of sicknesses such as Ebola and the coronavirus is a foretaste of pandemics that will be part of the end times. Jesus referred to future plagues associated with the last days, 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. (Luke 21:11). The two witnesses of Revelation 11 will have power “to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want” (Revelation 11:6). Seven angels will wield seven plagues in a series of final, severe judgments described in Revelation 16.

Revelation 11 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Two Witnesses

11 Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. [a]And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”

These are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands standing before the [b]God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.

The Witnesses Killed

When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also [c]our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations [d]will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. 10 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

The Witnesses Resurrected

11 Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 And [e]they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. 13 In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.

14 The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.

Seventh Trumpet: The Kingdom Proclaimed

15 Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The [f]kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” 16 And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying:

“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was [g]and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
18 The nations were angry, and Your [h]wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”

19 Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of [i]His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.

Footnotes:

a. Revelation 11:1 NU, M omit And the angel stood

b. Revelation 11:4 NU, M Lord

c. Revelation 11:8 NU, M their

d. Revelation 11:9 NU, M see . . . and will not allow

e. Revelation 11:12 I

f. Revelation 11:15 NU, M kingdom . . . has become the kingdom

g. Revelation 11:17 NU, M omit and who is to come

h. Revelation 11:18 anger

i. Revelation 11:19 the covenant of the Lord

Revelation 16 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Seven Bowls

16 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the [a]bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.”

First Bowl: Loathsome Sores

So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a [b]foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.

Second Bowl: The Sea Turns to Blood

Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died.

Third Bowl: The Waters Turn to Blood

Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying:

“You are righteous, [c]O Lord,
The One who is and who [d]was and who is to be,
Because You have judged these things.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
And You have given them blood to drink.
[e]For it is their just due.”

And I heard [f]another from the altar saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”

Fourth Bowl: Men Are Scorched

Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.

Fifth Bowl: Darkness and Pain

10 Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. 11 They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.

Sixth Bowl: Euphrates Dried Up

12 Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. 13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings [g]of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

15 “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”

16 And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, [h]Armageddon.

Seventh Bowl: The Earth Utterly Shaken

17 Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. 19 Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nation’s fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. 20 Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21 And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.

Footnotes:

a. Revelation 16:1 NU, M seven bowls

b. Revelation 16:2 severe and malignant, bad and evil

c. Revelation 16:5 NU, M omit O Lord

d. Revelation 16:5 NU, M was, the Holy One

e. Revelation 16:6 NU, M omit For

f. Revelation 16:7 NU, M omit another from

g. Revelation 16:14 NU, M omit of the earth and

h. Revelation 16:16 Mount Megiddo; M Megiddo

The appearance of pandemic diseases may or may not be tied to God’s specific judgment of sin. It could also simply be the result of living in a fallen world. Since no one knows the time of Jesus’ return, we must be careful about saying global pandemics are proof that we are living in the end times. For those who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior, disease should be a reminder that life on this earth is tenuous and can be lost at any moment. As bad as pandemics are, hell will be worse. The Christian, however, has the assurance of salvation and the hope of eternity because of the blood of Christ shed on the cross for us (Isaiah 53:52 Corinthians 5:21Hebrews 9:28).

          Isaiah 53:5 New King James Version (NKJV)

But He was wounded[a] for our transgressions,
He was [b]bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes[c] we are healed.

Footnotes:

a. Isaiah 53:5 Or pierced through

b. Isaiah 53:5 crushed

c. Isaiah 53:5 Blows that cut in

2 Corinthians 5:21 New King James Version (NKJV)

21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Hebrews 9:28 New King James Version (NKJV)

28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

How should Christians respond to pandemic diseases? First, do not panic. God is in control. The Bible says the equivalent of “do not fear” over 300 times. Second, be wise. Take reasonable steps to avoid exposure to the disease and to protect and provide for your family. Third, look for opportunities for ministry. Often when people are fearful for their lives, they are more willing to have conversations about eternity. Be bold and compassionate in your sharing of the Gospel, always speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Ephesians 4:11-16 New King James Version (NKJV)

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the [a]edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Footnotes:

a. Ephesians 4:12 building up

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The Bible’s commands to “fear not” are plentiful and occur in a variety of contexts. As God’s people, we are not to be fearful. We have no reason to live in fear.

The Bible often says things like, “Do not fear, “Do not be afraid, and “Fear not. Of course, these commands do not contradict the command to “fear God” (1 Peter 2:17); 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. The fear of God keeps us from sin; the fear of man leads to sin, and that is what we are to avoid: 25 The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. (Proverbs 29:25, NKJV). Also, the biblical command do not fear does not negate the need for prudence and caution in this world. We are not to be cavalier but prayerful in the face of danger.

The fear that the Bible tells us to avoid is concern mixed with anxiety or dread; it is the feeling of alarm we have when we expect trouble or danger. Followers of Christ are not to live in a state of anxiety. We have higher expectations than simply anticipating trouble. In fact, we have the means to rise above fear: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7).

God’s command to “fear not” is applied in several ways in the Bible. For example, the fear of what other people think should never prevent us from obeying the Lord (see 1 Samuel 15:24John 9:22). We should not fear lacking provision in this world (Luke 12:6–7). We are not to fear the plans of the wicked, even when they rise to power (Psalm 37:1–29–1735–38).

          1 Samuel 15:24 New King James Version (NKJV)

24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.

John 9:22 New King James Version (NKJV)

22 His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue.

Luke 12:6-7 New King James Version (NKJV)

“Are not five sparrows sold for two [a]copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Footnotes:

a. Luke 12:6 Gr. assarion, a coin worth about 1⁄16 of a denarius

Psalm 37:1-2 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Heritage of the Righteous and the Calamity of the Wicked

A Psalm of David.

37      Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
2            For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.

Psalm 37:9-17 New King James Version (NKJV)

For evildoers shall be [a]cut off;
But those who wait on the Lord,
They shall inherit the earth.
10 For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
But it shall be no more.
11 But the meek shall inherit the earth,
And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

12 The wicked plots against the just,
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
13 The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees that his day is coming.
14 The wicked have drawn the sword
And have bent their bow,
To cast down the poor and needy,
To slay those who are of upright conduct.
15 Their sword shall enter their own heart,
And their bows shall be broken.

16 A little that a righteous man has
Is better than the riches of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
But the Lord upholds the righteous.

Footnotes:

a. Psalm 37:9 destroyed

Psalm 37:35-38 New King James Version (NKJV)

35 I have seen the wicked in great power,
And spreading himself like a native green tree.
36 Yet [a]he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
Indeed I sought him, but he could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright;
For the future of that man is peace.
38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together;
The future of the wicked shall be cut off.

Footnotes:

a. Psalm 37:36 So with MT, LXX, Tg.; Syr., Vg. I passed by

When the Bible tells us, “Do not fear, it means we are not to allow anxiety or fretfulness to rule our lives or take root in our hearts. We are not to be people of panic. We are to be people of faith.

Having been justified by God, we need not fear divine condemnation, There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1). Having been chosen by God, we need not fear His rejection (Ephesians 1:4–6Luke 12:32Jude 1:24).

Ephesians 1:4-6 New King James Version (NKJV)

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He [a]made us accepted in the Beloved.

Footnotes:

a. Ephesians 1:6 bestowed grace (favor) upon us

Luke 12:32 New King James Version (NKJV)

32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Jude 24 New King James Version (NKJV)

Glory to God

24 Now to Him who is able to keep [a]you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,

Footnotes:

a. Jude 1:24 them

With Christ as our Shepherd, we need not fear the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). With the Maker of heaven and earth watching over us, we need not fear anything (Psalm 121).

          Psalm 23:4 New King James Version (NKJV)

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 121 New King James Version (NKJV)

God the Help of Those Who Seek Him

A Song of Ascents.

121 I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to [a]be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your [b]keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall [c]preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve[d] your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

Footnotes:

a. Psalm 121:3 slip

b. Psalm 121:5 protector

c. Psalm 121:7 keep

d. Psalm 121:8 keep

Psalm 91 speaks of the one who 91 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” (verses 1–2). Those who trust in God can live fearlessly: You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.” (verses 5–7). There is a direct correlation between faith and the confidence to face the dangers of life: Because you have made the Lordwho is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;” (verses 9–10). We rest in God’s promise: 14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. 15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.” (verses 14–15).

Calm down. We’ll be fine even with Trump’s win

You can feel the tension. Strolling down the street, shopping at the corner market, stopping for a bite at the local tavern, friends and neighbors greet each other as usual but avoid the elephant sauntering around like he owns the place.

It’s best not to talk politics even though the election is over.

But when an impudent columnist asked the next fellow in the grocery line — “Have you voted yet?” — and his answer hints at a Trump ballot, neighboring are eyes cast downward, while sparks sizzle in their human casings.

A brief frisson has transpired. Chuckling nervously, we plunge through the door into a cool, sunny breeze, thinking: Thank God this is over.

Will it?

No one knows, but a sense of dread has attached to the “Day After.” This is because after 18 months of rabble-rousing and anger management (not in a good way), we’ve created a sort of Potemkin nightmare of partisan division and revolutionary strife. Never before has this country been so divided, goes the usual chorus of pundits and commentators.

Except, that is, for every other election year since voting began.

Our Founding Fathers, for all their cleverness, were hardly soft-spoken. The Civil War needs no editorial comment. The 1960s weren’t exactly a paddleboat cruise down the Mississippi.

In other words, our politics has always been thus, though with one significant difference. Whereas Paul Revere had to ride several hours on horseback to deliver the news that the British were coming, we never stop receiving news of everything, everywhere in real time that passes before we can stand athwart history and gasp, “Oh no!”

Through media in all its forms, we exhaust and are exhausted by the insignificant. To tune in is to believe that Western civilization is nearing collapse, regardless of who holsters up and swaggers into the White House in January. Which is precisely what you’re supposed to think.

You’re supposed to think everything is falling apart. You’re supposed to believe that life has never been worse.

Donald Trump was right when he said the system was rigged, but not in the way he meant. It wasn’t rigged against him. He’s part of the ecosystem of media, political consultants, producers, politicians and propagandists that were rigged against The People — and it worked just fine.

Everyone’s in on the same game, which is essentially to ensure that The People gobble up what they’ve been serving — and what they served was resentment, fear and anger.

Sure, people are upset about stuff. But what we feel now is mass-produced by a propaganda industry that profits most when people are worked up.

You want a good money tip? Invest in outrage.

As Nov. 9 dawned, Americans were sure to be mad. Those happy with the victor will be re-angry soon enough when they realize they won’t be getting what they were promised. This is the good news. Thanks to the brilliance of our tripartite government, nobody gets to be dictator. And despite what nearly everyone seems to believe, our “broken government” works pretty well most of the time.

With Trump’s win, he’ll be held more or less in check by the House and Senate because that’s the way our system of government is set up. Not even Republicans are eager to follow Trump’s lead.

There won’t be a wall. He won’t impose any religion-based immigration restrictions, because even Trump isn’t that lame-brained. He’ll dress up and behave at state dinners and be funny when called upon. He’ll even invite the media to the White House holiday party. He won’t nuke Iran for rude gestures. He won’t assault women. He and Vladimir Putin will hate each other, respectfully.

Since Hillary Clinton did not win, hopefully she’s not going to suddenly become a lunatic. As a senator, she worked across the aisle and earned the admiration of her colleagues. She, like Trump, honors the troops and they know it. She would have made sure her Supreme Court appointments would protect Roe v. Wade, but otherwise, the jury’s always out. Justice David Souter, now retired, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. both demonstrated the box-of-chocolates rule: You never know (exactly) what you’ll get.

The same, alas, can be said about Trump. Whatever he has projected or promised won’t be reflected in the reality of the presidency. It never is. Whatever he may wish to be, the president is only one-third of the equation — granted, with an armed force.

On a happier note, either way — cue Gloria Gaynor — oh, yes, we will survive.

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.

WEALTH AND POVERTY

Wealth, poverty and income inequality is a dense and relevant topic.

Everyone everywhere deals with issues related to it. Wealth is a path to idolatry and poverty is a symptom of a fallen society. Any society deals with these issues and navigating them properly can help Christians act maturely and missionally. Sadly, Christians’ views on wealth and poverty are more likely to be shaped by Suze Orman or a political party than grounded in scripture. The best way to have a biblical view of wealth and poverty is to look at Scripture.

Genesis

In the beginning God created a material world and walked with man in perfect fellowship. The material world cannot be evil since it existed before the fall and was created good. As a result of the fall, for Adam, providing for his needs became increasingly difficult. This does not mean that work was absent before the fall. Adam was charged to be fruitful and multiply, to take care of the garden, and even to help name the animals.

After the fall, poverty can be seen in the increased difficulty of the work itself or in those who are unwilling to labor. It has also opened the door for people to amass wealth as work techniques and specialties develop.

Old Testament Law

One important set of laws in the Old Testament was the Sabbath laws. They ultimately pointed to the rest that will be found one day for those who are in Christ, but they speak to wealth and poverty also. The Sabbath day provided rest for people and animals once a week (Exod 20:8–11, 23:12; Lev 23:2; Deut 5:12–15; David Jones and Russell Woodbridge; Health, Wealth, and Happiness). The origins of the Sabbath go back to creation. Just as God had rested on the seventh day, so God’s people must rest from labor at the end of the week (Craig Blomberg, Neither Poverty nor Riches).

The Sabbath Year provided rest for people, animals, and the land (Exod 23:10–11; Lev 25:1–7; Deut 15:1–18; Health, Wealth, and Happiness). It included the cancellation of debts between Jews and occurred every seven years. The year of Jubilee was like a large reset button. It happened once every fiftieth year and allowed for the people, land, and animals to rest as well as for property to be returned to its original owner. This kept people from over pursuing riches and saved people from falling into a cycle of poverty (Lev 25:8–55; 27:16–25; Health, Wealth, and Happiness). The laws were a protection mechanism for the Israelites.

Through this cycle of labor and resting, the virtue of trusting in God to meet material needs was instilled in the people of Israel. The economic laws did not discourage personal possessions or the accumulation of wealth. They did, however, help correct overreaching for wealth and provide mercy to those who found themselves in poverty.

The Prophets and the Writings

The wisdom literature and historical books echo what was said in previous sections of scripture. The book of Proverbs especially extols the virtue of labor. Diligent labor is described as providing riches and plenty. There is also an emphasis placed on avoiding debt and oppressing the poor with verses like Proverbs 22:7 and Proverbs 31:9. Additionally, a good work ethic is praised in the same verse that hasty decisions are derided in Proverbs 21:5.

God’s providence is also displayed as he is suggested to be the deliverer of the poor in Proverbs 21:13. These proverbs warn against the pursuit of wealth, the danger of debt, the reward for the hard working, and the virtue of justice.

The Gospels and the Teachings of Jesus

Considering all accounts, Jesus was neither wealthy nor impoverished. His personal finances were really not on record. It is known that he was a tradesman from Mark’s gospel and his parents were poor from the fact that they offered two pigeons as a sacrifice in Luke 2:24. Christ was relatively poor but was never in any material need. He sympathized with the poor but also was comfortable enough around the rich and religious elite to attend dinners and parties.

There are two main themes on wealth and poverty that can be seen from the life of Jesus. First, believers have a duty to care for those who are impoverished as seen in Matthew 25:34–40. Poverty itself is not inherently sinful, but the causes and effects of poverty can sometimes be sinful. There would have been no poverty before the fall. Working to alleviate poverty is Christ-like and is a depiction of God’s redemptive plan to restore all things.

Second, wealth can be a spiritual stumbling block. Matthew 19:23 warns of the difficulties of the rich obtaining eternal life. There is no inherent sin in wealth but the love of money easily becomes an idol. A good summary of the gospel’s teaching on this matter is Matthew 6:19–21. Jesus warns his listeners not to store up treasures on earth but to instead store up treasures that have eternal worth.

Acts and the Epistles

Paul understands that working to meet material needs is a normal part of the Christian life. His famous quotation in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 (“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”) is evidence of that. As for caring for the poor, some of the strongest language is stated by James when he describes true religion as caring for orphans and widows in James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” Caring for the poor was an essential point of fact for the life of a Christian, but it was a voluntary response to having received God’s grace. Paul also warns Timothy that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10 (NKJV) 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”). This message corresponds to the teachings of Jesus that wealth has the dangerous potential to become an idol.

Implications and Conclusions

There are three general conclusions that can be made from this biblical survey. First, labor is necessary to meet material needs. This reflects the image of God and allows the diligent to serve his fellow man out of his production. Second is the duty of the Christian to help the poor. This is a Christ-like practice that imitates the gospel.

Finally, wealth has great power to be a spiritual stumbling block. Wealth can be a way that humanity can finance its own self-idolatry. How one uses wealth, or any material resources for that matter, can accurately reflect one’s spiritual condition.