Tag Archives: Work

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.

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.