Tag Archive: theology


Understanding Job

scotland-1645868I’ve been reading through the book of Job. It’s been awhile since I read it. I think I’ve avoided it because it seems hard to understand. It’s the kind of book whose meaning scholars debate endlessly. But after going through some of the most difficult years of my life, and trying to process the grief, pain, and loss, I found myself drawn to Job’s story. So I started reading.

What I’ve found is that Job really isn’t that hard to understand. I completely relate to him (even though I haven’t experienced quite the same level of suffering that he did). I get him. His response to suffering makes sense to me, because I’ve thought similar things myself. Why is this happening? God, where are You, and what are You doing? What have I done to deserve this? When will the pain stop?

I get Job’s friends, too. There’s a part of me that feels like every time something bad happens it must be my fault. I did something to deserve it. That’s essentially the message Job’s friends tell him. You brought this on yourself. God blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked, so if you are suffering this badly—well, you do the math.

What I’ve realized is that I couldn’t really understand Job until I went through some major life crises of my own. Until you’ve walked through the fire and the flood you can’t relate to those who have. My wife was saying the other day that she feels like grief is its own sense. Trying to explain what it’s like to someone who hasn’t experienced it on a deep level is like trying to explain color to someone who can’t see. There’s just no way to communicate it. It must be felt.

Another thing I’ve noticed while reading through Job is that I keep wanting to get to the part where God answers Job. Quick, give me the answers so I can hurry up and finish the test! But that part doesn’t come until the very end. The book of Job is pretty long, and most of it is his anguished dialog with his friends while he is in the depths of pain and despair. That’s what the experience of suffering is like in real life. You can’t rush through it or skip to the end. It’s a long process of agonizing pain, doubt, and fear. There are no shortcuts through it or detours around it.

And some of us will never get a direct answer from God. If you read the end of Job’s story, even though God does speak to him out of the storm, He never actually answers Job’s questions about why he is suffering. He simply reminds Job that He is God, and Job is not. I know that scholars far more knowledgeable than me have offered complex interpretations of the meaning of Job’s suffering. But looking at his story from the perspective of someone who has gone through suffering, maybe the simplest meaning is that sometimes there isn’t a neat, tidy answer to all our questions. Sometimes we may never know, at least this side of heaven, why God allowed us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The point of Job’s story isn’t to give us a satisfactory answer for our suffering. It’s to remind us that God remains God even when we’re experiencing the deepest pain, even when we feel like He has abandoned us, and to give us hope that He has the solution to our suffering.

See, there’s a difference between an answer for our suffering and a solution to our suffering. I’m not sure that Job ever really got an answer. But he got a solution. In the end, God healed his sickness, restored his family and his fortune, and blessed his latter years even more than the former. Those of us who have experienced suffering in this life have the promise that one day, Jesus will come back to this earth to make things right. He can’t undo all the pain we have experienced—and we shouldn’t want Him to. That pain has shaped our characters and taught us to rely on God. But He promises to wipe away every tear from our eyes, to create a world where there will never again be death or mourning or crying or pain, and to give us life eternal in this new world, life with Him and with all those who love Him.

That sounds like a pretty good deal to me. I may not get an answer to all my questions about why I am suffering. But I will get a solution for every pain I’ve felt, every tear I’ve shed. And that’s enough for me to keep trusting Him.

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DeceptionAheadThere seems to be a fair number of Christians who are hooked on conspiracy theories. The secret government plot behind 9/11. The Jesuit conspiracy to pervert modern Bible translations. The mass mind control techniques being used by pop stars in their concerts and music videos. A multitude of excellent blogs have already been written on this subject. Like this one, for example, that analyzes why conspiracy theories don’t hold up to careful scrutiny in the light of history (it’s actually a two-part series). Or this one, which is an impassioned appeal from a fellow young pastor to stop focusing on fearful speculation and instead focus on Jesus. Or this one, which emphasizes that our job as Christians is to shine light into the darkness, not to delve into the darkness trying to ferret out all its secrets. I highly recommend reading all of these pieces; they’re not that long. It will take less time to read these blogs than it will to research a new conspiracy theory.

This is a somewhat dangerous subject to blog on. Some people may be defensive about it. Also, I may risk repeating what someone else has already said more eloquently. But I humbly undertake this risk to highlight a very grave end-time threat that I see in conspiracy theories.

End-Time Deception

Remember the warning Jesus gave to His disciples: “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible” (Matt. 24:24). Jesus was talking about the events that led up to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, and also the final events that will precede the second coming. His disciples certainly saw this fulfilled in their day. Numerous false teachers and false messiahs arose and led many Jews astray. Not only that, they led people into rebellion against the Roman authorities, and thus to their deaths.

The deception in the last days will be even more deadly. Satan, the enemy of God and His people, will try to lead people astray from God’s truth and thus to their eternal destruction. In Revelation we find that Satan (the dragon) works through earthly powers (the beasts) to deceive the whole world (Rev. 13:14). Everyone who does not follow God ends up following the beast—and the beast ends up in the lake of fire (Rev. 13:8; 19:20). Clearly it is extremely important to be aware of the last-day deception and to avoid it.

And actually, that’s the reason why some Christians are so interested in conspiracy theories. Uncovering the enemy’s schemes is a way to defend ourselves against them. It gives us confidence that we will not be deceived. If we know what the deception is, we won’t fall for it!

Truth, Deception, and the Elect of God

But notice again what Jesus warned: “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.” Jesus didn’t say that only the unenlightened “sheeple” of the world would be at risk. He specifically warned that the elect, those who know and follow the truth, would be deceived if it were possible. In other words, the deception will be so overwhelming that even godly people are at risk of falling for it.

How can this be? Deception is, by definition, tricking people into believing something is true when it really isn’t. If you knew that you were being deceived, you wouldn’t be deceived! That’s redundant, but I’m trying to make a point: In order for the elect to be at risk of being deceived, the deception must come in a form that they are likely to believe.

Let me give a couple examples of things that would not deceive the elect. If a crude and profane rapper boasts of being like God, you’re not going to think he’s spiritually uplifting and start listening to his music. If a popular movie tells a well-known Bible story, but conveys a very different version of the story than what’s actually in the Bible, you’re not going to fall for it. These are not things that seem true to the elect.

But you know what might seem true to the elect?  The idea that there is a small, secretive group of people behind popular movies and music who are trying to brainwash the general population and control their minds. The reason that seems true is because there is an element of truth to it. Ultimately Satan is working behind the scenes to deceive people, and he will use any means available to promote error, even music and movies. But is he working through a secretive cabal of world leaders who are bent on coalescing the reprogrammed masses into a New World Order? That’s what some conspiracy theorists would have you believe. Despite a lack of tangible evidence, they pull together tantalizing clues to weave a tangled web of associations to support their theory. And some Christians believe it’s all true.

The Danger of Conspiracy Theories

If the last-day deception will come in a form that the elect are likely to believe, then conspiracy theories are a good example of how that deception will work. I’m not saying that conspiracy theories are the last-day deception, only that they work on similar principles, and they could potentially lead to last-day deception.

One of the most disturbing aspects of conspiracy theories is that even when they are based on demonstrably false information, Christians will still believe the overall theory because the conclusion fits with their worldview. It seems that the specific details don’t matter if they like the big picture. It’s the opposite of missing the forest for the trees; they can’t see that the trees are fake because they’re too busy admiring the picture-perfect landscape. An example of this is the conspiracy theory that the translators of the NIV intentionally removed verses from the Bible in order to undermine vital theological truths, like the deity of Christ. Walter Veith, a prominent conspiracy theorist in the Adventist church, makes the outlandish claim that “up to 60,000” words have been removed from the NIV. The New Testament has about 180,000 words. One could easily compare the NIV with the KJV and quickly confirm that the NIV is not, in fact, missing the equivalent of one-third of the New Testament.

Another claim Veith makes is that all references to Jesus as Lord have been removed from the NIV. That’s a serious charge, and if true would be a grave threat to the very foundation of Christianity. But even a cursory examination of the New Testament will prove this to be false. There are plenty of references in the NIV to Jesus being Lord. It took me a few seconds of searching my computer Bible program to locate one of the most obvious: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

My purpose here is not to belittle Walter Veith. Many people say he is a wonderful man, and I’ve heard that his work on creation is outstanding. However, the conspiracy theories he promotes are not only fallacious, but spiritually dangerous. If a theory is based on numerous “facts” that can easily be disproved, it’s not much of a theory. And if this theory claims to give people spiritual enlightenment but is based on myths and rumors, those who believe it are at risk of actually going deeper into darkness. Why should we trust the conclusion to be true if the premise is false?

But many people do trust the conclusion, and this is why I believe that conspiracy theories are so dangerous. They seem to cause us to momentarily turn off the critical reasoning powers of our brains and believe that something is true when it isn’t. Maybe we want to believe it because it makes us feel like we’ve outwitted the devil. We know there will be deceptions in the last days. Is it that far-fetched to imagine that Satan might try to deceive people with a faulty Bible translation? No, not really. But if such a deception were a reality, we should be able to establish it by verified evidence and sound reasoning instead of demonstrably false claims and preposterous leaps of logic.

Loving the Truth

The apostle Paul wrote: “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2, emphasis supplied). The way to promote the truth is—are you ready for this—to simply tell the truth. I know, what a novel concept! But sadly it has become a novel concept for many people. They have become so caught up in the twisted world of conspiracy theories that they can no longer discern truth from fiction. Some of these people could have been described as the elect at one time. They are deeply religious people who love God’s truth and are zealous to defend it. But somehow they got off track. They followed the siren song of conspiracy theories, and little by little it has led them away from the safety and security found in God’s Word toward a dangerous combination of speculation, deceit, and rumor-mongering.

If we can’t tell truth from fiction when it comes to conspiracy theories, how will we be able to discern the last great deception that will threaten even the elect? Will we actually be among the elect if we don’t cultivate a love for the truth? Paul warns that the last-day deception ends in destruction specifically because those who are deceived refuse to love the truth and so be saved (1 Thess. 2:9-12). In other words, they become deceived through their own choice; they choose error instead of truth. It’s especially important to cultivate a love for the truth now, while it is relatively easy to distinguish truth from error. If instead we are cultivating a love of conspiracy theories that are based even partially on error, we are placing ourselves in serious jeopardy of falling for the last-day deception.

Truth is not merely a set of facts. It is not a collection of special, secret knowledge that only those with insight into the inner workings of the devil’s schemes are privileged to understand. Such a view is actually unbiblical. It is a new form of an ancient heresy called gnosticism (my friend David Hamstra calls it “occult epistemology”). The Bible teaches that truth is a Person. Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). If we want to be a part of God’s elect people who avoid the end-time deception, then we need to stay close to Jesus. Spend more time getting to know Him, and less time researching conspiracy theories. I promise you there is infinitely more value in being with Jesus than in trying to discern the next great deception. If you know the Truth, then you won’t fall for the deception.

So here’s my challenge to you. The next time you encounter a conspiracy theory and are tempted to follow it down the rabbit hole, stop and pray. Then pick up your Bible and read the promises of Jesus: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27, 28). No one can deceive you if  you are following Jesus. Listen to His voice, not to speculative and untrustworthy conspiracy theories. Let Jesus worry about thwarting the devil’s deceptions. Make sure you know and are following the truth, and you will be eternally safe.

 

 

Matthew With Kieran

Matthew Shallenberger pastors in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference. He and his wife have two little boys and two hyper dogs. Matthew believes that tin foil is best used for cooking purposes, not hat-making.




The views expressed in this blog are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference or the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Before you read Part 4 of this series, it’s really important to understand the context for what I’m about to say. If you haven’t read the entire series, at least read Part 3 first (I promise it’s short).

Jesus Cleansing the Temple 4

Image credit: FreeBibleImages.org

There’s another application of these ideas that might hit a little closer to home for some of us. Please understand that I don’t write this in a critical or condemnatory spirit. Rather, I write from a pastor’s heart. I long to see Jesus’ church reclaim His mission—seeking and saving the lost.

But I worry that the modern church has reversed Jesus’ methodology. We are gentle and accommodating to well-churched people, and we worry tremendously about offending them. (If you’ve ever been on a church board or nominating committee you know what I’m talking about.) But we seem to give little thought to how we might be offending those who are not so firmly established in the church. When new people come to our churches, many of them feel immediately that they are not good enough to meet our standards. They don’t look like us, smell like us, talk like us, and they certainly don’t live like us. And sadly our attitude toward them communicates that until they do become like us, they won’t be accepted.

One especially egregious example is our treatment of young people, even young people already in the church, unfortunately. They come to church dressed “inappropriately,” and some self-appointed church guardian scolds them (anonymous letters seem to be a popular tactic). They sing special music and the beat is a little too strong, so they’re reminded to be more “reverent” next time (as if they’re going to want to sing again after being shamed the first time). When they speak up and share their ideas, we often ignore them. If we bother to listen at all we may tell them that they lack the wisdom and experience to comment intelligently on the important matters of the church—not necessarily in those words, but the message is clear: “leave it to the adults, kids.”

The well-churched folks who do this kind of thing may be well-meaning, but good intentions are not enough. Sadly they are misrepresenting the gospel. No one is good enough for God’s grace, not even church folks. You may be a tithe-paying, Sabbath-keeping, vegan-eating Seventh-day Adventist, but none of that qualifies you to receive God’s grace. But like the Pharisees, when spiritual pride creeps in we imagine ourselves better than others. We may not say it openly, but our self-righteousness is obvious to others.

Please don’t think I’m being judgmental of judgmental people. I’m not any better than they are. I’m just as bad as they are, and I need Jesus just as much as they do. But part of being the body of Christ means that we hold each other accountable. There are times when we must take a stand and say enough is enough. We need to stop letting spiritual pride hinder others from coming to Jesus.

Now, I know someone may be thinking: “But what about our standards? Who will uphold them? Who will guard the church from creeping compromise?” The answer is simple—Jesus. He’s the one who protects His bride, the church. What are we so afraid of? Are we worried that if we let our guard down, we’ll come to church some morning to find that the sinners outnumber the saints? If that happens, praise the Lord! Our mission on this earth is not to preserve a holy country club where only platinum-level church members are allowed. Our mission is to join with Jesus in seeking and saving the lost. It’s messy business that requires a lot of patience and gentleness in dealing with very imperfect people. Remember how Jesus showed you gentleness, then go and do thou likewise.

It takes a lot of wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit to know when to be gentle, and when to firmly rebuke. The example Jesus gave us is a great place to start. Be gentle with the wandering soul looking for hope, love, and salvation. Be firm with the self-righteous saint hindering others from finding those things. This blog series is not intended to be a manual on who to offend and who not to offend. I don’t pretend to know the answer for every situation. But I think it’s high time the church had a conversation about all of this. Share your thoughts in the comments.

When I first started this blog, the big project I undertook was a study on the Bible’s teachings about wealth. I wrote a couple entries in that series and had plans for many more. Then we had a baby, and my life changed drastically—in a good way, but still, it is quite an adjustment.

I still intend to write more in the theology of wealth series, but it is a time-consuming project and lately I have not had the time to work on it. I’m a strongly melancholic personality, which means I tend to be a perfectionist; if I’m going to do something I’m going to do it well or not at all. So for those of you who were interested in following that series, just keep an eye on my blog. Hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll get back to it. In the meantime, I will still be blogging shorter weekly posts on a variety of topics. I pray that this blog will continue to “stir up your pure minds” for deep reflection on important issues that we all face while living in this atmosphere.

Indebted to the PoorI started this research project about three weeks ago. At the time I knew that I was delving into a deep subject which would take me quite awhile to process. But I honestly was unprepared for the sheer quantity of biblical material I would be wading through. This blog post serves two purposes: first, to give an update on my progress so far; and second, to explain more fully my motivation to tackle this project.

First, a brief update on my progress: to start I am using BibleWorks to search for English words, such as “poor,” “wealthy,” “rich,” and others. I quickly discovered that there are a lot of verses to study. My goal is to look at all the verses for a given search term and then try to distill a list of principles from them. I will also look at the original languages to see what words are used and what their meaning is.

I began by searching for the word “poor.” This turned up well over 100 verses (close to 200, depending on which version I searched). Not all of these verses relate directly to material wealth, but from my study so far most of them do.

One thing I’ve observed is that when the Bible talks about the poor, it’s almost always in positive terms. Now, I haven’t made it through the entire Bible yet; I’m in the Psalms right now, so I’m probably about halfway through. But I believe it is significant that the vast majority of references I’ve found for the poor are in their favor. The Bible talks about how God works on their behalf and brings about justice for them, how God’s people are supposed to care for them and uplift them, and how those who oppress them are wicked and unjust. There are definitely some implications for us today, but I’ll leave that for after I’ve completed the study.

Now, an explanation about why I undertook this study: As I mentioned in my first installment of this series, I have been increasingly convicted that our view of wealth and poverty is influenced more by our capitalistic, consumerist society than by biblical values. This conviction has grown out of my study of the Bible, Ellen White’s writings, and the writings of other Christian authors. Over time I came to realize that I had glossed over, or even missed completely, certain teachings in the Bible because of cultural influence on my thinking. I also realized I was not alone; many committed Christians struggle with the same problem.

Perhaps the best way to explain my changing views is to quote a few of the passages that shook me out of my cultural comfort zone. First, there are biblical passages like James 5:1-6:

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

Those verses hit hard. Yet the message is consistent with dozens of other passages where God, through inspired prophets, calls people to task for selfishly hoarding wealth while oppressing the poor. Yet I had somehow missed many of these passages. For instance, I had always thought that ancient Israel was judged by God and taken into captivity because the people were idolaters who worshiped false gods. That is indeed part of the reason, but the Bible actually lists several other specific sins for which the people were judged. The oppression of the poor is one of them. In Ezekiel 16:49, 50 God likens rebellious Israel to Sodom, and He tells us what Sodom was guilty of:

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

Included in that list of offenses is a lack of concern for the poor. In the following verses God actually tells Israel that their depravity has sunk to such depths that in comparison they make the Sodomites look righteous. Considering this, what would God say to us living in 21st century America? We’re the wealthiest nation in the world; how concerned are we for the poor?

Another teaching that convicted me was Jesus’ own words in Matthew 25:31-46, culminating in that famous saying: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Perhaps even more convicting is the other side of that statement: “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Could it really be that when Jesus judges the earth He will hold us accountable for the kindness we failed to show to those in need?

These thoughts disturbed me deeply. But their impact might have been blunted (indeed, for years it was) were it not for the writings of Ellen White. This is one of the best examples in my personal life of the lesser light of her writings leading me to the greater light of the Bible. For a seminary class assignment, I was reading Welfare Ministry. The first few chapters in that book gripped me so much that it seemed like I was highlighting nearly every other sentence. Here are a couple of the passages I found most impactful:

Those who have acquired riches have acquired them through the exercise of the talents that were given them of God, but these talents for the acquiring of property were given to them that they might relieve those who are in poverty. These gifts were bestowed upon men by Him who maketh His sun to shine and His rain to fall upon the just and the unjust, that by the fruitfulness of the earth men might have abundant supplies for all their need. The fields have been blessed of God, and “of His goodness He hath prepared for the poor.” (p. 15)

If men would do their duty as faithful stewards of their Lord’s goods, there would be no cry for bread, none suffering in destitution, none naked and in want. It is the unfaithfulness of men that brings about the state of suffering in which humanity is plunged. If those whom God has made stewards would but appropriate their Lord’s goods to the object for which He gave to them, this state of suffering would not exist. (p. 17)

Honestly it’s hard to choose just two quotes, but I’ll stop there because I don’t want to lengthen this post with too many quotations, and also because I don’t want to rob you of the experience of reading this book for yourself. If you haven’t already, get Welfare Ministry and read it!

Then very recently, thanks to a sermon by Dwight Nelson, I came across another powerful quote from Ellen White. The sermon was actually preached in 2007, but I didn’t hear it until a couple days ago. You can download the video here. In describing the needs of the poor around us and imploring us to help them, Dwight Nelson quoted two sentences from Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing that absolutely blew my mind:

So also with the gifts and blessings of this life: whatever you may possess above your fellows places you in debt, to that degree, to all who are less favored. Have we wealth, or even the comforts of life, then we are under the most solemn obligation to care for the suffering sick, the widow, and the fatherless exactly as we would desire them to care for us were our condition and theirs to be reversed. (p. 136, emphasis supplied)

Wow! I’m still reeling from that. Anything we have more than our fellow human beings places us in their debt! And notice she says it is our “solemn obligation” to care for those less fortunate than ourselves. It is not optional. If we are to fulfill Jesus’ command to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, then we must help the poor.

After being repeatedly slapped upside the head with passages like this, the truth of the matter is finally beginning to sink into my brain. God has been cutting through layers of culturally comfortable deception and powerfully convicting me that I need to make some changes in my life if I intend to be faithful to His commands. Now, I’ll be among the first to try to excuse myself by arguing that I’m not really wealthy. Let’s face it: no one goes into pastoral ministry in the Adventist church for the fat paycheck. It’s actually easy for me to feel sorry for myself and think that I’m rather poor. Comparatively, I am. But comparatively, I am also quite rich. I certainly enjoy the comforts of life. Regardless of how poor I may feel, I have abundantly more than many people around me. What am I doing to repay my debt to them?

I do not claim to have all the answers on this issue; I’ve only just begun the study. And I do not claim to know what changes you may need to make in your life as you seek to be faithful to God’s commands. I don’t even know exactly what changes I need to make yet. I hope that something I’ve shared here will motivate you to do your own study and soul-searching.  If there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s that our use of the material blessings God has given to us is a serious matter that deserves our sober reflection. I want to hear Jesus’ affirmation that I have been a good and faithful servant. I know that you do, too. So, my friends, what shall we do to repay our debt?

Cash

For some time now I’ve wanted to do a study on the Bible’s teachings about wealth and poverty. While I was in school I was always writing papers about other topics and never seemed to find the time for this one. Now that I’m out of school it has occurred to me that I can choose my own research topics (although finding time is a perpetual challenge).

I believe such studies are vitally important because our society’s values and God’s values do not always line up. It could be argued that they rarely line up. Unless we withdraw to a remote, internet-free wilderness and become hermits, society’s influence on us is inevitable. The solution to the potentially negative influence of society is not to retreat to a hermitage, but to align our values, attitudes, and beliefs with God’s instead of with the world’s. Unfortunately, when it comes to wealth and poverty I’m not sure we’ve done such a good job of that.

Thus I’ve decided to write a series of blogs on this subject in which I’ll chronicle my study and findings. I’m not proposing that I’ll find all of the answers; maybe I’ll just end up with more questions. But I think the study is worth undertaking. It’s a rather daunting task, though, because even with the little research I’ve already done I’ve learned that the Bible has a lot to say on the matter, so much so that it would take a dissertation-level research project to thoroughly cover everything. I’m not setting out to do that (yet). Others undoubtedly already have, more ably than I ever could. That’s why the blog series is named “Toward a Biblical Theology of Wealth.” I won’t claim that what I present will be exhaustive and conclusive. Hopefully it will be informative, though, and indicative of God’s values.

It’s risky to venture into this area because it is often controversial. Start talking about our responsibility to care for the poor and some people will assume you are a liberal socialist bent on redistributing their wealth to lazy moochers who want a free ride through life. It’s true that when taken to the extreme the fight against poverty can become an end unto itself (the social gospel). But the Bible says far too much in favor of caring for the poor for Christians to dismiss the idea outright. May I humbly suggest that our resistance to the concept is influenced more by our capitalistic society than by biblical values? I’m not undertaking the political question here; that’s for someone else to tackle. I’m looking at the biblical evidence and asking what the Christian’s response should be. What is God’s view of wealth and poverty? How should a Christian manage their financial means? What should be our response to those in need? These are a few of the questions to which I hope to find biblical answers.