Friday, October 10, 2008

unoriginal, but still interesting, the nexus of Prosperity teaching and bad banking

http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1847053,00.html?cnn=yes

This is a reminder that while God's promises are for our benefit we must be careful to consider all the things God does not promise. When Christ says to not worry about tomorrow it isn't necessarily an indication that He will provide you food and shelter as you wish. You might die, actually. God will take care of us but that does not absolve us from using some sense. The wisdom literature has two strains of thought that need to be held together all the time. One is that wisdom leads to a good legacy and to success from the Lord.

But the other is just as crucial,that time and chance happen to us all and that providence prevents us from knowing the future so it is foolish to presume upon God's grace and not investigate a matter. We are also warned throughout in Job that our sin may have nothing to do with disaster from the Lord and that the Lord may simply let us endure disaster for reasons we cannot see as part of a bet against Satan that we will not be faithful. It is crucial to keep in mind that when God said Job had been faithful though Satan incited Him to persecute Job without cause that we don't misread that, don't suppose that at any level Job was being punished or tested because he had sinned. In the end God Himself says Job spoke what was right and while there is debate available about what that was what's not up for debate is whether or not God was punishing Job for a particular sin, or even any sin.

Conversely, as the Preacher and Job both noted, the wicked can prosper and receive material blessings. Growth, prosperity, acclaim, and the like are not necessarily proof that one is obedient to the Lord, has compassion on the needy, or is in any way righteous.

This is an election year so it's yet another year in which cracked up theologians misquote "if my people who are called by name ... ". The prosperity gospel takes many forms and this year left and right are apt to think that if they just pray enough and beg God enough that God will reward them with the political leader they think they deserve. Ergo, my earlier sonnet that I put on this blog.

If Obama wins, Republicans, it is not necessarily a sign of God's judgment or a sign that we are being punished for our wickedness. If McCain wins, Democrats, ditto. When I get things forwarded regarding Obama as "our last best hope" by none other than Frank Schaeffer I find it as stupid as spam that says Obama is a secret Muslim and a candidate for the anti-christ. Can't people who traffic this sort of spam just admit that they have traded in the mysterious and terrifying one true God for a party underwriter already? The gods of the Republican and Democratic parties respectively simply aren't the Jesus I have discovered in Scripture and sensed working providentially in my life. Now it's fine to be a REpublican or Democrat, really, but the level of shrill shrieking in the internet about this stuff is just too believable and too tiresome for me. I expect insanity from Kansas City prophets to end up on YouTube, for instance, but I'm not so sure that the op-ed pages of newspapers are necessarily better. There's more than one level at which to invoke God and when local Seattle preachers dubbed Bush an antichrist it more or less reminded me that despite the separation of church and state politics can still be a de facto religion even among those who profess otherwise. Chill people. God is in control, especially when you don't want to believe He is.

And if the next great depression that people say is coming actually arrives after twenty years of predictions it "may" be a sign of God's judgment but it "may" be a blessing in disguise. Over the millenia the prophetic and the political have invariably been tied for reasons too obvious to explain, but it seems as though Christians in the West (and elsewhere, I'm sure) are easily tempted to equate their own material and political goals with the goals of Christ. That is not just how a prosperity gospel can become popular, it's how variations of a prosperity gospel can manifest in otherwise mainline or orthodox churches. If you obtain the American dream then you're obedient to God. If you don't, don't want it, and otherwise don't obtain it, then you're not being obedient. Older church traditions at least have monastic orders for the people whom society decides can't cut it as "useful" members of society. THat's an aspect of socio-economic patterns that I'm not sure has gotten a lot of discussion on blogs ... or I don't have time to go find and read them.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

a rumination on money

How you spend someone else's money and account for it speaks of your heart toward them. This is true at an individual and collective level, and it speaks of the nature of our times.



He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?



I have found this passage fascinating for years. The Lord speaks to us as children, which we are. No child is simply given an inheritance as though he or she were fit to be in charge of it right away. Children are given that which is not theirs to see how they will handle it. If they handle it well they receive a greater inheritance. If they handle it poorly they need a guardian or may not receive the inheritance. Jesus says that if we cannot be faithful with someone else's money we will not be faithful with true riches.

Want to know how someone really thinks about you? Find out how they use your money. If they aren't honest and forthcoming about what, where, and why they spend money you give them and be quick about it then they're not being honest or forthcoming with you and treating you with the respect you are due as an image-bearer of Christ. Without getting super detailed, I work in a field where this sort of immediate and total accountability for money is a crucial part of the job. So it is something I'll admit to caring a great deal about. This is a kind of accountability that is painful but necessary, the kind of which Scripture might say that a godly mean makes a promise and keeps it even if it hurts him.

Given the times in which we live and the governments, banks, and other institutions have handled things it's something to think about.