Tuesday, September 29, 2009

# 286: What is Wealth?

I have written on this topic several times and believe it is time to write on it again in a more forthright and comprehensive manner. The reason is because the New Testament (NT) is adamant about the spiritual condition of admired/emulated, wealthy “Christians.”

The truth concerning this subject is one of the most contested in the NT, especially by Americans. When our country was being founded, the freedom it gave its citizens was the ability to become wealthy. Fact: for that reason, everyone in America desires to live the “good life.” And that is understandable. The only problem is that wealth most often comes as a result of some sort of greed. According to the NT, greed and God do not mix because God demands that His people seek and practice holiness, sanctity, love, compassion and especially mercy.

There is a more underlying reason why God speaks negatively in the NT concerning wealth, which often makes people powerful and usually arrogant. Those who are rich or the “wannabe” rich have a common denominator: they prey or will prey on the people who need their services. Let me explain: there would be no rich people if it weren’t for the common working people.

When people, including some who claim to be Christians, get a higher education (PhD/doctorate, legal attorneys or other high degrees), they can charge an extremely high price for their services. In turn, the working, needy people have to pay whatever the going rate is so that these highly educated professionals can get even richer. In comparison to the income of the little guy and gal, what they charge is highway robbery, outright legal stealing. Ephesians 4:28: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work doing something useful with his hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” Then there are all the corporate merchants who sell all the products that we the consumers desire or need. They charge all that they can get from the consumer, so they can get even richer. In this sort of economy, which is worldwide, there is no desire for a sense of equality.

Who or what makes rich “Christians” better or more worthy of their wealth than needy working people? No doubt, according to the standards of this world, they have good reason to be proud of their success. But with that pride, most rich “Christians” are unwilling/unable to have compassion, love and mercy for the people who are in real need. That is strike number one against them.

Although these rich “Christians” want to go to heaven, they say/think “but not just yet.” They don’t have a real need to leave this world, because their lives are a continual, carefree party, so to speak. However, genuine Christians who are having a tough time (the poor) would love to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far. They are the only group of people that I am aware of who don’t fear physical death—which is not really death but just a passageway to go where there is no death. I, personally, am in this group.

If, by some chance, wealthy “Christians” could have real humility, compassion, love and mercy, it wouldn’t be long before they ran out of money and the good life. Especially now due to the loss of employment and homes during this recession, there are millions who are poor—of course, they probably do not possess Christ-like compassion for the needy. This is why it would be literally impossible for the rich to share their wealth with the poor—they would have no more reason to be proud of their dwindling wealth.

Let me mention that even though our God is a God of love, there are many things He hates that humans do/have. On the top of this list is pride. That could be the main reason God condemns wealth—it produces unwarranted pride. Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 11:2: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

If all wealthy people in America, Christian and secular, were to continually share their wealth with the poor—just enough for the poor to get by—there would be no poverty in our great country. Of course, that would not include sharing wealth with drug addicts and panhandlers addicted to alcohol. Don’t hold your breath: it will never happen.

Then some would say, “I know several very wealthy people who are good Christians and have great humility without a bit of pride or arrogance.” However, just because they don’t show their pride and arrogance openly, they still have good reason to be proud in their inmost thoughts. Luke 1:51: “. . . he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.” This is the only verse that speaks positively on the rich. 1st Timothy 6:18: “Command them [the rich] to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” This does not mean to only give 10% or more to one’s church. This type of generosity goes far beyond tithing to one’s church.

As one can tell, in God’s kingdom there is no room for pride because pride and humility are in conflict with each other. Humility, love, compassion and mercy are kissing cousins; they are a must to enter heaven.

Why do you think the Jews in general have never accepted Jesus Christ as their Messiah? I am certain that they have several reasons, but the main reason is the NT’s preaching against wealth. Most Jews are extremely wealthy; in fact, they own the vast majority of all American enterprises. Also, their wealth makes them the most influential people in America, if not the world.

Now tell me, what church or denomination would preach such a sermon concerning how God feels toward the rich? You guessed it, none. You see, the American way is not God’s way. Find me one American Christian that wouldn’t want to be rich if she/he had the chance. Show me one wealthy “Christian” who claims not to be proud and I will show you a liar. It is impossible to separate personal wealth from pride. You can’t have wealth without pride.

<>There are dozens of verses that speak negatively about the harm wealth can do in the Christian community, and we see it right here and now in America. Remember that it is the wealthy who give the most to the churches they belong to: 10% or more of all their earnings. So why would any preacher in his/her right mind want to lose their tithes and membership? It is that simple as to why the wealthy have dominated the giving in most mega-churches, and even smaller ones.

I have quoted many NT verses in previous posts that teach that the rich are not welcome in God’s kingdom. But for those who are reading this blog for the first time, I will quote them again.

But before I do, let me give some examples of the results of wealth. The richer the rich get, the less aware they are of their need for God, even if they openly praise the Lord for their success. I know several wealthy business people who do that. Regardless, God is still put on the back burner when it comes to Christian works and Christian generosity. The reason is that they are enjoying so many things in this world that ordinary people can never enjoy; they can have literally anything in this world that their greedy hearts desire.

This is what the apostle James teaches in chapter four, verse four: “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

Here is what the apostle John has to say about the world: 1st John 2:15: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” The question arises: why would anyone want to be rich if they couldn’t enjoy their wealth by doing and having all the things and more our world offers? Strike number two.

Every Christian is a role model for other Christians/Saints. Therefore, by their wealth, they are giving the go-ahead sign to all who respect them, and even those who don’t, to be rich “Christians” like them. There are over half a dozen verses that teach that our example for how we must live is Jesus Christ. 1st John: 2:6: “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” Let me give just two more: 1st Peter 2:21: “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his footsteps.” The apostle Paul said in 1st Corinthians 11:1: “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.”

Here is the most harmful part: most wealthy “Christians” are admired and respected by many. Can anyone see what the outcome would be when a person who is rich claims to be a good Christian? Wealth and influential power becomes the role model for others instead of holiness and sanctity. Strike number three.

Then, another thing: who do you think are the big shots that are in charge of some church duties, like deacons, etc.? They may also be in charge of making up a lot of activities that go on in their church. In effect, the wealthy silently dominate what is and is not preached in their church building. For example, would it be preached how wealth is not welcome in the Christian life? In those types of churches, their religion is a form of soothing entertainment. Strike number four.

Most—if not all—wealthy people are proud of what they possess and what they have accomplished in their life. Wealthy “Christians” are no different, though they may not verbalize just how important and proud they think they are.

Let me give just two NT verses on how crafty Satan the devil really is: 2nd Corinthians 11:14: “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as angel of light.” 2nd Corinthians 2:11: “. . . in order that Satan might not outwit us. We are not unaware of the schemes.”

As previously mentioned, Satan has in his clutches all rich “Christians” who disregard what the NT teaches. This blog reiterates the damage wealth does, not only for them but others who want to become rich “Christians” also. This satanic principle concerning the wonders of wealth for Christians is most likely one of Satan’s deepest and most tightly held secrets. Remember, having and desiring wealth is the American way, but not God’s way.

Let me repeat myself: of all the tricks that Satan plays on Christians, the easiest deception for him is to make his people disobey the verses that condemn being wealthy, and he somehow makes them believe that it is honorable for them to desire wealth; the more the better, so that they will have more money to do God’s work. SURE! The reason why it is a piece of cake for the devil is because desiring wealth is one of humanity’s strongest natural instincts.

Wealthy “Christians” should not--although they do--disobey NT commands concerning the deadly harm wealth creates. Hebrews 5:9: “and once made perfect, he [Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for all who OBEY him.” Without obedience to all that the NT commands, Christianity can, and in many cases has, become a phony sham.

Very few wealthy “Christians” will openly admit that they don’t love money, and I can understand that; what they do love is what money can do and buy for them. There are several reasons why they won’t mention their love for money. Here is one: 1st Timothy 6:9-10: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Here are many of the NT verses that clearly and unequivocally display and describe the deadly harm wealth does to the cause of Christ, to themselves and others:

2nd Timothy 3:1-2: “But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money . . .”

1st John 3:17: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Hebrews 13:5:”Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have . . . .”

Some claim a person can be well off and not be greedy, but that is an outright lie. They change the word “greed” by replacing it with the word “prosperity.”

Luke 12:15: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Ephesians 5:3: “but among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because they are improper for God’s holy people.”

Colossians 3:5: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: . . . and greed, which is idolatry.”

1st Corinthians 5:11: “But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy . . . with such a man do not even eat.”

1st Peter 5:2: “. . . not greedy for money, but willing to serve . . .”

These next several verses are in the three harmonious gospels. I will quote just one. Matthew 19:23-24: “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’” These verses have been so watered down/diluted by many large churches and rich “Christians” that they don’t mean what they teach any more.

Luke 1:53: “. . . but has sent the rich away empty.”

Luke 6:24: “but woe to you who are rich.”

This next section tells about a beggar named Lazarus and a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. Luke 16:19-31 most likely was a parable and is the most extreme example of the harm that will come to wealthy “Christians.” If you have never read this section, it is quite informative. I will quote just two short verses, 22-23: “The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment . . .”

James 1:11: “In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.”

James 5:1: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.”

Mark 4:19: “. . . but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

Repeating, now tell me what church or denomination would preach such a sermon concerning how God feels toward the rich? You guessed it: none. You see, the American way is not God’s way. Find me one American Christian that wouldn’t want to be rich if she/he had the chance.

Then there are those who attempt to Biblically defend their wealth by bringing up two rich disciples of Christ: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Granted, but how long do you think they could/would have kept their wealth with all the extremely poor disciples/saints in Jerusalem at that time? Acts 4:32: “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.”

Some may ask, “Why are the poor (scum of the earth) and the poor in spirit so privileged to be prime candidates for the kingdom of heaven?”

James 2:5: “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”

Matthew 5:3:” Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Luke 6:20: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

The Christians who are poor in spirit are aware of how impoverished they really are spiritually, and how much more is ahead of them in order to continually please God: continuing the work that Jesus started.

The physically poor Christians can’t wait to leave this world that has been so unkind to them. Whether they were born on the wrong side of town or they made a few wrong choices, etc., they know where they are going is far better. From all indications, even though anyone can believe and become a Christian if they adhere to what is taught in the NT, the Bible, the Old and the New Testament openly favor the underdogs.

In conclusion, there is no way wealth of any sort can be justified in the Christian life, according to the NT and as presented in a condensed form in this post. Will a few of the rich respond to the truth concerning wealth? I doubt it. Will the mega-churches respond to the truth concerning wealth? Absolutely not. The wealthy are the lifeline for their church’s existence. One thing that will come out of this revelation in Post #286 is that when wealthy “Christians” read this post, they will not have a legitimate excuse for their wealth.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

# 285: The Religion of Love

There are hundreds, possibly even thousands of aspects to the Christian religion which are interconnected and stem from love: God’s love for us, our love for our neighbor, our love for God and Jesus Christ, His love for us, and our love for each other, etc. Love is what binds us together as a unit, which is called the Church.

When our Christian life is void of genuine love, it is a false form of Christianity. Of course, love has little or nothing to do with the necessary and essential chores in life--I don’t mean those kinds of things.

Genuine Christ-like love is never concerned with how we will make out as we give needed love, but will it make the loved one think that Christianity may be the right religion. In other words, the motive behind loving the unbeliever without expecting anything materially in return is a way of possibly expanding the Kingdom by one or more people. As one can tell, there is a method to our madness: gain.

Making the invisible God visible with our love is the job of every Christian. I can honestly say that so-called Christians in general get a failing grade in this essential endeavor. The reason may be our lack of divine love. To be effective, love must be genuine. When genuine Godly love is the motivator in what we do, it becomes an irresistible, visible force.

Many don’t realize that since God is Love, love and only love--not meaning self-love--must be the driving force that compels us to live and obey all that is commanded in the New Testament (NT).

The two most compelling verses in the complete Bible are the foundation of all else. Better yet, all that is done or not done must stem from these two verses: Matthew 22:36-40: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Luke and Mark also add ‘and with all your strength.’” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is similar: “Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Here is the funny thing about Christianity as we now have it: those two commandments are the most ignored and watered-down of all by most denominations. It seems that Christianity has been made into a religion of self-betterment, while occasionally still using the word “love.”

I personally have heard it said by preachers that those two commandments couldn’t be obeyed by anyone; it is impossible. Given that, it seems as though love has been deleted as the foundation of the religion of love.

Here is where the oxymoron lies: just because those commandments are higher than the clouds for us to reach, they are to be every Christian’s “holy grail”/unreachable goal. We are to continually strive by making every effort to reach that goal. The term “make every effort” is in at least half a dozen NT verses. That is one reason I have written many times that the Christian religion is the most challenging endeavor on this earth. There can be no slacking off.

Just remember this: genuine love is the most powerful and desired force in the whole universe, though many would desire riches, power and fame in its stead. And on the top of the list of the greatest forces is God’s love for us. Nevertheless, if we are not aware of His love for us, it will not do us much, if any, good. I understand that it will not be easy to actually experience His love. But once a person does, it will be like holding the world on a string. That love gives one the power, desire and motivation to live as we are commanded in the NT.

When it comes to the words “hate” and “love,” there seem to be several contradictions in the NT. I will attempt to clarify them so that there will be no confusion. To love as the NT commands will, at times, be very challenging. For example: it is not natural to love your enemies or those who hate you. Yet, we are commanded to love them and be good to them. The main reason we must act in such a kind way is to somehow get them to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

With that in mind, we must not waste our time on anyone who seems continually contrary to the gospel message. Therefore, we have to use wisdom and discretion in how we act with this verse in mind. Matthew 7:6: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”

When a person is loved by a human, that person wants to please the one who loves her/him by loving in return. The same is true with God; we want to please Him in every way.

The next several verses might seem to contradict each other, but it is not so. John 12:25: “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Ephesians 5:29: “After all, no one hates his own body, but he feeds it and cares for it, just as Christ does the church.”

Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple.”

There seems to be something wrong with this verse, but Matthew says almost the same thing, giving a more moderate rendition.

Matthew 10:37-39: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Even with Matthew’s version, this could be one of the most difficult commands to obey. But what these verses are saying is not to love your family members any less than you now do, but to love Jesus Christ more strongly than you love your precious family members. In short, our love and devotion for Jesus Christ surpasses our love for any earthly person or thing. The question arises: why must we love, or better yet, how can we love Christ in this fashion?

This is the answer: because He is of greater importance than any other human. Successfully making this most challenging change may be the downfall of many. This will separate the sheep from the goats, because it is of vital importance. This may not happen overnight, but if God’s Holy Spirit is working unhindered in you and me, it will eventually come to fruition. I have to admit that this has been the hardest verse for me personally to obey.

This verse and others like it imply that Christianity is not just an add-on to one’s life, allowing one to avoid going to hell by accepting Jesus Christ as Savior—it is the most important endeavor possible, and it will eventually consume our lives.

It is also a test to see if our love for God and Christ are for real. If it isn’t, this verse will be avoided and blacked-out in the Bibles of many. This verse also validates the verse previously mentioned, the foundation of the complete NT: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” Simply put, Christian love must be more than beautiful words and songs, but action. Love implies action; action concerning our love for Christ must supersede all other loves and desires. Love/Christianity is serious business.

Luke 12:51: “Do you think I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” [in the family].

This above verse says that because of our commitment to Christ, some family members will not go along with Christ’s radical commandments, and thus there will be some sort of strife. I have seen this happening in several families.

Luke 6:27-28, 31: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you . . . Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

This above verse will also be contrary to the laws of nature into which we were born. We would normally avoid our enemies and hate them and wish they would go to hell. I have many enemies who hate me for my stance of exposing the fallacies in traditional Christianity. I am occasionally confronted by them: I am usually treated somewhat cordially, but I can tell that they would like to wring my neck by the look in their eyes. I truthfully feel sorry for them if they believe they are telling the whole truth, but I have mixed emotions about those who know that they are deliberately deceiving the laity.

In ending, I believe the thing that bothers me most is the clergy not emphasizing the seriousness of being a disciple of Christ. The reason may be that they want the congregation back next week, and if they make them feel guilty for not doing/obeying what the NT commands, they will never come back to that church.