Tag archives: jesus

It really is better to give…

The Apostle Paul cites a saying of Jesus (not recorded in the gospel accounts):

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

According to this New York Times profile of Wharton Business School professor Adam Grant, Jesus just might have been on to something:

For Grant, helping is not the enemy of productivity, a time-sapping diversion from the actual work at hand; it is the mother lode, the motivator that spurs increased productivity and creativity. In some sense, he has built a career in professional motivation by trying to unpack the puzzle of his own success. He has always helped; he has always been productive.

Socialist Jesus

I sometimes wonder about people who write stuff like this:

As near as we can tell, Jesus would advocate a tax rate somewhere between 50% (in the vein of “If you have two coats, give one to the man who has none”) and 100% (if you want to get into heaven, be poor).

What I wonder is if they’re truly that ignorant, or if they know enough to to be consciously and deliberately twisting the Christian message.

Where do we start? I suppose the first clause, advocating a 50% tax rate, since it is a direct quotation of Luke 3:11. That’s where the problems begin, though, because it’s not Jesus who’s talking! This quote is from Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. Here is what John said in context:

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

Given vv. 12–13, it would be amusing to see verse 11 used to justify arbitrary taxation — does it matter whether the tax collectors are free-lancers or if they have the apparatus of government on their side? and if so, why? — it would be amusing, except that it does so much damage to the economy.

I had a guy the other night tell me that prosperity shouldn’t be the goal of the government. Maybe he might feel differently about that if he’d spent the last few months looking for a job, his house was underwater, and his marriage was coming apart because he and his wife argue about money all the time.

Then there’s the other clause, arguing for a 100% tax rate. Notice that it doesn’t have any quote marks. That’s because it’s not a quote. What it seems to be is a bungled citation of Mark 10:17-22:

17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” … 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

1) Inheriting “eternal life” isn’t “getting into heaven.” I can’t spare the time to demonstrate this, so you can believe me or not.

2) Jesus looks at him. The left can’t do this. They see everyone as a member of a class—the rich or the poor, the 1% or the 99%—but never as an individual.

3) Jesus loves him. The people writing these sad, sorry little articles don’t seem to love anyone, and certainly not people who are rich. Read some of their tweets.

4) Jesus says this rich young ruler lacks something. Jesus wants to rectify that; he wants to give him something. (I suppose you could argue that Jesus wants to sell him something, or trade for it, but Jesus sends the money elsewhere, and besides, 2000 years of Christian theology have insisted we receive salvation and new life as a free gift.) Leftists think they’re Robin Hoods: they want to redistribute wealth by taking it from the rich and giving it to the poor. The rich have too much already; they sure don’t need anything else!

5) Jesus tells him to give the money to the poor. Not to the emperor. (Not here, that is—more about rendering to Caesar in a moment.) Jesus doesn’t explain his reasoning. Maybe he wants the rich young ruler to do what he did: to look at someone and love them, to see them as people and not as causes. Perhaps he wants to be sure the money gets to the poor, rather than being diverted to (say) public-sector unions and other cronies of the elite.

6) Jesus tells him to follow him. Is the left seriously proposing that the government should not only take people’s money from them, but make them follow Jesus too? If not, why only quote the part about giving your money away?

7) Jesus lets the man decide what to do. Is the left planning to make taxing the rich optional? Will the 100% rate be a check-off box like contributing to public financing of elections? Of course not.

8) Despite what the writer says, Jesus never tells the man to “be poor.” Far from it, he says by following him, this fellow will have riches in heaven. If I were psychoanalyzing the left, I would see this statement as projection. It has become transparently obvious that the left’s policies make people poor; the best approach, then, is to suggest that Jesus wants people to be that way.

In fact, Jesus had all kinds of opportunities to advocate a tax rate, and never did. Once, however, he had to bail out a disciple who erroneously assumed that Jesus was okay with paying taxes:

27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

Make what you will of that, but it certainly isn’t a call for higher taxes!

Finally, Jesus once told some people to “render unto Caesar.”

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. …

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Evil people try to trap Jesus, and he escapes. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement of the tax power. But it’s about the best you can do if you want to make him an advocate for big government and leveling.

The real question about the Christian left is this: why is it bad for the Christian right to invoke faith in opposing abortion or premarital sex but good for the left to invoke faith in supporting ever-increasing government indebtedness? What right do bleeding hearts have to impose their morality on other people’s bank accounts, and what principle distinguishes that right from the perceived duty of wing nuts to impose their morality on other people’s bedrooms?

But I see this kind of crap on Facebook all the time, so it must really work, at least for people who are looking to have their politics validated.

Being less Biblical

I liked this point by Don Miller in his blog post “Being Less ‘Biblical’ and more ‘like the Bible.'”

Even Christ’s biographers depict Him without sparing us His humanity. He gets angry, He gets annoyed, He is hard to understand (and indeed hard to follow) and while He seems to love the world, He’s as alien as E.T., pointing always toward the heavens rambling about going home. It’s brilliant stuff when you stop reading it to figure out if you’re right or wrong about something. It’s life-changing, actually, the way your life gets changed by a friend over time.

I don’t do it enough, but I’m always rewarded when I just read the gospels. (Or really, any of the Scriptures, but it’s especially true in the gospels, as you read about Jesus.) Not to find that passage where he says this or that, or where it teaches us about this thing or another. Just to read the story and enjoy it.

Eye Contact

There’s something shocking in Song of Songs.

I know, that’s kind of a commonplace these days. “Song of Songs says things you’d never believe were in the Bible.” For example, one of my favorite parts of scripture is Song 7:7-8, which I can’t link because then this blog would be NSFW.

I understand: if you’ve heard enough spicy sermons out of Song of Songs, it might not be as shocking to you as it would have been otherwise. But wait.

Because, traditionally, Song of Songs has been described as a picture of Christ’s love for his Church. Let’s suppose that’s true. It might also be a how-to manual for godly sex, as it certainly seems to be in places, but let’s just suppose that fifteen or seventeen centuries of interpretation isn’t hopelessly 100% wrong.

Are you with me? “Are we tracking?” Okay. Then consider what we read in Song of Songs 6:5. The man says to the woman:

Turn away your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me /
Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead.

I’m not sure what the bit about goats and Gilead says about hair — something extremely flattering, I’m sure — but the rest is pretty clear. Anyone who’s been in love — or even infatuated — knows that feeling. It’s the “I want to ask you to the dance but I have to look at my feet when I do it” feeling. The “I really like you, or think I do, but I’m so overcome by the butterflies in my stomach I can’t actually look you in the eye to say so” feeling.

But consider: this verse is the man speaking to the woman. That would make it Christ speaking to his Church. Can you imagine Jesus the same kind of feeling looking at us — at you and me and the rest of the church — that we’ve experienced in our relationships? The sweaty palms, the stomach doing flip-flops, the stealing-looks-then-looking-away-before-eyes-meet? Jesus? Nervous?

How many of us look at Christ’s church the way he does? Wow.