Friday, April 04, 2008

Serving God with the Wallet

I received some spam yesterday that pointed me to a talk-show. His points in his "sermon" seemed lacking to me. One of them was a rejection of the idea that Jesus was a "radical hippie", upsetting the political machinery with a counter-cultural emphasis on taking care of the poor; the speaker believed the major thrust of Jesus' message was "preaching the Gospel" and extending the borders of the Kingdom.

It seems that this speaker's concept of Jesus' message is similar to that which I had growing up. But in recent years I believe I've been more successful at reading the Bible with a more open mindset, being more willing to let the text challenge my paradigm and biases (not that I'm totally successful at this; just more than I used to be). In doing so, I find that a great deal of Jesus' emphasis, of his concept of the Kingdom, was indeed about taking care of the poor, and not on spreading "correct doctrine". Even John the Immerser, in Luke 3:10ff, when asked specifically what his message to repent meant for various groups of people, responded to each group with an economic instruction, not a doctrinal one. Much of Jesus' teaching followed suit.

We see much of the same emphasis from the prophet Amos. Thomas Cahill summarizes well:
And the truth---for eighth-century Samaria---was this: to serve God means to act with justice. One cannot pray and offer sacrifice while ignoring the poor, the beggars at the gates. But more radical still: if you have more than you need, you are a thief, for what you "own" is stolen from those who do not have enough. You are a murderer, who lives on the abundance that has been taken from the mouths of the starving. You are an idolator, for what you worship is not the true God. You are a whore, for you have bedded down with other gods, the gods of your own comfort and self-delusion, you who "cram [your] palaces with violence and extortion," who have "sold the upright for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals [from Gucci, no doubt]," who "have crushed the heads of the weak into the dust and thrust the rights of the oppressed to one side."
There is one area in which I believe Cahilll mis-speaks. He says this is the truth for eighth-century Samaria.

But I believe it's the truth for 21st century Kent.

And that's scary.

God, be merciful to me, a thief, murderer, and idolator, and give me your Spirit, to morph me into the man you'd have me be.

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