Some random, oft times in-coherent thoughts on biblical justice and poverty. This post does not do justice to the issue of poverty, but it my meager contribution of Blog Action Day.
Some time in May, John Hagee preached a sermon in 3 parts, entitled Voting the Bible.
* God’s Purpose for the Church
* Should Christians get involved in the Political Process?
* The Bible’s Position on Abortion
* Defending Religious Freedom…Is It Ever Right to Defy the Government?
* War: Is It Ever Justified?
* The Crisis of Education
* The Coming Economic Crash
* The Immigration Crisis
* The Marriage Crisis
* Global Warming: Fact or Farce?
I don’t intend to offer commentary on the whole thing, nor to offer a rebuttal, however, I believe that there should be a ‘real issue’ moment for those that are concerned with voting, and indeed concerned with the Christian’s role in our society. It seems that many would limit us to battling two or three individual morality issues – gay marriage and abortion. Now he would have us face global warming as well.
An individual morality issues are those morals chosen by the individual. Yes, I believe that in many ways homosexuality is a choice while we would all agree that abortion is a free choice. A corporate morality issue is the morality, or immorality, in which we as a society participate, such as poverty, greed, or even the denying of basic human rights, such as the right to live.
Let me first say, that I am against Christians using the Church as a cloak for politics. We should not vote because we are Christian, but vote as Christians, that means that we have issues that we are allowed to tackle, I believe, but they are essentially economic problems, such as poverty, justice, and caretaking. As a community organizer, I was able to be involved in all three of these – at least on some level. The single most important verse for me during my travels is taken from the Prophet Micah.
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NKJV)
And of course,
But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream. (Amos 5:24 NKJV)
These verse would remind me of the biblical idea of justice corporate. Remember, Amos was not preaching to those who condoned individual sin, but the rich and powerful that had substituted gold for God.
A great many times, I find those that would use Christianity as a cloak for defense of the family against gay marriage (as if gay marriage will destroy traditional marriage) and for defense of the unborn against murder (In polite society, we call it abortion), often times refuse to use it as a foundation to attack injustice against the poor as well as injustice perpetrated on workers. The same is said of men like John Hagee, who, if his motivations are sincere, would rather defend the family against gay marriage while leaving it too poor to feed itself.
John Hagee would quote to us from Matthew, saying,
“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people. (Matthew 5:13 NET)
Saying that salt is active, and that we most be active. It is a stretch of the imagination, and perhaps a great twisting of the Scriptures, to see this verse in that light. Instead of salt being active, it is a preservative. It doesn’t eat away at anything, but preserves the item, keeping it from destruction.
John Chrysostom says,
When He had delivered to His Apostles such sublime precepts, so much greater than the precepts of the Law, that they might not be dismayed and say, How shall we be able to fulfil these things? He sooths their fears by mingling praises with His instructions, saying, “Ye are the salt of the earth.” This shews them how necessary were these precepts for them. Not for your own salvation merely, or for a single nation (people), but for the whole world is this doctrine committed to you. It is not for you then to flatter and deal smoothly with men, but, on the contrary, to be rough and biting as salt is. When for thus offending men by reproving them ye are reviled, rejoice; for this is the proper effect of salt to be harsh and grating to the depraved palate. Thus the evil-speaking of others will bring you no inconvenience, but will rather be a testimony of your firmness.
It is not that salt has to clean the world, but that the world is preserved by salt for salvation.
It seems that those like John Hagee would have us tackle only individual morality issues (gay marriage) while ignoring the corporate morality of poverty and economic justice.
The first message from Christ is repentance, and indeed, the entire need of the Cross was not a social revolution, but an accomplishment of salvation; however, Christ did also preach concerning the poor of both kingdoms – His and ours.
Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you did not receive me as a guest, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not give you whatever you needed?’ Then he will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.’ And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:34-46 NET)
These above are issues of our fellow man. Abortion is evil – it is murder; however, poverty leads to hunger and hunger to death, thus those that would cause such are themselves the murders. And what of abortion? For those abortions committed because of abject poverty, how easy would it be to lift those young women out of poverty to give them hope, not only for themselves, but for their unborn children as well?
Remember well the words of the prophet Isaiah,
Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomor’rah! “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats. “When you come to appear before me, who requires of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies– I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:10-17 RSVA)
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, “Here I am.’ “If you take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday. (Isaiah 58:6-10 NKJV)
Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey! (Isaiah 10:1-2 NRVS)
And the Psalmist,
Blessed is he who considers the poor; The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. (Psalms 41:1 NKJV)
“For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers for ever. (Jeremiah 7:5-7 RSVA)
And the Apostle James,
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you. (James 5:1-6 NKJV)
Where are the words of justice, for hope for the poor, of love for those without in the words of those who would have us vote the bible in this election? Many in the pulpits would have us focus on the lives of our neighbors instead of the emptiness of the destitute. They would have us to enact laws that would determine someone’s individual morality choices rather focus on the very things that touch us all.
Poverty is not solely owned by those that fitly neatly into a financial category, but it is shared with those that would do nothing to help their fellow man. It is increased by those who would ignore it, rather, by those that would prefer it for others. This type of poverty spills over into the soul, so that greed becomes their god – selflessness becomes selfishness; holiness becomes incontinence. It is this type of morality that is rarely spoken of by those that would have us vote for a candidate because he promises to end gay marriage or abortion – when never things will ever be stopped by a mere man-made law.
In not one of John Hagee’s speeches (I would hardly call them sermons) he speaks not to the idea of biblical justice, yet he would have us vote the bible. He ignores the idea that we should ‘spread the wealth’ around. Wait, is that not a biblical precept?
“Or unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12.48)
Many in the evangelical movement would have us focus on preventing what amounts to sexual sin – calling that the mission of the Church, while saying that the Churches be allowed to take care of the poor without government mandates. To call this view hypocritical is an understatement. They are fine for government involvement in the private lives of it’s citizens, just as long as they stay away from the pocket-book.
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