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Treasures in Heaven December 23, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 6:19-24.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus states that His disciples should not love earthly possessions. Instead, He exhorts them to love others. He illustrates this point with the following analogy: just as the physical body is driven by the eyes, the spiritual body is driven by ambition. Thus, His disciples are confronted by this question: will they serve God, or will they serve wealth?

Thoughts: This passage caused me to ponder the following questions concerning earthly possessions:

  • Should a believer continually donate to worthy causes?
  • Should a believer’s will stipulate that their assets be liquidated and the proceeds donated to worthy causes?
  • What is a proper standard of living for a believer?
  • Along these lines, should a believer own a vehicle?
  • On a similar note, should a believer own real estate?

These are challenging questions, and I do not claim to have a satisfactory answer to any of them. While we know that we should not love earthly possessions, we struggle to understand this command in a modern context.

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The Believers Share Their Possessions May 8, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Acts 4:32-37.

Summary: In this passage, wealthy believers used their possessions to meet the daily needs of their destitute brethren. In particular, believers such as Joseph liquidated assets such as land or houses and allowed the apostles to distribute the proceeds to penurious believers. The apostles continued to share the Gospel message.

Thoughts: This passage highlights the concern that wealthy believers in the early church displayed for their destitute brethren. It also challenges the modern church: for those of us with disposable income, how can we help our brothers and sisters with genuine needs (e.g. believers in Pakistan)? This caused me to perform an inventory of my assets, including:

  • my car
  • my television
  • my computer.

At this point I do not sense that God is calling me to sell these assets and distribute the proceeds to penurious believers. I do sense, though, that God is calling me to resist the temptation to become attached to these assets. My prayer is that God would help me to:

  • grow in my concern for my destitute brothers and sisters in Christ
  • continue to perform concrete actions that help meet their daily needs.

Warning to Rich Oppressors October 18, 2015

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on James 5:1-6.

Summary: James calls those who abuse their wealth and those who abuse their greatness to the throne of God’s judgment; he threatens them by asserting that:

  • they will show great grief when they are greatly afflicted in this life and experience hell-torment in the life to come
  • their goods rot and are eaten by moths
  • their money rusts – serving as a witness against them and causing their ruin
  • they have heaped up wealth in the time when the Jewish nation will be scattered and destroyed
  • they have oppressed poor laborers – provoking the Lord of hosts to take notice of this sin
  • they have indulged their senses in food, drink and clothing – placing all their happiness in this earthly life
  • they breed lust by making every day a festival and giving to their desires what should only be given to religion on special occasions
  • they have corrupted judgment and executed Jesus Christ – who did not resist them.

Thoughts: In this passage, James denounces non-believers who use their wealth and/or position to oppress poor believers. Manton offers some interesting thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 5:

Pleasures nourish the heart and fatten it into a senseless stupidity. Nothing brings dullness to it like pleasures. Plutarch observes that the ass, the dullest of all creatures, has the fattest heart…There is a fish called the ass-fish, which has its heart in its belly – a fit emblem of a sensual epicure.

When I read Manton’s commentary on this verse, I was intrigued by the notion of a fish with “its heart in its belly” and I Googled this phrase. After some sleuthing, I determined that Manton was referring to the hake. Now I assume that Manton was not asserting that the heart of a hake literally resides in its belly; instead, he was probably referencing its prodigious appetite, which is described in A History of British Fishes by William Yarrell. Perhaps the gluttony of the hake – which gorges itself on pilchards – should spur us as believers to avoid submitting to the pleasures of the world. By shunning certain worldly pleasures (e.g. pornography) and only enjoying other worldly pleasures in moderation (e.g. alcohol) we can avoid the afflictions that are described in this passage. Moreover, daily self-denial reminds us as believers that this planet is not our final destination; it also frees us to spend more time in preparation for an eternal existence in our final destination.