Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Social Conscience and the Christian, part 2.

 The Biblical Basis for living simply.
Following on from yesterday’s post, the answer to materialism, in addition to obeying Christ’s commands, is to follow the example of Christ. We are approaching Christmas and many will be out buying presents for their families and food for the festive season. A huge number will be overspending, on credit cards, and over indulging themselves and their families in this ‘festive’ season. Sadly, that will include many Christians too. In the US, Christians spend around $100bn on Christmas. People see Christmas as a time to indulge themselves, to have those things they want, rather than the things they just need. NO! Christmas is a time to remember God becoming a baby, who left the splendour of heaven to come to this earth, to be born in a stable amongst the dirty cattle and beasts, to grow up into manhood having nowhere to lay His head and eventually to die an excruciating death for things He had not done and to have His body laid in a borrowed tomb!
His example to us on earth is not likely to be one favoured by the economists of the day:

The Economics of Jesus:

In the mind of many of today’s Christians, Jesus was an economic flop. Let us look at his management of finances:
1. He practiced community of goods it seems, and put the bag in the hands of a thief. He knew Judas’s heart when he assigned him the task.
2. He taught his disciples to pay taxes they did not owe. (Review the account where he told Peter to catch a fish and pull a coin out of his mouth.)
3. Since Peter had to go catch a fish to pay this tax, it seems he lived hand to mouth at times.
4. Since he agreed with John the Baptist’s teaching, “let him that has two coats give to him that has none”, it would have been his practice. It is doubtful that He had more than one set of outer garments.
5. He never asked for money that we can read of. He would have flunked the modern classes in the seminaries on raising finances.
6. He taught to give and loan without consideration as to whether it would bring a good financial return or not. In fact he taught that it would bring a blessing to share with those whom you know will not be able to repay.
7. He seem to think that money was not a part of the kingdom of God in the sense that he said to give to Caesar the things that belonged to him, and to give to God the things that belong to God. This was in reference to money. Since Caesar made the money, let him have it if he wants it.
Taken from The Deceitfulness of Riches”

We need to repent of our dependence on material goods. We need, in the words of John the Baptist, to ‘bring forth works meet for repentance’ (Matthew 3v8). He didn’t leave us in the dark about what he meant by that either: ‘he who has two tunics, give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise’ (Luke 3v11)
If you asked most people what the “fruit of repentance” is, you would get a different picture than what John shared. John told the people that “fruit of repentance” is distributing one’s extra material goods. If so, can most Christians say they actually have ever repented?” [Taken from]. If giving my extra coat and food to the poor were the criterion for repentance, then I know many Christians who have not repented – and that includes me!
Zacchaeus showed this type of fruit when he met Jesus and said he would give back everything he stole and give ‘half of my goods to the poor’. Jesus responded. ‘This day has salvation come to your house’.
John Wesley had a different attitude from many Christians today. He earned the equivalent of $160,000 a year, yet lived on only £20,000 (equivalent in today’s terms). I read a snippet from him online while researching for this article. Unfortunately I failed to record where it came from, so I am unable to post the link. However, I think it was from the same link as the previous quote:
Wesley had just finished buying some pictures for his room when one of the chambermaids came to his door. It was a winter day and he noticed that she had only a thin linen gown to wear for protection against the cold. He reached into his pocket to give her some money for a coat, and found he had little left.

It struck him that the Lord was not pleased with how he had spent his money. He asked himself, “Will thy Master say, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful steward’? Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money that might have screened this poor creature from the cold’!

O justice! O mercy! Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?”
I think the modern expression is ‘just because I can, doesn’t mean I should or ought to’. Paul said it this way ‘all things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful [or ‘profitable’]. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any’ (1 Corinthians 6v12). We might have the means to buy that sports car, that fifth pair of shoes, that expensive dress, or a luxury yacht, but it doesn’t mean we should. God gives us money because He trusts us to use it for His Kingdom. He doesn’t say ‘sell what you have and keep the proceeds for yourself; you never know when a little extra will come in handy, or when you might need to cheer yourself up by going on a spending spree’. No, He said, ‘sell what you have and give to the poor’.
The writer to the Hebrews said, ‘be content with such things as you have’ (Hebrews 13v5) and ‘having food and raiment, therewith be content’, because ‘Godliness with contentment is great gain’ (1 Timothy 6v6). Yet people prefer to take Matthew 6v33 ['and all these things shall be added unto you'] to mean they can have it all and not suffer any consequences, because clearly, if you have riches, you have God's blessing. Oh, the deceitfulness of wealth!
Jesus told a parable of a Samaritan who knew what it meant to give to others in need. The Jews hated the Samaritans; they would not even speak their name. So when Jesus asked who was neighbour to the man who was injured, the man replied ‘he who gave him the help he needed’, rather than saying ‘the Samaritan’.
In the modern world, just who is our neighbour? When disasters strike, do we help them, whoever they are? Jesus taught us to love our neighbour like ourselves. Do we allow ourselves to go hungry if we can possibly help it? Do we go outside in inadequate clothing? Then why should our neighbour? Jesus also taught us to love our enemies. Real, sacrificial giving shines through when the man across the road, who has been the bane of our life for months or years, is in need and we help him, not counting the cost.
Did you know that nearly half of the world’s population is living on less than $2 a day and struggles to feed themselves? Did you know that Christian youth in America alone spend $21bn on sodas and soft drinks every year? That amount could fill the stomachs of every starving child in the world. It would cost $3bn to save 500,000 people from blindness caused by Vitamin A deficiency; and Christians in the US alone spend £5bn on bottled water. Yet there are some in the world who do not have access to the clean water that we have flowing through our taps into our homes.

We are exhorted to work so we can feed ourselves and not be a burden to others. Not so we can amass wealth for ourselves, but the verse goes on ‘so that you may have something to give to he who is in need’. Why does God give some more than others? Is it so we can spend it upon our lusts, the things we want, the things we love? 2 Corinthians 8v14,15 has the answer: ‘so there may be equality’. How can there be equality if some have more than others? Because those who have more give to those who have less, and so there is equality. Do we live like that in our personal lives? Do we live like that in our church lives? Do our churches live like that? What difference do you think it would make to the world if all Christians gave everything away they didn’t actually need?


  1. I was wondering what you were going to say about Christmas!When I was a teenager my Dad decided that Christmas was pagan and we wouldn't celebrate it; we might get a small present. It wasn't entirely successful. The grandparents were not happy. I was reasonably OK about it but was still disappointed one year when my present was a pair of school socks and a hairbrush!JJ

  2. There is no reason not to celebrate the coming into the world of the Saviour. Even though it is unlikely His birthday was 25th December (that is a date taken over from pagan practice and 'christianised'), we are still celebrating His birth. The way most people celebrate is probably enough to put many Christians off being associated with the excesses, but in my view, there is nothing wrong with a simple celebration, remembering why he came and being thankful that he was willing to do so, knowing what faced Him at the end.