Tag Archives: poor

Glenn Beck (in the black trunks) versus Jim Wallis (also in the black trunks)

Jim Wallis

Glenn Beck

Conservative Fox TV commentator and rabble rouser Glenn Beck and liberal rabble rouser and Sojourners founder Jim Wallis recently faced off in a theological boxing match. Beck threw a right hook saying “social justice” and “economic justice” are code words for liberal wealth redistribution and that they are not biblical ideas. Wallis responded with a left undercut claiming social justice is core to Scripture and said Beck was “strange” or greedy.

It’s not a heavyweight bout, according to Peter Wehner. “Neither man will be mistaken for [theologian] Reinhold Niebuhr,” Wehner wrote. Now in the late rounds both men continue to throw punches but not land many.

It’s too bad though, because justice is a heavyweight issue, one that God seems very concerned about.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Isaiah 57:15-59:21

Philippians 1:1-26

Psalm 71:1-24

Proverbs 24:9-10


Philippians 1:1-26: Some scholars consider Philippians a support thank you letter. The church in Philippi was close to Paul and supported him. He is now in prison and wants to reassure them their ministry to and through him was not in vain. “I will continue to rejoice for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus . . . Christ will be exalted in my body.”

Imagine how those friends of Paul mourned when he was eventually martyred. Imagine too how they rejoiced when they were reunited after death and they saw and heard how their care and friendship made an eternal difference. Today God uses your prayers, financial support, and love for friends in difficult callings and ministries. Be encouraged. Your “partnership in the gospel” is making an eternal difference too.

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Wallis and Beck: who wins the bout? Both and neither.

Speaking through Isaiah God tells us, “Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.” Fasting is a valuable spiritual discipline that, with each hunger pain, reminds us of our need for God’s sustenance.  But in this passage it can also be a more general symbol of an empty spiritual belief that produces little or no true reliance on God or caring for one another.

The religious people in Isaiah’s day knew the right practices (worship, prayer, fasting, ritual cleanliness) a person who loved God and his neighbor was supposed to engage in. Too often, however, these practices were devoid of faith in action. And just like today they failed to grasp the heart of the issue.

“Is this not the kind of fasting I [God] have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

and untie the cords of the yoke

to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter?”

See! Social justice, Jim Wallis may claim. And it’s true. God wants our faith to translate into social justice for the poor and homeless and hungry. God has chosen to provide for the needs of others through us.

But what about breaking the yoke and freeing the oppressed? Beck might ask. True again. overdependence, the yoke, is the first step toward bondage and oppression whether that overdependence is fostered by family members, religious rules, the workplace, or governments. God wants no false provider–idol–or false provision to bind us and come between us and our True Provider.

What’s more, might it work this way? What if in sharing my food with the hungry, shelter with the homeless, and clothes with naked, I depend less on my own wealth and ability? Instead I must turn to God to provide what I gave away. I am fasting from my abundance and as I pour myself out, I am filled with faith.

So too the needy (of which I am one, just in a different way). They turn to God for provision and God’s provision comes without expectation of repayment through me–or you. Their fasting, their hunger, is filled and produces faith.

“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;

you will cry for help, and he will say,

‘Here am I,’” saysGod to the hungry.

“And if you do away with the yoke of oppression,

with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed . . .

You will be like a well-watered garden

like a spring whose waters never fail,” God reminds the well fed.

We wish the world were black and white: Beck and Wallis. It’s not. But it’s not a forlorn, indistinct gray either. Fasting, giving, needing, praying in faith, whether expressed from the heights of God’s provision or the depths of our need is bright, colorful, alive. Faith, without which there is no making God smile, is what rich and poor, Beck and Wallis, me and you seem to need most. The good news is God has an endless supply of faith for us.

  1. Which passage spoke most to you?
  2. What did the four have in common?
  3. What spiritual practice fills you with the most faith?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com


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More Controversial Than The Health Care Debate

How would you respond if the head of your country handed down the following edict?

From this day forward, all the poor and homeless in this country are free to help themselves to the following:

  • All clearance or reduced price items in retail stores
  • All day-old baked goods in retail bakeries
  • The free use of any vacant buildings or homes
  • All medication in pharmacies that have reached their expiration date
  • Every automobile on new and used car lots that hasn’t sold within 90 days

“It’s an outrage!” some would protest. “This is nothing short of socialism and the end of capitalism. A violation of my rights!”

For centuries, politicians have engaged in an ongoing debate concerning governmental interference. “Charity must not be mandated upon the individual,” some protest. “The defense and care of the poor and destitute is the responsibility of the government,” others defend.

Today’s reading throws a wrench into this debate. Please join me…and duck!


Leviticus 19:1-20:21
Mark 8:11-38
Psalm 42:1-11
Proverbs 10:17


Leviticus 19. Each of the Ten Commandments are represented in some form in this rich chapter.

Most fertility cults at that time dictated that harvesters leave the edges of the field as an offering to their god. For Israel, however, the gleanings were given to the poor (verse 9) as part of their welfare system.

Verse 19 offers a somewhat strange command prohibiting the mixing or mating of different kinds of materials or animals. The reasoning behind the materials is that certain mixtures were reserved for sacred use. For example, the mixture of wool and linen was used in the tabernacle and in the high priest’s outer garments. In Hittite culture, sowing two types of seed in your field was punishable by death. Regarding mating different animals, the Word Biblical Commentary explains, “This law seeks to prevent the blurring of the variety of species and kinds that God created; that is, it seeks to preserve the diversity in the created world.”

Verse 23 forbids eating the fruit of a fruit tree within the first three years of being planted. Fruit trees were extremely valuable in ancient culture, so proper cultivation of the tree ensured future harvests. Interestingly enough, the word translated “forbidden” means literally, “uncircumcised.”

The Bible Background Commentary explains the reasoning behind the command that prohibits cutting the hair on the side of men’s head or clipping the edge of  their beard (in verse 27): “The law’s placement here immediately after the prohibition against divination suggests that the restriction on cutting the hair is based on the Canaanite practice of making an offering of hair to propitiate the spirits of the dead (see Deuteronomy 14:1).”

Verse 28 prohibits getting a tattoo. Tattoos and body painting were used to protect people from the spirits of the dead.

Leviticus 20. The penalties for this list of sexual offenses may seem severe, but scholars believe they served as the maximum punishment and that offenders may have received lesser penalties.

The command not to give your children to Molech in verses 1-5 is a reference to child sacrifice.

In verse 9, the command not to curse your parents literally means to treat with contempt.

Mark 8:14-21. As is common throughout his gospel, Mark shows that the disciples were about as clued out about Jesus as everyone else.

Psalm 42. We read at the beginning of the psalm that it was written by the sons of Korah—who happened to be a family of musicians.

Proverbs 10:17. “He who heeds discipline shows the way to life.” The word “discipline” can also be translated “correction” or “chasten.” So, here’s the Klassen translation of this verse: “Whoever accepts criticism finds life.” As I think about this, it seems to me that children take criticism much better than adults. For the most part, children know that they know not. Adults, on the other hand, know not that they know not.

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“They’re not my responsibility.”

“I’m not my brother’s keeper.”

By nature, mercy barely registers on my spiritual gifts list. And, as my wife would attest, I tend to be cheap in the way I prefer to spend money.

That said, today’s reading in Leviticus 19:9-10 throws my world in a bit of chaos:

“ ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.

I’m not one for long quotes in a blog, but I couldn’t rephrase the insight below from The New Bible Commentary any clearer. Please read slowly:

The relief of poverty in Israel…was built into economic and legal structures, not left as a matter of private charity. This law…addresses the issue not from the angle of rights but of responsibilities. That is, it assumes the right of gleaning, but commands the landowner to make sure there is something to be gleaned. Boaz was a model of this in practice (Ruth 2).

Those who possessed land (and other productive resources) may not have been responsible for the plight of the poor (though the prophets keenly observed that their greed and exploitation may have contributed to it), but they were responsible to God to alleviate it. This law thus sets possession of resources in a framework of duty to God and others, and rejects the idea that private property is an absolute right, giving one freedom to extract every last drop of income or profit from one’s assets….Whatever the economic system, there must be adequate provision for the poor. Ownership confers responsibilities, not just privileges. And this is the practical meaning of holiness.

“With rights come responsibilities” this quote seems to say. But the responsibility isn’t to the poor or the alien, the responsibility is to God. And by caring for our neighbor who lives in poverty, we show our love for God—and our gratitude for his provision.

I find it interesting that even day laborers were protected under the provisions of the law (verse 13). Day laborers were extremely vulnerable, so God commanded that they be paid on time so the worker and his family wouldn’t go to bed that night hungry. Even aliens were offered equal protection.

But get this: the law in this case was dictated by God but enforced by Israel’s government. It wasn’t the choice of the individual.

What does this look like for us today? God loves a cheerful giver. But for the grumpy givers, God seems to mandate provision for the poor through governmental intervention.

To what extent should the government intrude on the charitable spending decisions of the individual? That’s up for debate—but it seems to me that God opts for greater generosity on our part toward the poor.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Leviticus 19 gives a long list of short commands. Do any other them stick out to you as significant?
  3. Do you agree that children take criticism better than adults? Why or why not?
  4. What’s your reaction to the lo-o-o-ng quote in The Word Made Fresh?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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