Tag Archives: rich

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

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

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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THE WORD MADE FRESH

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?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

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

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Why Solomon, Bono, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and You and Me Still Haven’t Found What We’re Looking For

This year Bill Gates weighs in as only the world’s second wealthiest person. His personal worth is $53 billion. Carlos Slim Helu beat him out by a nose, a mere $500 million. Warren Buffet staggered in at a paltry third place, earning only $47 billion this year.

With that much money, there is nothing Gates and Buffet need. They are not losing sleep over the recession the way we do. They do not have to drive on balding tires, climb under the sink to fix a leak, or worry about their kid’s future. They want for nothing!

But in rock ‘n’ roller Bono’s words, they still haven’t found what they are looking for. Is this why both branched out and begun using much of their time, energy, and money in philanthropic ways? Gates started The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 and recently, with Buffet, challenged other billionaires to give away half of their wealth. Outside of being good, generous people, why would they feel the need to make even more of a difference in the world than they have already?

“Unlike the animals, who seem quite content to simply be themselves, we humans are always looking for ways to be other than what we find ourselves to be,” writes Eugene Peterson in The Message in his introduction to “Ecclesiastes.”

Solomon, one of the richest men in the world in his time, said it this way, “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

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)

Ecclesiastes 1:1-3:22

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Psalm 46:1-11

Proverbs 22:15

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Corinthians 6:1-13: Paul’s main claim to fame is that he was a formidable theologian. But Paul also had a heart. Many times in his letters he expresses his love for the people he worked with and ministered to. “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians,” he wrote, “and opened wide our hearts to you.”

Obviously, for Paul the gospel is as much about relationship as about information. The two cannot be separated.

Paul was also a poet. 1 Corinthians 13 is poetry straight from the heart of God. In today’s passage Paul describes his love for the Corinthians poetically: “through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown . . . ,” Paul expresses theological truth dripping in love and encased in poetry, what a concept!

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

As I read today’s selection in Ecclesiastes, I pictured Solomon in a white lab coat, holding pen and clipboard, surrounded by test tubes and steaming beakers, with beautiful women holding piles of money in trays. Strange, I know, but this first section reads to me like a report from poetic researcher, who has set out to discover the meaning of life. Solomon has tested it all: “money, sex, power, adventure, and knowledge” and found it all wanting (Peterson, The Message). Now he is filing his report. “All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

Unless.

My sister-in-law once tossed me a very hard question. “Is it eternally profitable?” she asked about some activity I was about to engage in.

That is Solomon’s question too. Then he leaves us dangling as to the answer. Solomon tells us that without God giving meaning to any and every aspect of our lives, “all things are wearisome, more than one can say.” But he does not tell us how to add God’s meaning to our daily routines.

I’m glad he doesn’t. It’s too crucial and complicated a question for a human to answer. I believe Solomon–and God–intended to leave us swinging in the wind. Because, only in our fruitless chasing and not finding, might we eventually run straight into the arms of God. “He [God] also set eternity in [our] hearts,” Solomon writes.

That’s why two of the richest, most powerful men in the world (Gates and Buffet) are still striving to make a difference, and as Bono and U2 tell us, still haven’t found what they are looking for.

Because it’s not here. Whatever eternity is, it’s too big, too beautiful, too grand to be contained in “money, sex, power, adventure, and knowledge.” Whatever eternity is, can only be found in the hand and heart of God.

  1. What do these for passages share in common?
  2. Can theology be expressed in poetry? Why or why not?
  3. What passage spoke most to you?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

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

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