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Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

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Guest Blog: Economics According to the New Testament

Jesus and the rich young man, who preferred wealth over community of goods

Jesus and the rich young man, who preferred wealth over community of goods

My cyber friend and co-blogging MennoNerd Kevin Daugherty has also seen Christian money guru Dave Ramsey’s apology for rich Christians in an age of hunger that I ciritized in my last blog post (in fact, Kevin was the one that brought Ramsey’s statements to my attention), and he has written an excellent repsonse where he talks about what the New Testament really says about wealth and poverty. I’ve received his permission to share the blog post here with you:

Growing up, I was often exposed to the idea that capitalism and Christianity go together. Profit and wealth were not simply compatible with Christianity, but were a sign of God’s blessing or your personal piety. I remember going to the Christian bookstore once or twice and seeing large piles of books with that topic specifically in mind, usually by Dave Ramsey, who was recently on the 700 Club for a new book of his. In that interview, one of the first things mentioned is how Ramsey and Robertson agree that wealth is a good thing, and that those who see wealth as bad are wrong, even “gnostic.” I don’t think the heretics here are the “gnostics” who believe that wealth is wrong; rather, I think the heretics here are Ramsey, Robertson, and others in their camp, who seem to have forgotten what the New Testament and early church taught concerning economics.

Ramsey likes to talk a lot about biblical finances. He claims that when he gives someone financial advice that it is done through following what the Bible says. Let’s take a look at what the Bible, specifically the New Testament, teaches Christians concerning finances.

First of all, Christ teaches his followers that they cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24). This verse seems to provide a basic summary of Christ’s teachings on wealth. For Jesus, wealth is something of an idol that takes away from our ability to love God, and the hoarding of wealth means that we are not helping those in need. In the same sermon, Jesus commands his followers to give alms and not store up treasures on earth (Matthew 6:1-4, 19-21). In the same gospel, Jesus talks about the importance of serving the needy in the coming judgment as well (Matthew 25:31-46). Luke shares much of the same teachings concerning charity and compassion as Matthew; however, Luke is a little more blunt about it. In Luke 4, Jesus quotes Isaiah 61 in his first sermon, which shows God’s preferential option for the poor, and in Luke’s version of the Beatitudes (Luke 6:20-26), they are much more hostile towards wealth. “Blessed are the poor” is matched by “woe to the rich.” 
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Kevin Daugherty: Beware the Wild Goose

My blog friend and fellow MennoNerd Kevin Daugherty wrote this excellent piece on his blog Koinonia Revolution the other day. It’s so good I simply want to repost it all here:

I come from a charismatic stream of Christianity. Most of the churches I have attended or been a member of have openly believed in the active presence of the Holy Spirit (the “Wild Goose“), a very personal relationship with Christ, faith healing, and active worship. This background developed in me a deep respect for religious experience, but unlike a stereotypical charismatic, I was quiet and contemplative, which caused me to develop a deep respect for the monastics, mystics, and Quakers. For the longest time, I had no idea I was part of the Charismatic movement (I was not really aware of the theological labels), but my background continues to influence me.

The Charismatic movement is a product of the 20th century and has its roots in Pentecostalism, but I find that Spirit-filled Christianity puts one in a large family of Christian traditions. I think Eberhard Arnold described this tradition well:

The life of love that arises from faith has been witnessed to over the centuries, especially by the Jewish prophets and later by the first Christians. We acknowledge Christ, the historical Jesus, and with him his entire message as proclaimed by his apostles and practiced by his followers. Therefore we stand as brothers and sisters together with all those who have lived in community through the long course of history: the Christians of the first century; the Montanists in the second; the monastics and Arnold of Brescia; the Waldensians; the itinerant followers of Francis of Assisi; the Bohemians and Moravians and the Brothers of the Common Life; the Beguines and Beghards; the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century; the early Quakers; the Labadists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; and many other denominations and movements down to the present day. (Eberhard Arnold: Writings Selected, pg. 158-159)

I wish I could add something more, but I really think Arnold says it perfectly. Spirit-filled faith is part of a long prophetic tradition going through many individuals and communities—the Hebrew prophets, early Christians, medieval mystics, “spiritualist” Anabaptists, Quakers, Pentecostals, and many others.

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God is a Criminal

St Peter Freed from Prison

St Peter Freed from Prison (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Acts 12, when Peter is sitting in prison for having preached the Gospel. God sends an angel to free him from his chain, blind the eyes of the guards and open the gates. Now that’s serious criminality. If you have a friend in jail, you have to respect the legal procedures and hope that s/he is freed in court – you’re not allowed to send a supernatural being to crush some chains and doors. That’s not legal. That’s not obedient. Still, God does that. According to divine law, evangelism is not a crime. For the same reason, Jesus was crucified as a criminal even though He is sinless according to the divine law.

Thus, Christians aren’t supposed to follow the law at all time. If the law says that we cannot preach the Gospel, or that Jews should be killed, or that whites and blacks have to be separated, we have to disobey in order to be obedient to our Lord. This is why I have been a strong supporter of civil disobedience.

Recently, I have been forced to think a bit extra about this though, because of this blog post at Jesus Radicals. In it, some anonymous people write about how they took 200 sexist calendars from a local kiosk and replaced them with signs like “Misogyny is out of stock” and “The female body is not a commodity”. They also give some tips of how to rob stores effectively.

Several news media have written about the event and many thought that the post simply meant that Jesus Radicals is behind the crime, while they argue that it was sent to them anonymously and they just posted it to encourage debate. Putting that aside, is the action moral? Obviously, stealing is wrong both according to human law and divine law – “You shall not steal” is a command that is repeated both by Jesus (Mark 10:19) and Paul (Eph 4:28). But what is stealing then?

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