Friday, February 26, 2010

God's Grace Doesn't Remove the Goal-Posts

The Lord Jesus and the Apostles said adultery, fornication and all uncleanness is wrong. If agreeing with the Bible is to be polarized, then I'll gladly remain polarized. As for having discussion where the tone is set by questions rather than by answers - there shouldn't be any questions - it's not our place to question God, just to obey and teach what He commands.

The Bible has a lot to say about Economics and economic systems. Almost all of the Old Testament promises about the coming Messiah were made in an economic/political context. None of it was rescinded by the New Testament.

When Theological Colleges train ministers, they needn't divorce the Messianic Scriptures from their social and political context. Christ's grace teaches us to fulfill the principles that undergirded Moses' Law - which provided blueprints for commerce as well as for worship and relationships. Therefore a well-trained minister needn't be the last person to talk on economics.

Grey areas? The Bible doesn't warn us not to eat polonium-nitrate either. But it ought to be self-evident based on commandments in the Bible whether something is good or evil. Besides, the article cited above isn't talking about what some might call grey areas: it condones evils such as abortion, sodomy and same-sex 'marriages'.

The Bible is like the Brussels Tariff in the sense that everything imaginable is classified by it even though it may not be listed there by name

Jesus was very compassionate towards women. He was also very merciful towards sinners. But when He showed mercy, it was never at the expense of failing to comply with God's Law. In the ministry of Jesus, mercy and truth met together; righteousness and peace kissed each other. For example, when He said to the woman taken in adultery... See More, "Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more", it was His mercy and peace that said, "Neither do I condemn thee," but it was His truth and righteousness that said, "Go and sin no more". By showing mercy to the woman rather than condemning her, Jesus was complying with, rather than ignoring, the requirement of Moses' Law. Moses' Law required the testimony of two or more witnesses in order to convict a person; and the eyewitness was to be the first to cast a stone. As you know, in the case of this woman, it so happened that only Jesus remained in the room - no eyewitness remained. Therefore neither was Jesus required by Law to condemn her. Mercy triumphed over judgment. But true mercy never alters the definition of justice nor ever fails to meet its demands. To do otherwise would be unrighteousness, and there is no unrighteousness with God. God didn't set us free from our sins through ignoring our sins or through changing the definition of sin or through accepting us despite our sins. Rather, He set us free from our sins through meeting the demands of His own righteousness, on the cross. As the hymn said, "Heaven's peace and perfect justice kissed a guiilty world in love".

my aim has been to show that extending mercy towards sinners does not require us to say that sin is no longer sin. Sin is still sin, otherwise grace is no longer grace. E.g., Jesus didn't condone aultery - He forgave the adulterer and told her to go and sin no more. He didn't condone the crippled man's sins - He forgave his sins ... See Moreand told him to take up his stretcher and walk. So today, extending God's grace to sinners does not mean that we need to tell them that their sin is okay, or to say that it isn't actually sin after all. Instead, our message can be that despite the destructiveness of our sins, God has provided forgiveness for our sins through Jesus. John the Baptist, Jesus and the Apostles preached that men should repent - therefore the necessity for reform can remain part of our message too. The message of God's grace needn't provide a license for indulging the baser nature of mankind - rather it is a message that actually empowers people to fulfill the righteousness of the law in their lives, and to go and sin no more! Receiving God's grace can be a life-changing experience, not merely a concept to hear about.

If you are using the word 'capitalism' as a synonym for 'greed', 'selfishness', 'covetousness' and 'extortion' then yes Jesus would be against it. The standard definition for 'capitalism' however is: 'the economic system where the means of ... See Moreproduction are privately owned' - and Jesus certainly upheld the ethic of private ownership of property. In that sense therefore, Jesus was a capitalist. So was Moses. And so were the Apostles. Each of them believed property can be privately owned. That equals capitalism. But of course, they were against the practise of disadvantaging others. But capitalism can be practised without disadvantaging one another. In fact, by definition capitalism works best when there is mutual benefit in economic activity. As for 'income redistribution on a large scale' through legislation - that isn't something which the Bible calls for. The Bible encourages 'giving' - but it doesn't recommend an economic system where the State assumes rights to individuals' money to redistribute as the State sees fit, especially not on a 'large scale'. If it did, "giving" could no more be called "giving" - because you can't "give" something if someone else has "rights" to it. You could "pay" it, but not "give" it. But that economic system wasn't Jesus' concept, nor Moses's. They spoke about "giving" - and you can only "give" something if it belongs to you and if you have exclusive rights to decide what you do with it - which equals capitalism. Jesus encouraged generosity - but He didn't deny the morality of the ethic of private-property-rights, as socialism and communism do. It's interesting that in the economic model which God gave to Israel through Moses, there was no legislation whereby anyone had rights to get anyone else's money or property for free: not the Levites, not the poor, not anyone. And no-one was required by Law to give or pay anything to anyone - whether it was to the Levites or to the poor - without being allowed the expectation of receiving some service or commodity in return, either. Moses' system of social welfare was a win-win situation for both parties - it certainly wasn't a free, one-way redistribution of one party's hard-earned money. It was a brilliant system, actually. And Jesus and the Apostles upheld it in principle. That still gives us the freedom to give though. But remember: Jesus didn't ask everybody to leave everything and literally follow him. And not everyone in the book of Acts sold everything and laid it at the Apostles' feet. But even those who did give away everything, did so because they were free to do so, not because it was imposed on them by an economic system. It's one thing to encourage generosity and mercy. The Bible does. But it's entirely a different thing if you start undermining freedoms and private property-rights - the Bible doesn't do that.

In this discussion about Biblical economics and sexuality, all I'm aiming to point-out is simply that in the process of reaching out with grace to sinners and in the process of reaching out with commercial help to the poor, it isn't necessary, effective nor right for us to alter the morals and values of the Word of God. Right and wrong are... See More still right and wrong; private property is still private and not public property. If we lose those values, we'll end-up contributing to the disintegration of the very society which we are seeking to help. And that wasn't the strategy by which Christ and the Apostles turned their world upside down. The grace and giving shown by Christ and by the early Church was so powerful NOT because they altered Biblical values, but precisely because they still had the concept of the sinfulness of sin and because they still had the concept of the individual's complete economic freedom despite living under a sexually immoral and economically totalitarian/socialist redistributionist regime - and they were able to bring something more powerful, more graceful, more righteous, into society. Yes, Jesus and the Apostles sought to achieve the salvation of sinners and the salvation of the poor - but they did not seek to achieve it by watering-down the concept of sin nor by instigating some system of legislated redistribution of wealth that contradicted the Scripture's values of private property rights and freedom. Instead, they brought the tools of grace, giving and work - which they implemented without altering the definition of the sinfulness of sin and without altering the freedom of the individual to give to the poor as he sees fit. And the economic freedom which we all enjoy today, and the dignity which women feel today, are all part of the result of their work!

If sin isn't sinful, grace isn't amazing. If property isn't private, giving isn't generous.

Isn't there considerable support for the view that the Global Financial Crisis was caused in great part as a result of the Clinton Administration's push for sub-prime lending? While many banks thought better of sub-prime lending, it was the Clinton Administration which interfered in the free market by legislating in favour of sub-... See Moreprime lending. The policy may have been designed to help the poor but ended-up causing more poverty than the world has seen since the Great Depression! It wasn't possible to help the poor using a strategy that didn't make sound economic sense. Large-scale redistribution of other people's property against their will is not a sustainable way of helping the poor. Giving aid is important during emergencies - but it can't be a successful at alleviating poverty long-term. Abuses don't have to be part of the free market economy where there is a rule of law. We need a rule of law. But those laws don't need to include a large-scale redistribution of wealth. Moses' Law is a good illustration of the types of ethics which need to be built into a legal system in order for it to prevent abuses without interfering in the free market. Anything else is a loss of freedoms, and will negatively impact on an economy's ability to lift its poor into the abundance that God desires for them.

I don't doubt that greed may have been a motivator why some financial institutions became involved with sub-prime lending. But if it was, notice, it backfired on them, more than on the borrowers. Very often it wasn't the borrowers who became bankrupt - they were able to hand the house-keys back and walk away, leaving no other recourse for the ... See Morelenders. In Australia the banking laws are different. Here, the lender can also come after the borrower's other assets, unlike in America where the lender can do no more other than recover the house itself. Therefore in America it was the lenders who suffered most. So, the problem wasn't the bankers' freedom to engage the market - the problem was not the free market - the problem was that the lenders did not engage the market in a sustainable way. It was their own lack of judgment. And it was the leftist Democrats who opened-up the way, in fact they insisted, through Legislation, to encourage this type of unsustainable lending. So if the problem was greed and poor judgment by the lenders (and by the Clinton Administration) then the answer is not to restrict the free market. The answer is to correct their judgment! If greed was a factor, then the solution is not to legislate against freedom, but to legislate against greed itself. There is a way to legislate against greed without introducing Socialism - without legislating against the free market. Moses did so effectively. He never restricted private property rights. He never introduced any sort of Socialist redistribution of wealth. But He did legislate against usury to fellow-citizens. He did legislate against the mistreatment of employees. He did lay down certain minimum benefits which an employer was required to pay to an employee. He did stipulate that rural land could be purchased only from within one's own Tribe, only urban property could be purchased unrestrictedly. But none of those points of legislation were Socialist in nature. Each of them upheld the ideology that "the means of production are privately owned". Moses did write a system for looking-after the poor and other segments of society - but his system never required any involuntary redistribution of wealth from one segment of society to another where it wasn't mutually profitable. That's Bible! And it works. The reason I point all this out, is because I think there is a trend nowadays of misunderstanding the Grace and power of God. It's all very well that we want to extend grace to the poor and to sinners. But let's not lose sight that God's grace is powerful enough to fix the problem without any need for us to alter the definition of the problem.

Perhaps we should drop the use of the label "Capitalism" in this discussion, in case we differ in our definitions of it. The main point I have been seeking to make in this discussion is that the grace of Jesus which we are constrained to show to sinners and to the economically poor, does not teach us to water-down the ... See Moreseriousness of sin nor does it recommend the expropriation of privately-earned funds on a large scale to benefit the poor. The grace of God is plenty effective without us needing to change the rules of play. If a footballer is too tired to run the full-length of the field to score a goal, it's against the rules to move the goal-posts mid-game. Instead, you rest the player, give him a needed boost, such as an energy drink, maybe a quick massage, then send him back onto the field-of-play with renewed strength to run the full length of the field and score the goals. That's how God's grace works. It doesn't change the moral requirement of God's Law. It doesn't change the moral ethics of economics. God's grace changes the player so he can win the game! Anyone who tries to change the rules of the game, is disqualified. God's grace isn't so weak that it needs us to change the goal-posts for sinners, by altering the righteous requirement of God's Law, in order to somehow make sinners more acceptable despite their sin. No, God's grace changes the very heart of the sinner, sets him or her free from sin, and enables them to kick those goals, to walk in accordance with the unchangeable righteous standard of God's holy Law. God's grace is not so weak that, in order to lift the economically poor, it needs a humanist government to change the ethical boundaries of private property and personal responsibility, as is done by Socialism. God's grace doesn't steal from the rich to help the poor. God's grace is able to lift the poor without changing the ethical goal-posts for the poor, without changing the ethical goal-posts in a manner which disadvantage the honest owners of capital. That is how powerful our Gospel is. We can expect to see lives changed and helped to that degree. But watering-down sin, personal responsibility, and private-property rights, isn't going to change anyone or anything long-term.

Moses said, "Thou shalt not steal". Straightaway, private-property rights are implied. In Socialism and Communism, nobody can "steal" from you because the State has given everybody rights to everything you own. Moses never implemented a system of expropriating property from one segment of society and freely giving it to another segment. Not ... See Moreonce! Tithing was not an example of socialist-style wealth-redistribution. Tithes were paid to the tribe of Levi as remuneration for services rendered - the service of the Priesthood which the Levites performed for the benefit of all Israel. In other words, it was a salary. It wasn't welfare. Part of the tithes were to be eaten and enjoyed by one's own family at the House of God. Part of the tithes were also given to feed the poor. But failure to do so was not an offence punishable by the civil Judges of the day, unlike other points of Law contained in Moses' writings which were punishable. In the case of giving to the poor, it was a matter of personal conscience. It was not a legislated expropriation of wealth. It was not a communal sharing of the ownership of the means of production. There were other ways Moses recommended helping the poor too. One of them was lending. Another was gleaning. And a third was indentured service. In the first of those three methods, the owner of capital wasn't allowed to make a gain (interest) from the transaction, but neither did he incur a cost. In the next two of the above methods, the owners of capital as well as the poor benefited alike from the arrangement. It was a win-win situation. Gleaning was hard work, it didn't cost the owner of capital anything, he would have made a small profit from it, although he might have been able to make more profit if not for the provision of gleaning, and the gleaner was paid usually just enough to feed himself and his family for a day, or maybe just a little bit extra. But not enough for "gleaning" to be seen as a precedent for "large scale redistribution of wealth". It was not a case of free money for no work. And it DIDN'T come at a cost to the land owner. The third method, indentured service (aka slavery, although it was NOT the same as pre-civil war slavery) provided a tremendous short-term opportunity for the poor to work their way out of debt. They were to be provided with accommodation, food, clothing, training, a suitable wage, and a good severance package when they left. It was to be for a strictly limited term (seven years only, the slave was not permanently owned as in pre-civil war slavery). Mistreatment of the indentured servant by the employer was punishable by law. The purpose of the provision of indentured service was to help the poor by giving them an alternative to homelessness, unemployment and debt. At no cost to the public. The voluntary employer also benefited from the agreement. Unlike pre-civil war slavery, it was a win-win situation. The equivalent today might be to take the poor into your house, or into your business, to look after them extremely well, to train them, pay them, and at the same time to benefit financially from their services while they are with you, and then send them on their way free from debt and able to set themselves up in life. That was Moses' social welfare system. There was no expropriation of wealth. Private property, the work ethic, and humane treatment were each upheld all the way through. There was no shared ownership of the means of production. Wealthy owners of capital were forbidden from taking advantage of the poor; but neither was any system ever implemented which forced the redistribution of their wealth into the hands of the poor except where it was voluntary and where there was a reasonable expectation of at least a certain amount of profit, and where the poor also worked for you directly - certainly, there was no loss involved. As for the Jubilee, it was far from being an example of an equal distribution of wealth. Far from it! To whom did the ownership of all property revert? To the original owners. Not to the poor! Not equally to the whole population! It reverted exclusively to the original owners, irrespective of who was poor. As for the cancellation of debts - that was a point of Law which actually would have restricted the extent to which wealthy people would have been willing to enter into transactions with the poor, not the opposite. It is far from being an example of large-scale redistribution of wealth. It's the exact opposite. For starters, the types of debts that would have been cancelled would have been very small. Remember, interest was not allowed to be charged to fellow-citizens. Therefore lending was not profitable for lenders. So they wouldn't have been lending huge amounts. Therefore loans would have been small, and would have been an emergency measure only, to cover the bare necessities of life. Plus, if a wealthy person knew the Jubilee year was just around the corner, he would have been even more careful to make sure that he only lent an amount which he felt confident would be recovered before the Jubilee year. The amounts of money Moses had in mind would not compare with Australia's annual Social Welfare expenditure. It certainly wasn't an example of legislated, large-scale, wealth redistribution! The Jubilee wasn't something that gave poor people the opportunity to make a living off the wealthy for free. No way. All of this is important because nowadays it's popular to call it "social justice" to syphon huge amounts of money from one bracket of society and give it freely to people who earn less. Moses implemented no such system. In fact, to do so, is really an injustice against the segment of society which it disadvantages. Let the wealthy help the poor in a manner that is a win-win sitation, and legislate against taking advantage of the poor in a way that doesn't benefit them at least to some extent. That's Biblical. That's walking in love, to both the poor and to the hard-working, rightful owners of wealth. Anything else doesn't teach the poor anything.

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