Kierkegaard and Laughing at Rich Churches

“I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the sun came shining through the stained glass windows. The minister dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and said, “If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor, and follow me.” And I looked around and nobody was laughing.”
–Soren Kierkegaard

I haven’t read a ton of Kierkegaard, but what I have read is intriguing. He was a critic of Christianity, but from the inside and I believe he had a desire to help the situation. I think some of his doctrine is a little weird. His critiques of the church are spot on, however.

The church has lost sight of its ridiculousness in light of Jesus and the Apostles’ teaching on money. We’ve made peace with the world and used our richness to prove God’s blessing rather than seeing it as worldly conformity.

This will come up on Judgment Day guaranteed. It’s talked about way too much in the Bible for this not to be a big deal.

But alas, it’s just yelling into the void. We’re too comfortable and peaceable to really care.

Oh well, carry on. Just know that I’m laughing, Soren, I’m laughing.

How the Bible Says to Get Less Stress and More Patience

Everyone wants less stress and more patience. The world says you can get this by earning money with your passions, vacations, material comforts, and the latest “spiritual” sounding solution that cures everything: meditation.

Some of these things might help, in fact, they probably do help many, which is why people do them. But do these things really take care of stress and bring patience, or do they just reward selfishness?

The Bible says believers should not worry and be patient. Most Christians think this patient non-stress comes by repeating a verse. I know many people who repeat a verse to themselves during stressful times as though that will bring the peace that passes understanding.

Again, it might help temporarily, but is that really all there is? I hear lots of talk about “remembering the promises” and so forth, which again is fine, but is our bedrock of peace just from remembering and repeating stuff?

Surely there is more to it!

Indeed there is. The problem is that no one wants to do what the Bible actually says to do in order to eliminate stress from your life and develop patience.

The Bible’s answer is basically summed up like this:

If you want less stress and more patience start by getting rid of all your stuff. Follow that up by loving Christ more than any other human being. Top it off by pursuing righteousness and eternal values.

There is no other way to get lasting peace. All the stuff you own is what is making you stressed and impatient. If I didn’t have money invested in the stock market, I wouldn’t be stressed about interest rates and market measures. If I didn’t own a business I wouldn’t be concerned about the latest laws and taxes foisted upon businesses. If my entire concern in life was the opinion of Jesus Christ and living to please Him instead of trying to please people and keep up with em, I imagine my patience level would go up.

Next time you are impatient or stressed, nail it down to what exactly it is that is causing the stress. More than likely it’s a person or thing, and more than likely, if it’s a person, the person annoys you because they are messing with your things!

The virtues of Jesus Christ are not pick and choose. They are a package deal. There are not multiple fruits of the Spirit; there is one fruit of the Spirit. You start to see them in your life when your life looks like following the Spirit rather than living for things of the world.

If you want the fruit of the Spirit in all its fullness, then stop living for stuff.

“You haven’t sold all you have, so shut up, man.” I hear ya. I’m not telling you to follow me. I’m telling you what Christ said. Matthew 6:24-34. Read it. I didn’t say it; Your Savior did!

We will each have different levels of stress and different things that kick that stress off. In all honesty, owning a business has been massively less stressful for me than being a pastor! Like, not even close.

My measure on these things is not yours. We will all stand before the Lord. When things become overbearing for me, I typically try to eliminate those issues somehow, knowing they have too large of a grip on me.

Make the cuts. Put away childish things. Be a man. Put off what trips you up. Lay aside every weight, not just sin, anything that slows you down.

When you make these cuts and replace them with seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, I guarantee you stress will melt away and patience will replace it, right along with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. They go together and there’s only one way to get em.

Jesus Thinks Christians are Dumb

Do you ever feel like you are lazy, sluggish, and somewhat wimpy with your faith? Well, you’re in good company; Jesus thinks you are too!

Read it for yourself.

“for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” (Luke 16:8)

This is Jesus’ conclusion to the parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16). This is the guy who got busted by his master and was going to get fired, so he ran around lowering the debts of those who owed his master money. After being fired, these guys might help him out since he did them a solid.

Brilliant, shrewd foresight. Jesus says he did well and is an excellent example for the children of light!

“And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” (Luke 16:9)

Jesus seems to be saying that you should use money to be nice to people so when you die (fail) and stand before the Lord these people will put in a good word for you.

Many aspects of this verse bother Christians.

–Is Jesus saying we should buy friends?
–Why do I need people to vouch for me on judgment day? I thought Jesus was all I needed?
–I thought giving stuff to people was out of love, for their benefit, not to use them for my own ends?

We go on and on with our justifications and keep our money.

It’s this kind of thinking that keeps the children of light dumber than children of the world.

Rather than be sensible, we bog down in theological debate. Our theological bunkers keep us safe from responsibility and intelligence.

Some think a lack of intelligence demonstrates faith. Isn’t all that thinking and foresight and planning just a lack of faith? Shouldn’t we trust God and blindly move forward?

Christians are adept at ignoring “you reap what you sow” because we think our great faith and prayer will shelter us. Surely God will deliver me from my terrible decision making.

Or perhaps fatalism steps in. It’s all God’s will, what’re ya gonna do? If God wanted me to do better, He would have made me do better.

At best, perhaps we’re too busy thinking about heaven, or perhaps we don’t concern ourselves with fixing today because Jesus might come back tomorrow. We follow the example of the Thessalonian believers and sit around being gossips because why work and be responsible, Jesus is coming.

Jesus is also saying that unsaved people in the world have wisdom. This bothers a lot of Christians too. There’s an arrogant superiority we carry with us. Spiritual things are discerned by spiritual people, and that’s us. We know more than all them unsaved heathen scum morons.

We pat ourselves on the back, sit back and judge the world’s sins, and never consider that maybe people in the world are doing some things better.

Paul uses athletes as an example (athletes, otherwise known as “dumb jocks” to smarmy, intellectual, professorial types). But even dumb jocks in the world are smart enough to discipline their bodies and zealously pursue their goals. Paul tells Christians that they should pursue spiritual growth like that. Surely we can be smarter than dumb jocks!

“That’s legalism, Paul!” we shout and then do nothing. Ten years go by, “How come I don’t have any fruit or proof I’ve grown?”

Jesus goes on in Luke 16 to say if we don’t become shrewd and smart like people in the world, He won’t entrust us with spiritual things.

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:10-11)

How annoying! “I thought God entrusted everyone with equal stuff. This sounds like works righteousness and merit, man” we argue convincingly with verses and maintain our dumbness.

Be smarter out there. Pay attention. Walk circumspectly. Be sober, in your right mind. Be vigilant. Discipline. Care. Wise as serpents; harmless as doves. If you can’t be smart enough to handle earthly things, why would God entrust you with far more valuable spiritual things?

We’re not called to be empty-headed fatalists. “God is in control. Nothing I can do. Whatever. Grace and stuff.”

We’re called to lay hold on eternal life and put our treasure in heaven. Get busy, yo.

What Satan Thinks About You

Satan is our adversary. Paul says we are not ignorant of Satan’s devices.

Is that really true?

It is, but the “we” there refers to spiritual people, believers, not to all people in general.

The way believers know Satan’s devices is because they read the Bible, which gives us the best information about who our adversary is and how to defeat him.

Satan thinks things about humans. He’s been messing with them for thousands of years. He lumps us together and knows, through much experience, what we are and what we do.

The Book of Job gives us some clues as to what Satan thinks about us. Satan’s underlying assumption about people is that we’re motivated by physical success.

When God tells Satan to consider righteous Job, Satan says, “put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.

Satan can’t deny Job’s righteousness, so instead he ascribes bad motives. Satan assumes Job sticks with God because God gives Job lots of stuff.

God allows Satan to take away Job’s stuff, yet Job doesn’t curse God. So, Satan says, “put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.

OK, Job didn’t curse God when all his stuff was taken, but Job still has his health. If you remove Job’s health, then he’ll curse God.

God allows Satan to mess with Job’s health, yet Job still does not curse God.

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

Job stays faithful all the way through.

But did you catch Satan’s assumption about us?

Satan says the only reason people listen to God is for wealth and health!

Want to know what the most popular brand of Christianity is today? A thing called The Health and Wealth Gospel.

The Health and Wealth Gospel assumes that the only reason to listen to God is if He gives you stuff and keeps you healthy.

I ask you: where did this message originate?

This is Satan’s assumption about us, and, by our actions, we are proving him correct.

A recent LifeWay study of Christians said that 75% of Evangelicals think God wants them to materially prosper.

How many would believe if their health and wealth went away? Job did, are there any others?

We don’t have to be ignorant of Satan’s devices. We’re told who he is and what he does. We might want to wake up.

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
–Romans 13:11-12

Health and Wealth is American Christianity

A recent LifeWay study found that 75% of Evangelicals believe that God wants them to materially prosper.

The Health and Wealth Gospel used to be a peripheral message in the church; it is now one of our new fundamentals of the faith.

The Bible is massively against materialism and material success. It, in fact, says that the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke out faith.

If you trace back the Health and Wealth Gospel you will find it originated around a guy named DL Moody.

Moody, in order to fund his revivals and his schools, hit up businessmen constantly for money. In order to get money from rich guys, you have to preach a message that doesn’t make rich guys feel guilty.

Mr. John Wanamaker was a successful businessman. He invited Moody to speak at a lecture for businessman that would be “tailored more than any that preceded it to the needs of business and professional people who wanted to be freed from the guilt of doing what they were doing.”

In other words, don’t make them feel guilty for making money.

Moody dipped into Health and Wealth teaching when he wrote, “It’s a wonderful fact that men and women saved by the blood of Jesus rarely remain subjects of charity, but rise at once to comfort and respectability.”

He later said, “I don’t see how a man can follow Christ and not be successful.”

Clearly, DL Moody was not as extreme as some of our modern televangelists. But he got awful close. There is a dark side to American revivalists, one that seems to follow the tents. DL Moody, Billy Sunday, right on up to the modern televangelists.

There’s something about coming up with a message that appeals to a large audience that seems to feed on materialism. Perhaps because people want wealth and desperately want to get rich quick. If we can make the Gospel sound like the trick, people will “get saved.”

I’m not trying to besmirch anyone’s character, I merely point out Church History facts. The Health and Wealth Gospel didn’t drop out of the sky! There’s a logical and recorded development that got us where we are today.

If you think Christianity is going to make you rich, successful, and respectable, I suggest not reading the Bible, for that will end your dream.

Oswald Chambers on Being Carefully Careless

“So many of us think only of the visible things, whereas the real concentration, the whole dead-set of the life, should be where our Lord put it in the huge nugget of truth which we call the Sermon on the Mount.

“There our Lord says, in effect, to take no thought for your life; be carefully careless about everything saving one thing, your relationship to God. “

–Oswald Chambers
The Love of God, p. 67

Being Respectable is Conformity to the World

One of the primary virtues of social living is being “respectable.” People feel a need to dress and talk respectably and own respectable stuff. This seems like a fine thing to do, what could possibly be wrong with being respectable?

Respectable is defined as “worthy of esteem, of good social standing.” Sounds like a fine virtue, might even be a Christian virtue.

You would certainly think so by observing professed Christians who look very respectable.

But let’s throw some Bible in here shall we? Yes, yes we shall. Jesus once said, “that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” If being respectable means being “worthy of esteem” and God despises what man esteems, it seems God is steamed when we are esteemed.

“Be not conformed to this world” is one of those phrases we quickly pass over in Romans 12. I think it deserves some attention. Conformity is nothing more than living for the esteem of those around us, in other words, conformity is “being respectable.”

Now, this doesn’t mean Christians need to do what is not respectable, in other words, our goal is not to flaunt conventions of society in an effort to put ourselves on display.

Rather, Christians are people who esteem what God esteems and this will look different and will lead to choices the world will not respect.

Many Christian groups over the centuries have attempted to come out from among them and be separate and yet have based their nonconformity on a list of rules:

No dancing
No movies
No smokingNo drinking
No blue jeans

But this is merely replacing one bit of conformity with another.

The idea is to be so sold out to Christ, so moved by what He says, that nothing else sways us. If we are truly living sacrifices, we won’t need someone to tell us to follow their nonconformity, we will be to busy being transformed into Christ.

The Spirit’s role in our transformation is critical and cannot be replaced by a checklist. Checklists will never result in Christ-likeness.

Being respectable is worth nothing in the scope of eternity. The fact that you are fashionably dressed means little when your neighbor is going to hell. If we were truly living after Christ our nonconformity would shine in this dark world and lead us into some true, honest persecution.

“The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.”

“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”

Rhetorical Devices, Jesus and Serving Two Masters

I am a moron. I know this because 1) I’ve lived with me a long time and 2) lots of people have told me. I have come to grips with this reality, maybe even reveled in it from time to time. I am a fully functional moron.

One of the times I was informed of my moronicness is when I published my book The Gospel-Filled Wallet. I was accused of not understanding that Jesus uses rhetorical devices.

My opening chapter is about me loving my stuff and thus concluding that I hated God. I based this on the verse saying–no man can serve God and mammon (wealth, riches, stuff) because he will hate the one and love the other.

It’s a little known fact that the original title for the whole book was going to be “I Think I Hate God.” I can only imagine what a moron I would be today if I had gone with that title.

I was accused of not understanding Jesus’ affinity for rhetorical devices. A “rhetorical device” is defined by dictionaries as “a use of language that creates a literary effect (but often without regard for literal significance).”

A “rhetorical device” is defined by Christians as, “stuff Jesus says I don’t have to deal with cuz I know He didn’t really mean it, duh, it’s a rhetorical device.”

A rhetorical device is a way of making a point. The point is true and to stress its truthiness, extreme language is used. No one use exaggeration in making a point to deny the point being made.

The Chicago Cubs are the stupidest organization in the world. That’s a rhetorical device using hyperbole. Obviously the Nazi Party is slightly more stupid. Ah, I did it again!

Now, although my actual statement may be overstated, my point is clear–I think the Cubs are stupid.

When Jesus says you can’t love both God and mammon, which then means if I love my wealth I hate God, I think He actually meant something by that. I think it means if I love what my wealth does for me then I do hate God.

To me, that’s His point and I think it would help us to think in these terms. If I were given the choice between God or my wealth I’d go with God. But life is not made up of stark choices that often.

Life and your wealth have a way of weeding their way in, slightly distracting you. Even while you tell yourself, “Oh, I’d choose God over my stuff,” the stuff sure seems to take up a lot of your time.

Jesus is using a rhetorical device, it is true. There is a hyperbolic contrast going on in serving two masters. But His point is very true. One of the points of being born again, being made a spiritual creation, is to disinterest you in the things of this world.

If Jesus took time, and a lot of time at that, to warn us about money and how it destroys faith, I think we ought to listen up.

The Gospel-Filled Wallet

About three years ago I published a book. My intent was to have it be so warmly received, so transformational, so powerful in its effects that I would not even have to lift a finger to get people to read it.

When the book came out it was reviewed by a number of people, few of whom whole-heartedly got behind my message. Then the publisher went out of business, which seemed about right. Family, friends and mailmen avoided the subject with vigor.

So, the book is still on Amazon and can be bought cheaply as it sells for what it costs to publish a copy. I also have a box of them in my basement.

I’m not a good salesman. I hate sales. But as I reflect on the book and the passing of years, I have heard enough from people who found the book helpful that I am encouraged to bring it up again and see if anyone else would like to read it.

Here are some reader reviews:

“Every soul on earth is precious, including yours. Do yourself a favor and feed it good food for a change.”
–From Frank Zimmerman’s Amazon review

“In The Gospel-Filled Wallet, Weddle doesn’t attempt an exhaustive exegesis of all things money and wealth.  He does provide witty, pastoral and provocative insights to get us thinking the right way.  You’ll find the book an easy read and one that will encourage more faithful stewardship.”
–a blog review

“Weddle is to be commended for taking on a challenging and controversial topic head-on with an approach that many would consider counter-intuitive or dead wrong. The Gospel-Filled Wallet is Weddle’s biblical version of an “inconvenient truth.” If a book worthy of being read is one in which both your head and heart have been challenged, then The Gospel-Filled Wallet is worthy of our prayerful consideration.”
–BibleX review

“I would recommend that Christians read The Gospel Filled Wallet, then really pray about and focus on both what the Bible says about money / wealth and what He wants each of us to do with it in our lives. You may not agree with the conclusions Jeff reaches, but you will definitely be challenged to look at money in a fresh and new way and then be challenged to live the model that God gives you.”
–blog review

“This book pulls back the curtain and reveals a professing church that is very far off base when it comes to wealth. I have been challenged to reexamine my heart and how I use what God has provided. I recommend the work and hope that everyone who reads it will in the end love and serve God more and use their blessings more wisely to God’s glory.”
–blog review

“For brave, idol-smashing studies of the Bible, there aren’t many writers stronger than Jeff.”
–My publisher I put out of business. Sorry Milton.

Click here to buy your copy from amazon

Click here to buy one directly from me

God Will Never Leave You. Act Like That Matters.

So, if God is to be feared, what would life look like if we actually did fear Him? Any ideas? Are we constantly trembling, looking over our shoulder for God’s right arm of justice to smash us? Are we too petrified to go out the door for fear of the Lion of Judah in the street?

On the contrary, a life lived in fear of God is a life that appears confident, free of anxiety, and not moved by the shifting opinions of people.

We enjoy flopping out some phrases from Hebrews 13 from time to time to sooth ourselves when our phone doesn’t allow us to text and that one light is blinking in the car again and the whole world is, like, totally against us. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” We put on our Facebook status with the obligatory :)

We might even follow it up with “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” when the mechanic tried to overcharge us for getting the blinky light to go off. Don’t you even!

Ah yes, modern Christian self-help. It’s enough to make you want to vomit and yet boy howdy, that vomit looks good, might go back to it for a snack later.


Note the context of these phrases “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”

Someone who truly believes the Lord is with them so they need not fear man, has a life free of covetousness and filled with contentment. Our desires for iPads and cars and fancy clothes and pretty much everything, shows that we don’t really know who God is. He’s not our treasure; we just want Him to help us get more of our treasures.

We’re sick, sick people.

The larger context of these verses is about love, love of strangers, love of imprisoned believers, love in marriage, love of those who teach you from God’s Word.

You can’t love unless you are free of selfishness and worry. You can’t be free of selfishness and worry until you know God for who He is and He sets you free from yourself and replaces you with Him. It’s a beautiful thing.

Instead we’ll be distracted by the new double thick burger commercial and not think about this again.

Rejoice in Hope

Heaven is the realm of our rejoicing. If we are earthly minded our rejoicing will be temporal at best, non-existent at worst.

The problem with heaven is that it is THERE and we are HERE. How can we who are HERE rejoice in what is THERE?

I think this is tough and is why heaven gets so little air-time in our theology. We know we are to set our affections on things above, but things above are not seen, so soon our affections are drawn to what we can see.

“Hey, that guy Moses who brought us out of the wilderness, he’s been gone for a couple weeks, let’s go worship some golden cows.”

“Dude, sweet idea.” and off we go.

We laugh at goofy Aaron and the Israelites, yet we do this all the time, just not with golden cows, but with plastic Apples (this is a reference to the various iProducts produced by the Apple corporation that everyone has their face in and is intended to be a joke with some truth and applied much further than merely Apple products). (Jokes that need to be explained are not funny.)

Heaven is like Christmas for a kid. I remember many a Christmas Eve having a hard time sleeping. Looking at presents under the tree for weeks beforehand, even popping some tape off to see if I could get a glimpse at the package inside without mom and dad finding out.

“Anticipation is better than gratification” my parents always told me. They also told me lima beans taste like candy.

But in many cases anticipation is what makes the gratification worth it. Heaven is our anticipation, it is our hope, our hope of God’s glory fully revealed and reveled in that causes us rejoicing now.

Don’t even try to give me this, “Oh, but we can have heaven on earth” business, because we can’t. If we could, then all the promises of heaven and its hope are meaningless. As we convince ourselves heaven can be on earth, we talk less about heaven and fixate on materialism (see American Christianity).

We rejoice in hope and hope maketh not ashamed. Whatever junk life throws at us, our eyes are on heaven, and since heaven is our real expectation, we are filled with rejoicing.

God Didn’t Give You All The Things You Thank Him For

Hebrews 11 talks about people of faith, a great cloud of witnesses showing us how faith is done. The consistency of their testimony is that they lived for another world, a better country.

Christianity has lost its voice. We do not live for a better country, instead we make ourselves at home in this one. We sell out our responsibilities and authority to the government, get wrapped up in economic debates and live as the world does.

This is all very sad. Pretty much every book of the New Testament has a warning about living in and for this world. We are warned over and over that money is the great faith killer, and yet we continue to think we are the few who can serve both God and money.

Furthermore, when we get our material blessings, we thank God for them. I have heard a number of people give thanks to God for landing the job that allows them to live a better sinful lifestyle and ruin their family.

“All good gifts come from above, brother. Praise God for my excessively wasteful house I have.” We are under the impression that faith equals prosperity, oh sure, not crazily like them whack-job Pentecostals, but evangelical Christianity believes God blesses spiritual faithfulness with physical abundance.

It’s why we thank Him for our comforts, don’t ya know.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and  the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”

We know these verses, but do we really understand what it’s saying? Allow the ever so correct ESV to put it nicely for you. Notice the “–” in there and the phrase it sets apart, a kind of parenthesis. Read the verse without that phrase once.

“For all that is in the world is not from the Father but is from the world.” Now, specifically He is talking about our lust and pride after the worlds things, the things of the world we are not to love–lust after.

But the things in the world that you lust after for your own pride, when you get those, don’t thank God for them, He didn’t give them to you. You heaped them to yourself after your own lust.

God Did Not Save You to do Great Things

The modern Gospel is a self-help pill enabling you to do great things.

The Modern Gospel saves your marriage, makes your kids grow up smart, keeps you rich and wealthy and oh yeah, after all this blessing you get to go to heaven! The Gospel guarantees you nothing but good times now and forever, just like Walt Disney dreamed.

In the end, this is no Gospel at all. When you can have Christ all else is dung, yet the Church continually tosses Christ out and offers the world piles of dung as the answer to their longings.

Christ did not save your soul so that you might “do great things,” Joel Osteen and Rick Warren not withstanding.

Christ saved your soul that you might bring forth fruit unto God. Fruit comes by doing good and doing good is what we are equipped to do in Christ and what we’ve been redeemed to do.

When we tell the world God has a wonderful plan for your life and wants you to do great things, the world hears “God wants me to be awesome! Which is awesome, cuz I also want me to be awesome!” God wants us all to be rock stars, living rich, standing before packed audiences of eager fans, and rolling in power, wealth and luxury.

The Gospel is about dying. We die with Christ and are raised up to a new life, a new life that has no interest in the old life or the old life’s affections and lusts. The world can never satisfy a man who wants Christ. Never.

The Gospel is not about doing great things; it’s about doing the only thing worth doing–serving God. This rarely looks like a great thing and typically looks like mundane plodding. We run with patience because it’s a long, hard race with little payoff until the finish line.

Stingy Christians

Charitable giving by professed Christians hovers around 2% of income. This is pathetic in so many ways.

I understand that for a majority, tithing is a law deed, a work of righteousness more than likely condemning you to hell for forsaking grace, but 2%?

My favorite line about tithe-rejecters is the one that goes–“Tithing is from the Law and they gave out of fear; we give out of love, not fear.” Which is real great because what does your 2% say about your love for God?

People who don’t give their money to help others are rejecting grace, since grace is giving help to others. If 98% of your income goes to you, it is very difficult to proclaim that you love your neighbor. Our money is one of the best barometers of how our faith is doing. Someone should write a book about this.

The Church Man Esteems, Disgusts God

He said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”

The Pharisees’ entire religious system was built on what man esteems. Everything they did was done to receive glory, honor and praise from man. They got it, even the disciples thought the Pharisees were top rung guys.

But Jesus disrobed their false righteousness repeatedly and instead praised the faith of poor women who considered themselves dogs and unrighteous sinners who couldn’t raise their eyes to heaven.

Unfortunately, Pharisaism is alive and well in the church today. The vast majority participate because everyone expects them to, not because they have much desire on their own. Plain old religious activity done for God is lonely and unappreciated, therefore no one wants to join in.

This is not much fun, so churches, in an effort to attract people to that which they don’t really like, have to play to what man esteems to bring the people in.

I tread on dangerous ground here but honestly, does anyone think modern “worship services” are designed for the esteem of man or God? What about modern church buildings? Pastoral leadership based on fortune-500 CEO models? Pastoral celebrity-ism?

Painting with a broad brush implicates too many, there are obviously exceptions, you are, no doubt, one of them. As we all know, evil people are always the “others.”

Revelation begins with letters to seven churches; observe their faults:

–Ephesus left their first love
–Pergamos went after doctrine of Balaam (changing beliefs for money) and idolatry
–Thyatira was seduced into fornication and idolatry by Jezebel
–Sardis is dead spiritually but a reputation for being alive
–Laodicea is lukewarm, looks rich but is spiritually poor, looks well fed but is famished

These churches went after the esteem of men and fell from Christian distinctive. Smyrna and Philadelphia get nothing but praise from God for standing firm against persecution and opposition and holding fast to God’s word.

We follow God, let man do what man will do. The success of the Church is never dependent on men, it is ever and always dependent on the Spirit. This means real, practical things, most of which we can’t afford to mess with.

How to Esteem God and Not Man

He said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”

Men esteem appearances, not reality. When you walk down the street, people don’t know your heart, all they know is what they see. Your clothes and manner of walking are observed and immediate judgments are made. Judgments continue when they hear your voice, listen to your opinions, and see what you own.

Respectability is highly valued in our society. We define new groups of people as “normal” or “abnormal” based on how much like us they are. Unfortunately, we gauge people’s spiritual health the same way.

But God is disgusted by what man esteems. So, what is our response, do everything man hates? Go out of our way to be obnoxiously different?

No, because those who purposely go against what men esteem to challenge men are just as much living their lives according to what man esteems!

This is the irony of rebellion. People in rebellion are paying more attention to social norms than most who live by those social norms!

Jesus is not telling people to purposely only do things that annoy people. He’s calling us to live in God’s presence, not man’s. In the end, righteousness will be esteemed by many. When Jesus grew Luke says He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

The point is not to offend men by being oddly different, but rather to follow God and His commands and the righteous example of Christ in this sin-filled world, which will often be oddly different, but this is the result, not the means. When this brings you in conflict with man’s desires, always go with God. This does not mean to be a jerk so everyone hates you.

It’s a fine line, but ultimately has to do with your focus. We are Christ-centered, not man-centered. We pay attention to our hearts, not just our actions. We judge righteous judgment and understand the passing shadow of human praise.

Men Esteem What God Hates

“God’s wisdom is foolishness with man and the wisdom of man is foolishness with God” and various other bits of 1 Corinthians 1-3, like “Not many wise, not many noble are called,” are quoted when Christians need to bash intelligent atheists.

This is all fine and dandy, and I really can’t argue because it’s true, but we should also be careful of this truth as it means practical things for us all. Here’s the way Jesus put it:

“that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”

Amen! Take that you homo-loving, libertarian, atheist scum!

The problem with always applying these truths to unbelievers and heathen scum is that the original contexts apply both verses against religious types. Paul is writing to self-righteous church-goers in Corinth and Jesus is speaking to religious, self-righteous Pharisees.

Atheists and homosexual professors are nowhere in sight.

Religion that is not pure (as opposed to religion done for God, generally without human notice–pray in closet, give without letting left hand know what right hand is doing, etc) is done for man. The verse quoted above begins “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men.”

The killer aspect of religion is that it can focus you on the externals and the group rather than simply on you before God. We esteem our fitting in-ness over our righteousness.

If we lived as though what man esteems is an abomination (an object of disgust) with God, our lives would radically change. We’d talk, spend money, clothe ourselves, and probably even breathe differently. Our churches would have a hard time existing without playing to what man esteems.

If you don’t do what man esteems, man mock and ultimately kill. See “Jesus” as object lesson #1. We’re to be like Christ not anyone else. Indeed, we die daily. And indeed, Joel Osteen, who wants you to be happy every day not just Friday, will always have more followers.

Parable of the Unjust Steward and Serving God

Jesus applies the parable of the unjust steward in three ways: 1) Use what He’s given you to be nice to people, 2) How you use temporal things is a test for whether you’ll get spiritual responsibility. The third we deal with today.

“No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

This is Jesus’ summation of the whole thing. You can’t serve God and money. You can’t. It’s not possible. Rather than serving mammon (money and stuff), we use money and stuff to serve God.

The next verse says that the Pharisees, who were covetous (lovers of money), derided Jesus. They can’t stand this message. No one wants to be confronted on how they spend their money. When we trot out Jesus’ sayings about money we self-righteously conclude He’s off His rocker. It’s not practical!

Surely He’s talking to someone other than me. He’s talking to guys back then when miracles happened, not to guys today. We go on and on attempting to free ourselves from this message repeated in every single New Testament book, even Paul’s (Read 1 Timothy 6)!

He’s talking to you. He’s your Master, the one who has given you all things and richly blessed you. Yet we cast off His commands and His pleading for us to seek heavenly riches so we can get more dressed up dirt to amuse our body of dirt.

It’s unbelievable really, giving up eternal rewards so we can play with some dirt longer. It’s unbelievable how strongly our dirt body wants more stuff made of dirt, so strong that we’ll deny these words so we can carry on in our dirt filled comfort.

It’s no wonder Jesus was crucified. What an annoying guy. You can’t serve God and mammon, don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re the exception to the rule. It can’t be done. Ever.

Parable of the Unjust Steward and Spiritual Responsibility

Obtaining spiritual success, by being as wise as the world is in achieving temporal success, is what this parable is all about. Jesus wants us to be smarter with His stuff. First He tells us to use His stuff to do acts of kindness for people for eternal reward.

Next He lays it on the line, telling us that even what we’re given by Him now, not just in heaven, will be limited based on our handling of temporal things.

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?”

“True riches” refer to spiritual wealth, the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” If we cannot handle temporal goods, what makes us think we’d handle properly eternal goods? As Paul said to the Corinthians, “I can’t give you meat, you can’t even handle milk.” We’d just choke to death.

We don’t like to think that what we do in this life has any impact on how God treats us. We like to think God is all love and all grace all the time. He is, but He’s also many other things all the time! Be not deceived, God is not mocked, you will reap what you sow.

God is paying attention. He sees your credit card bill, your checking account, where your cash goes and where it doesn’t go. He sees your debt and your degree of selfishness. Do we think He’s blind?

Do we honestly think God doesn’t care about how well we take care of what He’s given us? God is famous for testing people. He’s a Father. Any father who loves his kids tests his kids. If you can’t handle an ice cream cone, I aint given you your own iPod.

We get the responsibility God thinks we deserve. No more and no less. Want more spiritual effectiveness? Get your physical things in order.

Parable of the Unjust Steward and Buying Friends

According to the parable of the unjust steward, Jesus thinks those who follow God tend to be dumber than those of the world. We don’t quite have the same killer instincts, the desire to be shrewd and calculating, not for selfish ambition, but for godliness and eternal reward.

Jesus then concludes the parable with a list of possible ways we can be as wise as the world. Again, let me state, those of the world have no godly wisdom. The fact that they make more sensible decisions than we do is a shot against believers. But Jesus does not want us to be shrewd for us, but rather for Him and with His stuff.

His first application is in Luke 16:9

“Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”

The unjust steward was concerned for his state in life if he got fired, so he gave guys who owed his master a financial break, hoping that this financial favor would cause them to care for him later on.

In the same way, believers are to use their money to win friends, then at the Day of Judgment, these acts of kindness stand up for us. We don’t work our way into salvation, so He is obviously referring to works of faith. If I give all I have to the poor but have no love it profits nothing.

He’s not looking for a manipulation of the system or conniving, He is saying that by faith, with love, use your physical goods in such a way that you’ll receive eternal, spiritual reward. Be as shrewd with your stuff in using it for God as you do in saving $1 on a 2-liter of Coke.

We show regularly our dismissal of eternal rewards by our lack of effort, wisdom, and application of basic human ingenuity to obtain them and yet apply all those things to help us buy the toys we need for our comfort. Our comforts we can afford condemn us.

Be wise in using what God has given you to get a great return on investment for eternity.

“Throw Them All Out,” Cronyism and Christianity

I am a government objector, not sure what the right term is for the guy who doesn’t vote and tries not to care about government, but that’s what I am.

Some Christians think I’m horrible for not voting and caring, but for me, it’s what I have to do to stay untangled from the affairs of this world, plus I think I can make a biblical case for it, which is why I do it (more coming on this in the future).

Recently I read, Throw Them All Out: How politicians and their friends get rich off insider stock tips, land deals, and cronyism that would send the rest of us to prison.”

Why does a guy who abstains from voting and caring about government read this book? Because it backs up my point: vote for whomever you wish, they’re all basically the same.

I want to avoid making a generalization, like saying all baseball players are on the juice, but still paint with as broad a brush as applies.

As an American, you should read this book to see what’s up. He details how laws are passed, handouts are made and politicians grow their portfolios through it all. He gives names, facts, numbers and sources of both parties.

Basically, Washington DC is entirely corrupt and the rich get richer as the rich and government are increasingly the same people. This is modern-day injustice and eventually oppression.

What should the Christians’ response be? Voting won’t cut it as history shows no one is immune. Assassination is against God’s law. Moving to Quebec is just chilly.

To me the answer is what the Bible says: pray for them and let God sort it out. The wicked prosper down here, they get their earthly reward they are working for, but ultimately God decides and His decisions last for eternity.

I know, this is akin to throwing in the towel to believers since we know prayer doesn’t work. But what we need in this country is not different politicians, we need the Gospel to transform lives. We need the Kingdom to come.

It’s the only answer and always will be the only answer. Never look to men to solve the problems of men.

The Work of Pastors and the Work of Parishioners

“The apostles complained rightly when they said it was not meet they should leave the word of God and serve tables; their vocation was to preach the word. But the person whose vocation it is to prepare the meals beautifully might with equal justice protest: It is not meet for us to leave the service of our tables to preach the word.”
–Dorothy Sayers

I wonder how this idea smacks your brain. Many will like it, others will be outraged that she seems to say table-servers don’t have to study the word.

According to Ephesians 4, God has gifted men to edify the Body of Christ. Not everyone has these gifts. Pastors should dedicate themselves to the Word of God just as much as a mechanic dedicates himself to making your car run or the dentist dedicates himself to taking all your money to put over-priced metal devices in your kid’s mouths.

You don’t want to go to a dentist who until last week was a police officer. You want a dentist who is passionate about sticking his hands in people’s mouths and messing with teeth.

I imagine the same is true in selecting a pastor. You want a guy who is dedicated to God’s Word. Those who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel. In context it means guys who teach the Gospel should get paid to do so.

The benefit of this is that they can dedicate their minds to the Word. Unfortunately, pastors rarely actually do this. They are too busy doing weddings, separating the fingernails of the singy women from each other’s throats, and doing self-help seminars.

The reason there is a backlash against pastors getting paid these days is because people aren’t getting their money’s worth. Pastors aren’t dong what they’re paid for.

Furthermore, pastors who know they aren’t doing their job then belittle everyone else, condemning them for being too busy to attend their programs they spent all day organizing.

Thus, parishioners resent their pastor’s work and pastor’s resent their parishioner’s work. Perhaps Dorothy has the solution for us?

Pure in Heart and Work

“Blessed are the pure in heart.”

Matthew 5:8 contains this great phrase, concluding with the comforting fact that the pure in heart will see God. Reason enough to want to be pure in heart, one would think.

So, what is this “pure in heart” deal?

The word pure means “free from admixture.” Nothing is mixed in that shouldn’t be mixed in. In other words, your heart has a singleness about it.

Singleness such as is mentioned in Acts 2:46 or Ephesians 6:5 or perhaps Colossians 3:22.

Each of these contexts has to do with work or money. Acts 2 deals with all the believers sharing their possessions. Both the Ephesians’ and Colossians’ passages have to do with working for your master.

These all seem to fit nicely with another Sermon on the Mount phrase, “no man can serve two masters.” Service to God demands singleness of heart. To be otherwise minded is not to serve God.

“You cannot do good work if you take your mind off the work to see how the community is taking it– any more than you can make a good drive from the tee if you take your eye off the ball,” says Dorothy Sayers.

Which fits nicely also with, “Whatever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord, and not unto man.”

I know in our age of stressing grace out the nose this doesn’t fly, but–your seeing of God depends on this or else Jesus, the sinless son of God, is a liar.

Giving is Stupid

“The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again:
but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth.”

The Bible assumes righteous people will give. Giving is what God did for us through the Gospel–for God so loved the world that He gave.

Those who have made the Gospel their own by faith now show that same characteristic with their stuff. They give of themselves and of their stuff to anyone who may need it.

The problem with giving is that it’s stupid. We’re OK giving money to buy stuff because we get something back, but giving often has no tangible repayment, and quite frequently, the only payment is a proverbial slap in the face.

Charities know this. That’s why when kids do fund-raisers for school they sell you pizzas that are glorified cardboard with tomato sauce on top for $20 a piece. You get stupid packages of cards you’d never send to anyone and those oh so handy address labels.

We’d rather get junk for our money than nothing at all. I’d rather give $20 and get a $1 pizza than give $20 and get nothing. At least I got something out of the deal.

Credit card companies give away 1% of your bill to a charity and this makes you feel better because materialism is now a virtue.

But Christian giving has to do with being made poor that others are made rich. It’s what Christ did for us. Righteous people know that and respond in kind. It’s stupid, but it’s right.

Giving isn’t about 1% of money you spend, it’s about giving it all away to the one who gave it to you to begin with. Don’t want to do that? You’re probably not righteous.

Physical Abundance Leads to Spiritual Scarcity

The distorted and deceptive doctrines of Modern Evangelicalism have led to odd outcomes. There are two main elements of historical faith that have come under attack:

1) Do we really have to serve God and do good works?
2) What’s the point of prayer?

Both of these questions are asked by people who have bought into the lies of modern American Christianity that overemphasizes certain doctrines so far out of whack that Scripture is ignored.

However, there is nothing new under the sun. People have long had these two questions in their minds. Look at Job’s observations of people’s questions around him in Job 21:15

“What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?”

These questions come out of a wrong view of God. If you ask these questions, or even worse, if you don’t even bother to ask because you already know prayer is pointless along with good works, examine how Job describes people who ask these questions:

21:9–their houses are safe
21:9–God does not correct them
21:10–they have stuff abounding
21:11–their kids are happy in their abundance
21:12–they love music and dance
21:13–they spend their days in wealth

Sounds like American Christians to me! Again we see that abundance leads to blasphemy. Why serve God when serving me has worked out so well? Why ask God for things when I already have everything and know how to get the rest?

People who ask these questions are evil and will get judgment in the end (21:18).

Ridiculous Giving and Spiritual Growth

“. . . one of the best things that could happen to many believers would be for them to be led to give away, all at one time, a substantial part of their savings.

“That is, they should give a substantial part of their capital.  Why?

“Because there is something about giving away a sizable percentage of one’s money – and, of course, the amount would vary entirely from one individual to another – that is spiritually invigorating.

“And there is seldom a case in which a large gift does not throw the Christian back on the Lord and increase the feeling that he is all-wonderful and that he is more than able to care for the one who trusts him.

“I have seen this happen in many instances.  And I have never known a true Christian to be sorry for even the most sacrificial giving afterward.”

James Montgomery Boice

The Church Gets the Money, Don’t Forget It!

Catholicism took people’s money by convincing them their monetary gifts got their relatives out of purgatory. Luther nailed his 95 Thesis, which is all about Catholic’s stealing money, and the Protestant Reformation took off.

Catholics were great at making people feel guilty for not doing enough sacred stuff. Protestants blurred the line between sacred and secular, making secular work a sacred duty.

Protestants then developed a Gospel that made making money a godly thing to do. Money makes us happy. God wants us to be happy. Therefore, God wants us to make money.

The end result is the same–the Church has tons of money. Catholics took it from the poor; Protestants, being more ambitious, made poor people rich and then took their money.

Yes, there is cynicism in the last three blog posts on this subject. I know churches and schools need money. I know there are plenty of businessmen who have done great things with their money.

I’m just stunned how we ignore the Bible’s teaching on this subject so fabulously. If you read the Bible you clearly see that making money is something that will happen and you should do it for necessary uses, but it is never to dominate our lives the way it has.

It’s evil, yet it looks so good. Each man is accountable for how they live, how they spend their time. Live life in light of the Judgment Seat of Christ. Live for things that won’t be burned up–eternal things, which are things that are not seen or bought.

Wanamaker, Moody, Rockefeller and Jesus

American Christianity is largely based on the Protestant work ethic. We truly, honestly believe God wants us to work, work, work, as long as the work in mind is not, like, you know “good works” that lead to legalism.

God wants us working 40+ hours a week making money, that’s how He blesses us with money to support missions and poor kids and stuff. We’ve bought this teaching right along with our $50 study Bibles.

After the Civil War and into the early part of the 20th Century, American Christianity was largely influenced by business. Christian insitutions cannot exist apart from rich businessmen.

Christianity, in order to pay rent, developed a theology to support businessmen, helped them feel good about neglecting their wives, kids and neighbors while they were off working all the time. “Just write a check for Jesus.”

Mr. John Wanamaker was a succesful businessman in the late 19th century and became instrumental in establishing the YMCA. He also helped out a Mr. Dwight L. Moody.

Wanamaker wanted Moody to come speak at a conference for him and deliver a message “tailored more than any that preceded it to the needs of business and professional people who wanted to be freed from the guilt of doing what they were doing.”

In other words, give them a Gospel that allows them to mind the things of the world and yet feel they are doing God a favor. Moody obliged.

Moody is not an exception, he’s merely an example I’m aware of. American Chrisitanity is a Christianity of the businessman. It’s not a Christianity of the poor certainly.

“The power to make money is a gift from God,” this was said by John, as in John D. Rockefeller. It’s not a message consistent with Jesus Christ no matter how badly you want to believe it.

Sacred and Secular

The Protestant Reformation blurred the lines between the sacred and the secular. Protestants saw all life as sacred, which meant that material things took on spiritual significance. Building barns was now part of doing God’s work, rather than merely menial labor with no redeeming qualities.

This switch was a good thing in many ways. The Catholic Church of the Dark Ages made people aware of the fact that they would burn in hell apart from involvement in the Church. Therefore, most of what man did was worthless to God, what God really wanted was for you to drop some coins in the coffer.

Distinctions between the sacred and the secular predominated. Protestants did us all a favor in showing us that we are to do all things heartily as unto the Lord.

With all the good that came of this switch, bad came too. People did begin to think that digging a ditch was equivalent to reading the Bible. Making money became synonymous with spirituality.

Protestants are known for their work ethic–work hard, save money, and live comfortably.

Walk through a few hundred years of human history and you have American Christianity, which is only respected when it looks suburban, wears modest yet fashionable clothing, and drives nice cars, puts on good shows at church and has top quality music.

We’ve bought the lie and turned it into spirituality. We’ve become entangled with the affairs of the world and called it “being relevant.” We’re looking and working for the things that are seen (which are all temporal) and are forsaking the eternal things that are not seen.

When people are dying they wish they didn’t work so much and they wish they had deeper relationships with others, yet most felt good their whole lives because they were living out the “Protestant work ethic.” Isn’t that what Jesus wanted us to do?

Nope. Paul didn’t either. Nor did James. Nor Peter. It all gets burned up, how then shall we live?

Greener Grass

“We can come into the presence of God at all times and at all places.

“This is the greatest benefit of the gospel. Forgiveness of sins, a new heart, and eternal life are only a means to this magnificent end. Jesus Christ ushers us into the presence of God, and it’s in the presence of God that we find our soul’s deepest satisfaction. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

“A speedboat, job promotion, or beautiful, loving spouse who likes long walks on the beach can’t bring fullness of joy. Eternal pleasures can’t be purchased with a platinum credit card. Full, overflowing, eternal joy and pleasure are found only in the presence of God, and in the gospel we have access to his joyful presence….

“If we’re not consistently spending time in the presence of God, we won’t be content.

–Stephen Altrogge

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