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Thursday, April 25, 2013

What the Good Book Says

A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything (Ecclesiastes 10:19 NIV).

This evening I will focus on the above quotation from Ecclesiastes and address what it says about money. What I will consider is how isolated texts of Scripture by themselves through myopic application can lead to a form of extremism or radicalism in any faith.

The first possible response of a faithful believer to this passage—a misguided response in my opinion—can be to assert that the Bible is never wrong, period. Therefore an attempt is made to rationalize the statement that “money is the answer to everything.” They might say something like the following: money here is another name for resources and it is a tautology that everything in one way or another depends upon resources. That is, for example, the air we breathe is really not free, but is dependent upon a measure of purity that requires resources in one form or another that can be in theory or practice monetized. I find this sort of dealing with the phrase “money is the answer for everything” a little too strained to be reassuring.

Another approach is much more difficult for me to quibble with for I engage in it frequently myself. This approach recognizes that most any statement can be made defendable if it is tagged with the phrase “in a sense.” That is, though I am nearly 70 years old, I can always assert that I am a young man…in a sense. Or, for that matter, that I am a child, low even an infant… “in a sense.” One might even say the devil is an angel “in a sense.” “Money [it can be said] is an answer for everything” in the sense that everything requires some effort that is readily obtainable through exchange using the common and liquid medium of money. Contrarily, there can be a sense in which “money is the answer for everything” is dead wrong due to the effect of diminishing returns and the hard-earned experience that throwing money at a problem can be counterproductive.

The purpose of this blog is to consider how isolated texts of Scripture by themselves through myopic application can lead to a form of extremism or radicalism in any faith. How can I assert this with such confidence ignorant as I am of many faiths? It is because I am well aware that any complete sentence and even sentence fragment can lend itself to interpretive abuse due to the perversity of human perception that too often sees what it wants to see. And religion is particularly vulnerable to this as it deals in certitudes of convictions and belief. There is a phrase that says “where one stands depends upon where one sits.” It is also true that how and what one sees depend upon ones mental prism. Rationalization and the penchant for seeing a statement imbued with the color of one’s own prejudices can be determinative in assigning meaning. For example, a greedy, hateful SOB mean as hell will surely see the statement “money is the answer for everything”differently from a generous philanthropist who has seen miracles realized through funded distribution of vaccines in afflicted countries. In short, what is on the page in Holy Writ can be less important than what is in the head of the true believer. The stimulus derives not so much from the page but from the heart imbued, as it were, with light or darkness.

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