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Saturday, July 6, 2013

God's Vineyard on Planet Earth

For Amos, the way we treat the needy is the area by which we are judged. What is the Christian church doing for the needy? To what extent do you get involved in trying to alleviate poverty and oppression? Why don’t you do more: (a) Selfishness? (b) Ignorance? (c) Politics? (d) Caught up in “church work”? Other? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1270). 

Charity defined:

An institution set up to provide help to the needy:
A kindly and lenient attitude toward people (WordWeb Pro)

a : generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also : aid given to those in need b : an institution engaged in relief of the poor c : public provision for the relief of the needy:
benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity (Merriam-Webster)

Mankind has attempted throughout its history to address the problem of poverty through charity. Certainly one of the clearest calls in the Old Testament is for aid to the poor and suffering. A central ministry of Jesus was for the downtrodden. In our time there are numerous organizations that seek to alleviate suffering. Through all human history the problem of poverty has plagued us and refuses to go away. There is great precedence for poverty. 

As indeed there was great precedence for slavery. No doubt one of the strongest arguments for the continuance of slavery was that it had always existed. Therefore, all must jump in toto upon the bandwagon of precedence and acquiesce servilely to the ongoing and surely eternal slave-friendly status quo - QED. No doubt there were Christian slave owners who prided themselves in the charity they showed their slaves – so long as they – the slave owner – could clearly remain in the driver’s seat. In fact this is one troubling aspect of charity – it puts the charity giver in control. It assuages the conscience without changing the fundamental rules of the game.

Christians look forward to the return of Christ. Certainly that will be a game changer. What would Christ do about poverty on his return? A Christ in charge (CEO) of world affairs might present us with some surprises that would not let us persist in seeing him in idyllic scenes quiescently delivering Sermons on the Mount. But in fact that’s something that all Christians expect and yearn for – a Jesus strongly in charge that will shake things up in fundamental ways. Since in his ministry he showed clear preference for the marginalized and downtrodden, we may see (much to our ideological chagrin) unexpected expressions of divine justice – economic justice rolling down like waters overturning man's heretofore abject submission to the doctrine that possession is nine-tenths of the law. No longer will what has been the status quo for eons stand sacrosanct. Lazarus may well come to find material relief before resting in Abraham’s bosom.

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