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Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Follow the Bouncing Ball

So one source1 took me to task once for not following Jesus's words. "You know," they told me, "Jesus said, 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.' (Luke 6:20) Clearly, the poor are blessed and if you were following Jesus's commands as you say you should, you would tend to the poor."

I was fascinated by this line of thinking. When I say, "When the Bible says, 'Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God' (1 Cor 6:9-10), it means (along with the rest of it) that men who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God," I'm accused of taking Scripture out of context, of misreading it, of not taking it as it is intended. But I'm supposed to understand "Blessed are you who are poor" to mean "We need to care for the poor." I'm fascinated because of the complete lack of logic.

Consider. Taking it without any consideration of Scripture -- just woodenly literal (you know, like I'm often accused of doing) -- we have Jesus saying that people who are poor -- let's call them the "have nots" -- are blessed by God. "Therefore," they tell me, "we ought to help them." Wait. Why? I mean, isn't "blessed by God" a good condition? What help is required if you are blessed by God? But wait. It gets worse. How do we help them? Well, we take from the "haves" to give to the "have nots". Of course, we won't actually make those who have extra wealth poor, so they won't be blessed by God for being poor, but we will surely lift the poor out of their poverty ... so they will no longer be poor and no longer be blessed. Now, wait a minute! How is that reasonable? Indeed, if you wanted to take this text as woodenly literal as "Blessed are the poor" is taken, it would be incumbent upon every follower of Christ to take a vow of personal poverty. Only then could we be blessed. Christians not in poverty should not expect to be blessed. So ... I'm waiting for those who tell me that this means what it says at face value to become poor themselves in order to receive the blessings of God. I'd wait for them to tell me when they had carried out their own mandate, but it would require no ownership of computers and such, so I guess there's no point.

You see, I can't follow the logic being thrown at me. I can't follow that wildly bouncing ball. I say, "Scripture says X and so X is true" they tell me "You are wrong for believing that clear Scripture means what it says and is actually God's point of view. You are wrong for taking Scripture in a woodenly literal fashion."2 The ball hits a wall. "On the other hand, you are wrong for not taking this Scripture in a woodenly literal fashion, and you are wrong for not believing that it is God's point of view." The ball hits another angled surface. "You should be working against poverty even though it says that poverty confers a blessing, but don't expect us to become impoverished either to solve poverty or to get God's blessing." Another bounce. "You're an evil, evil man for thinking you know Scripture with any confidence or what God believes with any assurance." I cannot keep up.

If anyone else is better able to follow this kind of randomization of rebound as "logical", perhaps you can do so. I've just never been very good at this kind of irrational reasoning.3

1 Note that by referring to "one source" rather than naming any specific source I remove this topic from any possible accusation of attacking a person rather than an idea. That's the aim. If you, dear reader, have my source in mind, it doesn't matter. It's the idea -- the line of reasoning -- that I'm discussing. I can only do so by avoiding names.

2 That is the accusation. I do not do so and I do not agree with the accusation, but defending the truth about how I read Scripture is not the point here.

3 In case anyone was curious about how I would understand the text at hand, I would compare Scripture with Scripture -- Jesus with Jesus -- and conclude that Luke's reference was to Jesus's similar words in Matthew's account and speaks of "poor in spirit" rather than merely "poor". In this case, we would not want to eliminate the poverty of spirit that brings someone to Christ. We would, in fact, seek it ourselves. (Actually, it is mandatory that those who come to Christ have that understanding of their own poverty of spirit in order to get saved.) So it doesn't require "stealing from the rich" or even some vow of poverty, nor is it something that needs to be remedied except by the hand of God.


Bob said...

I used to believe that the "B" attitudes were directed at universal body of people. then i realized that for anyone to be truly blessed, it must be within the confines of salvation.
how can anyone be blessed apart from being a child of God? how can the Meek inherit the earth without first being washed in the blood of the lamb? how could the merciful receive mercy apart from the work of Christ? so it must be that Jesus is talking about believers. it is only believers that receive the final blessings of God thru the redemptive work of Christ. other wise the text would create a contradiction.

Stan said...

I've seen it written "Be-attitudes".

I think they trace the course of the saved, beginning with "poor in spirit" as in "I don't have what it takes; I am in dire spiritual poverty."

That is, I agree with you.

David said...

Why are you trying to bring rationality into it when all they want is to feel like they are helping? Rational arguments aren't required when the heart is involved. (Though that is quite telling since we've previously established that the heart is wicked and hardened.)

Stan said...

"Rational arguments aren't required when the heart is involved."

Sometimes one might think, given the wicked and deceitful heart, that rational arguments are not possible when the heart is involved.