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Cheerfulness October 21, 2014

Posted by stevekerp in doctrine of distribution, Non-accumulation.
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So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”  – 2 Corinthians 9:7

2 Corinthians 9:7 is probably among the verses that come to mind when someone is considering the doctrine of distribution.  It certainly appears, at first blush, that if we are COMMANDED to give, that our giving would be “of necessity.”  This, it would seem, would be a trap door out of the obvious requirements of Luke 12:33.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, perhaps a brief consideration of Luke 12:33 would be in order here:

Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.”  – Luke 12:33

This is presented as a “category 2” command – something Jesus said to His disciples in a teaching context.  Jesus was giving His disciples – and us – specific direction regarding accumulated possessions.  The most literal understanding of this command is that we are to sell off our accumulated possessions and give the money to those who need it.  It does not restrict the amount of money we earn, nor does it require us to sell things we need.

I know this is a “hard saying.”  But what else can we conclude?  If Jesus doesn’t really mean “don’t accumulate,” then what exactly does He mean by this command?  What is He telling us to do?  And similarly, if Jesus would have wanted to forbid the accumulation of earthly wealth, how else could He have said it?

As I pointed out yesterday, this is not because Jesus wants us to live lives of deprivation and hardship.  He said He came to bring us abundant life (John 10:10).  The presumption is that those following Jesus are interested in eternal things:  eternal life, citizenship in an eternal kingdom, and eternal wealth. 

It is toward those objectives that Jesus taught His disciples some basic Kingdom truths with which we are all familiar (though sometimes we struggle with the implications) – that this life is temporary, and that the way to Life often runs counter to the “wisdom of this age.”  It also runs counter to the desires of the flesh.

Having said that, let’s consider those purposes in our hearts. 

But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”  – 1 John 3:17

A relevant rhetorical question – obviously, the Apostle John sees this as prima facie evidence that the love of God does NOT abide in such a one.  It appears that this refusal to extend charity springs from a heart that is “shut up.”

This is, at its core, a love issue.  Do we love our “stuff” or do we love our fellow men?  With the visible increase on our streets of people with cardboard signs, can we honestly say we are unaware of these desperate needs?  With our attics and garages full of clutter, most of which we will never use, can we honestly say we don’t have the resources?

Today’s Action Step:  Review the action step from What Is A Doctrine? and identify an item or two that you would not have replaced.  Look on eBay or Craig’s List for a similar item and determine its dollar value. 

Imagine one hundred times that amount being deposited in your “heavenly bank account” and then answer this question:  If you were to actually sell the item and give the money away with the knowledge that you were pleasing the Lord, living in obedience, helping someone who truly needed help, and laying up treasure in Heaven, could you do so CHEERFULLY?

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“Yea, hath God said …?” October 20, 2014

Posted by stevekerp in Discipleship, doctrine of distribution, Non-accumulation.
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Before Jesus departed, He gave His disciples some specific instructions.  One is recorded in Matthew 28:19-20 where He said that, based on the fact that all authority in Heaven and on earth had been given to Him, we are to:

… make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…”

This two-step procedure is well-known among disciples, though the average church-goer tends to defer both tasks to the clerical “experts” in the church.  (By the way, if you are a disciple and you have not been baptized, what are you waiting for?)

Clearly, if Jesus has ALL authority in Heaven and on earth, then He can command anyone, anywhere to do anything and they can properly be held accountable if they do not obey.  For our purposes, if He is LORD and we are His disciples, then He can command us and we will be held accountable for our performance.

We need to always bear in mind, however, that Jesus does not exercise His authority because He wants to “throw His weight around” or make our lives difficult.  On the contrary, His intent is to shepherd us in the way of blessing, to make our lives joyful (even in persecution or difficult circumstances), and to be glorified in our lives by displaying His character through us.

We are to observe (this means OBEY, not “memorize” or “watch others when they obey”) all things that Christ commanded, AND we are to teach others to do likewise.  How can we know what Christ has commanded?

The commands of Christ can be divided into three categories.  First are commands that He gave to specific people in specific circumstances.  For instance, when He raised the 12-year-old girl in Luke chapter 8, He then commanded that she be given something to eat (verse 55).  No one seriously construes this as a general command to feed 12-year-old girls, and accordingly, commands in this category are not binding on us.

The second category consists of those commands given by Christ to His disciples, usually in a teaching context.  An example of this is in John 13:34 where Jesus commanded His disciples to love one another.  No one seriously argues that this command was just for those disciples who were present when the command was given.  Without question, this command and other commands in this category are binding on us today.

The last category might be called “indirect commands” where we get an authoritative command from the scriptures that was not a direct utterance of Christ, but can nonetheless be received as a command from God to Christian disciples.  One example of this is in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 –

…in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Paul wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and, while the letter was addressed to the Christians in Thessalonica who lived about 2,000 years ago, we understand that this is a command for all Christians in all places at all times.

At this point, I would like to re-state the doctrine of distribution (“nonaccumulation”):

Jesus forbids His people to accumulate wealth on this earth, but rather commands them to distribute those possessions they do not currently need for the needs of others and for spreading the gospel.”

IF this is a true, Biblical doctrine, then 1) it must be explicitly supported and commanded by either category 2 or category 3 commands of Christ, AND 2) it must not be refuted or contradicted by any commands or scriptures.  THOSE ARE THE CRITERIA! How it makes you feel, what your church or pastor always taught, what your friends or financial counselors assert, what “common sense” may dictate … all irrelevant.  The only important thing is what Christ has said about it. 

And what has He said?  What scriptures support the doctrine of distribution?  Are there scriptures that refute the doctrine? 

Stay tuned.

Today’s Action Step:  Read the story of the “Rich Young Ruler” in Luke 18:18-23.  (This is an example of a category 1 command so no one need feel defensive.)  Imagine you are standing beside the Rich Young Ruler when Jesus spoke to him, and that the young man turned to you for counsel. 

What do you think he might have asked you?
How do you think you would have responded?
Send an email to yourself with your answers.

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