Let Me Show You How It’s Done

I’m always fascinated with understanding what I could do to make myself better in some regard.  Constructive criticism is always welcome (even if I may not agree with your critique!).  And Christians are on the receiving end these days of a lot of pointed advice about how they could be doing a better job as Christians.

Case in point, this article from the Huffington Post .  
However, remember I may not always agree with your critique.  Let’s take a closer look at this one.
1.  This is a popular one, and not without some warrant.  Some Christians have grown very wealthy off the credulity of the faithful.  The lavish lifestyles of televangelists have been the well-warranted fodder of anger and frustration both among the faithful as well as from non-Christians for decades.  But let’s look at the quotes the author of this article has selected to prove his point.  
  • Luke 12:33 – This sounds dead-on and pretty non-negotiable until you read the surrounding verses.  What is Jesus talking about in Luke 12:22-34?  Worry.  Jesus is exhorting His followers not to worry.  How unworried should you be?  You should be so unworried that you sell off possessions and give them to the poor.  Because your wealth is bad?  Not necessarily – here it’s an act of faith, a demonstration of how un-worried you are because you trust the Lord for your provision.
  • Matthew 19:16-30 – Again – what could be more clear?  Except that once again, context is important.  Is Jesus issuing a general ultimatum?  No.  He’s asking one particular man – who was wealthy – to give it up as demonstration of his commitment to following Jesus.  Jesus knows the man’s heart, knows his attachment to wealth and, loving the man, wants to help him free himself from this attachment.  Not a general call to a life of poverty specifically, but certainly a warning to Christians about how attractive wealth is, and how hard it is to think of life without it.
  • Matthew 6:19-24 – This one is far more on target.  Jesus is clearly warning about the dangers that money holds, and how we are inclined to make it into an idol that we treat far better than the God who has rescued us from our sin.  More Christians definitely need to keep this verse in mind as they determine what their goals are in life, what their hopes and dreams are, and how they choose to go about fulfilling them.
Overall, Mr. Shore’s argument here is weak.  Jesus does not prohibit wealth, but He warns us very seriously about the dangers it can pose.  
2.  I have to agree completely with Mr. Shore here.  So much of popular Christianity in America today is bound up in preaching how God loves us so much and wants to give us all the desires of our hearts.  This seems rather unlikely given the sinful nature of our hearts in the first place (see point #1 above!).  We properly are awed and respond more readily in gratitude and humility when God’s love for us is contextualized by how little we deserve that love.
3.  To a certain degree I can agree with this, but probably not in the way Mr. Shore would prefer me to.  Theologians have debated for centuries some of Jesus’ words.  But generally speaking, the debates on how certain things the Bible says should be interpreted are an in-house debate on small details that don’t affect the big picture.  For instance, when Jesus told His disciples that “take and eat, this is my body”  (Matthew 26:26), is he literally suggesting (the traditional understanding) that the bread He is giving them to eat is in some mystical way also His body?  Or is He speaking figuratively?  This issue continues to separate Christians today.  Other things that the Bible says are rather clear cut, and speak rather pointedly against the decisions that some would like to make – and some Christians would like to justify by muddying the Bible’s words on those matters.  The particular verse that Mr. Shore makes reference to here is a quote from Isaiah, and it *can* be understood, if not by Mr. Shore.
4.  Well, this is a convenient suggestion if we wish Christians to shut up and get out of the way.  However it’s not a Biblical suggestion.  A read through the book of Acts in the New Testament shows the Holy Spirit, the Apostles, and the early church very much in action.  Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28 is a call to action, not passivity.  Matthew 9:36-38 is another call to action:  “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”  Both the prayer and the subject of the prayer are very action oriented.  A healthy Christian life of faith includes both prayerful meditation on God’s Word and seeking the Lord’s leading, as well as acting as we are led.  
5.  Ugh.  I feel like a broken record here.  Mr. Shore seems to have recalled only part of the issue here.  A better familiarity with the founding fathers of our country and some of the associated documents – like the Declaration of Independence – would pretty quickly thwart this common and misguided assertion.  
6.  Well, Jesus seemed to feel pretty confident that we ought to be sharing our faith.  Again, the Great Commission, Mr. Shore?  How about Jesus’ commands to some of the people who benefited directly from his miracles?  How about reading Mark 5:1-18.  What does Jesus tell the man he has cast the demons out of to do?  Go home and shut up and not talk to anyone?  No – Jesus tells the man (who wants to become one of Jesus’ followers) to go back to his home “family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  I wonder why Jesus would tell him to do that if there’s no point in sharing our faith with others?
7.  Mr. Shore’s example of circular reasoning here or begging the question is slightly off.  Christians can confidently assert certain things about the nature of right and wrong and God because of the Bible, and because the Bible is the authoritative Word of God.  This is not a fallacious argument – though I agree it isn’t particularly compelling (without some additional details) to most skeptics (and frankly a lot of Christians as well).  What would be illogical is the statement that we know the Bible is the Word of God because the Bible tells us it’s the Word of God.  That would be a better example of circular reasoning.  
8.  I’d like to quit having to focus on this as well, but unfortunately now is a critical time when we can’t remain silent.   
9.  Agreed completely.  Hanging out in St. Louis, the home-base for my denomination, has reminded me again of how insular Christian culture can be – and how dangerous and wrong that is on so many levels.  Not because we want to throw fun parties, necessarily.  Nice way to completely denigrate – once again – the importance of evangelism and talking with others about our faith.  It’s pretty clear you aren’t interested in doing that, Mr. Shore.  
10.  Agreed completely.  Going to Sunday morning worship is not the extent of our duties as a Christian.  And in addition to being very action oriented, meeting and hanging out with people who aren’t Christian and sharing our faith with them, we need to be in serious study of the Word.  Bible studies, studies about the Bible – there is so much to learn, and once you’re aware of some of it, you find your faith and confidence in the Gospel so totally invigorated and affirmed that it’s amazing.  Know your stuff, and never give up studying and learning more!

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