My Problem With the Bible

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My Problem With the Bible
Brian Zahnd

I have a problem with the Bible. Here’s my problem…

I’m an ancient Egyptian. I’m a comfortable Babylonian. I’m a Roman in his villa.

That’s my problem. See, I’m trying to read the Bible for all it’s worth, but I’m not a Hebrew slave suffering in Egypt. I’m not a conquered Judean deported to Babylon. I’m not a first century Jew living under Roman occupation.

I’m a citizen of a superpower. I was born among the conquerors. I live in the empire. But I want to read the Bible and think it’s talking to me. This is a problem.

One of the most remarkable things about the Bible is that in it we find the narrative told from the perspective of the poor, the oppressed, the enslaved, the conquered, the occupied, the defeated. This is what makes it prophetic. We know that history is written by the winners. This is true — except in the case of the Bible it’s the opposite! This is the subversive genius of the Hebrew prophets. They wrote from a bottom-up perspective.

Imagine a history of colonial America written by Cherokee Indians and African slaves. That would be a different way of telling the story! And that’s what the Bible does. It’s the story of Egypt told by the slaves. The story of Babylon told by the exiles. The story of Rome told by the occupied. What about those brief moments when Israel appeared to be on top? In those cases the prophets told Israel’s story from the perspective of the peasant poor as a critique of the royal elite. Like when Amos denounced the wives of the Israelite aristocracy as “the fat cows of Bashan.”

Every story is told from a vantage point; it has a bias. The bias of the Bible is from the vantage point of the underclass. But what happens if we lose sight of the prophetically subversive vantage point of the Bible? What happens if those on top read themselves into the story, not as imperial Egyptians, Babylonians, and Romans, but as the Israelites? That’s when you get the bizarre phenomenon of the elite and entitled using the Bible to endorse their dominance as God’s will. This is Roman Christianity after Constantine. This is Christendom on crusade. This is colonists seeing America as their promised land and the native inhabitants as Canaanites to be conquered. This is the whole history of European colonialism. This is Jim Crow. This is the American prosperity gospel. This is the domestication of Scripture. This is making the Bible dance a jig for our own amusement.

As Jesus preached the arrival of the kingdom of God he would frequently emphasize the revolutionary character of God’s reign by saying things like, “the last will be first and the first last.” How does Jesus’ first-last aphorism strike you? I don’t know about you, but it makes this modern day Roman a bit nervous.

Imagine this: A powerful charismatic figure arrives on the world scene and amasses a great following by announcing the arrival of a new arrangement of the world where those at the bottom are to be promoted and those on top are to have their lifestyle “restructured.” How do people receive this? I can imagine the Bangladeshis saying, “When do we start?!” and the Americans saying, “Hold on now, let’s not get carried away!”

Now think about Jesus announcing the arrival of God’s kingdom with the proclamation of his counterintuitive Beatitudes. When Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” how was that received? Well, it depends on who is hearing it. The poor Galilean peasant would hear it as good news (gospel), while the Roman in his villa would hear it with deep suspicion. (I know it’s an anachronism, but I can imagine Claudius saying something like, “sounds like socialism to me!”)

And that’s the challenge I face in reading the Bible. I’m not the Galilean peasant. Who am I kidding! I’m the Roman in his villa and I need to be honest about it. I too can hear the gospel of the kingdom as good news (because it is!), but first I need to admit its radical nature and not try to tame it to endorse my inherited entitlement.

I am a (relatively) wealthy white American male. Which is fine, but it means I have to work hard at reading the Bible right. I have to see myself basically as aligned with Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and Caesar. In that case, what does the Bible ask of me? Voluntary poverty? Not necessarily. But certainly the Bible calls me to deep humility — a humility demonstrated in hospitality and generosity. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being a relatively well-off white American male, but I better be humble, hospitable, and generous!

If I read the Bible with the appropriate perspective and humility I don’t use the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus as a proof-text to condemn others to hell. I use it as a reminder that I’m a rich man and Lazarus lies at my door. I don’t use the conquest narratives of Joshua to justify Manifest Destiny. Instead I see myself as a Rahab who needs to welcome newcomers. I don’t fancy myself as Elijah calling down fire from heaven. I’m more like Nebuchadnezzar who needs to humble himself lest I go insane.

I have a problem with the Bible, but all is not lost. I just need to read it standing on my head. I need to change my perspective. If I can accept that the Bible is trying to lift up those who are unlike me, then perhaps I can read the Bible right.

BZ

(The artwork is by Marc Chagall)

Here’s the sermon version.

  • Now this article gives a fresh meaning to my favorite passage, “A broken and contrite spirit, He will not despise.” Perspective matters! Thank you for this article.

  • Jim E Montgomery

    We are clearly in another cultural world, in another time, and with a different people… the world of the New Testament… is not a world that we can readily or instinctively comprehend… it is a world that, were we to be transported to it, would puzzle us and send jus intro a profound culture shock. -David A Fiensy

  • Mrozowski

    Be careful not to over intelectualize too. Remember this
    Hear o Isreal the Lord our GOD, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your GOD with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
    Bickering over semantics misses the basics.

  • Piet Strydom

    Absolutely love this!!

  • Embarae

    The natural thinking will never understand the spirit of understanding.

  • Julie Dickey

    What the Bible actually says is that SOME who are first will be last and SOME who are last will be first. My interpretation of those verses is that our status in society on earth has nothing to do with our status in the society of heaven. It is in our own best interest to treat everyone above or below us as we would want to be treated if we were in their position because you don’t know who will be your boss in heaven.

  • Ellen Ludwig Holt

    In my own understanding and strength I too have many, a wide variety of problems, with the Bible, but when I allow Holy Spirit to speak to me as I read the Bible, His word becomes alive (Hebrews 4:12) and the truth will revealed to me in my weakness. Social change will only truly occur as those who are identified with Jesus allow Him to change them from ths inside first so that they can be led by Him to bring His love and works to the “poor” of the world.

    Being meek has nothing to do with social status or being a poor Galilean peasant or a rich Roman, but it has everything to do with being humble enough to allow the Lord to lead. I cannot make myself meek, only the work of the Holy Spirit
    can do this as I allow the Word to work out the pride in my life.

    That is why the first beatitide is, Blessed are the poor in spirit. When I recognize my poverty of spirit, that I can do nothing apart from Him (John 15), then I will repent; which will allow Him to do His work in my life, causing me to be meek.

  • The beekeeper

    We certainly love to discuss/debate. An antidote for how to read the story of God’s activity may be to stop reading it for a time and evaluate what The Lord is doing among us. Everyone of us, I suspect, needs to reevaluate our hermeneutical approach from time to time. Stop reading the Bible. Let it read you. The message we hear God speak from his story is “love my world.” It’s hard to do that when our interpretive approach keeps us in constant debate over insignificant issues at the peril of fulfilling the gospel mandates. I don’t have a problem with the Bible because it’s a phenomenal story of God’s love and care for his world. You and I are a continuation of that narrative. Get to living it.

  • Michele L.

    Yes, yes…we are rich by many world standards but we suffer such a penury of spirit that I have no issue with understanding the poverty that Jesus spoke of at all.
    Michele L.

  • Dave Johnson

    This is encouraging. I see us justifying ourselves all the time. I see it in myself readily. The gospel Jesus preached was, “Repent the kingdom of God is at hand.” To the sinner he said, I am life com follow me and go and sin no more. To the religious he said you must be born again, start from scratch come follow me like a babyfollows its parents. To the rich, honest or corrupt, he said sell everything you have give to the poor and come follow me. I see all of these in me and I am seeking to follow him, as a rich American I must go through the eye of the needle, but all things are possible in him. For nine years I have taught disadvantaged children. I have seen them hold on to the disadvantages as the thing that define them and for many it sends them into the same hell their parents raised them in. So isn’t the call for all humans to turn from what they think defines or completes them to a relationship of peace with God through Jesus?

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  • CalebBoone

    Dear Reverend Zahnd:

    These are good points.

    I believe they should be second nature to anyone filled with The Holy Spirit and The Love of Jesus.

    Sincerely yours,
    Caleb Boone.

  • This may be the best thing I’ve read in a long, long time…

  • Laura Latora

    One of the best things I have read in a long time. So good.

  • Ed

    God is no respecter of persons. He says he writes his laws on our heart. I ask this question of any pastor that claims we must perform in any way to attain salvation ; how does the paraplegic in a third world country with no way of reading the bible get saved and sanctified? Put the message of this blog in that scenario and answer.

  • Tim Hartman

    I kind of disagree with that. Because we can also “over-socialize” the Bible. The Gospel is about changing lives. It is about presenting, to all people, eternity through forgiveness. We could spend our whole lives trying to drag people out of their ‘social’ circumstances, but without the spiritual gift of grace through Jesus’ sacrifice, that ‘dragging out’ would have no meaning.

  • Tim Hartman

    Well said, Peter.

  • Tim Hartman

    Amen!!

  • Barbara Mack Blackburn

    Oh thank you for such great insight. Thank you. It is so refreshing.

  • Martin Rey

    The smart, the rich, the powerful are at greater risk of being haughty. Though you have relatively good position, God is the king of kings and Lord of Lords. He created from not a thing, all things. Pretty heady stuff. If you can humble yourself before God and others, be as a servant, for truly we serve others, you are on a good path.

  • breed7

    The fact that you think you’re the enslaved, the oppressed, the exiled, only shows that you are unimaginably unintelligent and foolish. You don’t even begin to understand ACTUAL struggles, because your own very small mind is so wrapped up in itself that you think your “problems” are as significant as those who have real oppression and enslavement.

    Try living in a Ugandan prison camp for a couple of years, then come back and tell me how your “enslavement” to sin is just the same. You are a self-centered, worthless human being. How’s that for some oppression?

  • Dow Ford

    I broke my “Never Read the Comments Rule.” Comments are like dripping peanut butter and jelly out of your sandwich onto the Chagal painting.

  • Bishop Dave

    We know what a spiritual body looks like. When Jesus rose from the dead He had a resurrected/spiritual body, visible, tangible, existing in time and space and able to ingest fish. What was unnatural was His ability to walk thru a wall, to “levitate” in Ascension etc. Our own “spiritual bodies” will be the same as our Resurrected Lord’s – visible, tangible etc.

  • Fayafaya

    What a mischaracterization and oversimplification of Word of Faith! Its controlling narrative is not upward mobility, unless by that you mean movement towards God. Its controlling narrative is that “Let God’s Word be true and everything else that contradicts it a lie.”
    Pentecostalism is a “religion” for all who believe in the outpouring of the Spirit – rich and poor. The “us” vs “them” approach is divisive and very unchristian. It has no place in the Kingdom where we are all one

  • Fayafaya

    “Others are attracted to a more serious and substantive Christianity.” So those in Word of Faith have a less serious and substantive Christianity? Jesus help us!

  • Merritt E. Spencer

    I don’t think you and I have a clue as to what a spiritual body looks like. We know what a natural body looks like. And if Paul is correct we know that is not what our spiritual body will look like. Also you are assuming Jesus’ body did not change after resurrection. His telling Mary to not touch Him because He had not yet been glorified indicates you are incorrect in that assumption.

  • jsmunroe

    Brilliant! I used to be a Republican. It was a bit of a meme complex. I always felt that there was a schism between my politics and my faith. This nails it. I am not a Republican anymore. I just don’t think it is compatible with my faith. (I’m not a Democrat or Liberal either for the very same reason, though).

  • Mario M Davila

    You might want to look at it from David’s perspective then. He is the most spoken of character of in the bible. He was wealthy and a man of high social status. Yet what he was known for being a man after God’s own heart. Someone who saw the law as sweeter than honey(psalm 19)! Or maybe you can relate to King Solomon. He was filthy rich and so wise that other leader would go to him with expensive gifts and admire his wisdom and speech. Yet in the book of Ecclesiastes he said all was vanity, meaningless! It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, a king or a servant, the message is the same. Everything we do apart from God will at not bear any real fruit. If your identity is in Jesus Christ(child of God, servant, ambassador of Heaven, minister of reconciliation, etc) then you get to enjoy and share in the same privileges as the “poorest low class civilians”; fulfilling the Great Commission(winning souls and disciplining others), abiding in Christ, and seeking His face, anointing, will, leading, etc. You might want to ask yourself very important questions. Who am I? Where do I get my identity? Is this the way God sees me? And last, if I loose my power and wealth does my identity change? It shouldn’t. But this requires revelation.

  • Mario M Davila

    You problem would not be so much with “a new creation” as it would be we God Himself who painted such a picture. Most Christians who study the bible believe the slavery the Israelite endured is a picture of the slavery man kind lives in in regards to sin. The story of Moses leading them to the promise land is a foreshadow of Jesus setting us free from sin and making a way for us to get to heaven. Therefor “a new creation” is not as awful of a person as one would suppose, just simply interpreting scripture and speaking what some would say is “Christianese”.

  • Wesley Parish

    Consider Naaman … and humble yourself to bathe in the waters you consider muddy.

  • portquin

    No other book has ever spoken to people throughout history. I feel sorry for you that it doesn’t speak to you, but I think the problem is, that you have to be able to hear God with or without the Bible. God speaks to our hearts if we let him. Once you have taken God into your heart and committed your life to Him, then He will speak to you.

  • k

    have this thinking sometimes too. Then I put it in my time of parable as a steward of a king over everything, in the grumps of want-a-be s. taking that plural s to a steward of all the lottery winnings. Everyone puts in there two cents. be wisdom of the witness accounts. remember some rich unknown, gave the last to die for everyone plural sins, a grave a place to show the call of being buried J.C. he was the ace in the winning hand of God and the rich guy gift was returned. like a lender parking space. Dumb right so is the fact that all has been witnessed, said, and done, to show the goodness of this populated world along with the bad. If you believe in the first two commandments, I am the lord your god. Keep the Sabbath holy (your birthday into belief in kind clean living of good mind, of a child of the all kind loving father recorded in your peaceful being) The world will open up a good stand and path that is witnessed relied on and also complained about with a right to a shared world of lower brain rhythms of surviving, not knowing why, but just doing, challenging different unknowns sights and smells. So now you can read some of the spin to a universal booking of time recorded.

  • Troy from KC

    The exact opposite is true of the Old Testament. It’s the story of sheiks, kings, and politically powerful priests, and the poor people in it, or the women, are important because of their proximity to the rich powerful men. Don’t need to stand on your head to read the Old Testament! Just need to not mind that it is mostly the stories of the rich and powerful and be able to see Christ in it.

    Not so with Jesus and his crew. I like Jesus! The New Testament’s focus is a true mix of social and economic classes.

  • Richard Fitzgerald

    Actually, the gospel is social commentary. The prophets continually pointed to the way the poor were treated as an example of the depth of Israel’s sin. Jesus’ preaching continually challenged to those who are in positions of power and wealth. Sin is a conscious breaking of God’s laws. We break God’s laws in the social realm. Human trafficking. Pornography. Oppression. Persecution. Gossip. Adultery. These all take place in the social realm around us. If the gospel is truly good news, then it must up-end the social structure of the world. There is no gospel other than a social Gospel. There is no holiness without social holiness.

  • Sleeping Realities

    Ssssssshhhhhhheeeeeeeeeewwwwwwww
    That’s the sound of the article’s point flying right over your head. 😉

  • Julie Zine Coleman

    Sin is the great leveler. Rich or poor, powerful or humble, we all begin on the same playing field when it comes to God: in need of his grace.

  • Judith MacKay Dahlen

    This is concise and brilliant. Thank you.

  • Judith MacKay Dahlen

    Where’s the like button so I can get post on a regular basis?

  • JenellYB

    Mark 12:26, 27. I think Jesus pretty effectively shot down a future physical resurrection right here.

  • Claudia

    That can be said in the reverse and be just as poignantly true. “Without following, there can be no concrete acts…(by faith).” It is not an either/or, but a both/and. We have a propensity to create false dichotomies to secure our positions of theology, when in reality, many times we are creating idols of worship within our doctrines. It’s proper and just to see the bigger picture, of which Brian’s post seems to be pointing to some very legitimate keys into unlocking that door we’ve so often slammed shut.

  • Amazingly simple article yet profoundly enlightening and thought provoking. Well done, and thanks.

  • Yamin Tedja

    Your problem with the bible is unique to yourself. I do not have the problem as you do with the bible. In fact, I do not have any problem with the bible at all.

  • Joe

    Why not read king David’s books, or king Solomon’s? They were both very rich and Godly and wrote about it. Job was very wealthy and lost and then gained. He too was a Godly man. Why would you have to see yourself aligned with the bad guys? Abraham was very, very wealthy as well and was a great mam of God full of faith.

  • JenellYB

    DatyllBryant, I don’t know how it could be missed that in the cries of the prophets warning the Hebrews/Israelites of God’s displeasure with them, the ‘sins’ called out were almost ALL “social injustices.”

  • JenellYB

    Exactly, Richard. Given the overarching command to love one another, to love brother/neighbor as one’s self, any and all acts of hurt and harm toward others, those you list and others you don’t, are to break God’s law, at the highest level. As Jesus pointed out, love God, love neighbor, others, is what all other laws derive from. Consider all the rest of the 10 commandments, beyond this basic command, are examples of things that cause others hurt and harm, and ultimately, breakdown of relationship and community among people.

  • JenellYB

    Johnson, The love Jesus calls us to, Godly love, is an obedient love, calls for right action even when we don’t feel like it. Consider that lesson in the story of Jonah, who did not want to warn the Ninevites, or see them change their ways and be saved, God expected him to do as he had been told, whether he liked it and wanted to or not.

    Both scripture and modern psychology recognize the truth of “being leads to action, and action leads to being.” We understand that if depressed and sad, to make ourselves get up and go out and become engaged and act happy, it can actually help lift our depression and result in our being more happy. One may begin giving and hosting for selfish reasons, to ‘rid yourself of privileged guilt’ or whatever, but in and through the process of action, doing what is right whether you feel the love or not, can and often does lead to changing being.

  • JenellYB

    Ed, I’d respond to that with a reading of Romans, particularly, Ch 2.

  • Heidi Smith

    Sometimes those of us who are privileged forget that we are enslaved by other things. Jesus talked about that time and time again–the rich young man enslaved by his possessions, Nicodemus enslaved by his sense of power as a Pharisee, etc. There is a subversive message in there that we are all slaves, even when we think we are not. And when we think we are not, that is when we get caught up in our own importance and fall flat on our faces…

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  • Alex Taylor

    Thank you for so plainly admitting that you are NOT a Christian. You USE Christianity to advance your political polemic, comfortably excusing yourself: “Voluntary poverty? Not necessarily,” which means “Not necessarily FOR ME.” Your “church” looks pretty well-off there, “pastor.” No locusts and honey for you, I take it. There have been other groups that modify religion to push their garbage social agenda onto the masses: the KKK and Christian Identity Movement come to mind. You’re no different. People like you are of course at the top of the garbage heap in the end, happy to rule the smelling heap of disaster you’ve left beneath you.

    The Bible is entirely spiritual, NOT political. At least those evil “fundamentalists” teach that much. And guys like me MUCH prefer dweebs in short-sleeves and ties who want only freedom to worship, instead of jerk hypocrites like you that claim you have the path to utopia – if we only follow your lead (and are sure to pay for the privilege along the way.)

    To any & all of you who follow this con-man: you’re all SAPS. Every… single…. one of you.

  • Alex Taylor

    Sap.

  • Alex Taylor

    Sap, too.

  • Alex Taylor

    Well stated. This Brian guy wants to convince everybody Jesus was a hippie, and Brian will lead us all to utopia if we follow his way. The only way a goon like Brian could convince me he was the real deal would be to take an abject vow of poverty, supporting his basic daily needs by his own hands. Instead his basic theory is “Give, give, give!!!! (And I’ll just take a small percentage for helping you see the light. You’re welcome.)”

  • Alex Taylor

    Ergo, you don’t believe that if everyone around you is doing the wrong the thing, an individual can still do the right thing and be justified. So your salvation depends on group dynamics? Good luck with that.

  • Ender Wiggin

    Let me get this straight, the author says “If I can accept that the Bible is trying to lift up those who are unlike me, then perhaps I can read the Bible right.”
    Now then, perhaps you should reevaluate your motives and understanding of the Bible. The principles taught in the Bible are universal, not restricted to those that earn below a certain threshold. The Bible teaches people to prioritize God first no matter their circumstance. The poor may have less distractions, however they don’t need the Bible any more than rich people do. To believe in a Supreme Being, and to accept the Bible as scripture (instead of historical fiction) is to admit that regardless of station or wealth or accomplishment in the overall picture no individual is more valuable than another under God. Hence, outside of accomplishment and circumstance we all need what God has to teach us.

  • Jam

    Amen! Thank you!

  • Lynette Grainger

    Abraham rich and his descendants were rich. Solomon the richest. The love of money is evil, greed, not compassionate, not looking at others in need, it is wrong attitude not the money that can hinder you. Many in the bible were prosperous like boas in the book of ruth. Not all were slaves and they left egypt with riches for the promised land.

  • Jackie

    Solomon and Da vid were two very rich and powerful Kings and Leader !
    Boaz was a rich farmer. Joseph those sold by his brothers, became next to the Pharoh in ruling and saving the nations from starvation.
    yes You are right about changes in you perspective.
    I like to Read the bible as if I am sitting with God in the Heavenlies Seeing the old testament as prophetic and viewing the new as the fulfillment of the prophesies.
    It is the Greatest work of. Writing , not only because it spans thousands of years but because it
    Contains beautiful poetry, prose and above all inspires us to ponder, question, search our souls and. Wonder just HOW great the author is!
    Thanks for your honest informative post.
    , Jacqueline from Canada

  • Dale Adamson

    To have a problem with bible is to have a problem with Jesus – In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God.- vs 14, and the word became flesh.

    To know the bible is to know its all about mans absolute corruption (as Paul said in Romans “no one is good, no not one” and God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

    The bible is God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). However, I would not expect a person who is not born of God, being filled with the Holy Spirit, to accept the bible as absolute truth.

    Sad really to think a Pastor would have a problem with God’s word – the Bible.

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  • Well said! Shared!

  • Kevin Thomas

    Ouch…You mean that? You truly can determine one’s status as a Follower of Jesus without knowing them? I’m not sure it’s okay to make that judgement even when we do know someone….. Wow…

  • Dave Hogan

    The article seems to focus entirely on relationships at a horizontal level. But isn’t the the Bible the story of God’s plan to bring a fallen race back into a relationship with Him regardless of social status? The supremacy of the Gospel and our need to accept it regardless of our position in the world is the central New Testament message. In that context the Beatitudes show us how we ought to live but further underscore the gap between God and man and why all need to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

  • Alb

    I really like this guy’s application, i.e., what he gets from his thesis: humility, generosity, recognizing privilege is a responsibility, and an eye toward self examination instead of seeing Scripture as a tool to exonerate self and blame others. I think what he gets to, eventually, is excellent and convicting: very true description of who are among those that the Bible warns and rebukes (among others); helpful observation about audience and purpose. But regarding how he gets there… I think it’s important to caution against the reductionist element in his hypothesis. Though I don’t think he says this explicitly – the apparent focus on class and socioeconomic demographic as the key hermeneutic through which the door of Biblical interpretation pivots seems present and I think that idea is untrue and ultimately very unhelpful. First – as to what kind of people wrote the Bible – the Bible was written by the poor and the rich, and it was written to the poor and the rich and everyone in between. Abraham was very wealthy and had his own militia, Moses was raised a member of the royal household in the greatest empire of his day. David wrote as a poor shepherd and as a rich-through-the-gills monarch, Paul was a former elitist pharisee, a Roman citizen with a world class education, Luke was a physician, Matthew a well stocked tax-collector, Jesus kept a family business going before he got dunked in the Jordan river. As to who the Bible was written to – it as likewise written to the poor and oppressed who needed transcendent truth to help them hope in Christ instead of hopelessness, bitterness, and self-sufficiency; and it was written to the wealthy elitist who needed transcendent truth to help them hope in Christ instead of the security and greed of this world. It is literally written by rich-beyond-beliefs Kings and humble poor farmers. And it was written directly to comfortable citizenry who were forgetting God to warn them, and to a displaced nation humbled and imprisoned in Babylon to teach them to repentance toward God and hope. Concerning wealth – It was written – in places – to teach the simple how to build wealth responsibly, to tell the rich to use it responsibly, and to soberly warn everyone not put their hope in wealth idolatrously. (Something the rich and poor alike can do – e.g., see all of Proverbs). Yes, the health and wealth prosperity Gospel is soul killing perverted heresy, but Christians also need to be on guard against a simplistic class-oriented social Gospel that reduces Jesus to merely an earthly socio-economic and political example, abandons the truly universal need for His atoning work and the reality that “all have fallen short of the glory of God”, not just the rich white male. A thought that came to mind as I considered this essay: wealth may keep one from Heaven, but neither will poverty merit it, and that is the crux of what I think is missing here. It is true that many professing Christians ignore (myself included too much) the huge Bible-wide theme of compassion for poor, the immigrant, the prisoner, sick, the cultural/social pariah, and the fact that the most detailed conversation presented in the Scriptures between mankind and Jesus at the judgement has to do to with how we treated his people who were poor, sick, and imprisoned – not whether we went to church, gave to the building campaign, or said our prayers. The world of John’s apocalypse is stinking with luxuries. And so I love and and applaud and am served by his conclusion toward generosity and humility and the rebuke of greed. But it seems to me that a hermeneutic like his – if not qualified – ignores the fact that of all the hundreds of thousands of poor suffering Hebrew slaves who left wealthy oppressive Egypt, none entered the promised land, but fell dead in the desert under God’s justice (see Ex 33; Psalm 95; 1 Cor 10, Heb 3-4) . And it was not their wealth that disqualified them, but their willful unbelief in the face of the God who had rescued them. So, maybe to sum up – yes the Bible rebukes greed and abused privilege, but history is rife with the example that unless the heart is changed, a poor person who becomes rich will is perfectly capable of abusing the poor – unless there is a work of soul change that transcends the outside variables. Or another way to put it – all of us – rich and poor, black and white – need Jesus’ atoning forgiveness and life-changing Holy Spirit.

  • alb

    This! Amen.

  • Tom More

    My two immediate thoughts are that, firstly, the Bible gives the blue print of how the Gentiles are folded into the people of God and made participators in its promises and commands, the Bible can be appropriated fittingly. Secondly, why in this discussion does no one ever consider the possibility that our association with the poor be more than one of empathy? When Jesus associated Himself with the poor He said that he was one of the least of these; those were the people two whom He belonged. Yet we try to fit ourselves into a system that can allow us to be both wealthy and walking with Jesus. What if the answer is a more personal association with the poor and downcast?

  • John Oxford

    Jesus wasn’t rich. He cared nothing for money. Where do you find it any where written that he was rich? Are you sure He wasn’t talking about something else?

  • Alex

    JenelIYB that simply isn’t true, you have taken that passage gravely out of context, remember context is crucial to understanding Jesus’ Words, that’s not what He’s saying there. Jesus affirms future physical resurrection in the gospels check out John 6:40

  • Fern Henley

    In the beginning was the Word…this was a recent Pope’s homily one Easter. He explained that the Word is the cognitive domain into which each human may be born with the subsequent chance to choose to follow the star of truth or not with eternal consequences for the universe. How important! How exciting! The pure light within you guides your way.

  • Fern Henley

    I’m looking at the Lord’s Prayer…Thy kingdom com (our prayers are answered, OK?) Thy will be done (answered? Yes) on Earth as in heaven. The harmony of the universe resonates according to His will, just so it resonates in the smallest creature He makes. My mission may be only to hold Earth together with empty body’s organic matter or I may have chosen to be born of the spirit into the cognitive domain then working to bring forth truth for humanity. We so important and relevant to the unfolding of the universe. As we go through the arms of the Milky Way today we are met with exciting challenges to encourage us to look at as well as see our universe. Each of us has such
    an important place.

  • Michael L. Wilson

    I think you’re right on! That’s why I wrote Exponential Culture. The Africans and the Middle Easterners love it and so did the Malaysian seminary I taught it at. But the American elite don’t seem to think they need transformation in order to be ready for the radical mission Christ has called us to.

  • Paul C. Gorski

    I think the bigger problem is that the public face of Christianity is composed of wealthy people who frame the Bible in pretty much the opposite way as you frame it here. They frame it as a justification for repression and inequality. And it’s working. The “prosperity” interpretation is among the most popular in the US today, and in my view the most devastating and inaccurate.

  • childofgod

    Everything is his because he made it. He gave up his power and made himself “nothing”, humbling himself (philippians 2:5-11, specifically vs. 6-7). On Earth you are right, he gave up the potential wealth he could easily have had so as to humble himself.

  • Jimard

    BUT–the Bible is GOD’S Word. Every writer wrote what God wanted written. We must ever resist the tendency to anthropomorphize it…make it man-centered rather than God-centered.

  • JeffTN62

    Even the Centurian had a place at the table, Jesus didn’t question his Roman place, but commended him for his great faith. I think your taking the past abuses of money focused ministry and then make a social gospel that can relate over transform. What about verses that say The poor you will always have ..or that Jesus had a house, or the fact the wise men gave Mary and Joseph a sizable donation is left out. Social justice is not Gods justice -imagine if Joseph in Egypt wanting his rights over Gods will. The 80s charismatic move was inclusive like never before in church age, but seems to be a backlash to say those Word Of Faith teacherd were to focused on the wrong things Yet does the church have more or less power? Are you Ladeocian church or Philadelphia ?

  • I’m St. Joseph church.

  • Guest

    Correction God made everything (Gensis 1), Jesus made nothing (John 5:30). Jesus is the Son of God (John 3:16), serving God’s purpose not his own (John 5:30; 6:38). What ever wealth he had before coming to flesh on Earth, was God’s. Furthermore, not needed then – what is there to buy that isn’t given? Also, wealth only plays a factor after he gets here and even then Jesus was not envious for anything of this world, but for our salvation. He came with a mission, and it had nothing to do with money, nor could money buy what needed to done, or what he offered with his ultimate sacrifice. Jesus says it multiple times that our focus should not be on temporal things, especially money, but on God the Father. Calling us to stay firm to God’s law, and why it is important.
    Jesus taught us things of the spirit, if you think “over spiritualizing” things is a problem then you probably would have been annoyed listening to Jesus talk. Which would make more equivalent to a traditional Jew of the 1st century, read the entire gospel to know how that works out for ya.

  • John Oxford

    I am just going to post on here what I wrote in response to the person who shared this with me on Facebook.

    “He doesn’t have a problem with the Bible, just a problem with how Americans read it, as he thinks every American reads it. Kind of a blanket theory that doesn’t leave much room for the occasional exception. Either way, I still like the old saying, ‘Your beliefs create your own reality’. If that is what he believes, then that is the reality he has built for himself. In doing so he makes the very same mistake (including me) that almost everyone makes, which is assuming he has all the right answers.

    It is an interesting point of view, to think of it the way he describes, but again he seems to miss the overall objective the Bible serves. Yes, it does come from those who are on the bottom of the totem pole, and it speaks of social hardships that those people are going through, but I think it misses the spiritual side of things as well. There are two perspectives to view the Bible in, and they both happen at the same time. There is the physical and there is the spiritual. As things happen in this life, things are also happening in our spiritual lives as well. This is why knowing about sin is important, because we need to know when to repent. We need to know when we are in the spiritual wrong. That is what every single prophet has always been here for, to let a nation or people know that they need to get right with God. It is all because of how they were acting, believing, or doing something that displeased God. Actions in this life affect us on two fronts, when you “spill the milk” cleaning it up with a towel is only fixing one front, we also need to use a spiritual towel. Obvious metaphor.

    The objective of the Bible is simply tell us the story of why Jesus is important, it gives us the full history leading up to his birth, it capitalizes on his life on Earth (4 books covering the same time period) then it gives us follow up perspective to help us understand Jesus example and how we are to worship, live, and etc.”

    I will add an edit to that last part. Since I say things a little weird I will just quote my friend from Facebook:

    “I believe its purpose is to show us how God has given us a lot of help to live out his covenant so that we can be a part of his Kingdom. It is to show us what our role is in the over arching story and how he has faithfully been fulfilling his promises to us.”

    That is just a partial quote of what they wrote, but I think it says it better then the way I put it.

  • John Oxford

    Correction God made everything (Gensis 1), Jesus made nothing (John 5:30). Jesus is the Son of God (John 3:16), serving God’s purpose not his own (John 5:30; 6:38). What ever wealth he had before coming to flesh on Earth, was God’s. Furthermore, not needed then – what is there to buy that isn’t given? Also, wealth only plays a factor after he gets here and even then Jesus was not envious for anything of this world, but for our salvation. He came with a mission, and it had nothing to do with money, nor could money buy what needed to done, or what he offered with his ultimate sacrifice. Jesus says it multiple times that our focus should not be on temporal things, especially money, but on God the Father. Calling us to stay firm to God’s law, and why it is important.

  • John Oxford

    Jesus taught us things of the spirit, if you think “over spiritualizing” things is a problem then you probably would have been annoyed listening to Jesus talk. Which would make more equivalent to a traditional Jew of the 1st century, read the entire gospel to know how that works out for ya.

  • John Oxford

    Jesus is the first example of what is it like to have, what everyone is calling, a “spiritual body”. I personally called the Glorified form, because it is when the resurrection happens that our body and spirit are reunited, and our bodies are renewed to last for eternity. With the combined ability of the power of the spirit flowing through us. Jesus was able to enter a crowded room, that was locked and had no windows with out being detected until he wanted them see him. That is the power of the Glorified form. (John 20:19, 1John 3:2).

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  • Fred Pittenger

    Perhaps it is time to lay aside your Bible and try Being. In the end that is what each and every one of the persons you described above was doing. Being the presence

    It is time to understand this thought:

    “Religions are the vessels we build to cross the chaos sea.”

    WE have built the vessels. We can change the paradigm

  • Fred Pittenger

    The Necessity of Religion

    http://youtu.be/B4hlyMJ_3Z4

  • t-rob

    First let me say I have a lot of problems with how so, so, so many people read/misread the Bible. I continue sharing comments for all those of you who resonate with the above article. For those of you who agree with BRIANZAND, I encourage you read Luke’s gospel. It was written to the “Theophilus,” the rich, Greek-speaking person who had a house large enough to host worship meetings. Luke’s Gospel was written with the “Roman citizen” in mind. (note that it traces Jesus’ genealogy back to, not Abraham, the father of the oppressed Jewish people, but to Adam, the father of all humanity) With the Roman Citizen in mind, Luke shares how Jesus message is mostly about “stewardship”…a fancy churchy word that means using your power, ability and influence to bless others, and in so doing, be blessed yourself. Afterward I would suggest reading any of the writings of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. (I would recommend starting with Romans…literally written to Roman citizens) Note as you read, Paul next to never tells the history of the oppressed Jewish nation (why bother, Roman citizens don’t know that story). In fact Paul rarely uses the name Jesus (Joshua in Hebrew…if he does use Jesus’ name, he calls him Jesus-Christ…most of the time, Paul just uses “Christ,” Jesus’ royal title…meaning “the anointed king”) Please also note that Paul hardly ever shares how Jesus’ life fulfills the prophecy of the poor and the oppressed, but instead that “Jesus is Lord” as opposed the Pax Romana line that “Caesar is Lord.” If this was helpful, great. If not, sorry for another lame, Christ follower muddying the waters.

  • Kim Hall

    These kind of articles make me sad. The Bible is not a little slice of history told from the perspective of the Israelites. It is the history of all mankind told from a viewpoint directed by God. It is not a story about the Israelites being slaves. It’s a story about a nation that was repeatedly lifted up by God, but they continued to throw it all away time after time by turning to false gods. Israel was chosen to be an example to the world of how great a nation can become when it follows God’s commandments. Just look at the time of Solomon when Israel’s prosperity drew nations from all over the world. When Solomon built the temple his dedication prayer was that anyone, Israelite or stranger, could pray to God and he would hear them so that ALL people of the earth would know and fear God. (1 Kings 8:22-53) Unfortunately for Israel and the rest of the world, Solomon gave in to greed and vanity and brought in idols and altars for false gods, but that invitation still stands for anyone who turns to the one true God .

    American is not like the Egyptians or Romans. America is (or was) an example of the Israelites when they were on top. Our country was founded with God as our head, and we became a superpower like no other. Just like the Israelites, America was given the blessings laid out in Deuteronomy 28. Also like the Israelites, America is turning away from God and starting to experience the curses that are also laid out in that chapter.

    Regardless of our personal position in life, whether we’re wealthy and successful or not, like the lukewarm church addressed in Revelation 3:17, we are all wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked without God – even if we don’t realize it.

  • “Our country was founded with God as our head…”

    Kim,

    I know that is the story that has been told; I know that story well. But it’s far from the truth. The country was founded on stolen land following ethnic cleansing; its economy was built on the back of slave labor — the most brutal form of slavery the world has ever known. I would like to recommend the excellent book, “Myth of a Christian Nation” by my good friend Greg Boyd.

    http://www.amazon.com/Myth-Christian-Nation-Political-Destroying/dp/0310267315/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1420381058&sr=1-1&keywords=myth+of+a+christian+nation

    Blessings,

    Brian Zahnd

  • John Smith

    So what you’re saying, is that there are those with material riches and/or earthly position and authority who will find it hard to take what God is telling them in the word.

    Exactly like Jesus said.

  • Daniel Ray Miller

    Hah, this invigorating, thoughtful piece made my Sunday a good Bible day! Thanks for the jolt of perspective, BZ, and for Marc Chagall. We all have a problem with the Bible, because the Bible goes before, and beyond us–a topsy-turvy form of spiritual, existential whiplash.

  • Thank you, Daniel. Your a breath of fresh air among a morass of idiotic comments. 🙂

  • Loren Evans

    Well composed article, well thought out points.

  • ron kays1

    “Without Him [Jesus preincarnate], nothing was made that was made.” (Jhn ch 1). “All things were made by Him and for Him [Jesus that is] Colossian letter.

  • Buddy Howell

    I don’t need to read the Bible standing on my head. I need to read it on my knees. The Bible contains the history of God’s redemptive work for sinful humanity. What I should understand–above all else–when I read both the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the Christian Bible (New Testament) is that I am a great sinner and God, through Jesus Christ, is a great Savior. My race and economic status should not influence the way I receive the Gospel or follow Christ.

    I don’t need to “align [myself] with Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and Caesar” in order to read the Bible “right.” I am aligned with a prostitute, forgiven of hers sins, washing Jesus’ feet with my tears, drying them with my hair, and anointing His feet with oil. I am aligned with the formerly demon-possessed man who lived alone among the graves, but who has been cleansed and healed by Christ. I am aligned with the formerly religious, self-righteous Nicodemus whom Christ stripped of all my self-righteousness, religiosity, and presumptions about God and salvation. I am aligned with every sinner saved by God’s marvelous grace whose story is recorded in the Bible. If I keep that–uttermost–in my heart and mind when approaching the Bible, then I will read it “right.”

    God doesn’t see me as “a relatively well-off, white American male.” (That’s the culture creeping into the Church; “white privilege” tripe.) God sees me as a wretched sinner, in need of His grace; as a sinner-saved-by-grace who is a slave of Christ; as formerly a blasphemer, idolater, and adulterer, prideful and arrogant, who is now supposed to walk in the humility and servanthood of my Master, Jesus Christ; a cup of cold water to a dehydrated and dying world; a herald of the great Good News that God loves ALL humanity regardless of race, socio-economic status, political power, or cultural influence.

    Nicodemus came to Christ. Jesus was buried in a rich man’s tomb. There were followers of Jesus in Caesar’s house. There was a wealthy, opulent Church of Jesus Christ at Ephesus. Israel had the greatest of all blessings, the greatest of all standing in the world: Chosen by the only true God to take His Truth to the world. Brought out of Egypt. Given the Promised Land. King David. The Prophets. And The Christ.

    If the New Testament teaches us anything, it teaches us that worldly status does NOT matter. External appearances do NOT matter. So, why should we read the Bible through a lens of whether or not we’re “well off” or rich or poor or white or black or powerful or influential or unknown? There is perfect equality at the foot of the cross and in the family of God. The Bible tells me so. Even me, “a relatively well-off, white American male.” As the late Rich Mullins sang, “The Holy King of Israel loves me . . . here . . . in America.”

  • Daniel Manley

    2 Corinthians 8:9 -For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

    God’s decision to have Jesus born into poverty and oppression was part of the message.

  • Michael

    Brian, I appreciate the overall appeal you’re trying to make, but, in all honesty, the hermeneutics you are employing (or lack thereof) will undermine your message at every turn.
    I don’t care to go tit for tat and start Bible war, but just utilize a *little hermeneutics so people can *learn *how to read the Bible aright; or else it’s Brian Zahnd persuasive rhetoric versus pastor so&so rhetoric which ends up causing more division.
    Again, great post, but it’s not gonna help a whole lot of people don’t learn *how to…
    #hermeneutics 🙂

  • Was this post shared over 30,000 times because it didn’t help people?

  • “If I read the Bible with the appropriate perspective and humility I
    don’t use the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus as a proof-text to
    condemn others to hell. I use it as a reminder that I’m a rich man and
    Lazarus lies at my door.”

    Brilliant. So often reading the bible is done to prove why we are right and moral. It’s an important thing to see ourselves as the oppressor and the ones who are sustaining the systems Jesus worked against. Thank you Brian. Really, really good.

  • Thank you, Philip.

  • Thank you for being willing to push and challenge and desire for us to be more like the people we are called to be. The church could use more voices like yours.

  • Michael

    Great point!
    And the Kardashians are more popular than the president! Keep up the good work. Geez!
    And we wonder why evangelicals have no influence on the wider world…

  • Michael

    Instead of “counting” our messages, perhaps we should start “weighing” them. I wonder if we did that in our “mega” congregations…
    Just a thought

  • This is a pretty weighty post. — and hardly evangelical. Critique of a culture of privilege is the opposite of a mega church message. It’s guaranteed to shrink your congregation. Believe me, I know. But I’m not going to be drawn into an one of those inane and fruitless Internet squabbles. I wish you well. -BZ

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  • Steve James

    “Imagine this: A powerful charismatic figure arrives on the world scene
    and amasses a great following by announcing the arrival of a new
    arrangement of the world where those at the bottom are to be promoted
    and those on top are to have their lifestyle “restructured.” How do
    people receive this? I can imagine the Bangladeshis saying, “When do we
    start?!” and the Americans saying, “Hold on now, let’s not get carried
    away!””
    Actually, what the Americans said was “Re-Elect Obama,” and they did.

  • Michael

    Brian,
    Go back and re-read my original post before your ego got in the way & simply read what I said & how I said it – you call yourself a pastor and I’m simply *encouraging your message (ie. pro-‘BZ’) , but as soon as someone tries to help the masses (“30,000!!”) to know *how you did that… You come unglued.
    Moreover, I have noticed you, in some ways, revel in provocation (just read this title). If that’s your shtick, fine; but don’t couch it in pseudo-humility about not wanting an “Internet squabble” because, as I said, just re-read my original post with a little more humility (put your ego away, forget the “30,000”) and ask yourself” What’s the loving response to someone encouraging my message, but asking for a basic hermeneutic structure to inform the “30,000” how to do it themselves…. but then again, pastors love to keep their flock “under” them.
    Geez!

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    You problem would not be so much with “a new creation” as it would be we God Himself who painted such a picture.

    AKA “You’re not disagreeing with me, You’re Going Againt GOD!”

  • dg

    well said.

  • Kiwi

    I do see missionary families do exactly what you’re describing. They are few and far between, but it does make a huge impact

  • Juan Baptiste

    This basically views the bible through the grid of class. The bible is in fact uneven, and attempts to bring an ideology to it never capture its essence. Others have tried to bring the ideology of Jesus being a peacenik, a warrior, a revolutionary, etc. to their reading of the Bible. Your approach is so clearly an overly-simplistic class-based approach, that it’s almost immediately dismissible.

  • JCB

    The Bible can be easily understood, even in the west, from the perspective of the poor and oppressed if the people starting out they’re journey with Christ have full understanding of how spiritually poor and oppressed they are in their hearts. If the people are humble enough to see and admit the state of poverty of heart, the instruction of the Bible can bring them into the greatest riches, which is the fullness of the Kingdom of God in their hearts.

    If this happens, it doesn’t matter at all if they are wealthy, part of the conquerer or conquered nation. The Bible wasn’t just written for oppressed Jews, it was written for any person who will first admit how wretched they are, raise their hand for Jesus’ help, and start earnestly obeying him.

  • Thanks for sharing the Marc Chagall painting, and for sharing a
    thoughtful piece that hopefully helps folks like me get outside
    ourselves to hear God’s word.

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  • JulieofAlaska

    I wholeheartedly agree, Michael. We can be honest about where we are at on the financial spectrum, but it has NOTHING to do with humility. The post felt more like a checklist (Have I been a. humble, b. generous, c. hospitable) it doesn’t take us deep where we need to go in identifying and responding that we are in need of the beatitudes work within our mind, heart, and practice.

  • Oh man..

    If this is how BZ responds to a suggestion to make his message even more useful to his audience, I would hate to know how he responds to someone who disagrees with it.

  • Sharon Henning

    I understand that we should not read the Bible with bias but this is not something to work at. That’s self -effort. It’s surrendering to the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to reveal Himself to us. It is the same God who revealed Himself to the Hebrews that is speaking to us when we read the Bible.

  • John Oxford

    Yes, the wealth Jesus had was in Heaven, not on earth, that is what I mean by him not being rich. Only concerning His status here on Earth, and the reason I mention that is because Jesus came to be an example for us to live by. Jesus gave up all he had in Heaven to come to Earth for our sake. God expects us to do the same for him. Jesus clearly stated this as it is mentioned three times (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23) Now notice in all those passeages where Jesus says, “Follow me”, not, “Worship me”. The reason for this is because Jesus was simply going to lead us to God, not himself (John 4:34; 6:38).
    Also, Jesus gives a very true example of this expectation with this story: Mark 10: 17-31
    (https://www.bible.com/bible/1/mrk.10.17-31.kjv)
    Now pay attention to the whole story, Jesus is not condemning the idea of being rich, but rather the idea of putting trust in Money over God. He will explain towards the end the wealth one will achieve if they instead put their trust in God above all things. (Matthew 6; and Timothy 6:10)

    @Everybody prior: (Daniel Manley, Ron Kays1, childofgod, Jam, Lady, Brian Zahnd, & Shawnshack): This is not entirely concerning your response, but rather a much needed message clarification for future readers. I just hope you realize we are saying the same thing, I hope, so this is not a bible bash or some strange misunderstood argument, but rather something I felt led to contribute.

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  • John Oxford

    Sharing is not proof of it helping anyone. It could have been shared to show others your flaws in making an example of your mistakes. Do Not Be so conceded to think that everything that proceeds out of your mouth to be factual truth that helps everybody. Do Not Get caught up in counting numbers as a “good response”, because it can be negative as well.

    So, since you asked a question (I know it was sarcasm). The answer is yes (not sarcastic). It is possible that this post was shared 30,000 times, because it didn’t help anyone. It is possible that the 30,000 shares is because they were all helped, but just like the negative side of it – not likely. Most of these shares were probably for conversation purposes only. Like a friend saying, “What do you think of this(?)”, kind of thing. So did it help people have a conversation? Yes, but is the information really beneficial? Well seeing a number on a computer screen surely isn’t going to tell anyone that. That would require much more effort, and be almost impossible to know for sure if it really did make a difference.

    I know this is 4 months later, and you probably aren’t going to read this, consider it, or even remember it. However, I feel it is necessary to say and I don’t know why. (consider the following paragraph.)

    Being humble in all things is very important. I don’t care who you are, where you work, what you teach, preach, or believe. If you are not humble first then doing God’s work is very hard to accomplish. Serving God requires love, patience, humility, willingness, trust in Him (faith), and endurance of all things. You must be able to endure internet conversations, corrections, suggestions, rebukes, haters, protesters, persecutors, and anything else this world has to throw at you. This is the Baptism of Fire given by God to test you on all things. That the weak and feeble things may be removed and all that is left is the solid rock of God’s truth that solely consumes you alone in heart, body, and mind. That you have not only stood the test of time, but proven yourself to be worthy of God’s loving grace. We must realize we serve God before anyone else, including and especially ourselves, and by not doing so is counter productive. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” With this reminder understand that it is easy to be given to hate, because the dark forces of this world seek to disrupt our relationship with God. So, we must rise above that. God’s message needs to be made clear to everyone. Anyone seeking him shall find him, and I pray that this (your post) and all it’s comments help people to do just that. I don’t know in what way this particular message will help outsiders to understand, but I know that words have different affects on various people and the right combination, guided by God’s hand, is all it takes to get their attention. For we can do nothing on our own.

    https://www.bible.com/search/bible?q=ephesians+6%3A12

    I might be preaching at a preacher, but even a doctor needs a doctor. May these words be understood by the power and grace of our Lord God Almighty. 🙂

  • John Jim

    People who stop God from speaking needs the Bible.

  • goku546686

    Dear friend I would like to point another verse out to explain this better. Jesus pointed out that it is harder for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven weather your a Roman or a Jew for the rich are used to having their possessions and have trouble parting with all their world items but for the poor they give their world possessions away eisier for they don’t have as much to part with. A rich man may even find it more beneficial for his life to keep those possessions. This does not mean throw away everything you have but instead means that God must come first in everything.

    “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
    Matthew 6:19-21
    Or
    Matthew 6:24
    “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

  • goku546686

    Jesus is God, the God head three in one Father Spirit Son.

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  • Apropos of reading the Bible upside down, “the hanged man” has a different center of gravity:

    “Who is the Hanged Man? Is he a saint, a righteous man, an initiate? He can certainly be regarded as all three, for all three have in common that their will is an organ of heaven, but what he is most especially, what he represents individually, is neither sanctity, nor righteousness, nor initiation, but something which is their synthesis.

    “The Hanged Man is the eternal Job, tried and tested from century to century, who represents humanity towards God and God towards humanity. The Hanged Man is the truly human man and his lot is a truly human one.

    “The Hanged Man is the representative of humanity who is found between two kingdoms— that of this world and that of heaven. For that which is truly human in man and in humanity is the Hanged Man.”

    ~ MEDITATIONS ON THE TAROT — LETTER XII — THE HANGED MAN

    https://teenytinytarot.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/a-different-center-of-gravity/

  • Lewis

    Hi Michael,
    I see your point but there isn’t a “basic hermeneutic structure” that Brian or anyone can give us. He is giving us his opinion from an hermeneutic he has been and still is developing.
    But if you had to try to pin in down I guess the closest you could get is gather as much skill in learning about the language and culture the bible was written in (listen widely to various ideas not just the ones that appeal) then spend time asking the HS to open your mind to truth as you read the bible and as you live.
    Then apply the acid test; is this process and how it is leading me to think making me more loving to everyone?
    Blessings.

  • Mike

    The Holy Spirit can guid any believer from any nation, background or I.Q level into wisdom and understanding. As an American I want to be careful to walk in personal humility but at the same time I reject disqualifying myself from being confident that the bible is relevant for me right where I live!

  • James Jim Morgan

    Well written as always Brian. But here are my thoughts.

    One Christian says, “The bible should be read like this.” And another says, “No. The bible should be read like this.” The problem, as explained by Christians, seems always with how a person reads the bible, interprets the bible, or applies the bible – but never actually with the bible itself. Maybe (just maybe?) people have great difficulty in agreeing on the point of the scriptures, and what to do with the scriptures, not because they fail to read them correctly but because …the book itself is an unclear man-made mess? If there actually were an all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful being – couldn’t he/she/it deliver a clear and actionable message? If a “Being” cannot convey simple and easy to understand instructions – it is not a god and certainly not worthy of worship.

    If a message is only beautiful when it is properly edited (“emphasis this, not that – focus on those parts and not these parts – this section is more important than that section – read it this way, not that way”) it’s not much of a message. That is MY problem with the Bible.

  • Meri Ford

    Interesting perspective….So glad I don’t need all this kind of insight to hear the my Father God speak to me through the words in the scripture and quicken them to my heart/understanding by Holy Spirit….

  • Ah, but it was Father God speaking to me through the words of Scripture that gave me this insight. Selah.

  • Josh Gubser

    Darryl,

    That’s in accurate. I would say that’s precisely Brian point. Readings such as yours completely decontexutlize the Bible.

    Do you not thinking Jesus’ teachings are a social commentar? Do you see healing as different from fixing the sin of society (all sin is social )? And so you really think God needs to save us from himself? I think you are missing the point. And I understand. It’s easier to see a vertical relationship where it’s just you and God. The horizontal is much harder.

  • Josh Gubser

    No one said that. What is said is that it is more than just the petty individualism of evangelicalism. What we do matters. How we treat others matters. Our complicity in systems of injustice is part of that. Group sins are no less damning than sins perpetuated individually.

    The fact that there is any resistance to this post is stupid. BZ is 100 percent right. We as Americans, and specifically the power group within America, are in fact not the protagonists of scripture. Doesn’t mean we are damned. Means we are in the belly of the beast and need to be keenly aware of thst as well as aware of who the bible is written by and for. In our allegiance ro christ, we join the cause of the oppressed. That’s important to recognize.

  • link07

    Wow

  • Janine Hennig

    Someone else may have said this… As much as I like the sentiments, the Bible was also written by males (as far as we know) predominantly for males. That also presents issues for half the population.

  • Ricky Martin

    Brian, I do not know your personally, Brother. But you are A GIFTED WRITER. Thank You for sharing your God given talents with us. Great spiritual food for our thought processes which, indeed, need to be fed sometimes more than we like. Please KEEP UP THE GREAT, AWESOME, SPIRIT-INSPIRED WORK. God Bless.

  • Ricky Martin

    John, it seems that the reference about being “RICH” REFERS to the REAL TRUE WEALTH that JESUS has in heaven with The Father as The GREAT CREATOR of ALL THINGS. I read in The Holy Word where He says, the cattle on a thousand hills are mine, said to indicate HE MADE and OWNS EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE. Of course, He gave it all up for some 33 years during his brief time here on earth. He could best identify with all levels and classes of people from the level or category of being poor. Now, I could be wrong. I was wrong once before. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • FR

    Thanks for this. I believe the message is look to see how you read the
    Bible. Do you read to learn, to listen as to what God is telling you, or
    do you read it as a handbook to tell others they are wrong? I would
    gather to say, that many read this blble as I do…to read, get
    something out of it, and move on. What I have been trying to do is to
    read, stop, and listen. As a university professor at one of the more
    “biblical” colleges in the US, I found people wanted to squabble more
    about words in the bible, rather than its message of hope. I found
    people wanting to parallel their politics within the bible, than the
    message of love for everyone. I found, traveling and working around the
    world, that I am truly a part of a Christian world, due to the poor and
    how they view the bible and others. The bible is read differently from
    those that are poor. Maybe, God got it right by sending his son to be
    raised not by the elite, but by the poor.

  • michael

    He was rich,but for your sakes,He became poor
    KJV..

  • michael

    Satan offered Jesus ‘the World’ if He would bow down 👇 to him. Didn’t happen…

  • michael

    For by HIM were all things created,that are in heaven,and that are in the earth,visible and invisible,whether they be thrones,or dominions,or principalities,or powers: all things were created by HIM and for HIM: And HE is before all things,and by HIM all things consist. Colossions1,KJV😊! Yes,Mr.Guest>>Jesus Christ created Everything!😉^^^^^

  • Beaumont

    Jesus, and God, are the same. Along with the Holy Spirit, they comprise a single entity with three aspects. Why, you may ask? I have no idea, I just accept the truth as God the Father, and Jesus Christ, presented it. By the way, Jesus & the Spirit were present during Creation. When God says, “Let us make a man in our own image”, they are the “us” that He meant. Jesus was intimately involved in Creation.

  • Annette Ryder

    Confusing if the premise is that Jesus and God are two entirely separate entities…yet Jesus is God incarnate. There is no contradiction between Genesis and John1 to my mind… Second paragraph seems cleàrer…

  • Beaumont

    Well said.

  • Beaumont

    Brian, when someone says they don’t want to be part of an “internet squabble”, it generally means that they know their position will not hold up under continued scrutiny. Now, realize that I agree with you that humility is more important in out faith than we typically understand. Also realize that your rhetoric could be construed to support so-called “liberation theology”, which is essentially a Marxist hijacking of the Christian faith. If you indeed support that movement, be honest and say so.

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  • Lisa Loomis Kruczek

    Very interesting. I just finished watching the last to seasons of Rome on HBO. Makes perfect sense to me, what you are saying. Bravo.

  • Charissa Grace White

    agreed!!!

  • Doug

    All you have to do is see the truth about sin and yourself and compared to God’s righteousness we are all poor slaves. When I read the Bible what stood out to me was the things I was pressured to value were not only the opposite of Jesus’s values in Sermon on the Mount but they were a burden and I was being offered eternal life in exchange.

  • Doug

    for a greater wealth — the glory set before him

  • I really love this article. Nails it. Now, I do not want to sound like I’m saying “now lets not get carried away”, but I do want to make one counterpoint. One can find so many proof texts in scripture for Socialism, but I think there is one key difference. Is not socialism forced upon everyone as a rule of law? Is not the point of the Bible to instruct the voluntary behavior of those whose heart has been transformed by the Love of God? I think when you have business owners voluntarily making the same wages as their employees (70,000), and then that business skyrockets…that makes the world stand up and take notice (Gravity Payments). When the Government forces everyone to do it, it damages people.
    IMO anyway.

  • Audra Langford

    Pastor Z, I consider you my hometown pastor and attend when I am back with family. But I live in Chicago, and as we wrestle through the shootings and the problems with the judicial system here, if we are to be honest, we have to be transparent about the privilege we find ourselves in. It is all so very real here and on the surface. We can no longer thing that serving in a soup kitchen or change in the cup of a homeless man makes it all better. We have to be about changing the structures and processes that allow for the injustice.

    So, thank you for the context here.

  • Lori Hill

    We are all just sinners! God the Father sent his precious son Jesus to be sacrificed so we could be brought back into relationship with His Father. Jesus lived a perfect life as a man on earth and willingly laid down on a cross to die. He defeated death and walked out of His tomb. He ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us. The Holy Spirit was sent down to dwell inside of those who believe to give us peace, power, and understanding of God’s word. The Bible is a spiritual book written for spiritual people. It is a love letter from God to those who love God.
    If you have a problem with the Bible you have a problem with God because He says it is His inspired word. If you love God and believe in Jesus The Holy Spirit will give you understanding of God’s word. Rich or poor means nothing…the devil is the deceiver. What I don’t understand is why would a pastor want to confuse anyone about the gospel? Don’t complicate what God made simple. Confess to God you are a sinner, believe that He sent Son Jesus to be your Savoir so The Holy Spirit can live in your heart to give you understanding of God’s word! Rich or poor…we are all just sinners without accepting Jesus as the Son of God.

  • Excellent.

  • Liza Schmiege

    We are all like the Israelites who were in bondage for years.and we are all like the poor and the oppressed in the bible because of our sin. When we choose to live in sin, we are slaves to sin, in bondage. Because of our sin we are poor and oppressed. We have nothing and deserve nothing. “We were made from dust and to dust we will return.” But thanks be to God for leaving His heavenly throne and coming to this earth in the person of Jesus Christ to fulfill the law and take our place on the cross and rising to life again! This all took place so we can be released from the bondage of sin and made new again and live forever with Him and share His glorious riches with Him.

  • Yikes ! and Amen ! and Oh Me !

  • R. Wright

    The real problem with the bible is that it talks so much about god speaking to people but that is not the case. Why is it, for example, that so many people not only don’t see what you’re saying in the bible in the first place, and in the second place are so resistant to what is fairly obvious. either god is an absentee landlord who doesn’t speak to the church or through the bible anymore, or he simply doesn’t care about the face his church is putting on.

  • R. Wright

    Then again, Hebrews 1:2 reads that everything was made through him… not sure there is such a distinction as you’re making. The gospel (John) starts off by asserting jesus is the word of god, equating him as the assertive force – as the world was spoken into being. Following the ascension jesus is again expressed as the creation force of god. This idea book ends his physical life, before the gospel and after.

  • K.Alan

    There are people of means and influence scattered liberally in the story of disenfranchised people… Abraham was a recognized prince whom people sought treaty alliances with; Joseph the son of a wealthy shepherd/cattleman, later after slave and prison perspectives, quite the power broker… and rather than a Hebrew slave, if we take Mosaic authorship at face value, his perspective is as a renegade son of Pharaoh, entitled, if you will, as much as identifying with the slaves. David is a recognized military commander, ready to bark orders and be obeyed; his son Solomon a demanding monarch; Daniel in exile is quite the powerful politician. In the New Testament there is a proconsul here and there, a merchant woman Lydia, in Thessalonica “not a few prominent women,” an Areopagite here, some of Caesar’s household there, a wealthy patroness Phoebe in Cenchrea. Even in the gospel accounts we may encounter a Joseph of Arimathea, a Joanna or Susanna, with enough wealth to prop up an entourage of 12 men with Jesus.

  • J. Thomas Johnson

    I find it helps to remember, when the majority of Christians are reading, that we are of the nations, the Gentiles, the nationally non-elect. In this way, we, too, find ourselves to be marginalized in any reading that appreciates the cultural interpretive priority of the Hebrew people.

  • Tyler

    This is an excellent post.

    One thing I would ask is how the class of the biblical writers affect our interpretation. It’s true that the bible is the story of the poor and the weak, but it is still written by the only literate people of the time – the nobles and rich people. It’s the story of the poor from the perspective of the rich. The story of the weak from the viewpoint of the strong, or at least, the not nearly as weak.

    How does that affect how we interpret it?

    Thanks for this post! I think it’s a very important perspective.

  • Jesse Sewell

    Your post deserves more consideration. My only problem is it advances the narrative that the Christian Crusaders were bloodthirsty marauders bent on conquest and booty. That simply does not square with the historical record. Yes, there were terrible massacres associated with the crusades and specific battles. However, the historical record is clear. The Crusades were a last ditch effort to halt 500 years of Muslim expansion by the sword. Expansion that saw millions of Christians murdered and enslaved throughout Anatolia, Egypt, Ethiopia and what is today the former Yugoslavia. The oldest Christian population centers in the Middle East, some nearly 1000 years old were destroyed by advancing Muslim armies. Ancient places of worship were destroyed or defiled. It is disturbing to me that so many who are well educated and well read, have a Hollywood notion of what the crusades were. They do not understand why men took the crusade nor the legacy of the religious orders. These men sacrificed blood and treasure and in many cases bankrupted their families to halt a brutal Islamic wave of war, death and slavery. The ancient slave markets of Damascus and Baghdad were filled with the children and wives of those whom the Caliph’s Armies conquered. This is not a small point of history. This is crucial to understanding the history of the Church. These men were not brigands as is often implied by the comments of the uninformed. They were men who laid down their lives to halt a brutal wave of conquest and tyranny.

  • David Denman

    Of course he was rich, he had all the money he wanted. What rich man has that much?

  • Jeff

    I appreciate the sentiment of this piece. Everyone must attempt to peel away their own lenses when reading texts. Unfortunately, though, this article is missing something huge: biblical texts were written by the elite, for the elite.

    1. Literacy Rates – Literacy rates were extremely low in the ancient world. Some scholars have suggested that even in high civilizations such as Egypt and Mesopotamia, the literacy rates were likely in the single digits. It’s hard to imagine that Canaan/Israel would have higher literacy rates. Those that could read or write were the trained elites. Sirach / Ben Sira ch. 38 echoes this idea that it was only the trained elites that were literate:

    “The scribe’s wisdom increases wisdom; whoever is free from toil can become wise. How can one become learned who guides the plow, and thrills in wielding the goad like a lance, Who guides the ox and urges on the bullock, and whose every concern is for cattle? His concern is to plow furrows, and he is careful to fatten the livestock . . . .”

    Whoever was writing these ancient texts were trained elites. One could argue that the elites of Israel and Judah were minor kingdoms that were often ruled by Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, but they were still elite.

    2. Traditional Authorship – Both Jews and Christians had a tendency to associate authorship of books of the Bible with famous biblical figures: Moses wrote Gen-Deut; Joshua wrote Joshua; Samuel wrote Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel; Jeremiah wrote Kings, Chronicles, Jeremiah, and Lamentations; David wrote the Psalms; Solomon wrote Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, etc. Some of the Psalms themselves claim to be written by David, Moses, and Solomon (among others). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Songs of Songs all claim to be written by Solomon. Parts of Proverbs claim to have been written down by Hezekiah’s men. The point is that all of these figures are kings, priests, or military leaders of some sort.

    3. Critical Authorship – Critical authorship rejects most (if not all) of the above mentioned traditional authors. For example, the “Deuteronomistic History” (Deut., Josh., Sam., Kings) was written by Josiah’s men. Even in this case, the books are being written by literate scribes at the behest of a king.

    4. The Audience – Not only was the Bible written BY elites, but it was largely written FOR the elites. For example, the book of Proverbs. Proverbs was written for the young, male elite: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not reject your mother’s teaching; for they are a fair garland for your head, and pendants for your neck.” The Ten Commandments are addressed to men (yes, men) who are wealthy enough to own fields, slaves, and animals. Most of the other laws in the Torah are also directed at the upper crust, advising them to treat those below them fairly. Consider all of the prophetic rhetoric against the rich that oppress the poor.

    One could possibly argue that in the Gospels are crystallizations of a community’s beliefs and that the epistles were the products of Paul and other prominent figures Christian figures. This may get you closer to “the people,” These are the kings, priests, and rulers of the OT, but they are still in the literate minority.

  • I have a fundamentally different view. Though I am an American, I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God.I believe the Bible was written by God, though obviously, through men. The author clearly believes men’s bias shaped the Word of God.That justifies his own choices of what to believe, apply & how to do so. Jesus is the Word; He is no more Lord of our lives than the Word of God is, for they are One.[if the Bible is true] As a new-creation man I am born from above by the power of the Spirit through the Word, I consume the Word by His Spirit & It (He) is transforming me into His image as I yield, trust, & obey. There is, in short, the choice between, a Spirit inspired view & an intellectually reasoned perspective of the Church and the world. [Just sayin’ .}

  • Tim McDonald

    A major portion of the New Testament was written by Paul. A Roman citizen, which was a big deal in those times. The Pentateuch was written by Moses, who was raised in a palace. David and Solomon had a hand as well, and Daniel was an advisor to a king. I reject the notion that the Bible is a book meant to be read by the downtrodden. The Bible is universal, and different parts were written by different status people. And Jesus was both human and divine, a status shared by no other.

  • Gershon Ron

    Great!

  • Jason Fisher

    First of all this title is miss leading, you don’t have a problem with the bible, you have a misunderstanding of what it means to you. Second you miss the point of the Bible, and I know I’m am nutshelling this, it’s not the story of the poor, the rich or what perspective you take, the Bible is God revealed, it’s about his character, judgment and His redemption for mankind. It’s story of how to know your creator and serve Him not how you see the world.

  • David Denman

    Much of the old testament is the story of a nation and the kings that ruled it. We have the poetry and wisdom of some of these kings. We see the downfall and successes of power an wealth. We see a poor shepherd boy develop into a great king. We see a slave boy advance to lead his nation out of slavery. We see a child who is abandoned by his family advance in power and position, largely because he is true to his self and his beliefs,
    We see select group of men called from (probably) a middle class existence at the time, to become the leaders of a new

    religion.

    In this country we can think of ourselves as being rich, but as the book says those who are given much,much is expected. Its not the number of talents we have but what we have do with them. The challenge is largely the same.

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  • Great thoughts! That’s part of the scandal of Christmas! The Kingdom of God works in contrast to the “powerful” empires of the world. It’s good news, but we have to hear it through the revelation that we are part of the “weak” that God has chosen to confound the “strong”. Thank you!

  • slappywpg

    This article is nonsense. Moses wasn’t “underclass”. Neither were David or Solomon or any of the other kings who were the subjects of the stories in the Bible. Jesus is supposedly at least a demi-god. Hardly “underclass”.

  • Humble servant

    so your saying Jesus isnt God, or is other than God? Jesus did make, as we see in Gen. 1:26 it clearly says “let US make man in OUR image” if God acted alone please tell me why this is included in the writings?

  • razajac

    Beautiful. But exactly what form would a broader realization of these ideas take?

    For example, it could be one reason to see Bill Clinton as perhaps a truly Christian President: He apologized to Guatemala for the depredations of the ’70s. That’s an arguably tangible expression of the first (American superpower fiat) being made last, where it counts.

  • Tommy Li

    For those who do not worship the Bible, we need to develop coherent and consistent readings of it as we would do with any other piece of literature (sacred or secular), which means establishing a frame of reference.

    This is more important than exegesis or trying to turn the bible into a textbook on systematic theology. There are some of us (the emerging Church) who do not believe that the priority of the Bible is to tell us what the truth about God is, but rather tell us what people thought the truth about God was. From this perspective you should not confuse reading a text to determine what is true with reading a text to determine what is being said.

  • Tommy Li

    “Love your neighbour as yourself” is social.

    Society is made up of the community people around you and their physical, emotional (and spiritual, if you like) welfare. You cannot over socialize the Bible when the overwhelming number of verses in the bible address social conditions. The actual amount of spiritual/theological commentary is dwarfed in comparison.

  • Tim Hartman

    But what people mean by the Social Gospel is often getting in bed with government. Changing through politics. Politics are a terrible bed-fellow to the Gospel. (2000 years of Christians getting in bed with Governments has done nothing but prove that fact.) It is Social as far as the Body of Christ is called to help, comfort, feed and lead to change. The Church does not exist without the spiritual and social working together. But I see people more interested in politics, and politics are designed to tear people apart rather than bring together.

  • Tim Hartman

    Semantic gobbledygoop.

  • Tobyn

    Correction God made everything as did Jesus and the holy spirit. The trinnity, three in ONE. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was WITH God and the word WAS God.” John 1:1 the word refering to Christ. John 1:14 ” and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”

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  • Chris Malkemes

    You drew me in by your words and I listened carefully with my mind – not my heart.

    When we read God’s word the same way we miss it – we really miss it. That’s where reading the word is most powerful. T’s always bothered me (and always will) to see men/women using His Word for their own gain or world view.

    Anyone remember Hitler and Stalin were baptized, but look what they did in the name of evil.

    Reading the word will change the individual, the individual will never change the Word (twist it like the evil one but not change it).

    Those who know the Word will NOT get suckered punched from the likes of The Raven himself (Rev. Jim Jones). I personally interviewed a few people from his last church who refused to follow him out of Indianapolis. The all told me the story – the moment they turned and walked away from him. One day Jim Jones went to the pulpit, lifted his Bible high and told the congregation that they didn’t have to read it anymore because he would tell them the truth.

    Those who told me this truth lived to tell the story, but the sadly those who followed him drank the kool-aid and died.

    As a retired Army officer I’m not ignorant and know history’s sordid story of Southern preachers supporting slavery and the KKK espoused God’s Word like He supported their murderous hearts. I do understand your point and agree with you.

    My comment here is simple, sir: Let us not just hand a man a Bible thinking we’ve done our job, but let us teach him how to read right.

    Respectfully yours,

    Christine writing at http://christinemalkemes.com from a yielded heart.

  • Tommy Li

    I was responding to someone complaining that Brian didn’t talk about hermeneutics. Tell that poster it’s semantic gobbledygoop.

  • Tommy Li

    The gospel has a confrontational relationship with power. The bible is written from the point of view of those who are oppressed, it expresses a longing for the collapse of political institutions for the sake of liberation. “Not one stone will be left on top of another” said Jesus, referring to the collaborative Jewish state. Revelation and Daniel speak of God’s judgment on the ancient empires. The prophets speak of God’s judgment on the kingdom of Israel, for sins including the toleration of gross economic inequality (Ezekiel 16).

    When it comes to people who want religion and the State to work together, it’s usually the religious right who talk about abortion and gay marriage and Starbucks coffee cups. They are the ones who actively endorse and campaign for Republicans. A whole bunch of evangelical preachers unashamedly endorsed George W Bush, just as they have now endorsed Donald Trump.

    This is not what Jesus had in mind when he spoke of the kingdom of God. He did not want his followers to provide limited charity to the sick and poor. He demands nothing short of a radical spirituality. “Take up your cross,” he says, “and follow me.”

    There is no better metaphor than the instrument of execution the Roman empire reserved for those it considered to be enemies of the state. The demand, requirement of discipleship is is to live in a way that those in power consider dangerous to their survival.

  • Tim Hartman

    I get it. You don’t like the Right. I’m not too pleased with them either. But you are absolutely wrong about the Left not wanting to use religion for their purposes. They do. And the Left is just as bad. They want control…control of minds, money and the narrative. If Christianity gets in bed with either side, we dilute the message of the Gospel. Both sides should see us as dangerous. On that point we agree.

  • NealeA

    Of course the Bible is not a unified book, and various books were composed at different times for different audiences. I do take your point that some was written for “the poor, the oppressed, the enslaved, the conquered, the occupied, the defeated.” Usually though after the Jewish people had escaped oppression or enslavement or defeat–much of the Bible of course is the literature written during of right after the Babylonian exile. What amazes me though is how so much of the prophets, which criticizes the Temple and Jewish establishment quite harshly, was written down, preserved and made part of the Jewish canon. I can’t really see the Jerusalem leaders being all that excited about Amos, for example. Does anyone know how this happened?

  • NealeA

    Then why did Jesus talk about “the rich,” or about money so much? Seems to me he was saying that whether you are or rich or poor matter. Unless of course you think though Luke (6:30) just says he was saying “the poor” are blessed he really meant (as Matthew [5:3]put it) the “poor in spirit.” I tend to go with Luke. For one thing Thomas 54 agrees.

  • Tim Hartman

    One more thing. The Gospel does not have a confrontational relationship with anything, but religious hypocrisy. The Gospel is about service and love. You seem to think that Jesus was a zealot. There is nothing farther from the truth.

  • Tommy Li

    I don’t think Jesus was a zealot – a zealot was someone who engaged in armed insurrection against the Roman empire. I never said that. Jesus was someone who spoke about poverty, and greed. He thought poverty was bad and greed was bad. Poverty is an economic issue. It has to do with how much money people possess. So does greed. He wanted to see a world in which that was fixed. He said, “blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven, blessed are you who are hungry for you shall be filled.” (Luke 6) He also said, “take up your cross and follow me,” (Matthew 16). Everyone then would have known what that meant. The cross is for people who were enemies of the political state of Rome. The bible cannot get more explicit than that.

    Martin Luther King used religion for his purposes. He quoted the bible, probably in all of his speeches. Personally, I think the bible tells us about how to author public policies which are socially just. Like I said, God condemned the Kingdom of Israel for their toleration of economic inequality, and said they were worse than Sodom and Gomorrah – effectively threatening to liquidate them if they failed to implement serious economic reform (Ezekiel 16). But going back to MLK, if the government has a policy that prevents black people from being able to vote, then based on biblical, spiritual principles Christians should recognise this as being unjust and try to have the law changed. Similarly if the government’s economic policies are socially unjust according to the Bible, then Christians should recognise this and try to have the law changed.

    In the US, the left and the right together constitute the ruling class, power is divided about 50/50 between them. However, American Christianity writ large has only consistently mobilised in support of the right. That’s why I speak of the religious right. Because while the religious left in the US is a tiny minority within the broad left and legislative progress on the left agenda is overwhelmingly carried by the secular left – the unions, grassroots movements and so on, the same is not true of the agenda of the right. That’s why Republican candidates run on a program *simultaneously* of defunding Planned Parenthood and giving tax breaks/subsidies to big industries that do not need them. That’s religiously interested. There is no religious equivalent on the left (if you can even call the Democratic party left-wing). When was the last time a left wing candidate tried to implement a policy that was purely for left wing Christians and not for secular people? I don’t even know what that would involve. It would be like if Hilary Clinton campaigned on a platform to get the writings of Ernesto Cardenal taught in schools or something (like Republicans want to get Creationism taught in schools).

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  • Emile N Noujeim

    If numbers are representative so Islam is helping more people. it s the fastest growing religion. Can we also say that Christianity is not helping as much people ?

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  • Tom Torbeyns

    I like this but “what does the Bible ask of me? Voluntary poverty? Not necessarily. ” seems to be that Jesus said that we should give our money to the poor? :-/

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