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God Is Very Generous, and Other Reflections On Money

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1. God is very generous. In Genesis 1:29 God says that he gave Adam and Eve “every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” God enriched Abraham, Joseph, David and Solomon greatly. In Deuteronomy 14 God told his people to eat and enjoy the tithe they were offering. He gave the Promised Land to the Israelites. Jesus told us to seek God and His kingdom first and foremost and all things needful for us would be given us as well. Jesus also said: “How much more will your Heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him?” St. Paul told the Philippians, “My God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Also, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8). Indeed, “all things belong to you.” And finally, God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 

2. God gives generously to His people so that we might generously bless others with God’s gifts, not hoard them for ourselves. God gave Israel the Promised Land so they could bless others. In Luke 6:34-35, Jesus tells us to lend, expecting nothing in return. Jesus says to “win friends for yourselves through the use of money.” Christians are to use their resources to further God’s “Great Commission” to “go and make disciples of all the nations.” Jesus has told us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). God gives to us in abundance so that we might be equipped for every good work. (2 Cor. 9:8). St. Paul exhorts Timothy to “command the rich to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” (1 Tim. 6:18).

3. God expects people to work to gain money, and work is good, not a necessary evil. Genesis 2:15 states that God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to “cultivate it and keep it.” In Proverbs 10:4, God says that the slack hand leads to poverty “but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” “He who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” (Prov. 18:9). “The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, so he begs during the harvest and has nothing.” (Prov. 20:4). “The desire of the sluggard puts him to death for his hands refuse to work.” (Prov. 21:25). St. Paul says that the thief should quit his thieving and labor for good with his own hands so that he might have something to share with those in need. (Eph. 4:28). Paul also says, “Even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.”

4. A sign of a redeemed person is that he or she is a faithful steward of God’s material gifts, sharing with those in need. God gave Old Testament laws about not plowing to the edge of your field, not going over your field more than once, paying wages as they were needed by the laborer, not charging interest to fellow Israelites, obeying the Jubilee statutes about freed slaves and returned land, etc. God tells us to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God,” which certainly includes doing justice with our resources. Jesus tells us not to lay up treasures here on earth, but to sow generously. St. James asks the question: “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” (James 2:15-16). St. John says: “Whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:17-18). Our Lord tells us: Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? (Luke 16:10-12).

5. The desire to get rich and the pursuit of being rich is foolish, ultimately futile and spiritually deadly. Remember that God is the one who provides for us, “otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Deut. 8:17-18). Jesus exhorted us about the following: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.” “You cannot serve God and money.” “The worries of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” “How hard it will be for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” “You fool! Tonight your life is required of you, and all your things, whose will they be?” St. Paul reminds us: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim. 6). St. John tells us to “love not the world, neither the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…The world is passing away and also its lusts, but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17).

6. Jesus does not promise us riches in this life; in fact, he promises and commands us suffering and loss for the sake of the gospel. Jesus says, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” “Whoever does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” “Blessed are you poor” “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it for eternal life.” St. Paul said, “Have the same attitude among yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus . . . who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.” The author of Hebrews reminds us that faithful men like Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; they shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength, and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” (Heb. 11:32-38).

7. Our ultimate motivation and joy in all matters economic and financial should be to glorify God by making others glad in God. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31). “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. chs. 8-9). “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24).

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

March 28, 2015 at 3:36 pm

Dependent Upon Dependency

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Kevin Williamson is a journalist whose writing I have really come to enjoy. He’s a roving reporter for National Review and writes on a variety of topics with insight and wit. He has penned a little tract called The Dependency Agenda where he discusses Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs and their outworking. At one point he writes:

Under the Great Society and its later permutations, [the poor] became dependent upon a professional class whose highly paid members were themselves dependent upon the dependency of their clients. Dependency became a valuable commodity. At the apex of the dependency food chain are the highest ranking members of a political machine ultimately dependent upon dependency and highly invested in its spread.

I do not think there is something sinister in this truth. I work for the government, and I like having a job. I don’t know that I reflect on how I might perpetuate my own job, likely because I don’t see public utilities drying up anytime soon. But most people are probably interested in the spread of things that will give them job security. Certainly the teachers union is a self-interested bunch, highly committed to preserving the administrative bureaucratic jobs within the public school edifice. Yet Williamson is pointing out the crucial conflict of interest that exists for those whose work is ostensibly meant to help the poor become self-sufficient, but who also know that if they were to actually achieve their goal, it would jeopardize the existence of their work. It’s like certain U.S. farmers. They might like to see poor African nations become self-sustaining agriculturally, but if that ever happened, it would jeopardize the existence of the food aid programs that help prosper those  same U.S. farmers. Thus, how committed will those farmers be to achieving the goal of African self-sustenance? The illustration could be multiplied in other areas as well.

Technology comes to us in various mediums (i.e., audio, visual, musical, type, digital, video, etc), and these mediums are not neutral. The medium itself imposes certain intellectual, emotional and physical adaptations upon us. As Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium IS the message.” Thus, it not only matters WHAT we watch on TV, but THAT we watch TV at all. The medium of TV changes the way we think and act and affects our attitudes toward life. Or take your ipod. By its very nature it is designed to be a solo endeavor. You put the buds in your ears and you’re in your own world. The unspoken rule for someone listening to their ipod is: “Don’t bug me.” At my old school they used to not allow ipods on the school bus trips, but now they do. Two guesses as to what has happened to conversation between students on the bus. God has spoken in various mediums, but our highest authority is the Word of God. We must conform ourselves to it.

Christians must be discerning in our use of technology, understanding the ways that it benefits us as well as the ways it encourages us away from God. John tells us to “test the spirits to see if they are from God.” We are to seek wisdom and discernment, according to the Proverbs, and “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Storing up God’s commands and promises in our hearts will help us rightly use and appreciate our technologies. Being in fellowship with God’s people will also help us.

Certain technologies work well with habits and attitudes in us that contradict God’s will. Certain technologies encourage us to believe that speed and efficiency are the keys to the good life, but Scripture contradicts this. God is not “speedy” in changing us and He commands us to learn patience and perseverance. Certain technologies encourage us to believe that we can avoid suffering or inconvenience, but God contradicts this. God calls us into suffering for Christ’s sake: “Take up your cross and follow me.” Certain technologies encourage us to believe it is good to avoid personal interactions with people, but God contradicts this. He commands us to have fellowship together and to cultivate face-to-face relationships where we can practically love and serve others. Certain technologies encourage us in our view that we can “have it all” in life, and sway us toward ingratitude when the technology doesn’t “fix” our lives. God teaches us contentment in Christ and the realization that we are “aliens and strangers on earth.”

Technology should point us to God and should advance his kingdom purposes (e.g., listening to a symphony with all the various instruments working together to play a beautiful piece can point us to the wondrous unity and diversity within the Trinity.). Technology should encourage us to think and feel in ways that honor God (Certain movies can direct our affections toward God and get us thinking about His world.). Technology should help us accomplish the purposes of God (e.g., showing the Jesus Film to unreached peoples, traveling to foreign countries to preach the gospel, bringing medical help to the impoverished of the world, teaching farming techniques to the poor, calling friends to encourage them in God, sending care packages to missionaries, writing songs that honor God in composition, style and lyrics, etc.).

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

March 26, 2015 at 3:27 am

Technology Changes Nothing That Is Fundamental To Human Existence

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In his sermon, God Glorified in Man’s Dependence, Jonathan Edwards writes:

The redeemed have all their objective good in God. God himself is the great good which they are brought to the possession and enjoyment of by redemption. he is the highest good, and the sum of all that good which Christ purchased. God is the inheritance of the saints; he is the portion of their souls. God is their wealth and treasure, their food, their life, their dwelling place, their ornament and diadem, and their everlasting honour and glory . . . The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things; they will enjoy angles, and will enjoy one another; but that which they shall enjoy in angels, or each other, or in any thing else whatsoever that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what shall be seen of God in them.

This is vintage Edwards, and it lays bare all of my religiosity for what it is: useless chaff blown away by the wind. If I read the Bible, have “quiet times,” offer up flare prayers, talk a lot about God, go to church, act moral and attend Sunday School, it’s all for naught if the Triune God, and true communion with Him and enjoyment of Him, is not my aim and pursuit. Something stirs in redeemed people when they contemplate and worship the God of Jonathan Edwards.

The modern technological advances that we enjoy are a cause for praising and thanking God. God has been good to us in gracing people with the know-how and creative ability to devise so many things we enjoy, which include but are not limited to: Antibiotics, Refrigeration, Indoor plumbing, air conditioning, vaccinations, computers, phones, airplanes, movies, mechanical farming, telescopes and microscopes, MRI machines, ultrasound, washers and dryers, genetic crossbreeding of food (think: Norman Borlaug), stereo systems, grocery stores, cameras, and much more which we cannot even begin to imagine living without. The Scripture says that “everything God created is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” (1 Tim.4:4)

Yet, no technology and nothing about technology changes anything that is fundamental to human existence. That is, God created us; we have rebelled against him by preferring other things instead of him; the penalty for this rebellion is bondage to sin, death, and hell; Christ came to set sinners free from the power of sin and death, and he alone can do this; and we come to know and experience eternal life by giving the controls of our life (and our technology) over to Christ. No technology can nullify, circumvent, change, overrule, or alter any of these facts about human existence, as much as we try. This is most important. Jesus said, “Humans…live upon every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Hebrews says we are to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.”

Further, we must beware of the over-promises that come with technology. Our culture tells us that technology will change the fundamental nature of what it means to be human, will give us a way to get around the problems we face, will make our lives better in every way. Technology promises to fulfill us, satisfy our heart’s desires, and give us more efficient, trouble-free lives. But the realities remain the same. There’s no getting away from ourselves. The apostle John tells us: “Do not love the world, neither the things in the world; for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, is not of the Father but of the world. Now the world is passing away, and also its desires, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

God is very generous, as we see in Genesis 1:28-29, with His providence for Adam and Eve. God richly prospered Abraham, Joseph, David and Solomon. God told His people that they were to “eat the tithe” of their produce and livestock. God gave a good land, “flowing with milk and honey,” to His people. Jesus told us to “seek first His kingdom,” and all other good things would be added to us. Jesus also said: “How much more will your Heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him?” Paul writes: “My God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19). We also have a God “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Tim. 6).

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

March 16, 2015 at 7:17 pm

Kentucky Is A Joke and So Are Many Major “Student” Athletics

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I confess I’ve lost almost all interest in college basketball, and college sports in general. I still watch here and there because I enjoy sports, but my heart’s not in it at all. Sure, part of it is that other interests besides sports have needed my attention (e.g., having 4 kids under age 8), but the essential fraud of college sports has really done a number on me.

I’m not sure why my level of cynicism has increased so much in recent years, for it’s not as if corruption, cheating and academic fraud are anything new to the NCAA. I suppose my general dislike for John Calipari and the undefeated NBA team he’s got over there at Kentucky have pushed me over the edge. I don’t care what he or anyone else says: Kentucky’s basketball program is a fraud and a disgrace to Kentucky as an “academic” institution, and so are all the other programs just like it. You simply don’t admit “students” to your school who are clearly non-students destined for the NBA in a year or two.

Of course this pertains not just to college basketball, but all major college sports, which is why I’ve watched so little of it recently. Maybe I’m a blowhard for saying so, and I’m taking myself too seriously. But I’ve always been a big sports fan, and having graduated from UCLA, college basketball has run in my veins to some degree. Yet if it was UCLA who was 31-0, rather than Kentucky, I honestly believe my disinterest would be virtually the same. It’s just a joke. I know many others say this, but major college sports are little more than a minor league system for the big leagues, and academics doesn’t really come into it. These sports point up the general academic fraudulence that, in my view, permeates large portions of university undergraduate life.

Yes, the caveat needs to be made that there are plenty of athletes on NCAA athletic scholarships who major in engineering or some other challenging major and will take their academics seriously. I understand that, but I don’t think it changes the overall picture of major college sports, which is a huge money-making industry. ESPN’s Jay Bilas pretty much said it all in commenting on the NCAA’s “punishment” handed down to Syracuse recently: “People think, ‘What’ll happen is, schools will now recruit the lesser athlete, but the better student.’ They don’t do that. They’re not going to recruit the lesser athlete. They’re going to recruit the best athlete. That’s what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to win games and get athletes to play.” End of story.

On another sports related note, last night I watched one of the most stunning documentaries on the football brain damage issue I’ve ever seen: The October 8, 2013, PBS “Frontline” episode on “the NFL’s concussion crisis,” League of Denial, which you can watch here. If you find yourself wanting to watch something for about an hour-and-a-half, I’d highly recommend this. Indeed, I’d watch it again, it was that well done.

I had already pretty much decided that I didn’t want any of my boys playing football in their youth, but this cemented it. Former New York Giant and NFL Hall of Famer, Harry Carson, made the case all by himself in this film. And the pack of lies and obfuscation the NFL has promulgated, and continues to put forth, in my view, is just appalling. Anyone who has watched the NFL with an ounce of common sense can tell you that the NFL’s “doctors” were full of it.

Which got me thinking of something related to our culture’s cult of “science” in general. We’re told ad nauseum that science is “based on fact” and tells us the truth, while religion and morality is just a bunch of “opinion.” Science is “evidence based” because we observe things objectively. So we should all put our unwavering faith in science. Yet it was abundantly clear that observation and “evidence” meant nothing to the NFL and its doctors. They didn’t want to hear it. In other words, for the modern scientific enterprise to have any validity at all, it presupposes and depends on a bunch of non-scientific things, two of which are high regard for truth-telling and open-mindedness. Such values are not scientific and don’t come from science. Rather, they are pre-scientific metaphysical and spiritual necessities. Without them, there is no science. The human element cannot be removed, and scientists, particularly the NFL’s scientists, all have their personal, economic and other commitments, which were on full display. The documentary was sobering on so many levels. My wife was riveted, and she watches about 15 minutes of football during the Superbowl each year and that’s it.

-D

 

Written by Michael Duenes

March 8, 2015 at 2:43 pm

You Really Should Read This Other Book

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I’m about half way through Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed, by Jason Riley. I got turned on to the author through a regular flyer I get from Hillsdale College called Imprimus, which featured Riley recently. And my recent foray into the life of Lyndon Johnson has also drawn me to issues of race and culture. Please Stop Helping Us is an engaging look at some of the political and cultural trends which appear to stymie the advancement of blacks in our country. As I go through the book, however, it continually strikes me that the reader of this book is likely to be told that reading a book by a black conservative may be fine, but one should really also get himself into some W.E.B. Dubois, Cornell West, Michael Eric Dyson or some such, for another view and some perspective. Yet if one tells others that he is reading Dubois or West instead of Riley, he is not likely to be told, “You know, you ought to get yourself something by Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Larry Elder or Jason Riley for another view and some perspective.” I wonder why that is? I think Riley has some ideas.

-D

 

Written by Michael Duenes

March 4, 2015 at 7:43 pm