Sunday, May 26, 2013

Wealth Inequality and the Bible

 I received a forward recently with a link to a video titled “Wealth Inequality in America.” I usually ignore such links but this time I thought I would see what this group was up to, so I had a look. There was nothing new in their message, it was the same old covetous message – “we need to redistribute the wealth,” and “something must be done as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” As is always the case the leader sets the tone for the nation and the current president is pushing this agenda by demonizing the rich and promoting a culture of favoring the poor.  

How do we as Christians respond – with a Biblical based view. It is common for natural man to covet what another has so God lists covetousness as part of the big Ten in Ex.  20:1-17 (cf., Ten Commandments of Deut. 5:6-21). Fallen man is so self-centered, consumed with self-love, self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, and control of everything and everybody. 

This is the characteristic of natural man, and particularly, a characteristic of the last days government. Today there is a movement to control all the money, not just all the banks, but all money regardless of where it is. The humanist wants to control everything - even my money, removing my freedom and responsibility all in the name of social good and social justice.

This attitude is not new; indeed Jesus encountered this attitude in His day. In the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21), Jesus encounters this attitude and gives an answer:

The Parable of the Rich Fool:

Then one from the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." But He said to him, "Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?" And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. "And he thought within himself, saying, `What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' "So he said,`I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. `And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."'  "But God said to him, `Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'  "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:13-21)

Jesus was telling the man not to covet others money and goods. The man wanted his brother to divide up their inheritance and to do it now! He wanted money now and asks Jesus to act on his behalf by persuasion and mediation instead of handling it according to proper law. The man is asking, in essence, to receive a part of his brother’s inheritance, it ought to be, he seems to imply, "a more equitable distribution."

In Jewish law, the oldest son receives a double portion in order to compensate for all the time spent with taking over the responsibility of the property and the family business (Deut. 21:15-17). Jesus corrects the man (the man commands Jesus to talk to his brother) and tells him, "man, who made me a judge or divider [of the inheritance] over you?" Jesus then calls the action of wanting another's stuff covetousness (Greek ‘pleonexia’. "one eager to have more, esp. what belongs to others"). 

He then tells a parable of a rich man who has to have more at the expense of everything. The Old Testament is full of proverbs connected to this philosophy of dishonesty in order to gain more money, property, and things. It is not that having, desiring, and earning lots of money is a bad thing, but if your life is consumed with money it turns into an idol. The money turns into an ends in itself, it overtakes the person and one is left in the end with nothing but things. One’s things are left to the next generation – you can’t take them with you when you die. It ends up being another's inheritance.

In the same way, this younger brother seems to think that the oldest brother's double portion is not fair and he demands more of his share. Forget about what rightfully belongs to his brother, he wants more of it. He wants more of the money but not more of the responsibility. This is the teaching of the socialist - they want more of everyone's money - they will divide it as they see fit, and they will see to it that they remain in the ruling class and not have to live by the rules everyone else has to live by.

What do I call “wealth inequality in America”? The same thing God calls it – covetousness - sin. This call for more wealth equality is a call by the natural man, the humanist will eventually take over the governments of the end times and in the end their collection of wealth will not save them.  Natural man does not want a Savior, he wants to trust only in himself, so he collects wealth, horses, and chariots (representing a nation’s war strength – Isa. 31:1-2). Natural man, however, needs a Savior not more money and things. That is the message of Scripture:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich. (2 Cor. 2:8)  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Answers to Your Questions

In Ephesians 2:7, Paul talks about the ages to come. How many ages are to come?
ANSWER: The word age is the Greek word ‘aion’ meaning “forever, an unbroken age.” An age is a period of time characterized by a specific manner or mode of life. Age has more to do with what takes place in the period, than how long the period lasts. The word ‘aion’ also can be translated “world” in the Greek sense meaning, “the historical context of a period of history,” that is, the age of evil, corresponds to the world of evil, and the age of righteousness to the Messianic age. An age should not be confused with a dispensation, for a dispensation contains a specific working of God with a set of rules in place, whereas, an age speaks of a specific characteristic of the period.

Ephesians 2:7 uses the plural “ages” to come, which means there is more than one age (e.g., the Messianic age) to come. I do not know how many ages there are yet to come, but I can point to three: the age or time of Jacob’s Trouble (dispensationally speaking, the Tribulation), the Messianic age (dispensationally speaking, the Millennial reign of Christ on earth), and the age that follows – the new heavens and earth – the final state or age.

We are currently in the Church age. For example, in John 14:16, the comforter, advocate, or helper (Gr. Parakletos) will be with believers in the “age to come” that is, the Church age. 

In Scripture there seems to be several ages:
  1. The current age, i.e., the Church age (1Tim. 6:17; Tit. 2:12), which is characterized by the words believe and grace and where the gospel is preached in a fallen world.
  2. An age of tribulation. The Tribulation period is an age where the nations will be judged for their treatment of Israel (Isa. 24:21-23; 59:16-20), God will purge the earth of wicked people (Isa. 13:9; 24:19-20; Ezek. 37:23; Zech. 13:2; 14:9; Isa. 11:9), and both judge Israel and produce a national revival among the Jewish people (Deut. 4:27-30; Isa. 6:9-13; 24:1-6; Dan. 12:5-7; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 20:34-38; 36:25-27; 37:1-14; Zech. 12:9-13:2; Isa. 59:20-21; Rev. 7:1-4; Mat. 24:14). This age is characterized by the words judgment and justice.
  3. An age to come where Jesus reigns (Eph. 1:21; 2:7). In Luke 1:33, the work refers to the Messianic reign of Jesus, therefore, the Millennium is a distinct age. Sometimes the word means eternal, or forever, and can refer to eternal life of the redeemed (Rev. 22:5), or eternal torment of those separated from God in the second death (Rev. 14:11; 20:10). The age is characterized by the two great words of righteousness and peace.
Thanks for asking.
Dr. John Pappas