Monday, March 8, 2010

Draining Away The Power Of God's Word

My recent post, "Christian Or Non-Christian, Same Difference?", generated quite an exchange of opinion on facebook with two brothers-in-Christ.  However, in the process, I came away with the feeling that there are (I suspect, many) Christians like these two brothers-in-Christ who consciously or unconsciously delight in draining away the power of God's Word.

Somehow, the exchange led to me quoting 2 Cor 8:9:
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."

One brother-in-Christ said that I interpreted 2 Cor 8:9 out of context, that the verse does not mean that Christ will make us financially rich. The word "rich" in the verse refers "largely, to the richness in giving. Being "poor" in the Bible does not mean money only. It also refers to being deprived politically, socially, etc."

I checked out the words "poor" and "rich" in the original Greek:
Poor - πτωχεύω (transliterated as ptōcheuō) - Strong's definition says it means "to be a beggar, that is, (by implication) to become indigent (figuratively): - become poor." 

Rich - πλουτέω (transliterated as plouteō) - Strong's definition says it means "to be (or become) wealthy (literally or figuratively): - be increased with goods, (be made, wax) rich."

I don't see how I interpreted 2 Cor 8:9 out of context. The words "poor" and "rich" appears in the SAME verse and are in direct contrast to each other i.e. "beggarly" vs "wealthy", "no money" vs "have money".

The same brother also said that 3 John 2 - "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." - is merely "a matter of hermeneutics", just a "standard greeting in a Greek letter for that era!".  Well, this brother can choose to drain away the power of 3 John 2 by treating it as mere hermeneutics but as for me, I choose to believe that it is God's Word, not mere hermeneutics, and I choose to believe that God wants me to prosper in ALL things (which includes but is not limited to the financial aspect) and be in health, and God will see to it that I shall prosper in ALL things and be in health, just as my soul prospers!

I append below our exchange of views to allow you to see the context of our discussion:  

BIC 1:
The world can expect a "sudden death without any warning" BUT we can expect a long good life because God says through the Psalmist in Psalm 91: 16 - "With long life I will satisfy him". The world can expect a "sudden life changing and debilitating experience which may drag on for many years" BUT we can expect to be protected from harm because God says in Psalm 91:10-11 that "No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge over you, ."

Does that mean that if a Christian suffers sudden death, something is wrong with his faith?

A matter of hermeneutics, my dear Watson, a matter of hermeneutics! For e.g., how does one interpret John 3's "Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul." (3Jo 1:2)? Well, that is the standard greeting in a Greek letter for that era! (ref: Gordon Fee in "The Disease of the Health & Wealth Gospel". Gordon Fee is from AOG, btw)



Me:
I don't claim to know the reason why a certain Christian suffers sudden death nor do I claim that it is because of something wrong with his faith.

However, every Christian has to walk his own faith walk, so for me, I choose to believe what the bible says about me; I choose to believe Psalm 91:16, that God will satisfy me with a long good life.

You may choose to believe that 3 John 2 is mere hermeneutics and just a standard greeting but I choose to believe that by Jesus' stripes I am healed (Isaiah 53:5) and continue to be in good health.

I choose to believe that God wants me to be in health and wealth because He takes pleasure in the prosperity of His servant (Psalm 35:27).

I choose to believe that God does make a difference between His people and the world but sadly, as you have demonstrated, there are Christians who do not believe, just like the disciples who were in the boat with Jesus when they encountered a huge storm.

Jesus was in the boat with them but they were still terrified of dying in the storm. They did not believe that with Christ in the boat together with them, the outcome will be different from what they normally can expect i.e. death.

Jesus said to His disciples: "Why are you timid and afraid, O you of little faith?" (Matt 8:26a), and I think He is saying the same thing to us today.

By the way, in case you haven't read the story, the final outcome was perfect peace - "Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great and wonderful calm (a perfect peaceableness)" (Matt 8:26b)



BIC 1:
Some matters are worth thinking about. For e.g. ( 1)Jeremiah had a ministry that, to many a modern believer, was a ministry of 'failure', in man's eyes that is. He died in Egypt against his will, was thrown into a hole by his jewish brethren when the Babylonians came to invade, etc. (2) Job, though became rich in the end, lost all his children. (3) All the apostles except for John (who was exiled in Patmos) died martyrr's deaths. (4) Heb 11 showed that God promised vindication but seldom promised immediate vindication. e.g Hebrews 11:32-39. Some great victories, some destitute but all were commended. (5) Rom 8:23 says that we'll suffer till “the redemption of our bodies” take place
(6) In Acts 12, James was martyred but Peter was delivered (Peter’s deliverance nothing to do with his or church’s faith)
(7) 2Cor 12:12; Rom 15:9 Paul’ mentioned “signs, wonders & miracles” but he & companions were sick. Their sicknesses never attributed to lack of faith or recovery to great faith. Epaphroditus nearly died, etc.

One of our Methodist pastors, a Godly man, was killed by a truck after he has changed his car's tyres. His son, a seminary student, disappeared while tracking alone near a glacier of sorts. The pastor's wife, who lost both husband & son, is still a picture of God's grace & strength. That........is the power of the gospel. The world cannot offer such peace in the midst of adversity. What a testimony! Praise God!


BIC 2:
Hi Stanley, Yes you can choose to believe what you want to believe and choose to interpret Scriptures according to what you choose to believe.

However, we affirm the absolute authority of the Scriptures over our lives and thought. We too affirm the church history of exegesis and the interpretive tradition of the church on the issues of health and wealth.

The Church at large, whether orthodox, Charismatic or otherwise especially in its earliest years never validate the "prosperity teachings".

To borrow the words of John Piper, we are against the "prosperity teaching" that emphasizes God's aim to make believers healthy and wealthy in this life, while it overlooks or minimizes the dangers of wealth, the biblical call to a wartime mindset,and the necessity and purposes of suffering.

For the love of money is a root of kinds of evil. It is through this craving that some HAVE WANDERED away from the faith...( 1 Tim 6:9-10)

Keep your life free from the love of money, and BE CONTENT WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, FOR HE HAS SAID, " I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU." ( Heb 13:5)


Me:
Hi BIC 2,
Yes, you are right that as 1 Tim 6:9-10 says, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil BUT the love of money is not dependent on whether one has money or not. A poor man can be obsessed with money while a rich man can be cool about it.

I believe in being blessed to be a blessing, in being made rich to help the poor, in having money but not money having me - "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." (2 Cor 8:9)





BIC 1:
To interpret 2Cor8:9 to mean that God wants us to be financially rich is not only against the context of the passage but also is espousing a view that is not taught anywhere in the NT. It also avoids hundreds of texts that are directly in opposition to it. "Poor" & "rich" does not mean the way it means to fallen man. The church in Smyrna Rev2:9 was very poor but "I know your poverty...BUT you are rich!". The church in Laodicea was materially rich "BUT you do not realize that you are..poor.."(Rev3:17).

In 2Cor8, the Macedonians were in "extreme poverty"(NIV 8:2). Nowhere were they chided for not having faith to be rich. They were commended for giving out of their extreme poverty. They were rich IN GIVING. So, Jesus, having everything, gave it up so that we might receive. Prosperity preachers say that we should sow $ so that we may reap $. In 2Cor 9:10, the context is "he who supplies seed to the sower...will enlarge the harvest of your RIGHTEOUSNESS". The richness refers, largely, to the richness in giving. Being "poor" in the Bible does not mean money only. It also refers to being deprived politically, socially, etc.


Prosperity gospel, in my opinion, is a sub-gospel & a twisting of scripture. Jim Baker realized this when he was in prison (read his "I was wrong"). He felt so nauseated by the fact that he was teaching against the teachings of the Lord Jesus to maintain his lifestyle & to lead so many others astray.


BIC 2:
Hi Stanley, you wrote "I believe in being blessed to be a blessing, in being made rich to help the poor, in having money but not money having me ..."

I got news for you, Stanley. You DONT have to be made rich to help the poor. Mother Theresa is a good example. The early missionaries who pioneered church work as well as schools and hospitals are another example.

Greg Mortenson, a non Christian who has built over 500 schools for the poor children in remote areas of Pakistan in an effort to promote peace and well being is NOT rich. He by his own admission ( His book " Three cups of Tea" ) is relatively poor.

The World ( led by a number of self help Gurus) is constantly screaming that God or the Supreme Being wants to make people rich. And which non-believer do not want to be rich? And if the Church preaches the same message, are we not following the World?

And what does Jesus and the Scriptures say about Money and riches? The following are examples of verses in the Bible that warns about the dangers of wealth. Regarding your questions on consensual tradition of Christian exegesis and theology and others, I will reply later.

I'll say it again, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God! ( Matt 19:24)

No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money.
( Matt 6:24)

The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the DECEITFULNESS of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. ( Matt 13: 32)

But those who DESIRE to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. (1 Tim 6: 9)

Me:
The word "poor" in 2 Cor 8:9 in the original Greek is πτωχεύω
(transliterated as ptōcheuō) - Strong's definition says it means "to be a beggar, that is, (by implication) to become indigent (figuratively): - become poor."

The word "rich" in 2 Cor 8:9 in the original Greek is πλουτέω
(transliterated as plouteō) - Strong's definition says it means "to be (or become) wealthy (literally or figuratively): - be increased with goods, (be made, wax) rich."

Yes, the Macedonians are to be commended for their "richness in giving", for giving out of their extreme poverty. However, I believe that as 2 Cor 8:9 says, Christ became a beggar ie. "ptōcheuō" so that I can become rich i.e. "plouteō" and my richness in giving will be out of my extreme prosperity rather than poverty.

If this is considered as twisting 2 Cor 8:9, I think this is a very straight(forward) "twist".


Me:
Hi BIC 2,
Yes, I agree that one does not have to be rich to help the poor BUT I've got news for you Charles, it is so much more difficult for the poor to help the poor.

You look at the poor countries in the world who are receiving foreign aid. Let me ask you, where does this aid come from? Yes, from the rich countries like the US, Japan and the European Union.

A report by guardian.co.uk listed the donors of aid for the Haiti earthquake disaster and the top 10 countries are:
1. United States
2. Canada
3. Japan
4. Saudi Arabia
5. Spain
6. France
7. United Kingdom
8. Norway
9. Sweden
10. Germany
(source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/jan/14/haiti-quake-aid-pledges-country-donations)

Like I said earlier in my comment to BIC 1, I believe that as 2 Cor 8:9 says, Christ became a beggar ie. "ptōcheuō" so that I can become rich i.e. "plouteō" and my richness in giving will be out of my extreme prosperity rather than poverty.



BIC 2:
Hi Stanley, your exegesis on 2 Cor 8:9 seems to imply that Jesus died so that those who believe in him might become rich with money.

Clearly as Sir Daniel pointed out, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to be like the Macedonians and abound in this grace. The Macedonians were poor monetarily and yet gave out of their poverty.

To understand 2 Cor 8:9, we must read it with reference to Philippians 2: 6-9 "Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.

When Paul says Jesus became poor, and by his poverty we become rich, he is talking not about poverty in terms of money, but about his incarnation and death on the cross.

So what kind of riches does Jesus gain for us through his poverty? The answer is in Romans 11:12-15 "Now if the trespass [of the Jews] means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! . . . 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world."

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable RICHES of Christ. (Ephesians 3:8)

The riches of Christ! Once again, Paul here is not talking about money; he is not talking about health; he is not talking about wealth but about knowing Christ Himself!


BIC 1:
Sometimes God thinks differently from us.When we think that we have given more to the poor by giving RM50,000 compared to someone else's RM5, Jesus has this to say "And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins.. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more.." (Mark 12:42,43). But, won't RM50K be more useful? Well, God's notion of "more" may be different from mine. Just like the case with Smyrna & Laodicea.

Of course "poor" means 'miskin' or 'boh looi' or 'kasi eelek' but to say that Jesus became poor so that we can be rich financially goes against the context, the NT teachings & historical teachings of the Church for the 1st 1,900 years.

Anway, Stanley, you sound like a brother in the Lord who loves God & who wants to serve Him in the way you think is best & I will agree to dissagree & pray that God will continue to bless you & your ministry.

(emphasis in bold mine, not BIC 1)


Me:
Hi BIC 1,
I don't see how you have shown that my interpretation of 2 Cor 8:9 is out of context. You agree that "Of course "poor" means 'miskin' or 'boh looi' or 'kasi eelek'" (which literally in English means "no money") BUT you refuse to acknowledge that the word "rich" in the SAME verse means "have money". This verse uses the words "poor" and "rich" to directly contrast each other i.e. Christ became "no money" in order that we "have money".

To further see the CONTEXT, let us examine the passage of 2 Cor 8:1-14:
vv1-5 Paul was commending the Macedonians' heart of generosity, who gave despite their poverty:


"For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will." (v3)

vv6-14 Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to fulfill completely their earlier pledge of giving. Paul reminded them that their riches was because of the grace of Christ (v9) and that he was not trying to make life hard for them by giving away everything but if the poor Macedonians who have little can give, how much more they, the rich Corinthians, who have plenty can give:

"11b Give in proportion to what you have.
12 Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.
13 Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality.
14 Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal."
(v11-14)

1 comment:

Kaffein said...

I totally agree with you. Makes me wonder why Christians want to be poor thinking that it glorifies God. If it is so, then Solomon must have been in great sin because my bible tells me that God gave Solomon riches and honour. Solomon's life towards the end because twisted because his foreign wives lead him astray from God. Not money as people so often claimed.

Even in Matt 6 on Seek ye first the kingdom of God, Jesus was revealing that God the Father himself desires to bless his children, just as an earthly father does. We know the pillar of that paragraph - seek first the Kingdom of God (which is God's grace through Christ in the new covenant) and His Righteousness (who is Jesus), and all these things (in the context of the passage are earthly things) shall be added unto us.

I know I cannot change a person's belief in accepting health and wealth for I once too was against such teachings. I pray and hope that more Christians come around to know the promises and blessings they have in Christ Jesus.

Btw, I too have had many discourses with other Christians on faith, wealth and health.

Shalom,
Kaffein