Thursday, September 18, 2014

Voting for Principalities and Powers

The following is an extract from by book called Kingdom Authority, which will be published later this year.

When the people of a city or nation submit to their political leaders, they give them authority over their lives. If the powers of evil get to control the people at the top of the political hierarchy, they gain authority over all the people submitted to them. Concentration of political power leverages the authority of the powers of evil.

The spiritual powers that control political leaders are called “principalities and powers” in the Bible (Eph 1:21). Some, like Prince of Persia, take the name of their nation (Dan 10:20). They have immense authority on earth, despite their defeat on the cross, because people submit to the leaders controlled by them. Political leaders have legal authority over their people, so attacking them gives the principalities and powers control over cities and nations.

Focussing on individual people is a very inefficient way for the powers of evil to use their shrinking power. If an evil spirit gains control over one person, it can make that person’s life miserable, but that is all. By getting control over a political leader, the same spirit can make an entire nation miserable. The powers of evil amplify their power by attacking people with political authority.

The power of evil is mostly an illusion, but concentrating on a few powerful people has allowed the forces of evil to magnify their pathetic power. Controlling human political power has amplified their authority out of proportion to their strength.

In the modern world, political power has been centralised and consolidated as never before. The leader of a modern democratic nation has greater power and authority than an emperor in Old Testament times, because they can control every aspect of life in their city or nation.

The political systems of great nations are extremely dangerous, because one person has control over hundreds of millions of people. The devil can gain huge power on earth, by deploying a few strong spirits to get control of the president of China, Russia or the United States. By getting control of these leaders, the principalities and powers get authority over everyone submitted to them. Concentration of human political power gives vast power to the principalities and powers that control it.

The principalities and powers love to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). We are seeing this now in many parts of the world. Wars and economic crashes are not God’s judgements, but are a sign that evil powers have been given a free hand.

Political power is a huge obstacle to the Kingdom of God, because it is so vulnerable to evil. Political evil cannot be defeated with political power. Many Christians have unwittingly supported the enemy and held back the Kingdom by seeking political power. Instead, we must wait until God destroys human government by bringing judgment against it when the time is right.

When we vote, we submit to the political powers of our nation, and the principalities and powers that control them, which gives them authority in our lives.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Land and Spirit

Each place on earth comes under spiritual influence. We see the earth divided up by rivers, seas, and mountain barriers. It is further divided by the boundaries of nations and states. If we looked from the spiritual realms, we would see it divided by spiritual influence. The key to interpreting what happens in the world is to understand the distribution of spiritual authority.

The spiritual forces of evil work through the political and economic powers that control the world. Their authority works in parallel to the authority of political powers and the owners of land.

The owners of land have authority over their land. If the owner of a tract of land is being influenced by a spiritual power, it will have some control over what happens on their land.

Political powers have much greater authority than those who control land. If they are able to be manipulated by the spiritual powers, these spiritual powers will have a much stronger influence over events in the territory.

When we enter a place, we should be careful to discern what spiritual authority is at work. If we submit to the owner’s authority, we can make ourselves vulnerable to the spirits with control of that place. If we enter a shopping mall, we do not need to submit to the owners of the mall. However, when we take employment, we are submitting to the owners and opening ourselves to their spiritual influence.

Every earthly authority with significant scope can have evils spirits trying to control it. We should be careful about how we submit.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Too Many New Seasons

I get frustrated when Christian prophesy that a new season is coming. A season of blessing, a season of miracles, a season of victory, or a season of taking back what was lost. These seasons are often linked with the numbers of days in the Jewish calendar in a way that often seem more like Christian astrology than prophecy.

These messages are confused about God’s character and the way that he operates. They seem to project human fickleness on to God. We change our minds. We forget to do things we intended to do. We don’t get round doing things that we want to do. We put effort into doing that we should have done earlier. God is not fickle. He does not act in arbitrary ways.

A change in season can only occur, if there is a change in the covenant relationship between God and his people, or change in the authority situation between God and the power of evil. The death and resurrection of Jesus was the biggest season change in history, because it destroyed the authority of the powers of evil and dealt with the sin allowing us to receive the fullness of his Spirit.

The last big season change occurred in AD 70 when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, bringing the old covenant sacrifices to an end. This opened a season called the Times of the Gentiles, when the Jews people who chose to remain under the old covenant have no spiritual protection, because they has no sacrifice for sin.

The next season change is the fullness of the Jews, when the majority of Jews come to faith in Jesus, bringing great blessing to the world. (These seasons are described in detail in book called Times and Seasons).

In between these big season changes, there is spiritual warfare. What happens on earth depends on the state of the ongoing war. Success or failure depends almost entirely on the church. Changes in the spiritual realms come from binding and releasing on earth, not the other way round (Matt 16:19).

God does not come and go. He does not arbitrarily jump from offering his blessing to withdrawing it. Blessing that were not available last week do not suddenly becomes available this week, because the year has a different number. God is not in a stingy mood one day and in a generous mood the next. He is not miserable last year and happy next year. The angels are not tired one week and strong the next.

God operates consistently according the principles that he has revealed in the scriptures. He has been working on a long-term strategy that began when Adam and Eve sinned. His strategy is consistent with the way he has decided to operate on earth. His way of dealing with the earth does not change.

In any season, they key is alignment with the will of God. If we align with his will, we experience his goodness. His goodness is not just blessings. His goodness might mean blessing with persecutions. If we do not align with God’s will, then things will go badly in every way (although he will work it for our good in the long run).

We do not need prophets giving vague promises about season changes that are disconnected from our circumstances and alignment to God’s will. What we do need is prophetic insights into God will’s in our current situation, so that we can obey his will and receive his blessings. What need less prophecy tell us God is changing, and more telling us how to change so that we can align with his will.

If we understand God's times and seasons. We will not see fickle and arbitary changes in the way that God works on earth.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Average is Ever (6) Stark Vision

In Average is Over, Tyler Cowen gives this summary of the new social contract that will emerge in response to permanently declining incomes.

The American polity is unlikely to collapse, but we'll look back on the immediate post war era as a very special time. Our future will bring more wealth people than ever before, but also more poor people, including people who do not always have access to basic public services. Rather than balancing our budget with higher taxes or lower benefits, we will all the real wages of workers to fall and thus we will allow the creation of a new underclass. We won’t really see how we could stop that. Yet it will be and oddly peaceful time, with general aging of Americans society and the proliferation of many sources of cheap fun (258).
I hope that Tyler Cowen is wrong. He brings a terrible vision of the future. I hope that the gospel beats him to it.

Tyler Cowan makes one prediction that I like. He suggests that as the ability of the government to collect taxes declines. people will become more dependent of local communities.

Americans will look more towards local communities and tight local bonds, to protect themselves against economic risks. Unlike the predicted breakdown in social order, these trends are already significant and observable in today’s America (258).

Friday, September 12, 2014

Average is Over (5) Academic Angst

In Average is Over, Tyler Cowen suggests that concerns about inequality are strongest among intellectuals.

Sometimes I wonder why so many relatively well-off intellectuals lead the egalitarian charge against the privileges of the wealth. One group has the status currency of money and the other has the status currency of intellect, so might they be competing for overall social regard. And in that competition, at least in the United States, the status currency of intellect is not winning out... The intellectual class, however, is small in number, so growingly inequality wont by itself lead to a political revolution along the lines many intellectuals have imagined (258).
A lot of commentators, most of all from the progressive Left, object strenuously to rising wealth and income inequality. Even if they are correct in their moral stance, they too quickly conclude that rising inequality has to cause other bad results, such as revolution, expropriation, or a breakdown in social order. That does not follow, and I sometimes wonder if it isn’t an internal psychological mechanism operating in some of these commentators, almost as if they were wishing for the wealthy to be punished for the sins (253).
I wonder if this “threat of revolution” argument isn’t a substitute for actually making a good case for a feasible reform. I’ve very often heard commentators from the left suggesting that if we don’t “do something” about income inequality, citizens will take matters in their own hands. There is a vague insinuation of a threat of violence, yet without any endorsement (or condemnation) of that violence. The commentator or writer doesn’t want to suggest that violence is in order, yet still wants the rhetorical force of having violence on his or side of the argument, as a kind of cosmic punishment for the objectionable inequality... The predictions of violence tell us more about the predictors than about the likely course of future American Society. Inequality can have bad consequence and we are like to experience some of those consequences, but these predictions of durable and significant unrest are some of the least though-out and least well-supported arguments with wide currency (254).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Average is Over (4) Revolt

Unlike other social commentators, Tyler Cowen does not expect a revolt from the poor in response to their permanently declining incomes.

For all the prognostication about the American future, the most important single fact, and the easier to predict, is simply that we will be a lot older. That will make us more conservative. Revolutions and protests are the endeavours of young hotheads, not sage (or tired) sixty-four year olds (251).
People will be set in their ways, aid to the elderly will soak up a large part of the government budget, and wealth earners will be the dominant economic social, and political influence.

Commentators often suggest that wage polarization will mean the end of liberalism—meaning a broadly tolerant society with lots of liberty and a protected personal sphere—or the end of democracy. We can imagine the lower-wage individuals toppling the proverbial Bastille and taking away the goodies of the higher earners. These are tempting conclusions, but there’s not much evidence of support them. Societies have a strong status quo bias, particularly, if they have high relative to other parts of the world.

If you are trying to measure the scope or potential for social disorder, look at the rate of crime. In the United States crime rates have been falling for decades and in present times they have surprised researchers by falling even faster than expected. Yet over those same decades income and wealth inequality have been rising significantly in the United States. It seems that whether we like it or not, increasing inequality and growing domestic peace are compatible. Very often I read warnings about how income inequality will lead to a society where the poor take by force what they cannot earn in the market place. Yet these predictions run aground on the simplest of empirical tests, namely crime rates (253).
Cowan suggests the last time that America had serious demonstration and riots was in the 1960s and early 1970s, which were a golden age of income equality and American manufacturing. He claims that Occupy Wall Street was tame by comparison to the 1960s, despite rising inequality.
Look where Occupy Wall Street has been strong as a movement. It holds great appeal for well-educated young people from the upper middle class, especially if they are under-appreciated liberal arts majors who do not have the option of stepping into the highest paying or most upwardly mobile jobs. It is not a broader American phenomenon that is catching fire on the docks of Elizabeth, New Jersey, or in the ailing Appalachian regions of Ohio or with religious homeschoolers in Idaho (256)
If we think about it, we really shouldn’t expect rising income and wealth inequality to lead to revolution and revolt. That is for a very simple psychological reason: Most envy is local. At least in the United States, most economic resentment is not directed towards billionaires or high-roller financiers—not even corrupt ones. It is directed at the guy down the hall who got a bigger rise. It is directed at the husband of your wife’s sister, because he earns 20 percent more than you do. It is directed at the people you went to high school with. And that’s why a lot of people aren’t so bothered by income or wealth inequality at the marco level: Most of us don’t compare ourselves to billionaires.... Right now the biggest medium for envy in the United States is probably Facebook, not the yachting marinas or the rather popular televisions shows about the lifestyles of the rich and famous (257)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Average is Over (3) Taste or Waste

In Average is Over, Tyler Cowen suggests that most people will get used to being poor as permanent income decline becomes normal.

There is one final way we will adjust to uneven wage patterns and that is with our tastes. Many of society’s lower earners will reshape their tastes—will have to reshape their tastes—towards cheaper desire.

The good news is that there is a lot of waste in American consumption—massive amounts of waste, in fact. Everyone has their favourite story about what the other guy spends his money on and could do without. But also the good news, oddly enough, is that there is a lot waste in American consumption. Citizens faced with financial pressures will shift into cheaper consumption, and a lot of them will do so without losing very much happiness or value, precisely because there is already so much waste in what they buy (248).
Cowan says that this adjustment will be tough for poor women, who choose to have children. He suggests that caring for children is an experience that many will not be able to afford.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Average is Over (2) Texas

In Average is Over, Tyler Cowen suggests that poor people are already adjusting to permanent declining incomes. For example the population of Texas is growing rapidly, because it is a place that is cheap to live.

Why is Texas so popular? For a long time the state has had one of America’s highest murder rates and it has a high property crime rate. The weather is warm but it is not a calm warm-weather state, give the storms and tornadoes.... Texas is skimpy on welfare benefits and Medicaid coverage, and 27 percent of the state has no health insurance coverage. Texas has one of America’s poorest performing educational systems, at least as measured by high school graduation rates, which in Texas are below 70 percent. What Texas does have is cheap housing...

In other words, if you live in Texas, your locale will offer C-grade public services but you may have more cash in your pocket than if you lived somewhere else (242).
I am not familiar with Texas, but Cowen says it is good place to live, if you are poor. In the future most people will be getting poorer, so more places like Texas will be needed.
Many Americans will end up living in areas with cheaper housing and lower-quality public services, if only to give themselves more cash in their pocket. Some of those areas might be a bit ugly to the eyes, again as a trade-off for lower costs. As cross-county moving proceeds, and changes what we are, the United States as a whole will end up looking more like Texas.

This trend will shape our world whether or not you find that the cheaper cities suit you personally.

How far will it go? No one can say for sure, but the fiscal limitations of the American government, combined with wage polarization, will test that question (242)

Monday, September 08, 2014

Average is Over (1)

I have just read Average is Over by Tyler Cowen. He gives his vision of America beyond the great stagnation.

The main point of the book is that high earners are taking advantage of computing power and improving their position. Low income earners who are not competent with technology are losing. The middle is getting thinner and thinner.

Cowen says that the lower classes have suffered as jobs have been exported to low wage countries. He argues that the process has only started. More and more middle class professional jobs will come under competition from Asia. The safe careers of lawyers and engineers will come under pressure from cheap international competitors with similar skills. The proof of this change is the fact that the labour share of national income has been declining for the last thirty years.

Most of the book expands on this theme, but the final chapter called A New Social Contract describes, his vision for the future of America. It is a disturbing vision.

The forces outlined in this book, especially for labor markets will force a rewriting of the social contract, even if it is not explicitly recognised as such. We will move from a society based on the pretense that everyone is given an okay standard of living to a society in which people are expected to fend for themselves much more than they do now. I imagine a world where, say, 10 to 15 percent of the citizenry is extremely wealth and has fantastically comfortable and stimulating lives, the equivalent of current-day millionaires, albeit with better health care.

Much of the rest of the country will have stagnant or maybe even falling wages in dollar terms, but a lot more opportunities for cheap fun and also cheap education. Many of these people will live quite well, and those will be the people who have the discipline to benefit from all the free or near-free services that modern technology has made available. Others will fall by the wayside (229-230)
The majority of people will experience declining incomes. They will learn to get by on less and less. Support from the government will decline too, as the wealth classes use their political power to get taxes reduced. The only good thing is that entertainment will be cheap via the internet. More circuses but less bread.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (19) Continuous Jubilee

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus read from Is 61:1-2 and said this prophecy had been fulfilled by him. This was a big call.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn.
The prophecy ended with a proclamation of the year of the Lord’s favour. This was a reference to the year of Jubilee in which the debt of the poor was cancelled and land that had been lost was returned to the owner (Lev 25:8-55).

Jesus was not promising a one year in AD 32. He was promising that the blessing of the Jubilee was being permanently fulfilled. His ministry would bring a permanent, continuous Jubilee. This Jubilee will becomes continuous as the Kingdom grows rapidly. As multitudes receive the gospel, a great flood of giving will create a massive shift in wealth.

I am going to finish this article where I probably should have started, with Jesus’ sermon on the plain. This is Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount that Christians are familiar with. I presume that Jesus preached this message many times with different emphases according to the audience (Luke 4:43). Luke’s version of the blessings and woes is less well known, presumably because it is tougher to apply. It is important because it repeats Jesus’ promise of the continuous Jubilee.

Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied (Luke 6:20-21).
The poor will receive the Kingdom of God. This is not just a spiritual blessing. The hungry will be satisfied. People who are rich and well fed now are in a risky position. Their comfort will be gone and they will become hungry. These big changse will be the consequence of the continuous Jubilee.

In his sermon, Jesus did not explain how it would happen, but we can see it happening in the book of Acts. In chapter 4, Barnabas was a rich man. By Acts 14, he was often going hungry (see 2 Cor 11:27). When Barnabas was suffering on his missionary trips with Paul, it would have been nice to have had his wealth, so they could book into a 4-star hotel for a few nights of rest. It would have been nice to have a well-stocked credit card, so he could pay for a ride instead of having to walk everywhere. Barnabas was hungry, because he had given his unrighteous wealth away, but the Kingdom of God belonged to him.

While Barnabas was hungry and tired, the poor people in Jerusalem were being fed Acts 6:1-7; Acts 11:27-29). This continuous jubilee was the fulfilment of the sermon on the plain.

In Jesus time, the only way to become rich was through collusion with political power, but this produced unrighteous wealth. When rich people heard the gospel, they would have to give their unrighteous wealth away. If they rejected the gospel, they would come under judgment and lose it anyway (this happened for many in AD 70). Either way they would lose their wealth.

If the rich people of Galilee and Judea chose to follow Jesus, they would give their unrighteous wealth to help the poor. This flood of giving brings the blessings and curses of Jesus into reality. The same is true today. If the church took Jesus teaching on unrighteous wealth seriously, there would be a huge flood of giving that would look just like the sermon on the flat place. The wealth distribution would be flattened dramatically. Unfortunately, we prefer to spiritualise Jesus teaching on unrighteous wealth and the poor continue to be poor and hungry and the rich tend to be satisfied.

This is the last post in this series. The full set of posts can be read on Kingdom Watcher at Unrighteous Wealth.


Thursday, September 04, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (18) Early Church


Most Christians look back to the book of Acts with envy, and fair enough. We wish we could see the free flow miracles that made the early church so effective. Most of us would love to experience the fullness of the spirit that they experienced. And we could do with seeing thousands added to the church in the way that they did.

However, there is one thing from the book of Acts that no one seems interested in copying. They took unrighteous wealth seriously. Those who came to faith as owners of unrighteous wealth quickly gave it away.

They began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need (Acts 2:45).
For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:34-37).
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself,but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 5:1,2).
I wonder if we would experience more of what they experienced, if we took unrighteous wealth as seriously as they did.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (17) Rich Dad Poor Dad

The book called Rich Dad Poor Dad by American businessmen Robert Kiyosaki is popular amongst Christians. The book contains some great wisdom, but his core method for acquiring wealth is morally flawed. It relies on using a combination of maximum debt and inflation to acquire residential and commercial real estate. Both debt and inflation are contrary to God’s Instructions for Economic Life, so the wealth his method produces is unrighteous wealth.

The wealth gained this way usually comes from people who cannot afford it. It is not a productive activity.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (16) Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus understood Jesus message. When Jesus came to dine with him, he stood up and said,

Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount (Luke 18:9).
This was not a grand gesture to impress Jesus. He knew that he was the owner of unrighteous wealth. Tax collectors became rich by stealing from their fellow citizens, using stand-over tactics. Zacchaeus was entitled to a fee for his services, but most of his wealth was unrighteous wealth.

Zacchaeus wanted to enter the Kingdom of God, so he knew what he had to do. He had to get rid of his unrighteous wealth. He offered to fourfold restitution to anyone he had stolen from. That is what the Law required (Ex 22:1). He no longer knew who he had acquired most of his wealth from, so he could not make restitution. That is why he gave half of his possessions to the poor.

Zacchaeus gave his wealth away, because he knew he could not take it into the Kingdom. Jesus did not need to say anything to him, because he understood Jesus message. We focus on the generosity of Jesus in coming to dine with a bad man. That is good, but dining with sinners counts for nothing, if you are clinging onto unrighteous wealth.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (15) Rich Ruler

Jesus did not just tell parables about the dangers of unrighteous wealth, he applied his teaching in real life situations.

A rich man asked him how to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him about the commandments. The man insisted that he had kept them all since he was a boy, including the command not to steal. I presume he mentioned this one, because he had heard Jesus teaching about wealth.

Jesus cut to the chase and told him to sell everything and give it to the poor. The reason that he had to get rid of everything was that it was unrighteous wealth. The only way to make it right and comply with the standard of the law was to give it away.

This man was a ruler. In Jesus time, a ruler was an agent of the Roman empire. He was running the country on behalf of the Romans, which was a great way to become rich, without having to engage in robbery. Everything he did was legal, because he was an agent of the law.

Wealth gained by collusion with political power is unrighteous wealth. It is tainted with evil, so it cannot come into the kingdom.

Jesus gave a stark warning.

You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me (Luke 18:22).
This made the man very sad, because he had great wealth. He missed the promise of wealth in the spiritual realms. Jesus drew a blunt conclusion.
How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:24-25)
Some of Jesus listeners thought he was saying that it was impossible for a rich man to be saved, but they were wrong. It was just about impossible for an owner of unrighteous wealth, because their wealth has a hold on them that is hard to break.

Jesus was explaining that it was easy for a rich man to enter heaven, but it had to be done God’s way. A rich man could get rid of his unrighteous wealth by giving it away to the poor.

Unrighteous wealth cannot come into the kingdom. It must be left behind, or the owner must stay out. The owner must leave it behind, if they want to follow Jesus.



Sunday, August 31, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (14) Pharisee and the Tax Collector

We think of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is parable about hypocrisy, but this not quite right. Hypocrisy is pretending that you are better than you are. The Pharisee was not pretending. He thought he was better, but he was wrong about righteousness.

This parable is part of a series of parables about unrighteous wealth. Jesus directed it towards people who “trusted in themselves that they are righteous”. The Pharisee explains the basis for his righteousness. He tithed a tenth of “everything that he acquired”. Jesus said that he did not go home justified as righteous before God.

The reason is that tithing on wealth does not make it righteous. The righteousness of wealth depends on how it is acquired, not on how much is tithed. Acquisition of wealth must be consistent with God’s Instructions for Economic Life. The Pharisee failed to meet that standard, so he was benefiting from unrighteous wealth. It looked fine on the outside, but he was actually no better than a tax collector.

The tax collector was not an innocent bureaucrat. Tax collectors were instruments of the Roman Empire. They extracted as much wealth from the people as they could get. They paid what the owed to the Romans, and kept the rest for themselves. Being a tax collector was a good way to becomes rich, but it was unrighteous wealth. The tax collector in the parable know that and asked God for mercy.

The message of the parable is that the person who acquires unrighteous wealth is no better than the tax collector. They might do good things with their wealth, but that does not change their character.

This is a serious warning for modern Christians. They are easy about how the obtain their wealth, but they assume that tithing and other Christian activities makes it right. It does not.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (13) Lazarus and the Rich Man

Jesus expanded on the dangers of unrighteous wealth in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Most Christians see this parable as teaching about heaven and evil, but this misses the point of the parable because it follows on from the parable of the Shrewd Manager, in which Jesus articulated the concept of unrighteous wealth. The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus continues this theme. Jesus was warning that the soul of the person who owns unrighteous wealth is in serious danger. It is almost impossible for them to get into the kingdom.

The rich man lived in luxury, but thought that he was okay. He assumed he was inheriting the blessing of Abraham. He ignored Lazarus because he assumed that he was cursed because he was such a poor man. He thought Lazarus was a bludger.

Like many poor people, Lazarus would have enjoyed a few scraps of food from the rich man’s rubbish bin, but he was shut out from that too. No trickle down from this table. Only the dogs licked his sores, but there was little comfort in their attention.

When the two men died, the rich man discovered the was wrong. He had received his good things, but now he was in agony.

Why did this man end up on the wrong side of the great divide? Jesus does not say explicitly, but his listeners would have understood the reason. The rich man wore a robe of purple, which pointed to an establishment role linked to the privilege of the Roman Empire. His wealth was unrighteous wealth

The rich man asked that Lazarus would come and dip his finger in water and cool his tongue. He had done nothing to comfort Lazarus, and he still thought of himself.

The rich man asked Abraham to send someone to his brothers to warn them. Abraham said that the law and the prophets had warned them and that should be enough. The instructions for economic life contained in the Law of Moses defined the nature of unrighteous wealth very clearly. The prophets explained and confirmed the nature of unrighteous wealth. The law and the prophets contained everything that the rich man’s brothers needed to know.

The rich man had ignored the teaching of the law and the prophets and got on with becoming rich. He thought that he was inheriting the promise of Abraham, but he was ignoring God’s standard for righteous wealth. This left him on the wrong side of the eternal divide.

Lazarus had experienced the bad things condemned by the law, so he arrived at a place of blessed. He was the true son of Abraham.

If we want to understood the nature of unrigheous wealth, we should do what the rich man and his brothers did not do. We should study the law, and the insights of the prophets into the teaching of the law.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (12) Land

God hates the accumulation of large tracts of land and wants it evenly distributed. He created the earth for all humans and wants every person to own a bit of it, so they have the capacity to feed themselves. When Israel entered the land, he told Moses to divide it equally between all people. That means that large landholdings are unrighteous wealth.

The accumulation of houses is unrighteous wealth. The prophets spoke against those who accumulated land and houses.

Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land (Is 5:8).
When Jesus challenged a ruler enquired about eternal life, the man claimed to have kept all the commandments since he was a boy (Luke 18:21). Jesus explained that he was wrong. He had honoured the Ten Commandments, but he had ignored God’s instructions for economic life. He was not entitled to accumulate land. To be righteous, he needed to sell his land and give it away. This would fulfil the land laws of Leviticus 25.
Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Luke 18:23).
Luke records that the man became sad, because “he was very wealthy”. They only to become wealthy in Jesus time, was through collusion with the Romans, so his was unrighteous wealth.

In the modern world, residential housing is a popular investment. This demand pushes up the price of dwellings, which makes it difficult for young people to buy a house. Investment in housing is unproductive. It does not increase the productivity of the economy. People who are saving for their retirement should invest in productivity activities not residential dwellings.

If people who own more than one house or residential lot were to sell them, the price of houses would fall dramatically. Young people would find houses easier to afford.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (11) Church

In the last century, millions of people in the western world have come to faith. This should have resulted in a massive continuous jubilee, as the new Christians gave away their unrighteous wealth, but that never happened. The consequences are serious.

  • The poor have been robbed of blessing.
  • The gospel has been hindered.
  • Wealth has been stored up for judgment (maybe this is the reason for the current grumpy economic growth).
The jubilee of giving has not occurred because the church has taught the false doctrine of tithing to the church and ignored Jesus teaching about giving away unrighteous wealth. The church has taught Christians that if they tithe on the income from their unrighteous wealth, it does not need to be given away. Share your unrighteous gains with us, and you will be okay. What a handy teaching. I do not know of any church that has taught that unrighteous wealth must be given away. Jesus teaching has been ignored.

The consequence is that the church has robbed the poor. The church has gained a tenth of the income from unrighteous wealth, and the poor have got nothing. Not quite what Jesus had in mind. I think it means that a significant proportion of the property of the church is unrighteous wealth.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (10) Barnabas

Barnabas brought his money to the apostles when he realised it was unrighteous wealth.

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet (Acts 4:36-37).
Barnabas was a Levite and Levites were not entitled to own land in Israel (Num 26:62). When he came to faith in Jesus, the illegal ownership of land would have weighed on his conscious. He probably could not return the land to its rightful owner (Lev 25:13), so he sold the land and gave the money to the apostles for distribution to those in need.

The word used for possessions in Acts 2:45, 4:34 and Acts 5:1 is "ktema" or "ktetor" This is not the word generally used for possessions in the New Testament (uparxis). These nouns are derived from the verb "ktaomai". It means "acquire" or "gain control over". It refers to property that has been acquired, not bought. "Ktema" refers to unrighteous wealth that has been acquired by wickedness. The property sold by Christians like Barnabas and Ananias had been acquired as a reward for unrighteous activities.

The generosity of the early church was not proto-communism as is often suggested. It was the practical outworking of the Jesus teaching on unrighteous wealth.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (9) Discerning

There are no simple rules to distinguish between righteous and unrighteous wealth. Some wealth will be obvious. The shrewd manager had worked for the rich man, so he knew how much of his wealth was earned in unrighteous ways. People who have served sin should be able to recognise the fruits of sin. The Holy Spirit will reveal this to the person who seeks honestly.

Unrighteous wealth is not an objective standard that can be decided by a judge. Nor can it be decided by other Christian or elders. Only the person who holds the wealth knows how it was obtained, so they must decide whether it was unrighteous wealth or not. An elder can explain to new Christian what it means, but they must assess their own wealth and decide its status. Only the property owner can decide how much of their wealth is unrighteous. This is a personal issue.

Zacchaeus decided that half of his wealth was unrighteous wealth and gave it away. Likewise, the property owner must decide themselves what they will do with their unrighteous wealth. They can ask Christian elders for advice. They can ask deacons for assistance, but their response must be a personal choice, not compulsion.

Most unrighteous wealth will be obvious. If it is not obvious, we can leave it to the Holy Spirit. He will convict the new Christian, if his wealth is unrighteous and needs to be “got shot of”. We can trust the Spirit to do this task.

Christian elders must not get into the business of forcing new Christians to give away their wealth, whether it unrighteous or not. The Ananias and Saphira incident probably occurred because people were coming under inappropriate pressure to give wealth away (Acts 5:1-10). This teaching is not the basis for compulsory income redistribution either by the church or by political power.

Unrighteous wealth can usually be discerned by examining the way it was acquired. It will have been obtained through deception, theft, manipulation or dishonesty. In Jesus time, it was often acquired through collusion with the political and religious powers. That problem has not changed, but the form will be different.