Friday, June 27, 2008

He Paid a Debt

"Speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent". This oft used motto is a baseline for doctrine and practices in churches of Christ and came out of the Restoration Movement in the 1800s. And yet on the subject of money, we are often very silent where the Bible speaks very plainly. Money is one of the top subjects in scripture. There's a ton of financial advice in Proverbs and Jesus spoke of it often. In church we rarely speak about anything other than the giving aspect of money. And the times we talk about being a good steward and giving unto Caesar are in the context of giving (because the giving is never enough). Here's a long list of scriptures that speak about money and finances.

One area where the Bible plainly speaks is on the subject of debt. The Bible never says that debt is sinful, but it strongly condemns the use of debt as a bad way to do business. Depending on the translation, words like "foolish", "stupid", "lacking in sense", and "slave" are used to describe debt, the use of debt, and the relationships it creates.

Here are a few of the scriptures on debt:

Proverbs 22:7
"The rich rule over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender."
Proverbs 22:26-27
"Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, one of those who is surety for debts; if you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take away your bed from under you?"
Proverbs 17:18
"It's stupid to guarantee someone else's loan."
Proverbs 11:15
"He who is surety for a stranger will suffer for it, but one who hates being surety is secure."
And finally there's even advice on how to get out of debt:
Proverbs 6:1-5
"My son, if you have become surety for your friend, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you are snared by the words of your own mouth; you are taken by the words of your mouth. So do this, my son, and deliver yourself; For you have come into the hand of your friend; Go and humble yourself; plead with your friend. Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids. Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird for the hand of the fowler."

Notice that it never says that going into debt is a sin. It just says it is foolish and will take your very bed from under you.

We have churches going deeply into debt for new facilities, pastors encouraging people to use their credit cards to pay their offering, churches asking members to personally sign for the church's debt, and Christians everyone living the good life on credit cards, HELOCs, and car fleeces.

Jesus came not just to pay our debt for the redemption of our souls, he came to show us the best way to live. We're more than willing to condemn others for drinking or smoking or carousing or missing church services, but when it comes to finances we rarely insert ourselves into our brothers' and sisters' lives. The weight of debt can be as burdensome as addictions and guilt of sin. It can destroy marriages and wreak havoc in every area of our lives.

What a wonderful opportunity for outreach and showing God's love and His purpose for our lives. If we teach our children, neighbors, and fellow Christians God's way of handling what he has given us then we spread not only his love, but a great deal of peace to a world greatly in need of both.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Above all, love each other deeply

Tonight in Bible class we were talking about 1 Peter 4:1-11. We talked about the suffering of Christ and suffering for the faith. Hard times can make us stronger or break us down. Here Peter is warning his fellow Christians of what to do when the hard times come. He first points to Christ as our example. Then he goes on to give some pratical advice of fighting the dark times:
7The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
He continues with other advice such as practicing hospitality, teaching and serving. But he echoes the idea that Jesus tried to teach us. Loving God and Loving each other is the most important thing "because love covers over a multitude of sins". The covering of sins certainly refers to Christ's love in his sacrifice that brings us redemption. But in this situation, he's referring to our interactions as a body. The MOST important thing we can do to fight the hard times that the world throws at us is to love each because all the petty arguments, offenses, and differences will be abated by love. The covering power of the love is over our sins towards our fellow Christians. They criticize us, reprimand us, believe different from us, worship different than us, and raise their children different than us. How dare they be so different from us. But all my attempts to straighten them out and set them on the right path are just clanging symbols (like the kids banging on the pots in the kitchen) if I have not love.

When they do this things, believe these things, teach these things what am I to do? Am I not to correct them? We throw around the terms conservative, progressive, liberal, anti-this, and non-that. Whatever the labels, whatever the positions, whatever the doctrines, love must bind us all together. Whether I think you're wrong and don't choose to worship as you do or you think I'm wrong and don't choose to attend my gospel meeting, we must remember the words of our Lord and his servant Peter that love must be practiced above all.

I don't have to condone your actions or accept them for myself and I can certainly discuss with you where I think you may be in need of guidance. But I must not hold a grudge, spread gossip (true or not), publish nasty letters on my blog, or write you up in a Christian publication.

If my salvation is based on doing and believing the correct things throughout my life then I'm hosed. If my salvation is based on getting everyone around me to do and believe the correct things in their own lives then I'm equally hosed. I can't do it on my own and neither can you. But together when the dark times come (such as when some big man in a black helmet tries to extinguish your light from the galaxy) we can stand up under the suffering that the world throws at us. We can use our gifts "To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen."

The thoughts in this article have been stewing around for a bit and our class tonight finally got me going on the track to write it all down. Some of the things rattling around in my brain are from a recent story involving the school where my mother work and my youngest 2 siblings graduated and the churches local to the area. I won't go into the story, but there are some blog entries, national Christian articles, and my brother's blog that refer to the situation. These things always make me sad. The congregation here where we attend has gone through a similar situation with lingering resentment (or fear of resentment) from some people.

Let us pray that we can love and be loved and that we will forgive others as we wish to be forgiven.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Am I Weird?

I'm sure my siblings will immediately answer "Yes" to this but hear me out before making any final judgements.

For Father's Day we had budgeted $50 for gifts and $50 for eating out. Yesterday I told Kathryne that what I wanted was to take the $100 and put it on our debt snowball. We're so close to paying off the current credit card and I want it GONE. At first she wasn't happy about this, but Sean liked the idea and eventually she agreed to it. Still she called me this morning on the way to work to confirm that I REALLY wanted to do it.

We plan on being out of debt 1 year from now and we really enjoyed meeting Dave Ramsey last week during a break in his radio show.Our 3rd FPU class starts in September and we're really excited about how we've been able to help those in our 1st 2 classes (by helping them help themselves).