About once or twice a month, a politician or religious leader pulls out the ole, “The Bible tells us to be our brother’s keeper.” The problem is … Being your brother’s keeper is not only NOT prescribed in the Scriptures; it’s almost a textbook definition of codependency. I’d encourage anyone to try to be anyone’s keeper for even one day. Try making someone else happy. Try to stop the gambling addict or alcoholic. I’ve worked at a Methadone clinic and walked with folks in recovery for years. You cannot and should not be anyone’s keeper.
When God is enough, when He is your source of sufficiency. No human being can move toward healthly living if someone else is responsible for their decisions, outcomes, or growth. The Bible says we must “bear our own load.” We need to examine ourselves. We are instructed to examine our work. We are admonished to rejoice in our work. God says that instead of depending on others, we need to bear our own load. We must work towards self-sufficiency as God is supplying our needs rather than being a burden on others.
Work Toward Self-Sufficiency
Galatians 6:4-5 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load.
Self-sufficiency is a critical part of hard work….producing vs depending. Paul says “examine your work,” and make sure you are “bearing your own load.” In America today, that seems almost obvious. Concepts like hard work and profiting rather than depending have been woven into the fabric of our culture. It’s hard to see how radical this idea is until you compare it to history. Paul was introducing these Christian ideals into a Greek and Roman culture where gentleman didn’t do manual labor. The bulk of society was lazy and thought work was something that only servants did. In one passage of the Bible, Paul comes into Athens and notes the laziness of the aristocrats,
“For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to hear or tell some new thing…” (Acts 17:21)
They spent their time philosophizing and pondering, but not working and producing. Paul challenged this idea by teaching that work is a gift, a calling, and a command from God. Self-sufficiency is a way to not be a burden to others while fanning into flame the talents and skills deposited into you by a loving personal Creator. Paul says we should “bear our own load.”
What is a load anyway? In Roman days each soldier marching across the countryside with their own “backpack.” This was their load. Each soldier was responsible for his own load of supplies. It would be unthinkable for an able-bodied Roman soldier to turn to another Roman soldier and say, “How about you carry my load? I’d prefer not to.” What would happen if a well intended helper started carrying the load of another? They would end up hurting the one they were helping in the process of offering assistance. “How is that?” you might ask.
When you carry another person’s responsibility, they don’t learn to carry their own load. They don’t grow physically as the muscles are developed from carrying their responsibility.
We live in such a codependent society today. We end up crippling others emotionally, financially, and spiritually by rescuing them from all difficulties. When you don’t let a child fail and learn how to cope with failure, you handicap him from dealing with reality. When you rescue an addict every time he goes on another binge, he doesn’t learn the consequences of his actions. When a person is lazy, but still has all his needs and wants provided for, he learns that laziness is rewarded. This is why it can be hard to launch teenagers into the work force who have become accustomed to the easy life with mom and dad. If you don’t teach and prepare them to carry their own load, they will never learn to become responsible adults and contributors to society. Instead, they will be developmentally handicapped in a cycle of dependency.
The Bible gives us two concepts for determining when to help and when to walk away. Paul tells us to distinguish between a burden and a load.
Gal 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
As parents, leaders, and civic decision-makers, it is not easy to determine the line between a load and a burden; however the distinction is critical. While we are not to carry someone else’s load, we must carry each other’s burdens.
We all have times when we are crushed by a “burden.” A burden is a crushing weight, rather than an individual load. It is an out of control emotional struggle, physical struggle, or financial game-changer that puts us into a death spiral. When others are hurting and crushed by a burden, a follower of Christ must do unto others, as they would have done unto them. This is the way we fulfill the Law of Christ. We individually access the need and generously come along side those who are hurting -all the while- making sure we are helping with the “burden” without carrying their load. It is in both your self-interest and theirs to teach them to live a productive life, not a dependent one. This is the importance of self-sufficiency. In fact the Bible says that “if we cannot provide for our own household, we are worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Tim 5:8
Carry Your Brother’s Burdens, but never become your brother’s keeper.
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There is an often misunderstood, but relatively well known passage in the Bible about Jesus’s anger that speaks to this issue:
45 Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.'”
Jesus “drives out” the thieves that have made His Father’s house into a place of robbery. I will often hear someone expound on this passage and conclude that Jesus/God therefore hates any kind of commerce or capitalism. This is not only erroneous, but missing the whole context and point. Let’s look at how the political/religious system was robbing the poor and middle class by devaluing their currency. That’s what Jesus is mad about.
In those days, people would travel great distances to come to Jerusalem to sacrifice to God. God had instructed them to bring their best sheep, animal, etc to sacrifice to God. So this out-of-towner would come to Jerusalem to make a sacrifice to God. Before he was allowed into the temple, his beast had to undergo an “inspection.”
The scribes/priests had set up a insidious way to devalue the out-of-towner currency. Much like Boss hog used to give “30-day-in-jail” speeding tickets to musicians passing through Hazard county -unless they gave a “free concert”- on the Dukes of Hazzard. The corrupt scribes were exploiting the out of towners. How? In those days, your currency included both your money (silver, gold, and Roman coinage) as well as your property (your sheep, cows, etc).When you brought your sheep to town, the priest would declare it “unworthy” for sacrifice and then sell you one of their “qualifed” animals at twice the price. As you left the city, the priest would then take your “unqualified” animal and sell it to the next guy for twice the price. This is what Jesus is angry about. The religious and political leadership found a way to exploit the people. They were robbing them by devaluing their property and then upcharging them through rising prices.
Capitalism is not just a good idea, it’s God’s idea.
The Bible supports free market capitalism for a variety of reasons.
1) Free market capitalism requires the voluntary exchange of goods and services. Therefore, Freedom is the fuel for the system. Someone must freely choose to buy your product forcing you to put their needs ahead of your own by setting a price and quality that THEY will want to buy.
2 Cor 3:17 and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
From the theology of the Garden of Eden to the Exodus from Egypt, freedom is the recurring theme of the Bible. Wherever true followers of Christ have taken seriously the message of the Scripture, they have pushed for more freedom for everyone.
2) The free market system is built on Biblical ideals: property rights, reward and incentive that are scattered throughout the Biblical narratives.
1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house,he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
The early church reformers and followers of Christ wanted to design a system where everyone provided for his own. This bedrock ideal was part of the framework for the their understanding of the free market system.
3) The free market always produces more prosperity throughout history. Socialism, communism, and increasing degrees of government interventionism always lead to poverty and loss of liberty.
Take this example from The Mature Man by David Dewitt
“One of the false values of the Soviet Communists was peace at all costs. There were signs in Romania that equated peace with their communist dictator Niklai Ceausescu. Signs such as “Ceausescu Is Peace.” He kept that peace alright. His secret police terrorized the country. Everybody was under surveillance. People were starved until they had to steal to survive. They stole corn from large government owned farms. They planted and raised the corn, but they couldn’t have any of it. The government sold the corn, probably to Russia, and Ceausescu would pocket the money. They had to steal the corn or else they would starve to death. The government knows they are stealing it, but won’t do anything about it unless they want to compromise someone. For example, they might want to know if a person is speaking against Ceausescu, so they would take his neighbor to jail. They tell the person they know he has been stealing, and won’t be released unless they inform on his neighbor. The stores in Romania were empty. There were lines to buy bread, meat, and gas. Bread was rationed. Meat was rationed to one chicken per family member per month. Meanwhile, Ceausescu was padding his already fat Swiss bank account with the money made selling Romania’s products to foreign markets. BUT HEY, AT LEAST THEY HAD PEACE.
Finally in December of 1989 the Romanians had all the “peace” they could stand. The army refused orders to fire on their fellow citizens. That was followed by a few weeks of war between the regular army and Ceausescu’s secret police and foreign mercenaries. On Christmas Day in 1989, Nikolai Ceausescu was shot by a firing squad. Before his death he told his executioners they should restore power to him so that he could end all the violence they had caused and once again establish “PEACE.”
Throughout history, every time socialism is tried. Everytime. The result is a loss of liberty. A loss of prosperity for the masses as the government confiscates property, rights, and incentive. A loss of generosity is the net result of government interventionism.
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John Welsey: The Capitalist and Fan of Godonomics (who would be sadly disappointed in the Methodist church today).
“We must exhort all Christians to gain all they can and to save all they can; that is, in effect grow rich.” Wesley insisted. Yet the corollary was that this gaining of wealth was to allow the Christian man to “give all he can to those in need.” ~ In Search of God and Guiness.
That’s Godonomics. That’s common sense. It’s modeled by Lydia, Boaz, Barnabas, Proverbs 31 woman, and the early church. John Wesley’s pro-rich (meaning, make lots of money) quote would be considered blasphemous today by progressives anti-capitalistic tendencies.
The Methodist church, which I love and had a huge impact on my life, has lost her way. I have several staff members with long histories in the Methodist church. I have told the powerful story of John Wesley’s conversion, revivals, and work in England and America in sermons over the years.
It saddens me to see the Methodist church lose its way in its continual steering into the ditch of liberal theology as well as progressive social justice.
As always, most of the inflammatory “us vs. them” comments come from a misunderstanding of the call to generosity. Social justice was once a call to radical, generous, individual giving as powerfully modeled by Wesley and others in the Methodist church. The call to help the poor resonates through every page of the Bible as we “do unto God” like we “do unto the least of these.” The past 50 years, the term social justice has been hijacked by Marxist-type thinkers trying to turn Jesus and the Bible into a pro-socialism handbook.
I never use the term social justice today because it has become a code philosophy for large intrusive government that steals from one group to give to another. Words change definitions over time. Take Gentlemen. C.S. Lewis notes that there was a time you would heard someone says, “He is a scoundrel and a gentleman.” At that time the word gentleman meant someone who owned land. The word gentleman like social justice has changed meanings in our culture today.
It would be wrong to presume that Welsey, me, and other Bible-minded Capitalists are not radically pro-generous. Rich people have more than they need for themselves. Poor people do not. We need more prosperous people. We need more successful people. We need people who see business, economics, and innovation as a means to bless others.
While most Methodists I know (and I am friends with many) do not subscribe to the “new and improved” Gospel often associated with the new generation of Social Progressive Methodists, there are many who are falling prey.
While in Bible college, we studied liberation theology. I had never heard of it back in 1992. It was rightly taught as a cult. Oooops! I said the “c” word: a cult. Before you “have a cow,” let me define what a cult is. A cult is a group that denies the deity of Christ, changes the main message of the Gospel, and is often centered around one central character. Liberation theology turns the Gospel: (Jesus came to save us from our sins and rescue us from God’s fair righteous judgment) into Marxism (Jesus came to liberate the socially impoverished to be better off by revolting against the rich). Hmmmm? In the words of Robin Williams from DEAD POET SOCIETY… “Excrement. Rip it out” This theology is utter nonsense. Not only is it wrong, it is not Biblical. Ironically, the Gospel (Jesus was rich, but became poor to save us from our sins) is the real motivation for whole hearted generosity.
Liberation Theology is really Enslaving Theology. You become enslaved to judgment, envy, jealousy, and hatred of those-with-more. The Gospel is the real liberation theology. You are liberated from judgment, jealousy, hatred, and see everyone as spiritually bankrupt in need of the same Savior you found.
For more information, check out www.godonomics.com
In the midst of political uncertainty some fear donkeys, some elephants, and others rhinos; but’s it’s pigs we must keep our eyes on. Animal Farm warned us that Pigs are those political leaders that think “all are equal, but some are MORE equal than others.” Yes, pigs make rules for others that don’t apply to themselves. Although pigs can be found wearing red or blue shirts these days, some animals are more piggish than others. You can always spot political porkers by their love of overeating from other people’s troughs and their preference for coercion over conversion.
Milton Friedman rightly called Socialism a force–forcing someone to do something, believe something, or give something they wouldn’t freely choose. The irony is that those who are most offended by the idea of “converting others” through ideas, religion, or reason, are often the most in favor of mandating behavior modification. Both political and religious coercion stand in opposition to the Bible’s call to an inside-out transformation of an individual and a society.
God lays out principles -Godonomics- which outline liberty, prosperity, and generosity throughout the Bible. 2 Cor 9:7 “So let each one(Individualism not collectivism) give(not forced) as he purposes in his heart (not as someone forced him to),not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” Should we all be more generous? Without a doubt! Is it shameful that we buy a $4 a cup morning coffee, without even considering that half the world lives on less than $2 a day? Yes. So, what should we do about it– Convert hearts or Coerce pocketbooks?
Consider some philosophy: If God owned everything (and He does) and God could accurately discern who is needy (which He can) and God had the power to take from one group and give to others (which He could), then why doesn’t He? The one Person,-who could ethically, morally, and accurately coerce others, chooses not to. How presumptuous is it to adopt a method that God (the only One qualified for the job) won’t use?
Karl Marx philosophy was built on the need for coercive, external, liberty-killing force while the Bible motivates others through conversion: internal, liberty-releasing grace. This grace motivates individuals toward generosity and compassion. The end game of Marx is a large government that steals your liberty, prosperity, and generosity.
The Bible teaches that Christians should be people under authority and should pay our taxes: “We should render to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” It may not be popular, but it is in The Good Book. But to misquote Porky Pig, “That’s NOT all folks.” He also warned us about a big coercive government.
In 1 Samuel 8, God’s people want to set up a government like other nations. They want a king with lots of power and influence. They want a big government. God, through Samuel, warns them about the “behavior of a king.” And over and over and over Samuel says, “He will take.” He will take a percentage of your income, a percentage of your land, and a percentage of your harvest. What was “Yours” will become “His.” And despite example after example of the loss of liberty, personal prosperity, and property, the people say, “We will have a King over us.” And the King does exactly what God said he would do. He taxes. He takes. And the whole nation declines because of it. The people choose to exchange liberty for perceived security. But government always takes more than it gives. It’s the nature of mankind’s sinful heart.
God won’t stop us, but He will lovingly warn us that government is like that man-eating plant from the Little Shop of Horrors. It is never satisfied. “Feed me Seymour.” It just grows and grows until everyone is eaten.
Naively assuming that government’s motives are more altruistic than industry is to fall prey to the con job in Ocean’s Eleven. George Clooney’s men robbed Andy Garcia’s Casino by showing up in police uniforms when they were called in to stop the heist. The very people who robbed the bank were called in to stop the robbers. When the regulators of the future economy were the robbers, over spenders, and inflators of the previous economics mess, it looks like Porky Pig has more job security than ever.
The mafia’s “protection,” the Godfather’s horse head, and the socialist’s “nudging” are triplets that share the same father: coercion.
For more information, check out www.godonomics.com