A Theology of Wealth, Possessions and Life A Consideration from God’s Word Timothy C. Hoelscher First Baptist Church -Royal City, WA And all who believed were together, and had all things in common; and they were selling the properties and possessions and they were distributing them to all, whoever had need. Acts 2:44-45 And the heart and soul of the full number of those believing were one, and not one said his possessions were his own, but all things were common to all. Acts 4:32 Jesus Christ had never commanded His disciples to share their possessions and distribute them among the poor of their group. Yet, in that short time since the Church began, these early believers were sharing their possessions. The night before His crucifixion, Christ had given His disciples a command, “Love one another, in the manner as I have loved you” (John 13:34). He had promised them that He would send the Spirit when He would return to the Father (John 14:17). The Spirit had come. The believers were experiencing a new relationship to and work by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was giving them the ability to keep that new command. One way in which they were keeping that new command was to meet the material needs of one another. About Twenty years later, James wrote the believing Jews, “From where do wars and fights among you come? Are they not from your base pleasures which act as soldiers in your members? You crave and do not have, you murder and are zealous for, and do not obtain, you fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask in an evil manner (with evil motives?), that you might spend it upon your base pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that fondness for the world is hostility towards God? Whoever determines to be a friend of the world constitutes himself 1 God’s enemy” (James 4:1-3). Approximately Forty years after James wrote, John warned the young men in the churches of the outlying area of Ephesus, “Stop loving the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any one loves the world, the love for the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15). Several verses later, He explained, “By this we experientially know the love, that that one laid down His life in our place, and we are obliged to lay down our lives on behalf of the brothers. Now, whoever might have the life material (physical substance) of the world, and sees with perception his brother having need, and might close his gut feelings (compassion) from him, how does God’s love remain at ease in him?” (1 John 3:16-17). To more further elucidate John’s 1 Middle voice of ?a??st?µ?. A Theology of Material Possessions and Life -2 point, he clarifies in 4:20 and 21, “If anyone should say that I love God and hates His brother, he is a liar. For the one not loving his brother whom he has seen, is not able to love God whom he has not seen. And we have this commandment from Him, that the one loving God, should also love his brother.” From these statement, we conclude, if a believer loves the world, he isn’t loving God; he isn’t loving God because he isn’t loving his brother, he isn’t loving his brother for he refuses to use his resources to meet his brother’s genuine needs. In the 1940’s Carl Henry penned a criticism of the then Christian Fundamentalists titled The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. Henry, rising from among the Fundamentalists saw issues within the movement with which he was uncomfortable. He wrote, “But what is almost wholly unintelligible to the naturalistic and idealistic groups, burdened as they are for a new world order, is the apparent lack of any social passion in Protestant Fundamentalism. On this evaluation, Fundamentalism is the modern priest and Levite, by passing suffering humanity” 2 Henry looked about and saw issues in the world at large and the nearer culture and society among which he lived. He listed some of the issues which he felt were avoided, and that fundamentalist preachers should have been addressing in their preaching: aggressive warfare, racial hatred and intolerance, liquor traffic, exploitation of labor or management. 3 He was uncomfortable with what he saw as Fundamentalists’ neglect of these issues. As in the above quote, he compared these persons to the characters from Jesus’ account of the good Samaritan. Henry’s concerns continue to find voices in the 21st Century. David Pratt’s Radical and Richard Stearns’ A Hole in Our Gospel express again the problems Henry saw. In a chapter titled American Wealth and a World of Poverty , Pratt points out that God is serious about how we respond to poverty. “The book of Proverbs warns about curses that come upon those who ignore the poor. The prophets warn of God’s judgment and devastation for those who trust in their riches, and James tells those who hoard their money and live in self-indulgence to ‘weep and wail because of the misery that is coming’ upon them.” 4 He asserts, “The Bible nowhere teaches that caring for the poor is a means by which we earn salvation. The means of our salvation is faith in Christ alone, and the basis of our salvation is the work of Christ alone.” 5 While he does not front-load the gospel, he undermines it in his next paragraph, “Indeed, caring for the poor (among other things) is evidence of our salvation.” 6 (emphasis his). Additionally, some writers of the Resurgence and Gospel Coalition view our bearing the image of God to include responsibilities. Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears explain, “We image God by serving him in ways that advance his kingdom, including making culture that honors him. This also includes fighting injustice, evil, and oppression by working for justice and mercy.” (emphasis mine) 7 In a chapter on the incarnation, they compare Jesus being sent by 2 Carl F. H. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundentalism, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1947). 17. 3 ibid, 18. 4 David Pratt, Radical, (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2010) 109. 5 ibid, 109 6 ibid, 110. 7 Mark Driscoll, Gerry Breshear, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010) 141. A Theology of Material Possessions and Life -3 the Trinity as a missionary to our having “an incarnational missional life” living contextually by crossing cultural barriers. 8 They point out, “Nonetheless, Jesus dressed, spoke, and ate according to Jewish culture, participated in their holidays, and observed their customs, so Jesus’ people are also to live as missionaries in whatever culture God has sent them.” 9 These recent charges aren’t leveled exclusively against Fundamentalism but Evangelicalism. Neither are they brought from the outside, but from within the larger movement of Evangelicalism. All four of the above writers would largely be classed as Evangelicals, though they would likely not consider themselves Fundamentalists per se. 10 So, what are we to make of these charges against Fundamentalism and/or Evangelicalism? What is the relationship of the believers to the world, its issues and its needs? How are we to understand the many Scriptures cited in support of such charges? As dispensationalists, we might quickly write off these charges and their proponents as mishandling the word, but we need to consider many similar statements written directly to the Church by Paul and John including James’ statements cited above. So it appears there may be some legitimacy to the concerns of these authors. The purpose of this paper is to briefly examine the Scriptures’ teaching on wealth, possessions and poverty, especially regarding the New Testament Grace believer. This will focus on only one charge by the above writers and that as it touches on wealth and possessions. I will approach this by considering the Bible’s vocabulary on these topics and how it presents God’s perspective and man’s perspective. I will look at a number of key texts addressing these issues from the Old Testament, the Gospels and the Epistles. It will be necessary to distinguish each context: audience, problem and purpose. It is hoped that we can draw a conclusion from all this information. That conclusion may or may not fit our present perspective. If the Bible’s information challenges our present understanding, then it is our understanding, not Scripture which needs to change. The Vocabulary Before we begin considering the information, it will be helpful to list the key words followed by a brief working definition. In each of the following categories I have listed first the Hebrew words and then the Greek words. Note that some words, translated in our English Bibles by the same terms, have different primary ideas. Part of my goal in examining these words is to draw distinctions however small the distinction. OT words for wealth chavod dwøbD;k -glory, weight 8 Ibid. 240-241. 9 ibid. 241. It perhaps has not occurred to these authors that Jesus was born a Jew, of a Jewish woman, under the Law, to fulfill the Law which involved the customs and holidays which He observed. He did not do it to blend in to the culture or reach the people of the Jewish culture. 10 We will not take up the issue of whether these two titles stand clearly for anything in the modern world. Some are asserting that both titles have lost any significance, being applied either so generally, or so specifically that neither finds a good representation in the “Christian world.” A Theology of Material Possessions and Life -4 osher rRvOo -wealth, from the verb (same radicals) meaning to become rich, related to yesher rvy to be straight or smooth, and thus to build up, erect leading to building wealth. chayil lˆyAj -strength nekes sRk‰n -riches, treasure, from the verb (same radicals) to gather, heap up or ref. to cattle. v ? rekush v…wkr -property, goods koach AjO;k -power, strength -one time translated “wealth” in the AV. on Nwøa -vigor, power, life -twice translated in the AV with some idea of substance or wealth and both could be simple references to might or vigor (Job 18:7; Hosea 12:4). hon Nwøh -sufficient wealth -distinguished from osher in Psalm 112:3. yesh v´y -substance chosen NRsOj -treasure, wealth matemon NwømVfAm -hidden treasure, from a verb to hide (often by digging and burying) and hence something hidden, even grain (cf. Jeremiah 41:8). hamon NwømDh -abundance chemdah h;dVmRj -desire, delightful thing NT words for wealth mamonos µaµ???? -an Aramaic word for wealth or possessions ploutos p???t?? -riches bios ß??? -possesions which pertains to physical life in this world OT words for riches -Not listed among words for “wealth.” NT words for riches -Not listed among words for “wealth.” ploutos p???t? ? and its cognates-from or equal to a word meaning “full” and includingthe idea of an abundance. 11 OT words for possessions -Not listed among words for “wealth” or “riches.” meaningtoseize,grabortake ? ? property,possession,fromtheroot ?? ? achastzah possession NT words for possessions -Not listed among words for “wealth” or “riches.” peripoiasis pe??p???s??and its cognates-that uniquely possessed or secured hyparxis ?pa????-original property hyparcho ?pa??? -to exist i.e. as property, this occurs as a participle describing what belongs to, or exists as one’s property great, greatness, therefore, wealthasrelated togreatness ??? logad wealth, riches ??? sher o a noblemansocially ??? shua 11 J.H. Thayer, The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (Lafayette, IN: AP&A, 1979) 519. A Theology of Material Possessions and Life -5 Old Testament word for poor, poverty, widows and orphans oni yˆnD o -was to be afflicted or pressed down, to be low or humbled, both physically, spiritually or materially. It is distinct from lå; d and NwøyVbR a by “emphasizing some disability or distress.” 12 Thiswordoccurs 13 ispoor.UngerandWhiteseeitsuggestingdestitution. - ?? ? rawash 24 times, 20 of which are in Proverbs. dal lå;d -is one who is low, or hangs low, therefore, poor muk JK…wm -one brought low ebyon NwøyVbRa-is one who is needy or in want of something. New Testament words for poor, poverty, etc. chara ???a-widow, from a cognate meaning “bereft (of one’s spouse).” 14 ptochos pt????-poor person, from an unused verb meaning “to crouch, cower.” 15 ptocheia pt??e?a-poor state, poverty ptocheuo pt??e??-to be poor, to be a beggar orphanos ??fa???-orphaned, alone, destitute (2x) penas pe?? ? -poor, as a laborer, from a verb meaning “to work for one’s daily bread.” 16 BAG illustrate this word meaning one who has nothing for this life, or has it sparingly and must pay attention to work, i.e. to eat and clothe himself. penichoros pe??????-poor, needy An Examination of the terms more specificallyThe Poor or Lowly, the Widow and Orphan The first Hebrew word oni is used of one who is afflicted. Jacob described himself in this manner before his father-in-law Laban, if Laban sent him away empty handed (Genesis 31:42). Israel was instructed not to lend money at interest to the poor (Exodus 22:25). In this passagethe verb “to lend” nashah 17 occurs, meaning to reject and in the Niphal and Hiphil to lead astray, perhaps a telling statement about the seriousness of lending. God instructed Israel onspecific means of helping the poor oni, without giving them handouts. They were to leave thecorners of their fields and the gleanings of their vineyards for the poor to glean (Leviticus19:10; 23:22). Gleanings were not always available and so God warned Israel not to have a closed hand toward their poor brother (Deuteronomy 15:7-11). It is also important to noticethat the poor would always be in the land. How does this square with the promise of blessing? How does the instruction to be generous square with the promise of blessing? God instructed the Israelis to not keep the wages of a poor or needy man, nor to oppress the poor or needy 12 Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament eds. Merrill F. Unger, William White Jr., (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1980) 295. >NEDOT 13 ibid, p. 295. Harkavy, Gesinius, Holladay, and the TWOT do not emphasize this distinction. 14 F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979) 216. 15 G. Abbott-Smith, A Greek Manual Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1937, 1948) 393. 16 ibid. 352. Alexander Harkavy noted that it properly meant “to press, hence: to loan on usury.” . ?? ? 17 A Qal Participle of Student’s Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament, (NY: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1914) 471. A Theology of Material Possessions and Life -6 (Deuteronomy 24:12-15). Isaiah three explained some of the reasons why God entered intojudgment with Israel. The elders and princes of the people had in their homes the thing takenby robbery or plunder of the poor. They also ground into the ground the faces of the poor (vv. 14-15). The leaders of Israel had made statutes (combination of the verb and noun) so that theneedy were deprived of a judge, they robbed the people of their judgment, took a spoil of widows and plundered orphans (Isaiah 10:2; cf. Ezekiel 22:23-31, 29; Amos 8:2-6). In this latter case the plunder would have involved the possession of the land to which the orphan wasentitled. God challenged Israel that going through the motions of keeping the law, without a real change of attitude towards other Israelis was empty. They were fasting to be heard fromGod, but failing to appreciate the need of the hungry, homeless poor, and naked (Isaiah 58:7). God informed them that had they acted as He had intended, they would have been seen as a righteous people, they would have shone brightly. The seriousness of oppressing the poor isseen by the list of other unrighteous activities (Ezekiel 18:12). God called Israel to action, toproper treatment of their fellow Jews but they refused (Zechariah 7:8-13). Numerous times thePsalmists describe God as the one who takes up the cause of the poor, because the wicked of the land oppress them (9:17-18; 10; 12; 37:12-16; 72:1-4; 82). The sage advised his son regardingthe proper treatment of the poor (Proverbs 22:22-23). The dal is a low one, and in some contexts clearly refers to the poor. As an illustration, it is used of the scrawny cows in Pharaoh’s dream (Genesis 41:19). The dal is contrasted to the rich and one described as having insufficient means (lit. his hand is unable to reach) (Exodus30:15; Leviticus 14:21). “The dallim constituted the middle class of Israel-those who were physically deprived (in the ancient world the majority of people were poor).” 18 While God warned Israel of perverting the justice of the needy, they were also not to favor (honor) thepoor, i.e. to give special treatment (Exodus 23:2-3, 6; Leviticus 19:15). Justice was to be maintained whether for or against the poor. In contrast to Israel’s perverted justice from her leaders, God promised that the Anointed one would judge the poor with righteousness (Isaiah11:4). God called the upper class women of Samaria cows for their treatment of others and demands for themselves (Amos 4:1ff). They made certain that the poor remained poor by imposing heavy rent [boshas in a Polel Inf] (Amos 5:11-12). Being gracious to the poor washonor to the Maker (Proverbs 14:31; 19:17; 22:9). The righteous was distinguished because heknew the rights of the poor in contrast to the evil (Proverbs 29:7). One who was brought low (made poor, muk) may have had to sell himself to a fellowIsraeli. He was to be sustained and not treated like a slave (Leviticus 25:35-39, 47ff). His familywas to redeem any land he had been required to sell because of his need (Leviticus 25:25). The Hebrew evyon is one in need or want. While God assured Israel that there would always be poor [oni] in the land, He also assured them that there would not be needy [evyon] inthe land (Deuteronomy 15:4). The reason for this is that those who had, were to meet the need. It did not remove poverty, but the person was not to be left in need. This is a balance. God did not call His people alleviate poverty and spread the wealth, but they were to address theneeds: food, clothing. The seventh year sabbath was to provide for the needy. The volunteer crop in the seventh year, whether field, vineyard, or grove was for the needy, that is, theycould harvest it for themselves (Exodus 23:11). God called them “wicked people” who did notplead (act as judge) for the orphan because it prospered him, and did not defend (judge) therights (judgments) of the poor (Jeremiah 5:28). God refused to remove the judgment of Israel 18 NEDOT, 296. A Theology of Material Possessions and Life -7 for their transgressions, among them, they sold the needy for a pair of sandals (Amos 2:6) and later were buying them (i.e. to be slaves; Amos 8:6). Among the poor the widow is often listed. The Hebrew hÎnDmVlAa almanah is used exclusively of widows and is therefore an easy term to define. In some passages the Hebrewword “woman” is interpreted by context to be a widow. Frequently the term orphan isassociated with the widow. The term literally meant one who is fatherless. God told Israel notto afflict any widow (Exodus 22:22). They were reminded that God takes up the cause of thewidow (Deuteronomy 10:18; cf. Psalm 68:5; 146:9). God designated the tithe every third year tobe shared with the alien, orphan and widow along with the Levite (Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 24:12-14). A widow’s garment was not to be taken as the pledge or binding material of anagreement (Deuteronomy 24:17). Sheaves left behind, gleanings of olives, or vines were to beleft for the orphan or widow (Deuteronomy 24:19-21). God pronounced a curse [binding tojudgment] on any who distorted the just for an alien, orphan or widow (Deuteronomy 27:19). The book of Ruth recounts the righteous acts of a man, who obeyed the law regarding thewidow of his cousin, at a time when every man was doing what was right in his own eyes. Jehovah refused to listen to the prayers of Israel, but asked them to learn to do good, to seek justice and strive (plead) for the widow or defend the orphans (Isaiah 1:17). God asked for thisbecause Israel’s leaders did not help those people, but acted upon taking bribes, i.e. if unpaid, they did not do their job (1:23). In 10:2 Isaiah described the leaders as taking advantage of theorphans and widows, plundering them. Jehovah sent Jeremiah to the king of Judah and tell himand his men to do justice and righteousness, and to deliver orphans and widows from thosewho robbed them (Jeremiah 22:3). The word “robbed” is to take, strip or plunder by force. Ezekiel prophesied against Israel’s leaders because they had mistreated so many peopleincluding the fatherless and widow (Ezekiel 22:7). God promised to draw near in judgmentbecause Israel’s leaders oppressed widows among many others (Malachi 3:5). The Psalmist wrote against the wicked for they slay the widow, stranger, and orphan (Psalm 94:6). The attitude of Old Testament people (believers or unbelievers) towards possessions. Many times the word for wealth in the NASB is the Hebrew word chabvod, the word glory. The word meant weight or reputation. The idea was that one’s reputation or glory wasdefined by his possessions or wealth (Genesis 31:1). Wealth probably communicated the idea, but the statement meant the weight or reputation demonstrated by the number of one’spossessions. When God promised judgment, He asked where they would leave their glory, their weight (Isaiah 10:3). Nahum 2:9 clearly applies glory to physical objects of wealth. The dominant word for wealth is chayil. This word predominantly means strength. Used of wealth it pictures one’s possessions as his strength or source of strength. To lose wealth wasto be deprived of strength. One could not eat, if one did not have the material resources toacquire food. The same idea could be applied to the need for clothing, shelter, and protection. All these required material substance. To remove that substance from a city, meant that thefarmers in an outlying area had no place to retreat when they came under attack, therefore, they were open to plunder. This is the idea of Obadiah 11, 13; Micah 4:13; Zepheniah 1:13. During the coming 1,000 year kingdom the nations will bring their wealth (strength) toJerusalem, making them dependent upon Jerusalem (Zecheriah 14:14). That wealth or strengthcan be in the form of food, or that which allows one to purchase food. So Israel is promised that she will eat the wealth of nations, because those nations will bring their wealth toJerusalem (Isaiah 60:5, 11; 61:6). A Theology of Material Possessions and Life -8 In Proverbs (19x), the dominant word for wealth is hon, which means that which is sufficient, that which maintains a way of life. It is illustrated by contrast to poverty in Proverbs 10:15 where it is a fortress which protects one from calamity. In this same verse the sagerelates hon to osher that which is piled up, amassed, built up or saved. A cognate of this word describes a rich man. The implication is that it is riches because it is piled up. A little is notriches, a pile, or that built up is. The write of Proverbs warns that the one who has an evil eyehastens to wealth (osher, 28:22). The verb “hasten” [bahal] means to run or rush rashly, stupidly. 19 The dominant meaning of the word is sudden terror or disaster, so here runningafter that which comes suddenly as a disaster. Such a person sees his wealth as a strong city, a high-walled city protecting him, but this is only in his imagination (18:11). There is the encouragement and warning that wealth added by the hand (i.e. work) increases, but by fraud is small or becomes small (13:11). One could use wealth to make friends, in contrast to selfishness or begging from others (19:4). The idea being that people who are always asking for help lose friends, they avoid them. Proverbs 11:4 demonstrates that riches are not equivalentto righteousness. Finally, in Proverbs 28:8 the warning is given as a positive statement that theincrease of wealth by charging interest (forbidden in the Law), was wealth for those whowould be favorable to the poor. The writer indicates that God is just and ultimately will takethe wrongly gained wealth and give it to those who will use it lawfully. The Hebrew word nekes describes amassed wealth. Joshua 22:8 illustrates that riches can be comprised of a variety of things: livestock, silver, gold, bronze, iron, and clothes. Thewriter of Ecclesiastes twice credits God as the source of a man’s riches (5:19; 6:2). He is notstating that all riches come from God, he is simply giving examples of individuals who did haveriches given by God. This was the case with Solomon. God gave Solomon riches after Solomonasked for wisdom (2 Chronicles 1:11, 12). The verb and noun family osher views wealth as amassed or built up. Abraham refused to take the spoils of war from Melchizedek so that Melchizedek could not say that he had enriched Abraham (Genesis 14:23). Here spoils of war, including a thong or sandal, comprised riches. When Hannah dedicated Samuel to God, she prayed to God. In that prayer she attributed men’s poverty or riches to God (1 Samuel 2:7). Solomon was greater than all other kings in riches and wisdom (1 Kings 10:23). Through Jeremiah, God accused the rich in Judah of enriching themselves by deceit, by setting traps for the people (Jeremiah 4:25-27). They did notplead the cause of orphans or the poor (v. 28). Some trust in their wealth, boast in their richesand were foes of the Psalmist (Psalm 49:5-6). The man trusting in riches is contrasted to theone who trusts God or makes God his fortress (refuge) (Psalm 52:7). Such a one will fall (Proverbs 11:16). However, when God makes rich, He doesn’t bring sorrow with the riches(Proverbs 10:22). The wise man wrote that a name is better than great riches (Proverbs 22:1). The writer also warns about wearying one’s self to gain wealth (Proverbs 23:4). The better situation was to be neither poor or rich (Proverbs 30:8). The sage expressed the humanconclusion that wealth does not come because of an individual’s wisdom or discernment, but sometimes it is simply a matter of time and occurrence (Ecclesiastes 9:11). He seems to besaying that sometimes wealth is a matter of someone being in the right place at the right time. Yet the preacher acknowledged that God causes wealth (6:2). God gave Solomon riches [osher], wealth [chayil] and glory, because he asked for wisdom rather than these (2 Chronicles 1:11-12). God gave Hezekiah great possessions [rekush], one of Judah’s “righteous” kings (2 Chronicles as a Niphal Part., Harkavy, op.cit. 51. ? ?? See 19 A Theology of Material Possessions and Life -9 32:29). The Preacher saw contrasting situations with God-given wealth: sometimes God provided the means to enjoy it and sometimes He denied the ability to enjoy one’s wealth(Ecclesiastes 5:10; 6:2). This contrast may pivot upon one’s attitude toward the wealth. Thepursuit of wealth for its satisfaction, the love of silver or abundance leaves such satisfactionillusive. However, the one doing God’s commands and fear God as in Psalm 112:1 is able toenjoy the wealth, for it is not the main source of his satisfaction. The noun achastzah occurs with a positive sense, referring to the land as Israel’s God- given possession (Genesis 17:8 et al). Ezekiel’s vision of the future temple, city and land employs this term for the Levite’s possession and the Prince’s possession. Abraham purchased a field and a tomb for burial which became his possession (Genesis 49:30). Each Israeli (Levite’sexcepted) was allotted a possession which even if lost due to debt, reverted to that family inthe year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:10, 13). NT Thoughts on Riches and Possessions In the N.T. the noun ploutos is used once in all three synoptics, but the idea of rich persons plousios is used three times in Matthew, twice in Mark and eleven times in Luke. The verb plouteo to make rich, or enrich occurs twice in Luke. In Luke these words often bear a negative emphasis, or describe persons opposed to God’s plan and design. The rich are alreadyreceiving their comfort (Luke 6:24). This is because they are not righteous and their wealth is a sign of their unrighteousness. Jesus warned people not to invite only their rich neighbors butthose who could not repay (Luke 14:12-13). The rich man is contrasted to poor Lazarus in Luke 16. The rich man was grieved at Jesus’ requirement for being a disciple, and Jesus responded that it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom (18:23, 25). Here also, Jesus used chrama stuff or possessions. Zaccheus was very rich, and by the context, had acquired his wealth by abuse of his position (Luke 19:2). Jesus contrasted the rich giving gifts in the temple to the widow whogave her whole life (bios) or that which was necessary for her life (cf 1 John 3:17-18). This later word bios is used five times in Luke of the things for this life. The Greek mamonas also refers to wealth but is a neutral term (once in Matthew, twicein Luke). Louw and Nida disagree on the neutral emphasis, stating, “wealth and riches, with a strongly negative connotation — ‘worldly wealth, riches.’” 20 Jesus warned people that one cannot serve both God and mammon (Luke 16:13), but had to modify mammon with the adjectiveunrighteous and by its source in unrighteousness (a Genitive). This would mean that mammonor wealth can come from unrighteous acts or attitudes. It could be suggested that one mightpossess wealth without such attention or interest in it that he is said to serve it. The idea of possessions is also represented by the word ktaomai (three times in the gospels 2x Luke) and huparcho (3x in Matthew, 15x in Luke (9x of possessions)). The rich young man had much ktama and left grieved at Jesus‘ instructions to sell them and follow Him (Matthew 19:22; Mark 10:22). The verb encompasses the acquisition of many varying things: precious metals, one’s life, a field, even a spouse (a “vessel” metaphorically). In six passages inActs Luke used two forms of huparcho. Though translated with some idea of possessions, huparcho means to be or exist. In these occurrences as a participle, the word represents “the 20 Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, eds Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, (NY: United Bible Socities, 1988, 1989 Second Edition). Electronic text hypertexted and prepared by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 3.7. A Theology of Material Possessions and Life -10 things existing” of someone or for someone. 21 So though not a proper noun for possessions itdoes look at things as belonging or existing specifically for an individual. Understanding the OT situation God established Israel as a nation. While religion or the worship of God played a keyrole in their existence, Israel existed as a national group with not only religious laws but civil laws. In fact, God made no significant distinction between the religious aspects of the Law and the civil. As an example, the Ten Commandments include commands regarding Israel’sattitude toward God with respect to false gods (other gods and images), and a rule aboutbearing false witness against one’s neighbor. It included a rule about the proper and improper use of God’s name, and a rule against stealing. It included a rule for the cessation of labor on a specific day of the week, and a rule against murder. Israel had a socio/religious law as a God- formed nation. Had Israel kept the Law they would have been a unique people. The peoples around them would have observed their lives and their blessings, stating, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people” (Deuteronomy 4:6). Israel would ask, “What great nation isthere that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him?” (v. 7). God gave Israel statues and judgments of a righteous character to govern their social as well asreligious lives. It was one law for one people, Israel. The law contained commands that addressed both national and individual responses toneeds within their nation: poverty, loss, cheating, widows, orphans. God made it clear that noIsraeli was to take advantage of any other Israeli, nor was anyone to show favoritism toward either rich or poor (Exodus 23:3 22 ; Leviticus 19:15 23 ; Deuteronomy 1:17 24 ). God instructed themnot to take bribes as bribes blind the eyes of the wise and overturn words of righteousness(Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19). It seems implied that a bribe is most easily offered by thewealthy, and the poor have nothing to give for a bribe. This would tilt justice in favor of thewealthy. The Law required land owners to let their land lie fallow 25 every seventh year (Exodus 23:11). In that year the needy [ebyon] of their people would be allowed to eat the volunteer crop. We might view this as a form of welfare for any who would work for it by gathering thevolunteer crop. God commanded Israel to bring their whole tithe to their local city (gate) everythird year (Deuteronomy 14:28; 26:12). The Levite, stranger, orphan and widow would eat fromthis provision (v. 29). This was a more general welfare provision. God explained that therewould be no needy in the land for He was going to bless them (Deuteronomy 15:4). He thenaddressed the issue of the needy in the land (e.g. vv. 7, 9). The needy would be present, but if the people shared their blessings from God, the needy would not exist. In this vein, God told Israel not to harden their heart or close their hand to their brother (Deuteronomy 15:7). They 21 It is modified by Genitive pronouns “his” or “theirs” or the Dative pronoun (of advantage) “for him,” though in the latter case, it is translated as a possessive. 22 Qal Imperfect of rdh to honor, or adorn. 23 Qal Imperfect of acn to lift up with the noun face 24 Hiphil Imperfect of rkn to cause to regard or recognize used with the noun face. 25 fmv Qal Imperfect to let free, let drop and vfn Qal Perfect to abandon or allow. A Theology of Material Possessions and Life -11 were to really give 26 to their needy brother and not to have an evil heart when they did so(Deuteronomy 15:10). The needy would never cease from the land (v. 11). This allowed for a test of the people’s attitude toward God and one another. Obedience to God’s command of generosity would bring God’s blessing (Deuteronomy 14:29; 15:10). The Old Testament records the progressive neglect, reversal, and twisting of thesecommands so that the rich and powerful ground the poor into the ground. Through Hisprophets, God indicted the people for their actions. The prophets brought numerous chargesof this nature against Israel. The following are just a sample. Through Amos God charged Israel with selling the righteous for money and the needy for a pair of sandals (Amos 8:5, 6). Theywere accepting bribes and turning away 27 the poor at the gate, not giving them access to counsel (5:12). Through Micah, Jehovah portrayed the heads of Israel treating the people likemeat to be chopped up, cooked and eaten (Micah 3:1-3). Isaiah charged some in Israel of takingadvantage of the poor and working to make a spoil from widows (Isaiah 10:1-2; 1:23). Apparently they shed the blood of the poor by making false charges against them, perhaps likeJezebel and Ahab’s plot against Naboth (Jeremiah 2:34; 1 Kings 21). The actions of Israel extended to bribes and blood shed all for the sake of gain by violence 28 (Ezekiel 22:7-12). Following Judah’s return from the Babylonian exile, as the Old Testament closed, God charged some in Judah of oppressing the wage earner, widow and orphan (Malachi 3:6). Such peopleabhorred justice. The heads of Judah gave judgments for a bribe (Malachi 3:11). This ranked high among the reasons God approached and will approach Israel in judgment (Malachi 3:1-2). Yet when Israel first prepared to enter the land, God warned them of the deceptionwhich wealth brings (Deuteronomy 8:11-17). Several times God warned Israel of forgetting Himand His covenant with them. People who become wealthy have a tendency to forget that itcomes from God. They attribute the wealth or gaining of wealth to themselves or to sourcesother than God. Gomer, the wife of Hosea, exemplified this attitude. Like Israel, she acquired her wealth from her husband: Gomer from Hosea; Israel from God. Gomer turned to acting as a prostitute and attributed her wealth to her prostitution rather than her husband (Hosea 4:12-14). Israel prostituted herself to other gods and attributed her God-given wealth to thesefalse gods (Hosea 2:8-9). Israel allowed her God-given prosperity to lead her astray. How did Israel, a God-ordained nation with a divinely given law, devolve into this mess: social classes, oppression of the lower classes by those in power? Certainly Israel’s unrighteousness extended beyond these issue, but the prophets regularly cited these failuresas breaches of God’s law or covenant. Israel abandoned God and turned to idols. As Gomer forgot her true husband, Israel forgot her God. The law promised material blessings for obedience to the Law. 26 Qal Imperfect and Qal Infinitive of Ntn to give, to intensify the idea of giving. ] could mean “cause to send away” though the normal meaning if to stretch nata[ ?? ? 27 The Hiphil stem of the verb out. For this reason, the alternate translation of “pervert” may make more sense, and still does justice the thought. is a cutting off, by context, for gain. John Oswalt suggests it may have the idea of taking a ? ? ? The Piel stem of 28 cut from others’ profits like a racketeer. (TWOT, op. cit). As the word is often applied to persons in position of power, it may carry the idea of cutting off from access to justice, which such persons were to maintain. The Qal stem occurs with the noun in Ezekiel 22:27, “to extort for the gain of extortion” or “to cut off, for the profit from cutting off.” A Theology of Material Possessions and Life -12 Interpreted selectively, ignoring passages which specifically addressed an Israeli’s response to the poor and especially warning him against abuse of the poor, some had twisted the Law in their favor. It would be easy to suggest that since obedience brought blessing and disobedience brought cursing, the state of the widow, orphan or other poor was due to their own disobedience. If the powerful could get away with taking advantage of the poor, then itwas further proof they were obedient and being blessed and the poor were losing due to their disobedience. Whether this was exactly the scenario, Paul’s warning to Timothy of law- teachers included the charge that they equated godliness with gain or a means of gain (1Timothy 6:5). This indicates that people thought of wealth as a sign of how much they honored God, and that honoring God was a means of gaining wealth. Understanding the Gospel context On this background of a socially, economically and religiously twisted Jewish people, Jesus presented Himself as Israel’s Messiah. The Old Testament remained. 29 Priests, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes comprised Israel’s religious leadership. Whatever practical and doctrinal differences existed among them, all four groups formed an elite aristocratic religiouspart of Jewish society. Jesus found the works of the religious leaders to be malignant regarding the people. Matthew 23 records Jesus’ indictments against the leaders. They placed heavy burdens on men, but themselves had nothing to do with the burdens (v. 4). In many ways they loved to receivehonor (vv. 5-7). They shut off the kingdom from the heavens from the people and wouldn’tenter it themselves (v. 13). They went great distances to make proselytes who would only turnout twice the son of gehenna as they were, indicating they were destined for gehenna, and their proselytes would go beyond them in their actions (v. 15). They acted as blind guides (vv. 16-22). They diligently tithed of their small spices while neglecting significant issues: justice, mercy and faithfulness (v. 23). They worried about cleaning the outside of the cup but inside, they were full of robbery and no self-control (v. 25). They were like outwardly neat graves, filled inside with hypocrisy and lawlessness (vv. 27-28). Note especially among these chargestheir neglect of justice and mercy, their fullness of robbery, and their hypocrisy. In all thesethe religious leaders demonstrated failures regarding the poor, widows, and orphans. 29 Some distinguish the Judaism of Jesus’ day from that of the earlier Old Testament socio-religious structure. They identify the five hundred years of the Old Testament as Second Temple Judaism. A Theology of Material Possessions and Life -13 Emphasis in Luke All the three synoptic gospels use terms for wealth and need. However, Lukegives greater emphasis to these ideas. The following chart illustrates the concentration of terms (by family) in Luke.