The Tithe And Taxes And The Politics Of Envy And Theft.

The Tithe And Taxes And The Politics Of Envy And Theft.

The law commands us to tithe a tenth (‘Tithe’ meaning a tenth. Dt. 14:22ff. Cf. Gen. 14:20; 28:22; Lev. 27:32), but there isn’t a gov’t in the world that isn’t guilty of envy and theft, along with those who put them in office. It isn’t enough that the tenth of the rich is more than a tenth from the poor, these governments and those who put them in power, think themselves more just and holy than God himself. The presumption is that the distinction between the rich and the poor is unjust. Any government practicing such evil is nothing short of an idol, the expression of a people guilty of envy and theft, placing government above God, and making the whole of a nation cursed for idolatry.

The Conscience.

The Conscience.

Strong’s defines the word ‘suneidesis’ as moral consciousness, or co-perception. Wikipedia defines it as “an aptitude, faculty, intuition or judgment that assists in distinguishing right from wrong.” It is that which provides an internal conviction that one is right or wrong. Those who brought before Jesus the issue of a woman caught in adultery, were each one convicted in their consciences that they were also complicit with her (Jn. 8:9). Some are in fact guilty of desensitizing their consciences-“seared with a hot iron” (I Tim. 4:2). They have defiled themselves (Titus 1:15). On the other hand, Paul testified before the Sanhedrin council that he had “lived in all good conscience before God” (Acts 23:1). We, like Paul, must always “strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16 Cf. Rom. 9:1; 13:5; II Cor. 1:12; 4:2; 5:11; I Tim. 1:5; 3:9; II Tim. 1:3; Heb. 13:18; I Pet. 2:19; 3:16). Christ alone can purge our consciences “from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14; 10:22).

The conscience is also intimately related to the heart. Paul in fact appealed to this relationship, in his apologetic approach in his letter to Romans. Speaking of Gentiles he wrote that they “show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them” (2:15 I Tim. 1:19; Heb. 9:9; 10:2). On the other hand, those who are “weak” in the faith, do not have a solid or deep understanding of the word, so their consciences are bound by manmade traditions of prohibition (I Cor. 8:7, 10). On the other hand, the strong have a clear conscience, in this case over the question of food that may have been offered to an idol, because they have a better, more thorough, and deeper understanding of the word (I Cor. 10:25, 27-28). The conscience of the weak should not bind that of the strong (I Cor. 10:29). We have “(the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 3:21). This is our justification.

Love-Phileo And Agape.

Love-Phileo And Agape.

The N.T. contains a couple of Greek words that in English are translated as love. A good place to go is where we find more than one of these Greek words used in the same context. For example, this difference is brought out most significantly in a passage that concerns Peter, in John’s epistle. Near the end of his epistle, John records the following conversation with Peter. Jesus asked Peter if he had ‘agapas’ for him. Peter responds by saying he had ‘philo’ or brotherly love for him. Again Jesus asks Peter if he had agapas for him, and again Peter says that he had philo for him. Then after giving him an example of agapas, namely to shepherd his sheep, he then asks Peter if he had phileis for him. We then read that Peter is grieved by this, and he then says again, “you know I philo you” (v. 17). Agape love is something more than phileo.

Then in his first letter Peter uses both ‘philadelphian’ or brotherly love, and ‘agapesate’ at 1:22, and it also emphasizes this distinction. “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love (philadelphian) of the brethren, love (agapesate) one another fervently with a pure heart. As Peter began the work of feeding Christ’s sheep, Peter came to understand what it meant to have ‘agapate’ for him (1:8). Agape involves sacrifice. He later says that we must have ‘agapesate’ for the brotherhood (2:17). Interestingly he also refers later to what appears to be a poem or hymnal abstract when he talked about those who ‘agapan’ life (3:10). Paul also made this point. “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to ’agapen’one another” (I Th. 4:9).

There are more occurrences in John’s first letter than in any other book. When the apostle John wrote that we should not love the world (that is, the kosmos, or the whole created order), he uses the word agape. The reason we are not to agape the kosmos is because agape is reserved for our relationship with the Him. To agape the kosmos is to make an idol out of what the Creator has made. However, we are to have agape for his church, because it is agape that we share with Him. This ‘agape(s)’ is in Christ Jesus (I Tim. 1:14; II Tim. 1:13). ‘Agapev’ is what the man of God must pursue (6:11). ‘Agapes’ is what we have been given, along with power and self-control (II Tim. 1:7). Husbands are to have ‘agapate’ for their wives (Eph. 5:25), but wives are to ‘philandrous’ their husbands (Titus 2:4). Phileo is affection, agape is sacrifice.

John, in recording Jesus’ words to the church at Ephesus, criticizes them that they had left their first ‘agapev’ (2:4), and it is this ‘agapen’ that the church in Thyatira is commended for (3:19). Jude prays that ‘agapen’ along with mercy and peace, might be multiplied for his audience and us (Cf. II Jn. 3). He also exhorts them to keep themselves in this ‘agape’ (v. 21). Endurance and sacrifice is what James refers to in his reference to ‘agaposiv’ (1:12). This is also what characterizes the believer’s relationship to God (2:5). ‘Agapeseis’ also characterizes what we are to have for our neighbour (2:8). This also is emphasized by Paul in his letter to Philemon (vv. 5, 7). However, there are more occurrences of agape in John’s letters than the rest of the NT put together, not including its occurrence in Revelation and his gospel.

John’s references in his letters to agape begins with I Jn. 2:5 where the agape of God is perfected in those who keep his word. Agappate is what we are not to have for the kosmos (2:15). The agapen of the Father is seen in that we are called his children (3:1). Again, it is agapomen that we should have for one another in his family (3:11 Cf. vv. 14). He then gives the best definition and understanding of agapnv we will find. “By this we know agapnv, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (3:16 Cf. v. 17-18, 23; 4:7-12, 16-21; 5:2-3; II Jn. 1, 5-6; III Jn. 1). Agape is something only made possible among humanity, because God had agape for his people, seen most clearly in the sending and sacrifice of His Son.

Teknia And Paidia.

Teknia And Paidia.

In the new testament there are two words that are both translated as children or little children-these are teknia and paidia. Teknia, tekna, and others of this kind, refers to offspring, infants, and young children transitioning from the former. Paidia, on the other hand, always refers to children in training. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in their gospels, only refer to paidia (Mt. 2:16; 11:16; 14:21; 15:38; 18:3; 19:13; 21:15; Mk. 9:37; 10:13-14; Lk. 7:32; 11:7; 18:16), although Luke in Acts also refers to tekna (2:39; 13:33; 21:5, 21). However, the apostle John in his gospel does refer to both, and in doing so we can see the above distinction. The following refer to tekna or offspring (8:39; 11:52; 13:33), but 21:5 refers to paidia, children who could answer Jesus’ question.

In his letters, John also uses both words, and in doing so he makes this distinction even clearer. There are several references to teknia in these letters, and they all refer to the definition above (I Jn. 2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 10, 18; 4:4; 5:2, 21; II Jn. 1, 4, 13; III Jn. 4), as also Revelation 2:23. However, where he does use paidia he uses it to make the above specific point-that it refers to further training (I Jn. 2:13 and 18). At 2:12 he refers to teknia, to those of his hearers and readers who have been introduced to the very basics of the faith, as it were-that their sins are forgiven them on account of his name. On the other hand, in the next verse he refers to paidia who have come to know the Father in a deeper way through their training. Similarly, what he says with regard to “the last hour,” is also intended for those who are at least paidia.

Paul also makes this distinction. His use of paidia in I Corinthians 14:20 is a case in point. Paul did not want his audience to be immature or untrained in the renewing of their minds, as it were, but in the area of sin he did not want them to be trained or skilled in doing evil. When it comes to Paul’s use of teknia in this same letter, he says in 7:14 that infants (tekna) born to a believing parent are to be regarded as holy, a condition which is not dependent on the level of training, or paidia. This is also why Paul pleads with the Corinthians as teknois in II Corinthians 6:13, because he was writing to people for whom he was their spiritual father. He reiterates this use of tekna and teknois and the parent -infant or little child relationship in 12:14 (Cf. Col. 3:20-21; I Th. 2:7, 11; I Tim. 3:4, 12; 5:4, 10, 14; Titus 1:6).

Paul also refers to the Galatians as teknia, or those he has given birth to (4:19). He also refers to Hagar’s offspring as teknon (4:25), the tekna or offspring of the desolate woman (4:27). Whereas Isaac is the tekna of promise (4:28). Finally, Paul says that we are tekna or offspring of the free woman, and not paidiskeis (of padia), or trained to be children of the slave woman (4:31). Believers were once only tekna of wrath, but we have been made tekna of light, called (like infants do) to imitate God (Eph. 5:1, 8). When tekna is used of young children being trained there is always an accompanying word, an adjective in our English translation. So in Peter’s letters we are called to be “obedient tekna” (I Pet. 1:14), and not “accursed tekna, trained in covetous practices” (II Pet. 2:14).

Similarly, when Luke records Peter preaching at Pentecost, he records him as saying that the promise of the covenant is also to the offspring (teknois) of his hearers (Acts 2:39 Cf. 21:5, 21), and Paul regarded himself and the true followers of the Way, as the true offspring (teknois) of the Fathers (13:33). Also, the writer to the Hebrews speaks of us not as the offspring or tekna of Jesus, but as the Father’s paidia whom he has given to the Son. We are those, to use an expression familiar to the puritans, who are ‘Learning in Christ’s School’ (Ralph Venning, The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1999). It was in fact Venning’s thesis that the apostle John and others, employed the distinction between babes, young children, young men, and fathers, to refer to the progress we all make in our spiritual maturity or discipleship.

Thoughts On Leadership.

Thoughts On Leadership.

The current competition to be the president of the United States has been an excellent opportunity to reflect upon the topic of leadership. Even though I am a Canadian, my outsider status may give me an insight which could escape my American friends. Watching the debates etc., has certainly caused me to reflect on the recent Canadian Federal election campaign as well-something which I know escapes my American friends. Many have opined that governors have experience which a senator does not have. I can certainly understand this. Up until I became a supervisor I was simply a plant operator/mechanic who my supervisor might consult when making a decision or not, but in the end the responsibility was his. Not to diminish my own responsibilities in my own sphere, but it is different. Having to take responsibility, not only for my own actions, but also the actions of my crew, both reveals and changes a person, it really does. I choose to consult others, in most cases, before I make a decision. But my crew knows that I own the decisions and assume complete responsibility for them. Only if a supervisor does this will he or she get input and cooperation, and it ends up making for the best decisions.

Like it or not, senators do not carry the same responsibility as a governor. I do not have the luxury of not voicing my opinion or the requirement to back up that opinion with decisive action. I once had a woman tell me that her parents did not make a decision unless they could both agree. This reveals the naivete, in her case, of feminism. No decision is a decision. In the real world people and processes continue to roll along like a never-ending stream-either navigate your way through or be shipwrecked. It really is both that simple and that complicated, stressful, and hard. Most of us who are honest will admit to making mistakes along the way, and we need to own these as well. People will still follow a leader who admits their mistakes if they will own them, learn from them, and please please move on! Don’t dwell endlessly on your mistakes and please don’t do so with me. Having said that, it does strike me that many consider a job, any job, outside of politics as the only qualification for the office of national leader. Being a member of congress or parliament is a real job, and it is an insult to this very valuable work to state otherwise.

However, it does seem to be the case that the job of a senator can be what one makes of it. One can choose to show up for a vote or not. Whether as a member of parliament or congress one responds to the needs of their constituents will certainly affect their future, unless of course it is the Canadian senate, but that is a whole other topic. But I would certainly not consider as a power engineer operator someone who only had on their resume that he was the Prime Minister of Canada. He is not qualified for the job. Why then would the public consider the power engineer operator to be more qualified, per se, than a senator who at least has some legislative experience, as well as the duty of representing or not his or her constituents? A man who has run a business but answers to no one but himself is perhaps the least qualified to represent all the citizens of a nation. How many times has the church appointed as ruling elders those who were business men who bring their arrogance to the servant role of the church elder. Many such men consider it a weakness to suggest they are called to serve.

Jesus made clear that there are men who aspire to leadership positions for the stated reason of being then able to lord it over others. This is not to be the model of the Christian leader anywhere-in business, politics, the family, or the church (Mt. 20:25-28)! Someone who says “I am the greatest,” is probably not, at least by Christ’s standard. There are many men and women in positions of leadership in society who take greater pleasure in saying “your opinion matters,” than in saying “Your fired!” Making deals is about respecting the opinion of others, not sucking up or berating others just to get your own way. To bring this to more specifics on the presidential race, if not obvious from the above, I would suggest that Mr. Trump would be the worst candidate from among the republican crowd. It is impossible to serve with a self-important narcissitic egotistical unrepentant hypocrite. One cannot say the things he has said and not see the need to repent all the while calling out others for perceived errors. Add to this his unwillingness to state his positions should give the voters further pause-independent perhaps, conservative-no.

The Two Become One.

The Two Become One.

Recently I had a discussion with a friend about what it means and doesn’t mean that a married couple become one. Like most important subjects we can go back to the original creation record for answers. God created humanity, male and female, to be His image bearers. “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness’” (1:26). Right in this beginning chapter of the bible we are told that God is both one and many. As we go throughout scripture and the confessions we understand that God is one in essence yet three in persons-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are to understand among other things, that part of the “likeness” we share and the ability we are given to be His image bearers, is that we are created as social beings-just like the Trinity, and it was never good for us to be alone (2:18).

However, like the Trinity we also maintain our separate and unique personages. As we continue to read on in the Genesis account we read that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (3:24). ‘One flesh’ does not mean one person, just as the Father-Son-and Holy spirit are one in essence but three separate persons. One often hears a spouse say, usually the husband, that their spouse is their “better half.” This is a completely unbiblical and dangerous notion. Many married people complain that they have lost themselves in their spouse. This would be less likely to happen if they had a truly biblical conception of personhood. Even God when He saves us does not change the essential and unique person whom He formed in our mother’s womb, every bit as unique as our DNA.

The essential thing from the above quotation is that they are to leave their parents behind as far as being a new entity and unique standing before God and the world. This is a good corrective to some parents who feel the need to continue to meddle or take sides in the affairs of their married children. They also become one flesh, and it is this oneness which they do not share with any others. I was once asked by someone who was actually speaking more for his wife and who really wanted to trap me, that if I felt that a husband owns his wife-given my biblical conception of the marriage roles. He was shocked at first and then resigned that perhaps his wife’s suspicious were correct when I said that-“yes, he owns her.” But I also added that she also owns him, as Paul made abundantly clear in regard to their flesh (I Cor. 7:4).

Who’s Your Best Friend?

Who’s Your Best Friend?

Ever since I became a Christian over 30 years ago I have had occasion to think about this question. As I have thought about my singleness and the possibility of marriage, I have thought about it even more. Having revisited my alma mater in the last few days, and having graduated from my undergrad 30 years ago, it made me reflect on a lot of things, this area being one of them. The last couple of days in particular have really focused my attention, with a close friend having just got married, and them exiting from my life as a result. It is odd that in many ways, when people get married they become the most anti-social people in the world. The initial days of one’s marriage make this somewhat understandable, even though some people remain this way, and their spouses are the extent of their “social” life at any meaningful level.

However, my question really aims to go much deeper than this, and I am more surprised at myself that it has taken me so long to crystalize my thoughts on this subject. Many Christians say that one’s spouse must be their best friend-and they claim this for themselves, and in many ways as a clue to why they are still together. I understand what they are getting at. Romantic emotional commitment to someone other than one’s spouse is often the first step of infidelity. However, I do believe that what the scriptures teach also guards against this evil. I believe that the LORD of the covenant is asking us to, among other things, make Him our best friend. The LORD will not be satisfied unless we are wholly committed to Him with our whole persons-including our emotional life.

When Eve presented the forbidden fruit to Adam-who was his best friend? When Job’s wife told him to curse his God-who was his best friend? When Caleb and Joshua came back from spying out the land-who was their best friend? When Rahab hid the spies and sent them away safely-who was her best friend? When Ruth followed Naomi-who was Ruth’s friend? No doubt Orpah was also Naomi’s friend-but this was not enough for her to follow. When Samson divulged the secret of his strength-who was his best friend? When he finally came to his senses-who was finally his best friend? When Jesus cried out “My God My God, why have you forsaken me!” Who was His best friend? When He ascended to the Father-who was still His best friend? When a family member or friend finds out that their spouse has cheated on them and remains unrepentant-who is their best friend?