I am going through the Old Testament of my Bible (Life Application Bible) and am currently in the section of “minor prophets“. They are so-called due to their relatively short story in time and not as a judgment on their stature or prophecy. Micah 2:11 states “If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer, he would be just the prophet for this people!'”. I immediately related the verse to two phenomena I see in our world today.
There have been a number of prominent and very successful television, mega-church, published preachers or orators who have said much the same as Micah’s imaginary prophet. In short, the message is pretty simple; follow God’s commandments and you will be rewarded with plenty here on earth. As someone who was raised in a Baptist church in the 1960’s, this is very different than “storing treasures in heaven”. It sound a bit more like bumper sticker theology “He who dies with the most toys, wins!”. To be fair, I have listened to some ministers with very sound theology based on my breeding and religion studies in college. They are also quick to suggest that God will richly bless those who live according to this theology, not only in the after life, but here and now.
I do believe there is a certain amount of financial wisdom in scripture and it starts with the general idea of hard work. Without quoting, there are many references to giving your master (boss/company) a fair day’s work and receiving a fair day’s wages. There are certainly large variations in the sum received for such a day in our economy, but I suppose that belongs in a future discussion. Other common principles I see in the Bible are: 1. Give unto Caesar (government/taxes) that which is Caesar’s. 2. Give unto God (I don’t need a clarification here and if you do, then I don’t imagine you would have read beyond the first paragraph) that which is God’s. Actually this would be everything since he provided it, but I think that view deserves a greater treatment than I am prepared to present. 3. Do not be materialistic (“do not store up riches here on earth”) as you can’t take it with you. I think this suggests living within your financial means. While I am not certain these will lead to great wealth on earth, I do think that not seeking immediate gratification in “things” will leave more money at the end of the month and much less than is common today being paid out in interest to various types of credit vehicles. That is the short version of my first thought from the prophet of plenty of beer and wine.
My second thought went to the politics of our time. Not only in America, but in much of the world, nationalism is in vogue. I think nationalism, shaken and stirred is really every man for himself. This is filtering down to levels that are pretty shocking to me. School guidance counselors, rather than parents, are often tasked with teaching our children values in school today. This would include kindness, sharing, concern for others, compassion, etc… I hear from elementary level counselors that when they appeal to a “troubled” child’s care or concern for others to amend their behavior the reply “I only care about myself or I only take care of myself” is much too common. If a parent approaches a Principal about some perceived slight of their child and the Principal reminds the parent “there are 19 (actually more like 26) other children in that class. The rules have to work for all”, the parent’s reply is too often; “I only care about my child, let the other parent’s worry about theirs.”.
I realize my two thoughts are of a wildly divergent nature. My first thought is a type of “what’s in it for me”, but with a much more compassionate core belief system. Yes, I will get what is good for me, and maybe an abundance of it, but in the process, I will attempt to better the plight of everyone through the role of government and the church. The latter is a very myopic view of my neighborhood, state, country, and the world. As long as I get as much as I want for me and a select few, the rest be damned! When I listen, watch, or read anything remotely touching the world of politics and diplomacy, I see a very narrow view of “what is best for me?”. When I see natural disasters, human tragedy, and great loss, I see a lot of “what can I do to help?”. My Christmas wish would be that we would see a lot more of the latter from our “leaders”.