Daily devotional, 19th of July 2013.
1 Corinthians 4,5 and 2 Thessalonians (Yep, the whole epistle)
Oh Friday, there is something beautiful about Friday. It is the day I start late at work and finish early. As I only start at 9:30am, I get to wake up at 6am (half an hour later than usual), take a longer shower, I can do my reading calmly, prepare breakfast to the wife (you know the saying: Happy wife, happy life), enjoy the awesomeness of giving my daughter her breakfast and then head to work.
I specially loved this morning because my wife had been asking me about 2 Thessalonians. She is doing a paper on it and had some questions. I love when I get to do what I love the most with my wife: discipleship. I have many opportunities to do this with others, but trust me, at home, they are rare, so I try to enjoy them to the fullness! I read the whole thing again this morning, just to make sure I would have sharp answers ready, but life happened and we ended up talking about other stuff. But it’s all good! I’m sure we will do it another time. The good thing is that I found an answer for something I’d been looking for a long time. It’s on chapter 3, from verse 6 until the end. but before we go into it, a little bit of a background to make it easy for you to understand.
I don’t think church is a Sunday gathering. Never did. It’s part of our expression as followers of Christ to gather together and worship in a corporate matter, I agree with that, but Sunday (for me at least) is only a small portion of what it really means to be a Christian. I dare to say that one can surely be a true Christian without attending to a regular church every Sunday. WOW, that, as always, can create a big and strong argument. How? well, what happens when our western Christianity collapses with Eastern cultures, like China? Well, the message is the same, but the way we package the message changes and the biggest movement in Christianity nowadays is the underground house church in China, at least that’s what we hear…
Am I saying we should all become house churches? No, not at all. I’m saying that Christianity is much more than attendance to church on Sunday. We shouldn’t even say we’re going to church, because that implicates the church is a place, and not a group of people. We don’t go to a group of people, we ARE a group of people. Therefore, we don’t GO TO church, we ARE the church. And we must thrive to live our daily lives as true disciples of Christ, being the church…
Well, another thing I never quite understood entirely is how we have transformed and corrupted the so called Tithe to a temple tax. We’ve gone back in time when it’s clear that Jesus thought the opposite. WOW, here we go again! Am I saying we shouldn’t tithe? That we shouldn’t give 10%? YES, and YES again! Instead of that, we should bring all we have, 100% and surrender it to God and ask Him: “What do you want me to do with it?” Now that’s a hard thing to do! We, fallen human sinners generally fight risking our lives for a few hundred dollars in our wallet when we are being robbed… Why? Because money is one of the greatest inventions of this world, for good and for evil.
Back in the days, they had these temple taxes to make sure everything would keep running smoothly. To make a long story short: God told them that the temple would be the central part of their worship, therefore, the temple had to have some specific things going on in it. Incense, sacrifices, curtains, gold, myrrh, whatever it was, they had to make sure it was happening constantly, and as we can imagine, that costs, either money, or any other kind of currency they would use to trade.
When Jesus came, He changed this paradigm. Through his teaching and the continuation of it through the Apostles, we see that the temple is no longer important. Jesus himself many times taught outside of the temple. His greatest series of teachings took place in open air! Another one he was on a boat. How weird huh???
We understand from Jesus’ time onwards, that now, the temple is no longer a building, we ARE the temple and we’re supposed to keep the temple going clean, and all metaphors could be used to relate the Old Testament temple to the New Testament temple. But that’s not my point, my point is around the temple taxes, so called tithe. Please, again, bear in mind that this is not an attempt to exegetically explain what they were, there are much better sources of information for that available all over the internet…
If we study the development of the church from Jesus’ time, we see that they had EVERYTHING in common. Someone would have a property and they would sell it, bring the money, share with everyone, so everyone would always have enough. Rich people wouldn’t have so much in detriment of the poor people and poor people wouldn’t starve to death.
I could see how that would work 2000 years ago… There was this Jesus’ movement, the Holy Spirit was something new to them, miracles were happening, Paul had been recently converted, Peter was going around healing a people miraculously, they were a primitive and small community of people, mostly rural, never travelled for long distances, had no technology as we know, no consumerism in big malls, no Gucci, Prada, Sky, Iphones, Apple computers, vanity items and etc… Easy! I could live with that. My biggest question was: how do I apply this model to my days?
Let’s suppose I make $5000 per month, and on the same group (church) there are some 20 people how make the same amount of money every month. That’s $100.000 per month right? If we were to live on the same neighborhood, I would say that to live well, we would spend $2000 on rent (or mortgages) each, so that’s $40.000 per month. If we were to buy food for the whole month and fuel and clothes and etc, let’s suppose that in order to live a simple (but fair to our western standards) we would spend another $2000 each, so that’s another $40.000 in total. Bear in mind that with the buying power we would have as a community, this is just a ridiculous exaggeration. Each person earning this much and living a simple life should spend no more than $3000 per month, with all expenses included. but let’ keep the numbers up just to make sure people would see the positive side.
So, by our example above, the community as a whole earned in a month the total sum of $100.000 and spent $80.000, which means that we saved $20.000. Now think about the long term. If we invest this $20.000 every month in a savings account or something a bit better (after all, we have to be good stewards of the money right???) we could have in 10 years, just in savings, something around $3.000.000,00. Yep, Three million dollars sitting on the bank and earning interest, working for us.
Remember, that’s only 20 people there, so it’s likely we could do some investments, earn more money and basically live a life dedicated to serve the church, no need to work a full time job anymore… The possibility are amazing! And remember, we’re talking about 20 people only! Imagine 20 missionaries, trained after a long time have lived in this regimen, ready to train more young men and women, families, to live a life according to the gospel, dispersed in 20 different communities starting this whole thing again… What could happen in 100 years? What could happen in 200 years?
Interesting isn’t it? That’s exactly what happened with the church thousands of years ago. But someone, somewhere along the way changed the way things were happening and we fell into this tragic reality…
What if we had 100 people in the group? What if we had thousands of people like some churches we see nowadays. Logically, it makes much more sense to apply this model than to buy expensive buildings and chairs and ask people for miserable 10% (that we know in reality people give 2-3% of their income maximum). So why do we insist in this broken 10% model? Simple answer: Greed! Or maybe Vilfredo Pareto was right and 20% of people will always control 80% of the money!
The other side of this could be that being selfish as we are, we would hate to be part of a community where 20 people are working towards that goal and suddenly, another 10 guys show up and they are just lazy, don’t want to work and don’t want to contribute financially towards the goal. They just want to belong to this cool community because they get free food and free housing! And let’s be honest, you can be the Pope, or Dalai Lama (Please people, don’t be offended, this is used in a good way), if that’s the case, you would get mad too! It’s just not fair!
Not only it’s not fair, but those 10 lazy guys would consume all savings for the month and burden the group. It would be like an investment portfolio that suddenly incorporate some heavy nasty under performing companies and that makes the prices of shares sink like a wrecked ship on the ocean. Surely, I could show you show to put aside a percentage of that savings part to look after the “widows and orphans” of our society, for social projects and etc, but that would take longer than you could spare right now in front of your computer… Maybe you want to join me for a discussion at some point… Let me know! Everything is possible with technology nowadays.
And that’s probably why we don’t do that in our days. But what if we had a solution for the lazy people! What if we could solve that problem? What if the Bible provided a solution for that part of the problem? Could we then apply the best model? Would it be possible that leaders have skipped this part of the Bible? Or would it be the case that God was reserving this point in time and space for this resurgence to begin?
Well, here is the answer (well, that’s a bit arrogant to say I have the answer, but I think it makes sense, so bear with me), like I said, from verse 6 onwards until the end of chapter 3 of 2 Thessalonians. Basically, Paul says: “If the guy is not working, don’t allow him to eat… Counsel him, don’t treat him like an enemy, but hey pretty boy, no food until you get off your butt and do some work… We’re all on the same boat here”.
And that’s why the church (the group of people) would have some wise men, full of the Holy Spirit, wise and trained in the word of God, proven to be above reproach, not given to alcohol, man of one woman, with obedient children (this is all in the letter Paul wrote to Timothy when He was talking about the qualifications to be an elder) to oversee the operations of the day to day of the church. WOW, I’m excited! WOW… I’m lost at he same time… Give me a break…
So, with that in mind, I renew my old commitment to give it a try. We’re planting a church soon, and some of you already know about it! So keep this in mind, let’s talk about this and let’s see how we can make this work! Remember, this is not for weak minded people, nor for greedy people because money can take over your thoughts. This is for those who are tired of this fantasy we live in, doing the same thing over and over and expecting changes! Let’s wake up!
PS: Oh yeah, Corinthians… Sorry, I already wrote too much for a blog post. It’s good stuff though, go and read it for yourself. There is some stuff there about sexual immorality, big problem in our modern (or primitive) culture…