Sunday, July 10, 2005

Live 8 and Jas 5.5

One verse of Scripture that time and time again drives me to despair of the affluence of western culture (which I am apart of) is Jas. 5.5: ‘You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter’ (NIV). The NIV tones down the verse a bit, more literally it reads, ‘you have fattened your heart in the day of slaughter’. This is a terrifying indictment of wealth that is hoarded for the purpose of pursuing exuberant luxury and it applies to all of us in the west. Moreover, it urges us to use our resources for the elimination of poverty.

Far as I’m aware Live 8’s goals include:

(1) Increases of financial aid to Africa (Note, European farm subsidies are four-times greater than the amount of aid giving by European countries to Africa!).
(2) Cancellation of debt in developing countries.
(3) Fairer conditions in terms of free trade agreements.

I think all of the goals are reachable and they would significantly impact the living standards of many Africans. However, even if these goals are achieved will they end poverty in Africa? I have to say, they most definitely will not. Either way, debts or no-debts, aid or no aid, poverty will continue to Africa as long as the continent is infested with endemic corruption, plagued by civil wars, and ruled by malevolent totalitarian regimes. What does this mean? We should not bother trying to fill a leaky bucket? No, we must continue to aid the plight of the poor, the underprivileged, the oppressed and the hungry for one simple reason – God commands it. If we do not, then when we stand before the great white throne, before a lamb that looks a bit like a lion, he may well say: ‘You fattened your heart in the day of slaughter’.

Best books I’ve read on wealth and the Bible are:

Craig L. Blomberg, Neither Povery nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Material Possessions (NSBT 7; Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1999).

Thomas E. Schmidt, Hostility to Wealth in the Synoptic Gospels (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987).


J. B. Hood said...

Thanks for this Mike. Based on the press money and possessions got in Jesus' ministry (and the apostles and JohnBapt), you'd think we'd get hear a bit more about this in evangelical cirlces.

But not in America. There's a decent move afoot to push for economic justice at home and abroad in evangelical circles, but I think the great weight of 'conservative' Christianity has yet to sign on. Live8 is a joke to many on the religio-political right; its goals (including the three you labeled) are derided, save for the first, which is often qualified into oblivion. As a nation, we seem to care a great deal more about prosecuting a war in Iraq (not to say the war is right or wrong).

Mike, care to take a guess how many times I've heard sermons on mercy and justice and the like in American evangelical churches? (Can we trace any of this back to the over-emphasis on imputed righteousness, and the diminution of personal righteousness, a la Rev 19:7-8?)

Scot McKnight said...

Try also Ronald Sider and Martin Hengel.