Friday, December 9, 2005

The Bible, Wealth and Poverty, Part I

Are you familiar with the story of Josiah, the boy king? Found in 2 Kings, maybe elsewhere.

In his story, he goes about trying to setting the temple back a-right, after years of neglect. In the process, he finds the Lost Book of the Law - their scriptures. After reading it and realizing how far away Israel had wandered from God's teachings, young Josiah tore his clothes in despair.

I feel that way sometimes. That our scriptures have been Lost. Only this time, they weren't lost, hidden away in some secret cabinet in a neglected temple. They were lost by means of obfuscation.

Our churches have for years obcured and twisted the scriptures in to something that only bears a passing resemblance to the words therein. Hidden in plain sight.

I grew up in a Baptist church - people of the Bible, they call themselves. And rightly so. The Baptists really push personal study of the Bible, which is a grand thing and for which I'm grateful. But they also so thoroughly taught me what the Bible says, that it has been difficult for me to get beyond those teachings to what the Bible actually says.

I don't think it has always been deliberate or mean-spirited. Our teachings have been passed down this way probably much the way of that old party game where you get in a line and whisper something in the first person's ear and everyone passes it down and the message at the end is often amusingly distorted.

So it has been with some surprise to me that as I try to read the Bible with fresh eyes and an open heart, that I'm discovering the bible is chock full of economic issues.

Remember Mary's song she sang when she was expecting Jesus? Do you remember the line: "The Lord has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. God has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty." Interesting...

We all remember wild-eyed John the Baptist, dressed in his camelskin and eating bugs and calling for repentance. But do we recall WHY he called for repentance? Here's what John said:

"You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance...

"What should we do then?" the crowd asked.

John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."

For John the Baptist, repentance was directly tied to economic justice. Solidarity with the poor.

When John asked Jesus who he was, remember Jesus' answer? "Tell John about the outcasts being healed and that I'm preaching good news to the poor." To the poor specifically!

Or how about when Jesus told the rich young man what he needed to do to be saved, remember? Was it to pray to God for forgiveness and "dedicate his life to Jesus"? No. Jesus told him to sell all he had and join in with his community. Sadly, the rich man left because, Jesus tells us, it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven!

And Jesus, when he began his ministry told us specifically what he was about, by saying:

God has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord's year of favor.

Good news to the poor – specifically to the poor. Healthcare for the sick. Liberty to captives (and looking into this, one big reason folk were jailed was for economic reasons - "the man who could not pay his bills and was about to be thrown into jail," remember?). And Jesus came to proclaim the "Lord's Year of Favor," a reference, I'm told, to the Jubilee Laws of the Old Testament.


Dr. Mike Kear said...

Good News, Indeed!

Dan Trabue said...

A blessed Christmas season to you, Dr. Mike.

Eleutheros said...

Dan, here is the point on which your comparison breaks down. In OT times, and to a large extent in NT times, what did 'rich' and 'poor' mean? When the prophets instructed the people to see to the needs of the poor, of what did that consist?

Those were pastoral economies using early iron age techonogy. The rich wore hand spun cloth, ate coarse bread and lentils most of the time, and lived in houses without central heat and no glass windows ... and it gets pretty cold in much of the Bible lands in the winter. Further, the rich man who did not have to work his own business or farm was very, very rare. After he was made king, where did the people find Saul when they needed him? In the field with the herd. Where do we find Boaz, a "mighty man of wealth"? In the field beside his reapers.

Against that background, what did it mean to give relief to the poor. Even the rich 'dipped their morsel in the vinegar' and wrapped their cloak more tightly around themselves in the winter's cold. Relief meant to not let the poor utterly starve, go clothless and naked, and have a place to get in out of the weather. No mention, as you might imagine, of central heat, TV's, flush toilets, automobiles, books, etc.

What would the prophets have to say if they came now of days and saw the average westerner? What if we conjured up the spirit of Samuel as Saul had the witch of Endor do? Would they recognize anyone in this country as poor? Would they look at our fat, idle "poor" and say "ye kine of Bashan!"

In the passages, some of which you have quoted, that say "woe to you rich" the prophets were addressing people who had far less than even someone of very modest means now of days. WE are the rich, nearly every one of us. It is clear to me that the Bible doesn't teach to take the AVERAGE wealth of a country and then the lowest ones are poor and hte top ones are rich. If you have food to eat, a coat to put on, and a place to get in out of the weather ... then you are NOT poor (by Biblical standards).

How many people do you know who absolutely do not have access to food, availability of clothes warm enough for the weather, and a place to get in out of the elements? By Biblical standards, that's how many poor you know.

You can't go to the wealthiest section of Manhattan and find the person with the smallest house, and cheapest car, and fewest pairs of shoes and delcare them to be poor because they have less than the people around them. Likewise step back and take a look at the broad picture of human history and whole of human population and then say that you know a truly poor person. Beyond the Biblical standards for poverty, the rest is your own call, and dragging God into it is unseemly.

Dan Trabue said...

E said:
"here is the point on which your comparison breaks down."

What comparison is that? Between now and then? I made no such comparison, did I? I simply said that we are ignoring a huge amount and central theme of teaching in the Bible.

I've met truly poor people in my journey to Nicaragua a couple of years ago. They do exist.

I certainly recognize that we in the US, myself included, ARE the wealthy.

Is that your point?

Eleutheros said...

Essentially that is my point ... applying exhortations scarcely out of the bronze age to a world they could not have imagined.

By my distilled definition of Biblically Poor, one would be hard pressed to find a poor person in the US. Oh, I'm sure there are people who do go hungry, are cold for lack of a coat, and are out in the weather even on nights like this .... but there is no one who doesn't have the opportunity to avoid that. Here in this very conservative part of the world, there are many shelters, church functions, and individuals enough with food to spare and a place to sleep. The local Goodwill, Salvation Army and half a dozen others have racks of donated coats which are cheap for us 'rich', I got a good one for $4, and free to anyone who can't pay. Still for whatever reason there may be people who don't avail themselves of what's there. But in that, hasn't our culture done its bit. I don't know of a hardbitten cynical reprobate one who would not buy a meal for a really hungry person.

As to Latin America, I've seen it too and there are people in places there who are starving and out in the elements. What can we do? Often the local armed thugs prevent any goods getting to them. You can try petitioning the administration or storming the gates of Heaven with prayers, but that's been going on for years and years and we still have the starving. So it comes again that our only effective means of relieving those poor is to turn away from the global consumerism that put them in that state to begin with.

Sylvia said...

In my region (of about half a million souls) there are tens of thousands of families who literally do not have enough food or clothing and many are living in unhealthy housing (meaning there are needles in the stairwells and mushrooms growing in the carpet) or else have no housing whatsoever. One gentleman froze do death in a park last week during a cold snap. And let's not forget the hundreds of millions (billions?) of poor brothers and sisters outside our borders. Contrary to popular belief they are human too.

If there's a food bank or a Salvation Army in your city, you've got poor people. Quibbling about the definition of poverty doesn't make it go away. It may ease your conscience here on earth but it won't hold much water with God.

the Contrary Goddess said...

so glad you speak for God Sylvia. In my dictionary, that's blasphemy.

I will say it, there isn't a hungry person in the US. There are children who are hungry because we don't have the guts to just flat take them from their drug addicted irresponsible sorry parents. Poor does not mean could eat but too sorry to get up and go to the kitchen.

Salvation Army, like all do-gooders, would hate to see us define poor as anything that didn't give them a job with benefits.

(and mind, I like the SA, I blogged on the reality of their good works once, as opposed to, say, the Red Cross or United Way.)

Eleutheros said...

"Quibbling about the definition of poverty doesn't make it go away."

Quibbling about it doesn't mean it exists anywhere but in our imagination.

"meaning there are needles in the stairwells and mushrooms growing in the carpet"

If 99.99% of the real poor who ever existed heard you say this, they'd cut you off in an instant with "What? You've got a stairwell? You've got carpet?! If I only had the slim hope of those luxuries, I'd be sweeping out the stairwell daily no matter what was there and I'd be on my hands and knees scrubbing the carpet!"

By the way, I don't have any carpets, but if I did, I'd not let mushrooms grow on them.

I've tried to no avail to find the link to the original recent article where a couple of reporters approached several dozen homeless people in Phoenix, people who were carrying the 'will work for food' signs. They offered each of them $20 for one hour of yard work. Number of takers: zero.

During the aftermath of Katrina, a reporter was interviewing a child, a very fat child, and she asked him if he'd been given anything to eat. He said he had, but at a nudge from someone off camera, he added "Uh ... but not enough."

What I am getting at is that your story of a man freezing to death is only half the story. It would be a complete story if it added "And there was absolutely no place he could have gone where it was warmer." You stories of the hungry would be complete if they included "They were severely underweight from lack of food, not weighting 300 lbs." Your story of the living conditions would be comeplete if it included "And they could absolutely do nothing repair the place or clean it up."

You can protect people from being abused. But you cannot protect them from their own bad decisions.

And, oh, I talk with God too. He comes by for a beer from time to time. He tells me He did not intend for people to live like that and is quite put out that people choose to do so, and even more put out with people who speak in His name and fail to tell people that.

God gave each of us the faculties with which to lead productive lives, the intelligence, the will, the strength. He is very displeased when we throw it in the dirt and blame our problems on all the hard luck we've had.

"What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge?

As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die."
(18th chapter of Ezekiel)

Marty said...

I've read through all these comments and I'm borrowing a statement from a minister friend of mine. He said if he was going to ere, then he'll ere on the side of grace and not condemnation. I'm sticking with Dan and Sylvia on this issue. The contrary goddess was quite harsh in her statements. Her attitude has convinced me not to be. If I am to ere then it will be on the side of grace and compassion. I know a couple of homeless guys who died with grace because it had been shown to them. Dan, you have a true understanding of what it means to be a christian.

Eleutheros said...


If what passes for compassion and grace is actually enabling and facilitating then you'd be erring on the wrong side then, wouldn't you. The image that comes to mind is the doting grandmother who just loves to see her grandchild happy so plies him with every sort of treat with the result that the child's health is ruined. "But I only want to see him happy." Said grandmother is only concerned about how SHE feels, not about the child's welfare. A lot of what passes for compasion is the same. When the person is exercising true compassion and true grace, it doesn't often make them feel good and they rarely witness the results of that grace themselves and are even more rarely thanked for it.

My original comment was more toward part two, just put it on the wrong post. But as to part one, the comparison between your newfound philosophy and what happened with Josiah may be more solid than you think. A very great many historians and scholars, in fact almost all who have no dog in the fight of being a believer, hold that when Joshiah was trying to form a civil government from scratch after the captivity, he needed a unifying force, a rallying point. So he (and/or Hilkiah) took an antiquated form of writing and language they'd known in Babylon (Ugaritic or similar) and made it antique sounding (much as we'd throw in 'thee' and 'ye') and modified and put toghether the stories they'd known from Babylon. Hey, look what we (nudge, nod, wink) ... found! The history and laws we are laying down have a divine origin! We didn't just make this stuff up .... not actually. The archeological evidence overwhelmingly supports this idea.

So having 'found' the admonition and teaching toward pacifism and largesse (especially, excuse me, with other people's money) in the very Bible where others have not found the same for centuries may well be a very close parallel to Josiah.

Dan Trabue said...

Bah, humbug!

"Are there no poorhouses? Are there no prisons?"

Lighten up, e.

I'm making the point that we wealthy have something to learn from the bible and some warnings to which to attend.

You don't like the point, fine. I really don't understand where you're going with this at all. I say the teachings are clearly there. Feel free to show me where they're not.

In this posting, I made no interpretation of those teachings, just pointed out their existence and made the suggestion they ought to be heeded. So, why don't we limit the scope of this discussion to this topic (what the bible does and doesn't say about wealth and poverty)?

Just a suggestion. I'm not a tyrannical blogster that way. Just looking for some order to aid our discussions.

Beyond that, I tend to agree with Miss Marty: I'd rather err on the side of grace (and as someone among a group of folk who daily work with those who struggle - whether through a "real" poverty or an improved "poverty-lite" thanks to some of our policies, I know these folk struggle just the same...and believe the Bible teaches us to aid these strugglers with grace which sometimes is stern, but is grace nonetheless).

Dan Trabue said...

THAT last sentence was a mess of a sentence, wasn't it?!

the Contrary Goddess said...

I have been one who worked daily with "the poor". Seperate from that, I have experience in prison systems. Years of both. And I have this to say:

If you and your wife's "work" with "the poor" is so vital, do it for free and make your bread by the sweat of your face, like Eleu says. Do it without thought of compensation (like praying in your closet).

In my experience, not one person would do that. In fact, way too many get quite rich (high five and even six figure incomes) "helping". Not the in the trenches workers usually, but none of them are hurting either, at least if we apply some real measure of poverty instead of one conditioned on comparisons with others who happen to have more money & engage in even more exploitation.

And Marty, I think Dan's ot prophets were pretty harsh in some of the things they said. Like them, I'm just trying to say what no one else will say, point it out for those with ears to hear.

Dan Trabue said...

Brother El, Sister CG,

Y'all must be way advanced of this tired ol' boy. God bless you for your wisdom, but I have to admit, I don't understand a thing of what you're saying (an exaggeration, but not much).

ALL I'm saying here is that the Bible says we ought to have compassion upon, side and work in solidarity with the poor. Naught else.

Well, except that there has been a tendency throughout history to make excuses why we shouldn't.

Daniel Levesque said...


As I stated before, in an entire posting on my blog in response your assertions. The Bible demands that believers take personal action to care for the poor, not that the government take from everyone else to give to the poor.

Personal action is what earns you the spiritual rewards promised by the Bible. Let your compassion shine through your own actions as an example for others to follow, but you must get this Robin Hood government ideal of yours.

Elutheros makes an excellent point about the difference between poor in Biblical times and poor in the modern US. In the US even our poor are rich by Biblical and even modern global standards.

If you want to see true poverty in action you only have to slip on down to mexico and spend some time with the sober, filty, homeless, street beggars in ragged clothes who haven't eaten in days. People who are sick but have no access to free medical care the way the American poor do. Peole who have no homeless shelters or rescue missions to go to for a warm cot when it gets cold. People who have no soup kitchens operating from which to get nutrirtious food that they cannot afford themselves. These are the truly poor, and this is povery on a global scale.

In the US a disturbingly large number of our poor are that because of alcoholism, drug addiction, or laziness. The Bible condemns these things most ardently. Other supposedly poor people are homesteaders like Elutheros who have little need for money and live richly without much need for money. These people do not need our charity, and most would refuse it if offered.

I will ALWAYS condemn socialistic government programs. I will ALWAYS take personal action to help the poor, even the drunks and drugies. It's the right, Godly thing to do.

Eleutheros said...

Can't speak for the CG, but this clan has had a good number of dealings with the poor and "disadvantaged." All I'm saying is this: how would you deal with your own children? You could give them everything they need, everything they want, take care of all their problems for them, never let them face a decision and see what the consquences are. But you'd be raising people who would be economically and socially cripled adults. Yet I know many a parent who does just that because it makes them feel good, they are willing to sacrifice their children's stength and independence for a momentary emotional high. Compassion for the poor is much like that.

So the Bible teaches compassion. Fine. Of course it does. But what's compassion? I have a great deal of compassion for all you unfortunate souls out there in chains and bonds of debt and consumerism, eating health wrecking diets, under life-sapping stress. You don't have to, it's your choice, but I feel a great sorrow for you none the less.

And I'd help any one of you out of it. The worst thing I could do (shudder) in my life is to do something that facilitated you staying there, of perpetuating you in that state. Even if you became lame and halt and sorely abused in the process of getting you out, it would be worth it. [By the way, that's why I am going to Hell when I die, I was a school teacher once - agent of bondage and consumerism - there is no forgiveness for that.]

The evil here, speaking of poverty, would be doing things that perpetuate and expand poverty. Telling people to that it's not their fault in order that they, and we, can feel better perpetuates it. Dulling the effects of the decisions that lead to poverty perpetuates it. Facilitating the poor through unconditional doles and handouts perpetuates it.

Now, I am not so ancient as I might become and so I might change my mind on this at some time (doubt it). But the ONLY thing I've ever seen work to END poverty is anger. When a person is hoplessly in debt and gets mad a hell about being there, that's fuel to the engine that gets them out. When a person sees their children doing without and it makes them furious, they do something about it.

Take that edge off and you condemn them to a life of poverty.

The Pagan folk (I am told) have a ditty that goes: 'If it harm none, do what you will.' I once asked, Oho! Just what is 'harm'? And the answer was - and stuck with me - if you don't have the wisdom to know, get out of the kitchen, the heat's too much for you!

So what's compassion? Harmonizing in a chorus of whining with the poor isn't. Rending one's garments complaining about the government isn't. Heaping ashes on one's head critiqueing the churches isn't. What is? What gets the poor out of poverty! Until we see clearly what compassion is, we'd best be out of the kitchen.

Dan Trabue said...

Thank you all for your comments. I think they'd be quite appropriate if I were arguing that "the Bible says the US poor HAVE to be helped by the US gov't." I haven't MADE that argument in this post, but you made some interesting counter-arguments on that front, nonetheless.

And I'm serious on that point, excellent points (with some flaws in your interpretation of what I'm saying but interesting nonetheless).

What I DID say and continue to say IN THIS POST is simply that the Bible clearly and continually
1. warns us of the dangers of wealth and
2. that we ought to have compassion on and solidarity with the poor.

Why don't you comment on that one line of thought for now and we'll take on these other issues in another post that IS about US poverty?

Do you or do you not agree with these twin thoughts?

I promise from here, I'll open it to the question of What Then? ONCE we've figured out what we think about THIS post.

Daniel Levesque said...

"1. warns us of the dangers of wealth"

More accurately, it warns us about the LOVE of wealth and of being enslaved by money, thus making us servants to the almighty dollar rather than servants of Almighty God.

Don't forget that God promised great wealth to those who obey his commandments. That's why it was so revolutionary to the Jews when Jesus taught that most of the wealthy were corrupt, unritcheous, and bereft of God's blessing. To the Jewish way of thinking at the time if ANYONE was assured a place in Heaven it was the wealthy since they were so favored of God.

Eleutheros said...

KM, you are right that the concept of 'economics' as we know it would have been foreign to those of the first centruy, although the word dates from there and before. It is Greek for "household management" [oikos + nomikos]. It emphasizes, says I, that economics begins at home. No country can have a sound economy if it does not have sound economy in its households. No wonder we are in so much trouble!

Dan, as to your two posits:

1. Yes, the Bible is very verbose in it's warnings against wealth. But what is wealth? Let me zoom in and say that if you were in a very upscale exclusive gated community where the median income is $2 million, you can't find the one few people there with incomes of $400K and say they are poor. Zoom out to the US, by historic and world standards we all are still looking quite wealthy. People might point out, as some have, the dirty carpets and untidy stairwells, but they have carpets and stairwells, which most of humanity has not had. So those warnings about too much wealth don't just apply to Bill Gates because he is so much wealthier than we are, they apply to us too.

2. Same comment actually. Who is poor? I would think before we start having solidarity with someone, we'd have to know who they were, eh? Otherwise we might find ourselves showing solidarity with the very persons the Bible is impuning as wealthy.

In Biblical terms the poor upon which we are to have compassion are not those who feel badly about themselves because they don't have what they see other people have, rather it is the people who are in danger of disease and death for their lack of food and warmth because none is available to them.

I might had here as an aside that your two points are not unique to the Bible. In the Havamal, Odhin says:

"Once he has won wealth enough,
A man should not crave for more"

And the whole poem is underlain with the concept that if a stranger comes to your door and you cannot feed and house him, you are utterly contemptable.

Plato records Socrates as saying this prayer:

"Dear Pan, and all you other gods who dwell in this place,.... May I count him rich who is wise, and as for gold, may I possess so much of it as only a temperate man might bear and carry with him."

Eleutheros said...

"Jewish way of thinking at the time if ANYONE was assured a place in Heaven it was the wealthy since they were so favored of God."

This was also the belief of the Puritanical groups in America, if you were wealthy, it was a sign God favored you. So people were careful, frugal, and fiscally conservative in order to accumulate wealth to be assured tehy were in God's favor and were going to heaven. Poverty was seen as a sign of rejection by God.

This is why in the history of our country we accumulated so much wealth which is now being squandered.

Dan Trabue said...

DL said:
"More accurately, it warns us about the LOVE of wealth and of being enslaved by money.."

Yes, it does that. But I think it warns beyond that.

"Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field..."

"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you... You have hoarded wealth in the last days."

These and other verses like these (Jesus, what you FAILED to do for the least of these, you failed to do for me. Depart into everlasting darkness...) speak more to the reality of what you do with your wealth than what you felt in your heart.

I hear the excuse often, "well, I'm wealthy but I don't LOVE my wealth, so I'm okay..." This is part of what I'm getting at.

In the words of Keith Green (in response to Jesus' "what you did for the least" parable): The only difference between the sheep and the goats is what they did, and didn't, do.

Dan Trabue said...


I'll agree, these are important and key questions to ask: What is wealth? What is poverty?

We may come to different conclusions, but I'd hope that we at least struggle with the questions.

Daniel Levesque said...

Jesus also said that we are to conserve our wealth for the hard times. He spoke much about being responsible with money so it is not squandered and we are not left destitute. His warnings were to not rely on our wealth, but rather to rely on God.

The proof of if you love your wealth is entirely in what you choose to do with it. In my church there are some exceedingly wealthy people who, on top of giving a proper 10% tithe to the church, give as much as 20% of their income as "alms" or donations to care for the needy and to support organizations that do good works. These people just seem to get blessed with more and more in spite of giving so much, but as they get more they give more. This seems to be the example of how to be a ritcheous wealthy person. It is being a good steward of the resources God has entrusted you with.

Of course, there is the other kind of wealthy person. The kind that is avaricious, constantly accumulating, doesn't tithe, and thinks he is being super generous when he donates $100 a year to charity. Such a person is exactly the slave to money that Jesus railed against so often.

Dan Trabue said...

And statistically, if I'm remembering correctly, the "wealthy" give a smaller percentage to charity than do the lower economic strata.

There's something about wealth that is self-perpetuating and not often in a good way, seems to me.

sunyata said...

Hi Dan,
What a wonderful posting with interesting replies.
All I can say is...I think Westerners over-intellectualize 'the message'. That is my biggest complaint with most clergy of any tradition.
If we do not judge others for their choices and give from our hearts than we taking right action.
My belief is that our spirits are here to learn through the choices we make. We all make poor choices at times even with arm fulls of information and some never learn and some don't want to learn. And we may not like it or agree with it but still we must tend to the human spirit without judgement. People will choose to learn or they will not, in this lifetime or another.

Dan Trabue said...

Greetings, Miss Sun. Thanks for stopping by.

A quick point, that goes along with what sunyata is saying. Daniel said:

"In the US a disturbingly large number of our poor are that because of alcoholism, drug addiction, or laziness. The Bible condemns these things most ardently."

In fact, alcoholism and drug addiction were unknown concepts in the Bible. There are some condemnations of laziness and some of over-imbibing, but those are mostly in the book of Proverbs and, while certainly valid points, I don't know that they would cause me to say that the "Bible condemns them most ardently."

They are pointed out as destructive or unhelpful, as I recall. Hypocrisy and love of money are condemned most ardently. Semantics, perhaps, but that's how it seems to me.

And while lazy folk or over-indulgers often bring down trouble upon themselves, we are still to reach out and offer what assistance we can.

I point out this distinction because it seems that those on the right (and some on the left) really love to vilify those with these weaknesses - not merely point out the foolishness of the sins but actually vilify the sinners, and that sort of indignation and condemnation I don't find a model for in the Bible.

Dan Trabue said...

AND JUST TO BE CLEAR: When I say "we ought to offer what assistance we can," I'm NOT talking about coddling folk so they can continue with unhealthy lifestyles. I'm talking about actual assistance. "A leg up not a hand out," as the conservatives like to say. As well as systemic changes that tend to keep people trapped in difficult situations.

Give a friend a fish and he fishes for a day, teach them to fish and they fish for a lifetime, yes. BUT ALSO: change the system that allows the stream to be polluted and they can fish for a lifetime.

This notion of enabling do-gooders is mostly a myth (see next post).

Anonymous said...

2 Thessalonians 3:6 through 12.
I live in an area with a local newpaper (small community). Major crime problem is drug addiction, drug dealing, illegitimate children being mistreated, domestic violence. Almost all on welfare. One young woman I know draws more welfare that I do in social security and I have worked all my life. Young woman has never worked. I don't think enough money can be thrown at these problems, to cure them.

Dan Trabue said...

Welcome to my blog, anonymous and thanks for your comments.

As to the passage you offer ("Let them work for their bread"), no one on the left is advocating giving assistance to folk so they can be lazy. While there are some abusers, the cadillac welfare queens are mostly a myth.

Problems with existing welfare abuses, where they exist, argue for making it work better, not for removing aid. As long as we agree on this point, then we may largely agree.

Anonymous said...

I live in this small community and have lived here and worked at various things that brought me into contact with a lot of people. One of my strong points has always been my ability to remember faces and names and associations that were involved with the people.
I love people of all income levels and backgrounds, but I do have trouble with people that take advantage of others or the systems.
It is sad to see people who are smart about working the system for all it is worth and getting away with it. I know lots of examples of all the different ways the ceceit is carried out.
It seems like the administrators of the programs are more interested in putting people into the system than in making sure the system works correctly.

Dan Trabue said...

"It seems like the administrators of the programs are more interested in putting people into the system than in making sure the system works correctly."

My wife is one of the adminstrators you reference as are many of my friends. And yes, they do want to see homeless people get in the system and off the streets, which IS making sure the system works. Sound reasonable?

Anonymous said...

I know a lot of the people that work at our welfare office and they are all good people, but they do not nor does anyone I know of get out and envestigate how recipients are using their money or whether their situation is changing. There is not enough control over these programs.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to post again so soon, but thought of something else. The young woman I have spoken of at one time had a 64" big screen tv, sold it when she got to needing some money. Now has a cell phone with web and text messaging. Bought about 3 fish tanks that I know of and paid $5. each for fish more than once. Then asked me where she could get vouchers for groceries. She has run out of money and it is not even half way into the month.
Is she living in poverty?

Dan Trabue said...

She's off the streets and not in poverty. But what would someone like that - with such poor money management skills - do without assistance? I'll tell you:

Some portion of them would buck down and struggle by. Some portion of them would turn to a life of crime to support their lifestyle. Some might turn to drugs to forget their troubles. some would end up on the streets.

I'd suggest it is wiser for us to try to help more people do the first and fewer do the latter. How do we do so?

Anonymous said...

I wonder how it might be if we kept out the illegals and made the able bodied welfare recipients work. I think the idleness of these young people contributes to their drug use, promiscuousness and disrespect for public properties and a few other things I know of. Public housing in this community I live in was built new a few years ago and is maintained by our tax dollars and I visit a lot of them with church related program and doors are kicked in, window screens torn and trash in the yards. When things come easy to people, they don't seem to appreciate them. I hear things like, "I'm not going to work there, they will cut my check". What is wrong with this picture?
I grew up thinking that work was just a way of life and that beggars were not to be choosers.
I also notice that the taste of a lot of people on "free" money is above mine when it comes to the type of meat bought, tvs acquired and I could go on a bit longer.

Dan Trabue said...


I'm sure you could go on a bit longer about your personal experience. I've had a few myself.

I'm asking you, though, about how you respond to facts.

Is it wiser to pay upfront to assist those who struggle (and their children) or to pay MORE after the fact? (Yes, along with working to stop welfare fraud and laziness where it happens).

Anonymous said...

I don't know what you mean about "facts". One fact I know is that as a former Democrat, it seems the party doesn't want to hold people personally responsible. You are from a different generation than I and it seems to be a different feeling about who is responsible for actions.
Also, since you mentioned your wife's occupation I am sure you will defend the system. Systems are necessary, but oversight is important.
The same young woman I have talked about once got a lump sum check for 5 figures and didn't even know what for, then spent it in about 4 months and what does she have to show for it? She has everything she wants and does not care much about it in 2 or 3 weeks, so she will sell it for peanuts.

Dan Trabue said...

Anon said:
" I don't know what you mean about "facts"."

Instead of me repeating myself, see the next entry and the last comment I made upon it. I give one example of how it costs less to pay money to educate prisoners because it reduces recidivism. There are other examples, but I just want to see if we agree on the concept...


Anonymous said...

I just thought of a fact that I could relay to you.
Our local newspaper prints yearly the salaries of the local state employees. All full time employees of the state are better paid than almost all the other jobs in the community.
I notice your friend Marty has employment as an Administrator in non-profit industry. Another reason you two see eye to eye.
That is another problem with our welfare costs so much to administer it and yet there are no checkups on recipients.

Anonymous said...

I know that it is hopeless to try to explain to a pacifist why a military if necessary.

Dan Trabue said...

our battles."

Pacifists don't know about the need for a military? Apparently, neither does God IN THE OLD TESTAMENT,

which you'd prefer to believe over Jesus' teachings. You want OT-style war-making? Fine.

God repeatedly tells the Israelites NOT to trust in a military. Not to depend upon the latest and

greatest weaponry (chariots, in their day). NOT to rely upon a standing army.

Instead, they were to trust in God.

So, if you want to rely on the OT as a measure of what we should do, fine. Get rid of your standing army,

relying instead upon an army called together only in times of emergencies. Get rid of your large
weaponry, they are an abomination to God, who wants us to rely upon him.

Dan Trabue said...

Samuel's message from God to the Israeli's upon their foolish request for a king:

"The rights of the king who will rule you will be as follows: He will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses, and they will run before his chariot.

He will also appoint from among them his commanders of groups of a thousand and of a hundred soldiers. He will set them to do his plowing and his harvesting, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.

He will use your daughters as ointment-makers, as cooks, and as bakers.

He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his officials.

He will tithe your crops and your vineyards, and give the revenue to his eunuchs and his slaves.

He will take your male and female servants, as well as your best oxen and your asses, and use them to do his work.

He will tithe your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves.

When this takes place, you will complain against the king whom you have chosen, but on that day the LORD will not answer you."

The people, however, refused to listen to Samuel's warning and said, "Not so! There must be a king over us. We too must be like other nations, with a king to rule us and to lead us in warfare and fight our battles."


"When this takes place, you will complain against the king whom you have chosen..." Complaining about how much money the gov't takes? Complaining about BIG Gov't? Complaining about loss of liberty?

This SHOULD be a conservative issue. Instead, they tend to choose to blame the crumbs we offer the poor and are just too damned blind to see where the real transfer of wealth is occurring.

Let those who have eyes, see!

Anonymous said...

too damned blind to see

Is this your judgement?
Could there be One Who knows better than we?

Dan Trabue said...

This IS my judgement alone. Based upon what I read in the bible and what I see in the real world, but mine alone it is and there is One who knows better than you or I do.

What I get tired of is what appears to me to be very lame readings of the OT (ie, there are wars that happen in the OT, therefore it is okay for us as Christians to drop atomic bombs upon cities).

We will certainly have different interpretations of what the Bible says, but at the same time, there is a logic that can be sorted out and sometimes some folk's logic just isn't sound.

As in my example above. The logical problem with that argument is that:

1. Just because there are examples of war in the OT, it does not follow that Jesus (who taught us differently) would have us wage war.
2. If you accept the examples of war in the OT, then you ought to accept the parameters (ie, God's repeated warnings NOT to rely upon military might) laid out therein.

Anonymous said...

I have a question for you.
If the military is almost an evil thing, should Israel have a military?
Would they live in safety if they would just smile at their enemies and bless them?
It is my opinion that this present Israeli P.M. is being too considerate of demands made upon them to give up land that rightfully belongs to them, plus even more than they now possess.
I hate war! The only problem is that pacifism will not bring peace. Innocent people are preyed upon by those mightier than they and deserve some mercy from those who desire to aid them.
Merry Christmas! Hallellujah for the Prince of Peace! He is coming again!

Dan Trabue said...

When you make a comment like, "pacifism cannot bring peace," do you recognize the irony of the implication? That War WILL bring peace?

As to your question about Israel and an army: I don't have an opinion one way or the other if any nation wants to have an army. If they want to, it's okay with me. I only ask that they set up some sort of parameters such as the Just War Theory as to when it will and will not be used.

Now, my questions for you:
1. Do you believe that the OT is an appropriate guide for if and how the US should have a military?
2. Do you believe Jesus meant it when he said to Love our enemies, do good to those who'd harm us?
3. Do you believe that Jesus' teachings are an advisable way to live?

Myself, I do believe that Jesus' teachings are a grand way to live.

Hallelujah for the Prince of Peace, indeed. And curses upon the Prince of War. May we all follow the former.

Anonymous said...

"pacifism cannot bring peace,
You misquoted me. There is a time and a season for everything.
Now in an age of terrorism, you are dreaming.

Dan Trabue said...

From your answer "Now in an age of terrorism, you are dreaming." are you intending to say that both the OT teachings AND Jesus' teachings are impractical?

I'm just not clear on your response.

For myself, I find Jesus' teachings extremely practical and at least as likely to work at bringing peace as war would/does. Call me Nutty.

And, to paraphrase Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego, EVEN IF Jesus' teachings did not bring salvation, I WILL STILL NOT BOW DOWN to your gods of war.

Jesus is just all right with me.

Anonymous said...

Jesus teachings are wonderful. Oh, if only the whole world would obey them.
Have you thought about the people that have been saved during the conflict in Iraq? Saddam would never have allowed those people to see the Jesus film or hear the gospel.
There are lots of things to consider when we try to interpret God's Word and live according to it, but above all else, He is in control.
No politician has all the answers or makes all the right decisions. It is our duty to pray for our President and elected officials. Would you want the President's job and the weight that is on his shoulders, plus all the malicious judgements that are thrown at him?

Dan Trabue said...

Are you deliberately not answering my questions or is that just an oversight?

1. Do you believe that the OT is an appropriate guide for if and how the US should have a military?

2. Do you believe Jesus meant it when he said to Love our enemies, do good to those who'd harm us?

3. Do you believe that Jesus' teachings are an advisable way to live (not that they're "wonderful" or "it would be great if everyone followed them")?

Anonymous said...

I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins (accepted Him over 50 years ago), I know that I still sin, but if I confess my sins He is faithful and just to forgive me again, He arose from the grave and now lives and sits at the right hand of the Father and because of that I will live in eternity with Him.
I am responsible to Him for interpreting and living in a way that is pleasing to Him. Why should you quiz me about your pet issues and expect me to agree with you?
I know that I do not know everything and I don't expect perfection of any other living person.
I read a lot of the same blogs you do and I ask you to just examine the spirit of the ones you agree with. I see a lot of anger, unforgiveness that has hung around for over 20 years (SBC issues). Satan loves nothing better than having Christians fight with each other, while he takes more and more into defeated, lost lives.
I also see a lot of language used by bloggers that does nothing to lift up the Kingdom of God.

Dan Trabue said...

Anonymous, just curious: Do I know you? Why go by anonymous?

Anyway, we have the tradition of the prophets who call people to repent. We have Jesus and John the Baptist blasting religious hypocrisy. I'm not troubled too much by righteous indignation and anger. There's plenty of that evidenced in the Bible.

I feel like I go out of my way to be kind, but I will be direct with folk especially when I feel they're misusing God's word.

It's not out of hatred for anyone (although there ARE times...), but out of a calling to work towards God's Kingdom. "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven..." You know?

Do we have a divided country right now? Yes. We do.

Are there debaters on both sides speaking words dripping of acid? Yes, there are.

Why would I quiz you about my pet issues? They're not mine, they're biblical teaching. And so, in an effort to be honest to God's word, I have asked you three questions (just as you've asked me questions) - both to understand where you're coming from and to confront the error that I believe lies between your arguments and God's Word.I'm not condemning you or anything, I'm just suggesting that if you can't answer them, maybe it's time to prayerfully reconsider your position?

Who am I to do so? Just another brother trying to get by with a little help from my friends.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry a bit harshly. I see that you do know the scriptures. Others have offered you good scriptural references to refute your views and it did not change your views. I am sure anything I refer you to will not either.
Scripture has to be taken in totality. Christ came to fulfill the law, but He did not do away with it.
So many that I see you agree with, only want to take certain scriptures and "throw" away any that would have a different angle than the one they want to take.
People are suffering all over the world and we in the US are the most blessed of all. My denomination is probably doing the most to alleviate
crisis, but is continually being beaten up by one of your friends that you post on her site and she, yours.
I think like eleutheros does, that real poverty does not exist as much as it is proclaimed. We are just a spoiled people. I have heard of real instances of need (sickness, loss of job, etc) and the people have to try so hard to get help that they get discouraged to the point of
dispair, yet able bodied young people are drawing money that is not used for its intended purpose.
War is hated by everyone, but evil people do not back off just because good people refuse to stand up to them. Remember 9/11. It may happen again somewhere else. I also believe that the Bible teaches that the world will become worse, not better until Christ returns. If someone harms your child, will you stand by and allow it without at least trying to fend them off?
A good defense is better than the offense. That is why I believe a strong military is necessary.
I would like to think there would never be a need for war, but I do not see this world becoming more peaceful until Jesus comes again.
Your questions that you think I did not answer are framed like poll questions. I would have to answer your way or I am wrong. I will pray for our President and I will and do pray for discernment. I hope you will too. (That is better than calling him a liar.)

Dan Trabue said...

You said:
"A good defense is better than the offense." and as a US citizen, you are free to think so.

Just don't claim that this is anything approaching a biblical teaching. The biblical teaching is, of course, "relying upon God is a good defense."

As to your comment:
"Your questions that you think I did not answer are framed like poll questions."

What does that even mean? I asked you for a name? Not that difficult. I asked "Do you think it appropriate to use the OT as a guide for if and how the US should have a military?"

You are free to answer any way you wish, it wasn't multiple choice.

Here's how I would answer that question:
First, NO, the OT should NOT be a model for US defense. We are not a theocracy, we are a republic of many different beliefs.

Having said that, I am fine that, if you think the OT is a good model, that you would argue for that model AS LONG AS you have valid nonbiblical reasons for doing so. In other words, I wouldn't stand up before Congress and tell them "Because the OT says x, y, z, we should do x, y and z."

I COULD argue, "because x, y and z make logical sense based upon reasons a, b, c, d and e, we should do x, y and z. And just as the Israelis did x in the days of old, we will find x works for us, too."

In other words, in a secular republic we do not make policy because Mr. Trabue informs us that this is the biblical model, we do so based upon reason.

Now, having said all that, I think it would be a great improvement for us to have a defense that were modeled after the OT. We would be saving some hundreds of billions of dollars a year because we wouldn't have a standing army or a bloated bomb budget.

What I'm getting at is that I find it very irritating for christians to argue for war because
1. Jesus told us clearly to do good to our enemies and as Christians we should do naught else and
2. When they do argue for a big military, they inevitably cite the OT which does not endorse a big military.

It's bad biblical exegesis. It's poor theology. It's rotten logic.

I'm honestly asking: If you can't answer the question, could it be because there is not a biblical defense for your position? And brother man, is that the position you want to be in?

Dan Trabue said...

re: "That is better than calling him [Bush]a liar."

Should John the Baptist NOT have called the pharisees "You brood of vipers!"? Should Jesus have NOT called the religious "blind guides?" Thieves?

There comes a time for speaking truth to power and when a president is lying to start illegal wars, THAT is a time if any.

Anonymous said...

You think there are inconsistencies in mine and others way of thinking, but the same can be applied to you.
Your thoughts about loving our enemies and turning the other cheek, need some thought also. As I said yesterday, if you see someone attacking your child, will you stand and watch because you are supposed to love that attacker and will you go up to the attacker and tell him to slap or hit your child on the other cheek? Of course not!
That is what I am trying to get across to you about using scriptures to fit your belief.
As for the way Jesus talked and called people blind guides, He knew their hearts. I do not see George W. Bush in the same way that you do. Can either of us see and know his heart? I have told you before that I am a former Democrat and was for years longer than you have lived, so I am not a political person.
I believe you accused me of being so "damn" blind. I don't agree with you, but I would not say that to you on a public forum.

Dan Trabue said...

"Your thoughts about loving our enemies and turning the other cheek, need some thought also."

Not my thoughts, brother anonymous. I've responded before to the whole red herring of "But what if someone were attacking your child?"

This is not an apt comparison for war. If someone were attacking a child, I would (and have) intervene. I would begin by stepping in between and stopping the abuse and work to de-escalate from there.

If war were merely the act of stopping one violent group from harming an innocent and defenseless group, this would be an apt comparison. As we know, this is not what war is.

The comparison to war would be, I hear that a man has been beating a child, I call up a bomber and drop a bomb on his house, hoping to stop the man.

Will there be collateral damage (innocents killed)? Yes, but that would not be my intent, my intent would be to stop the man.

THAT is the apt analogy and, as you can see, it would be a foolish action.

Yes, Jesus knew the heart of everyone. But John the Baptist did not. The prophets did not. AND YET, they condemned the wealthy, the oppressive, the powerful and the religious when their actions (not their hearts) gave cause for rebuke.

I have not accused you of being damned blind, I've accused those who "tend to choose to blame the crumbs we offer the poor and are just too damned blind to see where the real transfer of wealth is occurring."

"Blind guides" is an extremely accurate descriptor for those who'd condemn the poor who might steal pennies but not worry a bit about a military/industrial machine that would bankrupt the nation!

If you choose to identify with those whom I condemn as blind guides, feel free to take the "too damned blind to see" curse upon yourself. I did not assign it to you.

Anonymous said...

Have a good day and a blessed Christmas!
If I am ever in the Louisville area, maybe I will try to look you up so you can see what a mean person I am. Dumb too, I guess, but God has shown His love to me in such great ways that I just am so thankful that He has forgiven my sins and promised me a home in heaven for eternity.
May you seek Him as you grow older and know Him. He will lead us all into truth. No use my commenting anymore, your mind is made up.
Again, Merry Christmas!

Dan Trabue said...


I engaged in conversation with you. You were the one who did not want to respond to my questions - going so far as to remain anonymous. I very much love learning from others where they're coming from and what their position is, but discussion is a two way street.

So, no, I did not simply accept your posits as God's word. Doesn't mean I think you're dumb or mean and I never suggested so.

But by all means, stop by the next time you're in Louisville and I'll be glad to treat you to lunch or coffee and we can chat.

A Merry Christmas to you as well.

And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Creator, the Prince of Peace!