Friday, June 22, 2012

The Bible and Economics

homeless by paynehollow
homeless, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.
Part of an ongoing series looking at all the many passages in the Bible that deal with wealth and poverty issues. You can see the links to the other passages in the series under the heading "The Bible and Economics" below.

Today, I'm looking at the Gospel of Mark, Chapters 1 and 2.

You can see others in this series in the "Bible and Economics" link below (on the left).

Before starting, let me just point out that much of what I find in Mark is a more subdued/vague reference to our practices related to wealth and poverty. You don't, for instance, find, "Blessed are you who are poor..." in Mark, instead, you find Jesus calling his disciples to leave all and follow him.

The teachings, while vague, continue to give a more complete picture of the teachings found in the Bible as it relates to how we deal with our material goods and needs.

For instance, we find in the first verses, a rapid fire description of Jesus' cousin and fellow preacher, John the Baptist...

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

Mark 1: 4-6

and Jesus' trip to the wilderness...

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Mark 1: 12-13

and John's arrest and the start of Jesus' preaching...

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Mark 1: 14-15

and Jesus calling the first disciples...

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Mark 1: 16-20

and Jesus' first sermons being alluded to...

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

Mark 1: 21-22

and the description of Jesus associating with "sinners" and his quick conflict with the Pharisees...

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2: 13-17

and, finally, Jesus' teaching about Sabbath and work and hunger...

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2: 23-28

...and I'll stop there for today.

In these passages, while wealth, poverty, work, making a living, etc are not mentioned directly, there is a lot going on and a lot which impacts, it seems to me, our concepts of wealth and poverty.

For one thing, Mark is a rapid fire book of quick sound bytes from Jesus' life that leave you wondering, "What was going on there?? What was the context of THAT statement?"

Jesus just walks up to some strangers and says, "follow me," and they do? Is there more to that story?

Why was John the Baptist living in the wilderness dressed like a madman (or was his dress and diet that weird in that day)?

What WERE Jesus' teachings that so immediately stood out as different than the norm?

What WAS the "kingdom of God" that both Jesus and John were speaking of and what were the implications of teaching about it in that society in that way?

Why did the Pharisees so immediately take such a disliking to Jesus?

I think there are hints in these first verses that are more completely filled in by the rest of the Gospel teachings, and some of those ideas are specifically about our understanding of wealth and poverty.

What do you think?


Marshall Art said...

I think as usual you are fishing for what isn't there to bite. You are twisting beyond reason to try and squeeze some drop from these entirely NON-economically themed passages.

Parklife said...

Im no bible expert but I have to agree with Marshall on this one. Clearly the passages are not coming from the section labeled "Economically Themed Passages".

Dan Trabue said...

Clearly not. Not explicitly. But will we see some themes that spring out of these? I think we might.

Marshall Art said...

No we won't. We'll see you pretend they exist where they do not.

Richard W 4Christ said...

Okay,let's entertain the idea,just to pass the time. It's nothing that we have to make a big deal about...Let's say,or just putting it scenario-wise,that these scriptural passages have ecomomic themes springing from it, Here's what I would spring from it: Jesus appears in these passages to be a very rich,financially stable character,and something must have enticed the men that he called out to leave their jobs to follow him. His authority can be compared to the modern mafia godfather type whereas no matter how people hate him,his presence is gravitating. The leaders and religous antagonists find that they can't intimidate Jesus with their authority as they do towards the lower class people. From these passages,we can surely deduce that there must have been something or they way Jesus presented Himself to draw a crowd to Him. Yes, the much of the passages seem to indicate a lapse in the economy and may cause us to speculate over the balance of economical conditions,but if I were just casually reading these passages without prior knowledge,I would probably conclude that Jesus,pictured as a mafia-godfather type was not affected by the economical conditions around Him. John the Baptist on the hand...hmmm? Hard to say.

Dan Trabue said...

Thank you for the thoughts, Richard. Welcome to my blog.

I'm curious where you see in these passages that Jesus appearing to be "very rich, financially stable..."?

I suppose you know that probably most scholars would agree (and I think the text beyond this would bear out) that Jesus was a poor itinerant teacher, "with no place to lay his head," who relied upon the kindness of strangers for food and shelter?

I find the comparison of Jesus - especially in these passages - to a mafia godfather... unusual. You mean just in the authority with which he spoke?

I would agree he appears to have been charismatic and authoritative, but I don't really see the godfather connection.

Thanks for the thoughts.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall, you'll never see me here "pretending" anything (well, unless I specifically point it out). You may disagree with my understanding and readings of the bible, but you can't say they aren't genuinely what I believe to be true.

Well, you can, but you'd be wrong.

Marshall Art said...

I might not be precisely accurate in my conclusion, but I'm not wrong. "Pretend" is merely the most gracious way of saying it.


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I introduce a Economics student in Islamic University of Indonesia Yogyakarta

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