Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What You Did...

Homeless by paynehollow
Homeless, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

This last Sunday, our pastor talked in her sermon about our homeless ministry. For nearly 30 years, we've had a day shelter open, Monday through Friday, where our poor and homeless brothers and sisters can rest for a few hours, receive medical assistance, social assistance and where, most of all, they can be truly welcome. For many of our homeless friends, they tend to be pushed away, shunned and encouraged to move on... they are simply not welcome most places.

It may be a small thing, but we strive to at least provide for them this one small place of welcome. Thanks be to God for the faithfulness of our Minister with the Homeless and the volunteers who've kept this going. And I'm thankful for Cindy, my pastor, for preaching another great sermon.

Here's an excerpt from the sermon. She was preaching on the biblical text about the Shumannite woman who welcomed the prophet, Elisha, into her home...


...The Shunammite woman was able to recognize Elisha as a holy one, and to treat him accordingly. And I, of course - on this morning when we are celebrating our ministry of hospitality as a community - am thinking about how we recognize the holy ones in our midst, how we make room for them.

As I see the Shunammite woman in my mind’s eye, I can’t help but think of David and Tim, who come to this building while it’s still dark, to begin to cook, of Clifford, who comes in and rolls out the coffee and creamer and sugar, and makes sure that there’s plenty of it throughout the morning, of Diane, who opens the doors at 7:00 am, and invites in the holy ones. Now, they don’t look holy, mind you. They look like our society’s refuse, some of them, raggedy beards, disheveled clothing, shoes that don’t fit. No, they don’t look particularly holy. They look like they haven’t had a place to lay their head for the night, and many of them haven’t.

According to our records, about half of the men who come to our Hospitality Program “sleep out,” meaning that they lay their heads wherever they can, down by the river, under a bridge somewhere, in an abandoned building. No, they don’t look holy, and some of them don’t act so holy, either: “Sorry, Diane,” they say in between profanities.

But because Jesus was able to recognize the holy in his midst, and gave us some clues to look for—“whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me,” he said—we know, on our best days, anyway, deep in our gut of guts that these men and women are somehow holy, are somehow him. And so at 7:00 a.m., Diane opens our doors to the holy, welcomes them into this place that she, like the Shunammite woman has so carefully prepared, and they shuffle in like Elisha, deeply appreciative of the coffee and newspaper and telephone and space and place that has become like a second home.

How blessed we are, as a community, to have been able to provide this ministry, this great gift of hospitality for the last 30 years…Of course, hospitality doesn’t just happen on weekday mornings. I’m wondering, who are the other holy ones in our midst, the holy ones that might not look so holy or act so holy, but who, like our homeless friends, are in need of a tender touch, in need of a welcome word, in need of a conversation that feels like home? The Apostle Paul tells the church that we should be “given to hospitality.” Given to hospitality.

Who are the other Elishas in your world? May we recognize them, and make for them a special place.

84 comments:

Craig said...

Interesting use of the term holy.

If the point that is being made is that we are all created in the image of God and because of that all humans have an intrinsic value, then I agree. In fact, if that is what is meant, then it's something that I think most believers would agree with. If the point is that these folks are holy in its more common usage, I'm not sure I'd agree.

I'm not sure Merriam Webster would either.

holy;
1: exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness
2: divine for the Lord our God is holy — Psalms 99:9(Authorized Version)
3: devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity (a holy temple) (holy prophets)
4a : having a divine quality (holy love)
b : venerated as or as if sacred (holy scripture) (a holy relic)

I'm not trying to be difficult, it's just that without the context the use of the term "holy" doesn't seem to fit.

Dan Trabue said...

1. If I were a biblical literalist, I would just cite the transitive property. If A = B and B = C, then A = C.

Jesus said that what you've done for the least of these, you've done for HIM. A = B.

Jesus is holy (B = C).

Therefore, the least of these are holy (A = C).

2. The Biblical meaning of the word Holy is, in this case, not exactly the same as the English definition. The word translated holy means "set apart for a special/divine purpose."

Holman's Bible Dictionary says of Holy:

First is “to be set apart.” This applies to places where God is present, like the Temple and the tabernacle, and to things and persons related to those holy places or to God Himself.

I think that one can make the case that Jesus is making the case that "the least of these" are set apart, "related to God's Self."

3. In the Webster's definitions, I think 4a could certainly apply here. The "least of these" have a divine quality. Jesus has said what you do for these folk, you are doing FOR HIM. He doesn't say, "you know, it's almost the same as if you were doing it for me..." He says, it is FOR/TO Jesus that these things are done.

Thus, I think my pastor rightly makes the case that "we know, on our best days, anyway, deep in our gut of guts that these men and women are SOMEHOW holy, are somehow him."

Seems reasonable to me. Feel free to disagree about the word if you wish, but I can understand the point she's making.

Out of curiosity, in what sense do you think Jesus meant, "If you do this kindness for the least of these, you do it for me..."?

Beyond all of that, I can agree with the Quakers and others that there is That of God in all of us, that Holy Spark of divinity, of holiness, in each of us. We ARE created in God's image, just a little lower than the angels.

Ultimately, for me, though, it comes down to taking Jesus fairly literally. If doing these kindnesses for the least of these is doing it for him, I take it to mean that we are doing it for him. TO Him. With Him.

By the way, I don't disagree either with your suggestion that all humans have intrinsic value. But I think that because I think we are created in God's image and that we have that Spark of God within us and, in a very real sense, we are or can be Holy. Even and especially the least of these, if I take the Bible seriously.

But maybe that's just me and my pastor.

Dan Trabue said...

Oh, I would just add, looking at Holman's definition again and at the great wealth of evidence in the Bible that if "holy" applies to those places where God is present, well, repeatedly, we see the Bible tell us that God is present with the poor, the needy, the least of these.

Marshall Art said...

This stretches the meaning of the word "holy" beyond recognition. Jesus wasn't saying that those for whom we do good ARE Him at all. He is merely saying that we are truly His followers if we do for the least. It is enough to say that we should treat all people as children of God (even though He will not be allowing everyone every born to eternity with Him). And while it is true that the Bible teaches us to be holy because HE is holy, this obviously suggests that we are not holy at the start.

I have to ask...how often do you guide these people toward psychological help, which they very likely need? If you truly cared about them, I can't see as how feeding them and doing no more demonstrates care. Perhaps your (and your pastor's) description of your work with them is less than comprehensive.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall, do you find no value in striving to find the holiness of God in any place we might find it? I certainly do.

But you are free to disagree.

And "Jesus wasn't saying that those for whom we do good ARE Him at all..."? Well, one can certainly make the case that LITERALLY, that is exactly what he said. "What you do for THESE, you do FOR ME."

As is often the case, it seems you all take literally things that ought not be taken literally and spiritualize that which ought not be spiritualized.

As to the help we provide, we provide a safe and welcome place, we provide food and drink, we provide medical and mental assistance, we provide social services and work assistance. We have done this for 30 years, Marshall, and humbly strive our best to meet the very large needs out there the best we can on a very limited budget. I hope that is acceptable to you.

In conclusion, I would just say that I do find value in finding God's holiness in our every day lives. Consider the lilies of the field. Consider the birds of the air. Consider the least of these. Consider each part of God's creation and recognize that the holiness (set apart for a special purpose, as the Bible teaches) is in them all. If you disagree, then that is up to you, but I find value and grace and wisdom in that.

Dan Trabue said...

"God blessed the seventh day and MADE IT HOLY." (Genesis)

"Take off your sandals, for this is HOLY GROUND." (Exodus)

"Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as HOLY." (Exodus)

"You are to be my HOLY people." (Exodus)

"Eat it as something most holy" (Numbers)

"You are to have the part of the most HOLY offerings" (Numbers)

"For you are a people HOLY to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession." (Deuteronomy)

More later.

Marshall Art said...

I, too, will have more later, but for now, keep in mind that it is not uncommon for expressions like this to be spoken:

"Mess with my brother and you mess with me."

Obviously, this does not in any way indicate that the speaker is saying the brother is him, but that to do unto the brother is akin to doing unto him, not that the brother and he are the same person. Jesus meant nothing more than this and what is happening here is your penchant for taking literally what was never meant to be taken literally in order to further your position. I do not do this nor have I ever.

Dan Trabue said...

More "holy..."

"The men’s bodies are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!" (1 Samuel)

"A father of the fatherless and a judge [c]for the widows,
Is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely; God leads out the prisoners into prosperity" (Psalms)

...etc.

Okay, many things in the Bible are holy - set apart for God's purposes. We see holy oil, holy food, holy mountains, holy homes, holy individuals and a holy PEOPLE. Israel, for instance, is described as a holy people - a people set apart for a special purpose.

Do you disagree with this?

Then, just as the Israelis were set aside as a holy people - not so much because they were good or special (indeed, not that AT ALL), but to bring glory to God - even so, the least of those among us are also set aside for a holy purpose, they are a holy people, being used for God's purposes and being watched by God in a special way, according to the Bible.

So, if the Israelites were a holy people, why not "the least of these..."? How does that in ANY sense conflict with the biblical definition of holy - set apart for a special purpose?

Dan Trabue said...

Indeed, there are passages in the Bible where it makes it clear that Israel was a "chosen people" precisely because they were amongst the least of these. God used the prophet Gideon NOT because he was a great warrior from a great family, but because he was little and unimportant, from a little and unimportant family. He was amongst the least of these.

And as you see in the Psalm quoted above, God is making a home for the down and out, a special and holy place for a special and holy people.

It seems quite apt to me. But, if you don't like the notion, you are free not to use it. I just hope you can see how reasonable people of good faith might find such an application to be meaningful and biblical.

Craig said...

Dan,

1. This is a stretch. Can you please cite the Biblical reference for the "transitive property" or show me where I can find "If A=B and B=C then A=C" in the Bible.

2. I agree that the Biblical definition of holy is "set apart for a divine purpose", however, you have not demonstrate that all of "the least of these" or any specific "least of these" is actually "set apart for a divine purpose". If you could actually provide a Biblical citation that says that "the least of these are set apart or related to God's Self" in any way beyond the way that all humans are "related to God's Self", that would be helpful.

3. I agree that #4 from Merriam Webster is the smallest stretch to accommodate your pastor's use of the term. However, a small stretch is still a stretch. While you are correct that Jesus says ".... for Me." He does not say that "the least..." are Him. Doing something for Jesus, does not necessarily impute Jesus holiness (or any other attributes) to the object of the act. Again, some sort of Biblical citation that makes this direct connection would help immensely.

To be clear, I completely agree with the sentiment being voiced. Every single human bears the image of God and as such has vast intrinsic value. However to make the leap that the Imago Dei, confers holiness (or any other divine attributes) on a certain group of people to the exclusion of all others doesn't seem to be supportable.

As you are quite capable of doing the search yourself, I'm not going to list the numerous references that are quite clear that "No one is holy, like the Lord...". I realize that your counter will be that you are looking at the words of Jesus not the words of other scriptures. I will readily accept this line of argument if you can show me where Jesus said "The least of these are holy as the Lord (or I) am holy.".

"Seems reasonable to me. Feel free to disagree about the word if you wish, but I can understand the point she's making."

As you might have noticed this was the entire point of my comment, but thanks for paraphrasing it for me.

"Out of curiosity, in what sense do you think Jesus meant, "If you do this kindness for the least of these, you do it for me..."?"

I think Jesus meant it in the sense that one of the marks of those who follow Him, is that they do works of charity (I don't think charity is the best word but it works) that benefit "the least" as an outpouring of God's love and grace extended to said believers.

"Beyond all of that, I can agree with the Quakers and others that there is That of God in all of us, that Holy Spark of divinity, of holiness, in each of us. We ARE created in God's image, just a little lower than the angels."

Again, thank you for paraphrasing my original comment.

"Ultimately, for me, though, it comes down to taking Jesus fairly literally. If doing these kindnesses for the least of these is doing it for him, I take it to mean that we are doing it for him. TO Him. With Him."

Craig said...

Contd.

While I agree with this statement.

"Well, one can certainly make the case that LITERALLY, that is exactly what he said. "What you do for THESE, you do FOR ME.""

I don't see how you can argue that "for Me" means "to Me.". As you are aware that the Bible writers routinely capitalize references to all three persons of the Godhead. In the case of the fragment you cite the word least should be capitalized if your interpretation is correct. Further, most translations I have seen use the phrase, "the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,", I'm not sure that one could seriously suggest that Jesus' "brothers and sisters" are actually and simultaneously Jesus. I'd be grateful for a citation that stipulates otherwise in a reasonably clear an unambiguous manner.

Ultimately, for me, I can see no grammatical construct in which the words "for", "to", and "with" are synonyms. Additionally, I see no evidence that Jesus grants some special holiness to one particular demographic group over others.

We also see that God is present with prophets, and kings, and fisherman, and physicians, yet no one claims some special holiness for these folks. We also see a wealth of evidence that "No one is holy like the Lord."

Again, I can't stress enough that I agree with her point, and think that what is being done is good. I just think that there is a more accurate and precise term to describe these folks rather than holy.

It's kind of interesting that you've thrown out so many issues related to a comment where I essentially agree with you.

Dan Trabue said...

Craig...

We also see that God is present with prophets, and kings, and fisherman, and physicians, yet no one claims some special holiness for these folks.

? I just cited multiple verses that show that, for instance, the Israelis were literally called a holy people. Here, again:

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God.

From the OT (Deut), or here, in Isaiah...

They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD

...or here, in the NT (1 Peter)...

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation...

So, where you say,

We also see a wealth of evidence that "No one is holy like the Lord."

I'd agree. No person is holy like the Lord. BUT, clearly, the biblical witness has people being called "holy." Factually speaking, that is just the case. So, while we may not be holy exactly in the sense that God is holy, we are called quite literally to BE holy, like God is holy. And we quite literally see that people are called holy, set apart for God's purposes.

Surely, since that is just literal biblical text, we can agree on that, yes?

So, where you say...

however, you have not demonstrate that all of "the least of these" or any specific "least of these" is actually "set apart for a divine purpose".

Well, I'd say that this is the witness of the whole Bible. Israel calls out for help in her poverty and oppression and marginalization, and God answers, saying, "You are my holy - set apart - people. In you I delight and I will come to your aid and I want you to come to the aid of the poor, enslaved, oppressed, and marginalized, as well." Over and over we see this message from God in the Bible's pages.

So, I just don't find it in any way a leap to say this applies to the poor and marginalized today, in a very similar sense that it applied to Israel then. Is there any rational reason to think it wouldn't?

Dan Trabue said...

Craig...

I don't see how you can argue that "for Me" means "to Me."

The literal text in question:

For I was hungry and you gave ME something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave ME something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited ME in...

etc, etc, etc.

Jesus' LITERAL teaching that day was that when you do it for the least of these, you do it TO him. Literally speaking, that is what he said. Yes?

He did not allegorize it or say it was AS IF you were doing it for him, he said literally, you did it for me. "That hungry guy you fed? That WAS ME." His literal words.

Now do I think we can agree that we can say in some sense, it isn't EXACTLY LITERALLY JESUS of Nazareth that we feed? Yeah, probably. But the way which some of our more conservative family takes so much of the Bible literally EXCEPT Jesus' literal words... well, if we were to do that, some of you'd accuse us of hating the Bible. And that has happened quite often, as I'm sure you know.

I'm saying that Jesus' LITERAL teaching is that we are doing it TO him. That food was given TO HIM and I accept that, at least in some sense. Not that we are doing it on his behalf (he did not literally say that, although I think we can reasonably conclude that to be true, as well). I think that the Biblical witness is that Jesus is God INCARNATE, born here with us and STILL here with us and when we are standing with and supporting our family in need, we are standing in some pretty literal sense with Jesus incarnate.

And beyond that, that these "least" are literally blessed by Jesus and are literally holy - set apart as special and holy by God, as God's holy people in a sense very much like ancient Israel was.

Disagree? Okay, but it makes sense to me.

Marshall Art said...

My issue once again is one of seeing in Scripture that which is not there. Forcing desired meaning into verses that do not contain that meaning. For example, the Shunammite woman saw holiness in Elisha because he was indeed chosen by God for His purpose. This is a far cry from "seeing holiness" in the average homeless person. There is no comparison. The woman was not tipped off by any outward appearance of Elisha. I don't think one can say Elisha acted in the manner of a homeless person of our day. To then attempt to draw a comparison between her recognizing his holiness to telling one's self that one sees holiness in the average vagabond seeking to take advantage of handouts reeks of self-deception or a twisted pride. It would seem enough to simply do good for the less fortunate without all the "aren't we special for our good works" sentiment that drips from your descriptions. To paraphrase yourself, don't you know how that sounds?

I'm not prepared to label everyone holy simply because they are creations of God. That seems a bit presumptuous. Many seek to be holy, but how many can actually claim the title? It is almost like perfection in it being something to which we can only aspire, never truly attaining. Christ gives us a pass on such absolutes if we accept Him, but our need for Him is because we can't really be what we should be, holy being one them.

As to your efforts for the homeless, do you and/or your church support legislation that would lead to committing many of the homeless in order to get them the help they really need?

Craig said...

"Is there any rational reason to think it wouldn't?"

yes, because Israel as a people was specifically chosen by God for a purpose. That purpose is clearly laid out and specific. To make the leap that because the down and out in Louisville share some exterior superficial characteristics with Israel does not automatically equate them with Israel. Further, when the Bible speaks of a holy people it is only in the context of Israel or the Church. In both cases God's holiness in imputed to specific groups of people who clearly and publicly identify with Him. Never to a random artificially constructed group of people.

"So, I just don't find it in any way a leap to say this applies to the poor and marginalized today, in a very similar sense that it applied to Israel then. Is there any rational reason to think it wouldn't?"

I have clearly stated time and time again, that I agree that we are to continue to offer succor to the poor and marginalized. However, you have yet to demonstrate that the fact that we are to aid these folks, equates to them being holy.

"And beyond that, that these "least" are literally blessed by Jesus and are literally holy - set apart as special and holy by God, as God's holy people in a sense very much like ancient Israel was."

If this is correct, then you should have no problem providing a passage that specifically says that all the "least" are holy. Or one that says "the least" have been specifically set apart by God for a particular purpose.

I have to say, it ALMOST (note the term ALMOST) sounds as if you are suggesting that the "least" were created by God and the He has ordained that they live in this condition of "leastness".

If being one of the "least" means they they are holy, then what would be the motivation to help them improve their lot in life? Why not allow them to rest in their "holy leastness"? Perhaps providing just enough succor to maintain life and some degree of health.

A slightly off topic question. If "the least" are truly holy, then wouldn't the killing of any of "the least" be a truly heinous act?

Craig said...

"I think that the Biblical witness is that Jesus is God"

I agree that Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is God eternally.


"INCARNATE, born here with us"

Again, yes, there was a time when Jesus was incarnate and walked the earth as a man.


"and STILL here with us"

Sort of, actually Jesus was quite clear that He would leave us, but would send another to fill His role. While this could be a seemingly minor point, it's not as precise as it could be.

"40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"

While your being so literal and all, one must ask do you take this literally?

"41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

Alan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan said...

Craig wrote, "I don't see how you can argue that "for Me" means "to Me.""

Uh...Maybe because that's what the BIBLE SAYS?!?

Matthew 25:45: "Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it TO me.’" (NRSV, emphasis mine.)

Turns out the KJV, NKJV, NRSV, ESV, CEV, NASB, the Wycliff Bible, and Young's Literal Translation all say "TO ME", the ASV says "unto me." I stopped looking because I got bored, but I couldn't find anything but the NIV that says "for me."

In otherwords, the whole basis of their stupid nitpicking is a translation issue, not a theological issue.

Now, I know that recognizing that Heckle and Jeckle's BS nitpicking is over one single word out of one single translation and that if they were able to recognize that, then it wouldn't give them something to complain about (which is, after all, Heckle and Jeckle's whole reason for commenting here.) But by all means, continue arguing over a single word, without recognizing that you're arguing over a translation issue.

Because that's productive.

And will either of them recognize they were wrong?

No, they'll double down on the BS and say, "Oh, well, we all know only the NIV is the real Bible", or some other stupid rationalization.

If either of them says, "You know, I was wrong. The Bible says "to me", I'll eat my hat.

Alan said...

(I do wonder how they lived without coming here to disagree with you about nothing over the last several weeks. It must have been driving them absolutely nuts, which probably explains the even stupider than usual crap arguments they're spewing this time.)

Craig said...

I've acknowledged when I have been wrong before, and if it makes anyone feel better I'll do so now. Given that there are multiple translations that say "to Me", I'll go with that.

At this point I am not hopeful that Dan will be providing any citations that literally say what he claims the Bible says, and that's fine.

I would be interested in the answer to my earlier question.

"While your being so literal and all, one must ask do you take this literally?

"41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

Other than that I don't see anything to be gained. I've been quite clear that I agree in principle with what was said, but that the term holy seems a stretch. I'm completely open to something that specifically backs up Dan's claims.


"No, they'll double down on the BS and say, "Oh, well, we all know only the NIV is the real Bible", or some other stupid rationalization."

Can't speak for MA, but no.

Marshall Art said...

Oh, no, Craig. You could never speak for me as humorously as Alan does. He is far more entertaining in inserting meaning that does not exist within the words one uses. Dan's a piker by comparison.

But that was my reason for commenting (not to complain as Alan wishes it was), for Dan often inserts meaning the words themselves do not suggest. I don't think Dan does himself any favors doing so, either. I'm not really concerned with how Alan feels about my presence here.

And I don't see where I've nitpicked over any single word, either. I was referring to something more.

Jesus used hyperbole often, as many scholars would agree. Dan even suggests that one doesn't literally feed Jesus when feeding the poor, yet doesn't deny it, either. As I said earlier, this particular form of hyperbole is not uncommon today, as one might insist one is offended when one's friend is offended. It's an expression of the connection between two people, a bond, a sign of love and/or favor.

The same with Jesus. He is merely saying that we are to treat each other, including our neighbors, strangers, the poor and needy, as if each was Jesus Himself. That should be enough and I see no reason to read into it anything more than that. That's why I have such great pity for Alan.

I won't say he's holy, however, no matter how he dresses.

I could even go so far as to say that we are to assume holiness in others in how we treat them. But I can't say that I am qualified, nor is anyone else, to determine with certainty who is or isn't holy. That's certainly as judgmental as assuming someone, say Alan for example, is a scumbag. I'm either allowed to presume the quality of someone's heart or I'm not.

And once again, I don't know that Elisha's appearance tipped off the Sunammite woman. She would have recognized his holiness regardless of his duds. That's because he WAS holy and it was apparent to her. Was there any indication she recognized holiness in everybody else? No. Just Elisha. That's significant. Thus, to use this story in this way, in relation to the efforts of the congregation to assist the needy is inappropriate.

This is not the first time Dan has related a sermon from this woman that presented a misapplication or misunderstanding of a passage. Obviously the woman feels strongly about her positions, but I see no need to misuse Scripture to advance what I'm sure are sincerely good intentions.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

I don't know that Elisha's appearance tipped off the Sunammite woman. She would have recognized his holiness regardless of his duds. That's because he WAS holy and it was apparent to her. Was there any indication she recognized holiness in everybody else? No. Just Elisha. That's significant.

As far as I can tell, Marshall, you are just pulling this out of thin air. And that's fine if that works for you, just don't expect us to find it believable or biblical.

Craig...

At this point I am not hopeful that Dan will be providing any citations that literally say what he claims the Bible says, and that's fine.

I have never suggested that the Bible literally calls the poor, "holy." Jesus does literally call the poor and hungry, "blessed," but not holy. I quite clearly stated, rather, that this seems entirely reasonable to me. IF Jesus was saying when you give food to the hungry, you are giving it to HIM, I find that significant.

In addition to that, again, I find it significant that the poor are treated throughout Scripture as God's special concern, set apart for a special concern and holy in that sense.

As we find in Deuteronomy...

For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples

And again in 1 Peter...

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession

We can see God sets apart people (not just Jewish folk, not just "the church," or at least we see no such limits placed on this idea in Scripture) to be holy, set apart. And we see the poor repeatedly treated in this manner in Scripture so it seems apt to me, but NO, as far as I know, the Bible never literally calls the poor, "holy."

But we've established already by your and Marshall's testimony that it's NOT the literal teaching that matters (says you two, and I agree), but what makes sense. This makes sense to me.

Craig...

I would be interested in the answer to my earlier question.

"While your being so literal and all, one must ask do you take this literally?


Do I take it literally that folk can choose to separate themselves from God? Yes. Do I take literally that God places people in a literal burning fire?

Do you take it literally?

If so, why do you take that part of the passage literally but not the first part that Jesus emphasizes so strongly?

Again, it's not like he said, "ya know, it's sort of like when you do things for those in need, almost like you sort of did it for me, kind of..." No, he described situation after situation.

When you gave to the hungry, you gave TO ME.

When you gave to the thirsty, you gave TO ME.

When you helped the tired, you HELPED ME.

When you visited the sick and imprisoned, you VISITED ME...

Etc. THEN he repeated the same situations in reverse...

When you did NOT give food to the hungry, you chose to NOT give food TO ME.

etc, etc, etc.

He's quite emphatic about it.

Do you not find it reasonable that, at least in SOME sense, we ARE doing just what Jesus said and giving food TO JESUS when we give it to the poor? And does that not seem reasonable, then, to treat the poor as holy and set apart (quite literally, by Jesus' teachings right in that passage - he doesn't say, "When you are kind to a rich fella and give him a bite to eat, you do it TO ME..." No, he LITERALLY set apart the poor in this passage. Is that NOT Jesus literally making the poor holy?

Seems reasonable to me. Disagree if you wish. I just don't get any deep consistency with how you spiritualize, trivialize and make figurative certain passages of the Bible while demanding literal interpretations at other, less rational places. But, we all find our interpretations where we find them, I guess.

Dan Trabue said...

I left out a "no."

Do I literally believe God places people in a literal fire? No.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

I can't say that I am qualified, nor is anyone else, to determine with certainty who is or isn't holy.

? But you said the Shumanite woman did just that. Why are you not able to do so?

Beyond that, let's slow down just a second and revisit this with fresh eyes. I think you two just helped me reach why I think "holy" is so apt a description, when we take the Bible literally. Look again:

As I just noted, in the sheep/goats passage, Jesus literally sets apart (makes holy? That IS a definition of holy) the poor, needy, marginalized and down and out.

Do you agree that Jesus LITERALLY sets apart the poor, hungry, needy, marginalized, etc in this passage?

Do you agree that it's not ONLY in this passage, but throughout the Bible that we find God's commands to literally set apart the poor, etc in at least some sense, to have special concern for?

Do you agree that we are, in fact, called to set apart the least of these for God's special purposes (ie, to honor God in how we treat these "set apart" people)?

If so, is that not LITERALLY, the Biblical definition (one of them) of "holy..."?

If we can agree that the poor are LITERALLY set apart by God, repeatedly in Scripture, then why is calling them "holy" - in the literal sense of being set apart - such a stretch to you two?

Perhaps you were thinking of "holy" in the sense that God is HOLY, above all, unequaled, supremely righteous and WE (none of us) are holy in that way? And that would certainly be true. But then, there is this repeated definition of Holy in this OTHER sense of common people, places and things being set apart for God's purpose. We see this throughout the Bible, and we see the poor being repeatedly set apart, so that is why, it seems to me, that we should treat the poor as Holy, and Set Apart, because that is literally our repeated command from God, and that just makes sense.

Taking a look at it with fresh eyes, perhaps we can agree that this is not so outrageous or such a stretch at all...?

Craig said...

"Do you not find it reasonable that, at least in SOME sense, we ARE doing just what Jesus said and giving food TO JESUS when we give it to the poor?"

I've already agreed to this, but if it helps you to belabor the point, I'll do so again. Yes, there is a figurative sense in which giving succor to those in need is doing service to Jesus. However, I see no reason to limit this to the (physically) poor. If I give a middle class family a place to live or food when their house is hit by a tornado, am I not doing a service to Christ as well?

"And does that not seem reasonable, then, to treat the poor as holy and set apart..."

No. Many types of people have needs and why should we not try to meet the needs of anyone who we come across. Further, just because Jesus mentions the poor, doesn't mean he consecrates them to the exclusion of others. If one looks at the parable of the Good Samaritan the Samaritan offers help to the person in need with no indication of his economic situation. So, I don't find Jesus use of the poor as an example anything more than an example.

"I just don't get any deep consistency with how you spiritualize, trivialize and make figurative certain passages of the Bible while demanding literal interpretations at other, less rational places."

Yet, I don't believe that you can actually provide an instance where I've actually done that.

"But we've established already by your and Marshall's testimony that it's NOT the literal teaching that matters..."

Except we haven't actually established that.

What we have established is that you seem to see a line between v. 40 and 41, where you insist on a wooden literal reading of the earlier verses, but insist on a figurative reading on v. 41.

It seems as though 41 is quite clear Jesus literally says, " ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.". Nowhere is there any indication of a figurative fire, nor any indication that the goats simply chose to separate themselves from God.

I still find it hard to understand your insistence on making this out to be more of a disagreement than it actually is.

I did notice that you missed an earlier question I asked.

" If "the least" are truly holy, then wouldn't the killing of any of "the least" be a truly heinous act?"

A final question. We both agree that the nation of Israel as an entity was set apart from God and referred to as holy. However, does that fact that Israel as a nation was holy automatically mean that every individual member of the nation of Israel was holy?


Marshall Art said...

Craig suggests well what your comments provoked in me: that Jesus was not "setting apart" the poor, nor did God, but only reminded everyone else that the poor are not "second-class citizens" and should be treated well, not forgotten and supported in their need. But as Craig indicates, this does not make them a special class to the exclusion of others in our attitudes and behaviors towards them. It certainly doesn't make them holy, just acknowledged as equally deserving of our attentions as Christians mandated to love our neighbors as ourselves.

"But you said the Shumanite woman did just that. Why are you not able to do so?"

Because Elisha is not here to recognize as such. It wasn't that Elisha was dressed a particular way. The verse makes no mention as to why she was able to recognize him as a holy man of God. It simply says she did. But it also makes no mention that she ever recognized anyone else as holy, that she ever cared to regard anyone else in this way or that she had any special ability to do so as a matter of routine. So if there's anyone pulling anything out of thin air, it is you and your pastor in believing that this is an example to the rest of us in dealing with the poor and homeless.

To put it more plainly, the passage has no relation to any teaching regarding treating the poor and homeless as if they are brothers in Christ. You and your pastor insert this meaning into the passage where it didn't exist. You are saying it means something it doesn't mean. THIS is why what you say makes no sense...because how could it when the meaning just isn't there? One would think there are no stories from Scripture that support your efforts in regards to the poor that you have to take a passage like this and force a meaning of your choosing into it.

Marshall Art said...

Something else occurred to me whilst mowing the expansive and exquisitely sculptured lawn of the Marshall Art estate:

I submit to you that God (the Father OR the Son) never set apart the poor and downtrodden. He did just the opposite. He reminds the rest of us that they, too, are the rest of us. Financial status does not separate us or set us apart, either from one end of the economic world to the other. Indeed, the poor of Christ's time were already set apart by the people who were corrupted by their wealth. Yet, when Jesus says that whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do to Me, this is just another manifestation of the mandate to love one's neighbor as one loves one's self.

Thus, He could easily have said that what you do unto ANYONE, you do unto Me, but in the case where He makes this pronouncement, the focus was specifically on the needy. To say that it then suggests He regarded them as holy, set apart, requires a bit more than "it makes sense to me", because that doesn't make sense at all.

Dan Trabue said...

If it does not make sense to you, Marshall, you are free not to think of the poor as "holy" or set apart. I think, TO ME, quite clearly, Jesus quite LITERALLY sets the poor apart in this passage, as happens in passages throughout the Bible.

So, while it may not make sense to you, you two just helped it to make even MORE sense to me. Yes, of COURSE, Jesus specifically and deliberately set apart the needy as a special concern of God's. Set apart = holy.

Thanks for the confirmation.

Marshall Art said...

You gotta be kidding. I just demonstrated why that position is untenable. When people in group A treat people in group B like crap, it is not setting apart group B to say that what group A does to them is akin to doing it to Jesus Himself. It is doing just the opposite. Likewise, if the poor treat the wealthy like crap, it is also akin to treating Jesus like crap.

So, it is clear to me, and makes perfect sense to me, as it does to others who read your words, that what makes sense to only does so because by your chosen belief, your socialist positions can be said to be Biblical. But only by taking verses out of context, as well as by inserting meaning not projected by the passages themselves, can you use them to support your position.

But just as those who use the Bible to justify slavery are heretical in their teaching, so too are those who twist Scripture for what are otherwise well intentioned purposes. It's crystal clear that you and your pastor have no trouble taking liberties with Scripture. I'm just don't see how that's any better than the racist. What's more, it isn't necessary to pervert the Elisha story to justify helping out the needy.

Dan Trabue said...

So, I believe in finding the holy in people; I believe that when Jesus set apart (repeatedly) the poor, that is not unreasonable to consider them holy (ie, literally set apart)...

...and these things make me a socialist and as bad as a racist?

Dear brother Marshall, words have meanings and when you use them randomly and senselessly, it makes you appear rather random and senseless. Give some thought to that.

Dan Trabue said...

Oh, and taking Jesus' teachings LITERALLY means that I take liberties with Scripture??

Do you see how such a claim might appear a bit silly, especially coming from someone who doubtlessly considers himself a biblical literalist?

Craig said...

" If "the least" are truly holy, then wouldn't the killing of any of "the least" be a truly heinous act?"

A final question. We both agree that the nation of Israel as an entity was set apart from God and referred to as holy. However, does that fact that Israel as a nation was holy automatically mean that every individual member of the nation of Israel was holy?

Craig said...

I', a little curious how far you'll take this literalism you claim to have.

"v. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:..."

Literal or not literal?

"35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’"

Literal or not literal?


"26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed[a] and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new[b] covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."

Literal or not literal?

Craig said...

Sorry, should be "I'm a little...."

Marshall Art said...

"I believe that when Jesus set apart (repeatedly) the poor,"

He did NOT set them apart. There is no case when He DID set them apart. This is just another case of YOU inserting meaning that does not exist in the passage.

"...and these things make me a socialist and as bad as a racist?"

There's nothing random nor senseless in anything I've put forth thus far, at least none that you could possibly expose. Your twisting doesn't make you a socialist. You already are in your wacky notions of taxation. But you twist Scripture's passages regarding the poor to support your socialist notions of taxation. These twistings make you as bad as the racist because you are doing what the racist does with Scripture to support your own preferences in life, in this case, how we deal with the poor.

As to "finding the holy in people", how does that work, exactly? How do you determine success in this quest? It's silly, especially given your devotion to those in your circle who are clearly engaging in unholy practices. I'd say you have no idea in how to identify "the holy" in anyone. How presumptuous to assume it is possible, short of another Elisha walking through the door.

You've shown how you don't really understand what it means to take Scripture literally.

Dan Trabue said...

Your questions are mostly off topic. I'm not a biblical literalist, so they don't apply in that sense, either. But to answer them just out of curiosity...

"wouldn't killing any of 'the least of these...' be a truly heinous act?"

Killing any innocent is a truly heinous act. And yes, targeting especially oppressed and marginalized groups is, I would say, an especially heinous act.

Will "the King" literally say to those who are literally on his right hand (literally ON his literal right hand or just literally to his right??) "come, you are blessed of my (literal??) father, enter into a literal kingdom... etc?

The story is a parable. It is ALL metaphor and imagery.

BUT, the truth being taught, I take pretty literally. Yes, in some sense, God literally welcomes those who literally tend to the needs of those who God has set apart (literally) as a special case to a separate (set apart) Kingdom or realm. That is the truth being taught.

I don't see how one can stretch it to say, "The literal Truth being taught in this parable is independent of the need of those being assisted, it could just as easily apply to you helping a wealthy man get wealthier, for instance..." That would be a rather ridiculous interpretation to take away from this, it seems to me. The literal point of this is that the poor are set apart in this parable and when we help those who are in some sort of need, we are helping God, literally. That is what I think is being taught in this passage.

Craig...

does that fact that Israel as a nation was holy automatically mean that every individual member of the nation of Israel was holy?

Well, I for one will stand by the suggestion that I think we can find that of God in every human, so yes, I do think that every member of Israel might be considered holy in some manner. I'm not saying that in passages that speak of Israel as a holy nation that this is the intent of the passage, though.

Craig, some questions for you:

Do you take the "you are banished to eternal torment in fire" line literally? If you take that one literally, do you take the lines around it about our deeds done literally for the poor/needy as literally for the poor/needy? Do you take the lines that say you do it literally for Jesus literally?

Craig said...

"The story is a parable. It is ALL metaphor and imagery."

Except where you insist that to serve the poor literally means you are literally serving the literal Jesus. I've got it now.


"Do you take the "you are banished to eternal torment in fire" line literally?"

Yes. If one is to look at the actual words of Jesus, what other choice does one have.

"If you take that one literally, do you take the lines around it about our deeds done literally for the poor/needy as literally for the poor/needy?"

Why must I keep reiterating this point. Of course I do. However, I would have to believe that we should do good deeds to everyone regardless of their economic status. I see no reason to discriminate against any when it comes to doing good.

"Do you take the lines that say you do it literally for Jesus literally?"

yes, I take it literally in the sense that it was intended.

Craig said...

I'm, a little curious how far you'll take this literalism you claim to have.

"v. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:..."

Literal or not literal?

"35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’"

Literal or not literal?


"26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed[a] and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new[b] covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."

Literal or not literal?

Craig said...

Dan,

Sorry, one more.

Since Jesus clearly says "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." How can you suggest some meaning beyond what His words were?

Let's break this down.

"Depart from me..."

Literal or not literal?

"...you who are cursed..."

Literal or not literal?

"...into the eternal fire...?"

Literal or not literal?

"...prepared for..."

Literal or not literal?

"...the Devil and all his angels."

Literal of not literal?

Just to avoid the strange NIV only accusations I checked numerous translations which all say essentially the same thing.

Craig said...

Dan,

I apologize for multiple replies, but your responses have been so thought provoking it's hard to get everything in one sitting.

I'm hoping that you could clarify one thing for me though.

I looks as though you are suggesting that the most important thing in this parable is how we treat the poor. I hope that you could either confirm my impression, or help me understand your point.

Dan Trabue said...

Well, that IS sort of the entire point of the parable isn't it?

"What you do for the least of these, you do for me," Jesus sums it up.

What do you think the point of the parable is, if not that how we treat the poor is acutely part of what it means to follow Jesus?

Dan Trabue said...

re: the claim that when Jesus/the Bible refers to helping/defending the poor and marginalized, that it wasn't necessarily speaking about just the poor, it could just as easily have said, "what you did for the middle class and rich, you do for me..."

...well, first, is that what you're saying? Because it sounds like the direct setting apart of the poor and marginalized is not consequential in this text. Are you saying that we could just as easily replace the actual text with "What you did for the rich and middle class, you did for me..."?

Dan Trabue said...

While waiting for an answer to that, let me point out a few more verses along these lines. When Mary - the poor and marginalized teen-ager - found out she was going to give birth to the Messiah, she said...

GOD HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.


When Jesus began his ministry, he said...

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free...

When Jesus gave his famous sermon on the mount, he said...

Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.

Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied...

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.


When John the Baptist was in prison and sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if he was truly the son of God, Jesus said...

"Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM."

...for a few examples of the many, many found in the Bible where the poor and marginalized are literally SET APART (ie, holy, by definition?).

Are you two fellas saying that in each of these where the poor and marginalized are specifically set apart, that they could just as easily have substituted "rich" for "poor" and still mean the same thing? That Jesus wasn't speaking specifically of the poor and specifically setting them apart in these teachings?

Marshall Art said...

I've maintained that many of the references to the poor being fed refer to the poor in spirit as one of the Gospels puts it. This makes the most sense considering how even during Jesus' time, the poor and hungry remained poor and hungry. The same is true today. What's more, the filled are still filled. Is Jesus a liar, stupid, a charlatan? Or are you missing the point? (Look again at what Jesus says to John the Baptist about the poor having the gospel preached to them.)

For the third time I say that Jesus never set apart the poor. He was including them as they were set apart and marginalized by those in power. Everything mentioned in Scripture about doing for the poor is due to how little had been done for them, not that they are entitled to some special designation of holiness. If He set apart any group, it was the elect regardless of whether one was rich or poor.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

I've maintained that many of the references to the poor being fed refer to the poor in spirit as one of the Gospels puts it. This makes the most sense considering how even during Jesus' time, the poor and hungry remained poor and hungry. The same is true today. What's more, the filled are still filled. Is Jesus a liar, stupid, a charlatan?

No, in the Kingdom of God, the poor and marginalized ARE fed and welcomed. You can spiritualize it and ignore the literal teaching if you want, but I do not think that is the most logical, biblical or moral way to treat these passages.

We disagree fundamentally on at least that point, with (interestingly) those who agree with you taking the more liberal and less literal interpretation and those who agree with me taking the more conservative and literal interpretation.

Irony, eh?

Marshall...

For the third time I say that Jesus never set apart the poor. He was including them as they were set apart and marginalized by those in power.

Well, then literally still, he was setting them apart to be included specifically as a group with the "rest of us," even if you're stretching it in that way. Regardless, Jesus et al are literally setting them apart in these passages. Do with that what you will.

Craig said...

"...the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM."

I notice that it doesn't say "the POOR ARE GIVEN FOOD OR MONEY." or "the POOR ARE PROVIDED WITH HELP TO ACCESS WELFARE PROGRAMS." or "the POOR ARE GIVEN THE TOOLS TO HELP THEM RISE OUT OF POVERTY.". It says "...the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.".

Now, unless you are suggesting that the gospel is not a spiritual message, it seems as though the quote actually supports MA's point.

Again, just to be really clear, you are quite sure that the primary point of the sheep/goats parable is how we treat the poor.


Dan Trabue said...

According to the Gospel, the Gospel is not merely a spiritual message. It is, according to Jesus, "Good news for the poor, healing for the sick, release for the captives..." all of which has to do with the lower rungs of society.

So, where you say...

I notice that it doesn't say "the POOR ARE GIVEN FOOD OR MONEY." or "the POOR ARE PROVIDED WITH HELP TO ACCESS WELFARE PROGRAMS." or "the POOR ARE GIVEN THE TOOLS TO HELP THEM RISE OUT OF POVERTY."

I would note that if we look at Jesus' teachings and actions, if we look at the early church, the Gospel certainly does include actions that help the poor rise beyond oppression and includes systematic help to deal with problems of poverty. As you may recall in the early church, that it is reported that "there are no poor amongst them..." The day of Jubilee, which Jesus announces with his begin of his ministry of Good News, includes systematic methods of making sure there is enough for all.

So, yes, I'd say that unless you strip "the gospel" of all the meaning found with The Gospel, yes, it includes Good News for the literally poor.

I'd ask you again, Craig:

Are you saying that in each of these where the poor and marginalized are specifically set apart, that they could just as easily have substituted "rich" for "poor" and still mean the same thing? That Jesus wasn't speaking specifically of the poor and specifically setting them apart in these teachings?

Dan Trabue said...

Craig...

just to be really clear, you are quite sure that the primary point of the sheep/goats parable is how we treat the poor.

Again, just to be clear, what part of "what you do for/to the least, you do for/to me" are you not understanding?

What else IS it about if not about what you do for the poor, you do for me? What else IS it about if it's not the importance of how we treat the literally and specifically poor? Yes, that is what seems to me to be the overarching point of the story.

I think, in other words, that when Jesus said, "What you do for the least of these - the poor, hungry, thirsty, needy - you do for me," he meant that it's important how we treat these set apart people.

I'm very curious now as to what meaning you are reading into it? DO you really think that Jesus could just as easily have said, "What you do for the rich, you do for me..."?

Craig said...

To answer your question first.

I have said several times that I see no reason to discriminate in terms of helping people in need based on any arbitrary measure.

Are you suggesting that the gospel has no spiritual dimension?

Or that the spiritual is outweighed by the physical?

At what point according to Jesus do the poor cease to be poor? At what point do they lose the holiness that poverty confers on them?

Dan Trabue said...

Craig...

I have said several times that I see no reason to discriminate in terms of helping people in need based on any arbitrary measure.

Okay.

And what is your answer to my question? That is, do you think that Jesus could just as easily have said, "Blessed are you who are wealthy and who have plenty to eat..."? Could he just as easily have said, "When you do it for the wealthy, you do it for me..."?

Do you think that it is entirely inconsequential that Jesus set apart the poor and needy and marginalized?

If so, on what basis would you reject the clear, literal teaching in favor of this other teaching you're offering?

You DO realize that if we so-called "liberals" said such a thing, you all would be all over us for rejecting the clear literal teaching of the Bible?

Here's another question, based on your answer to whatever question you're answering: Do you think Jesus' specifically and literally setting apart the poor in multiple passages is an "arbitrary measure..."?

Dan Trabue said...

Even though you're avoiding my questions, I'll still address yours.

Are you suggesting that the gospel has no spiritual dimension?

No. You can tell by the way I never said or suggested that.

Or that the spiritual is outweighed by the physical?

I don't separate the person into parts. The spiritual is important. The physical that "holds" the spiritual is important. We are one Human Thing, not a body and a spirit. I do note what many folk have said over the years: If you are struggling to keep the physical alive, you don't really have any energy or time to consider the spiritual.

At what point according to Jesus do the poor cease to be poor? At what point do they lose the holiness that poverty confers on them?

I don't know. When? When they're no longer needy, that seems like a good spot to me. If I were able to reduce my need for income until I was at poverty level, and yet, still had all I need and want, I wouldn't be poor, not in my mind.

Indeed, I think that is part of the teaching of the Bible: Finding a way to Simple Living that is rich in its simplicity, that can be part of the good news to the poor that Jesus taught about, seems to me.

If someone is wealthy, then they are not part of the set apart group that Jesus repeatedly designated, literally and specifically.

If Jesus thought it was important to emphasize SPECIFICALLY and LITERALLY the poor, needy and marginalized, why do you find that arbitrary and an unimportant part of his teachings? Does that not seem a bit presumptuous of you?

Craig said...

"...and yet, you ignore what I actually say and “read between the lines” to find something there that I didn’t say and don’t believe."

Dan,

As I can clearly see by your words above you feel strongly that people should accurately represent your words and views.

You can then imagine my confusion when you are seemingly upset at my attempt to clarify your exact position, and to make sure I understand it clearly before I respond. I felt that it would be appropriate to ask again just so you would have a second chance to make sure that you had expressed your position clearly and accurately. I am working on a response that I believe will answer most if not all of your questions. Obviously, I would be a waste of my time and cause annoyance to you If I based my response on a flawed understanding of your position.

I appreciate your clarity, and apologize if I seemed to be inappropriate. I hope you understand why I asked and can wait until I have time to complete my response. Between work, family, and s charitable commitment to benefit the "least of these", I won't be as prompt as I would like.

Thank you for your understanding.

Craig said...

I could point out that you have left questions of mine unanswered, and get as upset as you seem to be. However, I'll just answer yours

"And what is your answer to my question?"

My earlier comments should provide an adequate answer, but I'll reiterate it hear for your convenience.

That is, do you think that Jesus could just as easily have said, "Blessed are you who are wealthy and who have plenty to eat..."?

The direct literal answer is, yes. He's God he can say whatever He wants, and set whatever criteria he wants. But, that's not what you want. So I'll put it this way. I see this in terms of need, not dollars. If a poor person is in need then we as believers should try to help them meet their needs. Likewise with those who have more material possessions. For example, when I'm running patients through triage in Haiti, every single person in that line is abjectly poor by our standards. They're in line for help, and they get it. However, should we kick out the Dr's and lawyers because they're less poor? Who decides? If there is a question here, I'll fall on the side of meeting needs regardless of the economic status of the one in need. Is that clear enough?


Could he just as easily have said, "When you do it for the wealthy, you do it for me..."?

Again, yes, he's God. Having said that I'm not sure that answering the same question twice makes much sense.

Dan Trabue said...

I am always willing to wait. And yet, when you have time to ask multiple questions, it seems odd that you don't have time to answer some pretty basic and seemingly simple questions.

Also, I hope you can see how it appears that you're trying to set somebody up, as opposed to ask a simple sincere question.

I'm quite sure that there are multiple understandings and lessons one can learn from any of Jesus' stories, including the Sheep and the Goats parable. We can learn how NOT taking care of the specifically poor and needy is a sign that one is not a follower of God. We can learn that people can fool themselves, at least seemingly. But clearly, the summation of the story comes with Jesus' words, "What you do to the least of these, you do to me." and clearly, that teaching seems to be a clear and direct emphasis on the importance of how we treat the poor and marginalized.

Again, what OTHER teaching/lesson are you getting from it than that?

Can we extend the direct, literal lesson to conclude that is ALSO important how we treat ANY others, not just the poor and needy? Sure, we can spiritualize and expand the teaching and recognize the holy and neediness in even comfortable and wealthy people. But that is an extrapolation, not the direct teaching.

I, for one, am quite convinced of the neediness of we who are wealthy. Wealth is a trap and can lull and lure us into all sorts of trouble. We who are wealthy are also needy. But we aren't the literally poor and needy, as the teaching is literally and directly about.

Craig said...

"Do you think that it is entirely inconsequential that Jesus set apart the poor and needy and marginalized?"

You could probably guess my answer since I have never suggested that it is inconsequential. However, this question is at the root of our disagreement. I don't see any evidence that Jesus "set apart" the poor in the sense you seem to mean. Jesus set aside the 12, who weren't necessarily poor. He set aside Mary and Martha who weren't necessarily poor. Nicodemus, rich. There support for arguing that he was poor after he gave back the money he stole. I could go on. I could ask "If Jesus was so concerned about the poor and set them apart, why did he not spend more time making them not poor? Why did He say that the poor will be with us always? Why di he not spend more time actually helping those who He "set apart"? For me it goes back to need, Jesus met peoples needs. Some physical, some spiritual, some otherwise. I can't think of any instance where he let wealth or lack of wealth prevent Him from meeting someones needs. (The rich young ruler chose to leave rather that allow Jesus to meet his needs)


Dan Trabue said...

Craig...

Could he just as easily have said, "When you do it for the wealthy, you do it for me..."?

Again, yes, he's God.


The the follow up question remains: On what basis would you reject Jesus' literal teaching to offer this other hunch of yours as equally valid? Does that not seem rather presumptuous on your part?

Craig said...

"If so, on what basis would you reject the clear, literal teaching in favor of this other teaching you're offering?"

Since I haven't rejected any clear teaching and replaced with with something else, I obviously have no basis for doing so.

"You DO realize that if we so-called "liberals" said such a thing, you all would be all over us for rejecting the clear literal teaching of the Bible?"

You DO realize that this is the same sort of projection that you were so adamant in decrying over at Johns. You have no standing to blithely announce what I would or would not do. So perhaps you could heed your won words, and not misrepresent or put words in others mouths.

Craig said...

"Do you think Jesus' specifically and literally setting apart the poor in multiple passages is an "arbitrary measure..."?"

No. Since I did not say that Jesus was using an arbitrary measure, I don't think that.

To clarify, Jesus can be as arbitrary as He wants, being God and all.

My point was that you seem to have established this arbitrary line that separates the "holy" from the "not holy" or the "more holy from the "less holy" or whatever. As your subsequent answers demonstrate your poor=holy construct is pretty arbitrary as your point of demarcation is pretty fuzzy.

Anyway, that's a bunch of answers and I have a 15 hour day tomorrow.

Craig said...

"Also, I hope you can see how it appears that you're trying to set somebody up, as opposed to ask a simple sincere question."

I asked you a simple direct question. Your response left me with the sense that you might be equivocating, and I wanted to give you the opportunity to clarify before I responded to what I thought you said, rather than what you actually said. I apologize for how it might have seemed, but I was trying to honor your desire to be accurately represented.

That is why I specifically asked if you thought that the teaching about caring for the poor was the most important thing to be learned from the parable. It seems as though your answer is an emphatic yes. That's all I needed.

Dan Trabue said...

Craig...

Your response left me with the sense that you might be equivocating

This might be a conservative/progressive thing. Conservatives tend to like the simple One Right Answer and Nothing Else kind of response, whereas Progressives are fine with multiple "right" answers.

So, I think Jesus sums up his story pretty well by saying that the point is, what you do for the least, you do for me, but I'm also okay with other lessons that might be learned. Thus, when you ask "What is THE Right Answer?", well, I'm open to more.

And I'm still curious as to what other possible answer you might be thinking of.

Dan Trabue said...

Craig...

You have no standing to blithely announce what I would or would not do. So perhaps you could heed your won words, and not misrepresent or put words in others mouths.

I did not put words in your mouth. I reported factually what HAS happened in the past from other conservative types. It's a matter of historical record.

Craig...

Since I did not say that Jesus was using an arbitrary measure, I don't think that.

I had asked you specifically if you think Jesus LITERAL teaching (help the poor) was important just as he said it or could he just as easily have said "help the rich." You responded, "I have said several times that I see no reason to discriminate in terms of helping people in need based on any arbitrary measure."

I hope you can see that it SOUNDS like you are saying Jesus' SPECIFIC and LITERAL mention of "the poor" was arbitrary. What "arbitrary measure" do you refer to if not Jesus literal and specific teaching of "help the POOR."?

Marshall Art said...

"On what basis would you reject Jesus' literal teaching to offer this other hunch of yours as equally valid?"

On the basis of the mandate to treat one's neighbor as one's self. To do unto others as one would have done to one's self. The admonition that doing unto one group is akin to doing it to Christ is merely another manifestation of these tenets.


more later

Craig said...

"I reported factually what HAS happened in the past from other conservative types. It's a matter of historical record."

Then you projected the behavior of other conservative types in other places onto me. That seems to be the exact kind of thing you are so vehemently denouncing over at Johns. Just because other liberal types have called me a Nazi, I've never suggested that you have done so. For me to attribute the behaviors of others to you would be unreasonable. I'd hope for the same courtesy from you.

Craig said...

I hope you can see that it SOUNDS like you are saying Jesus' SPECIFIC and LITERAL mention of "the poor" was arbitrary.

I can't help what you read into my comments. I've clarified this several times, I'm not sure that repeating myself is of any value on this topic.


" What "arbitrary measure" do you refer to if not Jesus literal and specific teaching of "help the POOR."

I was going to repeat my answer from earlier, but you are perfectly capable of scrolling up and reading it yourself. If there is something specific you don't understand I'll be happy to clarify it.

Craig said...

MA,

Well said. The foundational premise of this starts with the shems, which was echoed and amplified by Jesus when he went from "Love the Lord with all your..." "...and love your neighbor as yourself". This raised the question that was answered with the Good Samaritan parable. I can't see any way to limit the principle "love your neighbor" by injecting economic distinctions into the equation.

For example, many on the religious left can be pretty critical of "the rich", yet they are called to love them. I don't believe that Jesus used economic, or racial/cultural, or religious differences as an excuse not to love whoever he came into contact with.

This obviously does not diminish the Biblical call to help those less fortunate in any way. In some ways it amplifies it by making us consider that "our neighbor" may not be exactly like us.

I'd like to tell you a story about a rich man. This guy had started a business, grown it and developed it to the point that some big companies came calling. Eventually he sold. So there he was a relatively young man with more money than he ever dreamed he would have. What did he do. He decided that he should use his riches to start orphanages across the globe. He goes into areas of need, partners with local groups and funds orphanages. Honestly I couldn't tell you how many at this point other than certainly more than 50 and growing. Not to mention how many kids are being given a chance at life that they would never have gotten. Is this guy "rich", by most standards sure. Is he holy, I don't think he'd describe himself that way. Is he fulfilling the command of Jesus, no question. Would there be kids without food and shelter without him and his "riches", probably.

I realize this is anecdotal, but I have enough personal experience with a bunch of other "rich" guys who do various other significant things for people in need, to realize that simply lumping people in a group defined by their economic status is a pretty shallow measure of them.

Dan Trabue said...

I, of course, have no problem with the notion of doing unto others, WHOEVER the "others" might be, as a moral good and certainly, that is a Christian and moral teaching. And Jesus could have easily said, "What you do for anyone else, including rich people, you do for me..." and not contradict this teaching.

BUT, it is specifically and literally NOT what Jesus and others say here and in other similar passages, such as the ones I've cited. Jesus was literally and specifically setting aside the SPECIFICALLY poor and needy in this passage.

Do you literally think that is important or do you find Jesus' SPECIFIC language here arbitrary and inconsequential?

Craig said...

"Do you literally think that is important or do you find Jesus' SPECIFIC language here arbitrary and inconsequential?"

Do you literally think that if you keep asking the same question that has been answered multiple times will help to move the discussion forward.

I guess I can add that if you choose to build your entire theology of how to deal with the poor from one parable there is nothing to stop you. But, I'd think that a more well rounded approach might yield better results. It seems reasonable to many that a good way to deal with scripture is to start with the principle, then work inward to the specific application. In the case of how we treat the poor, the principle (the overarching umbrella) is "Love your neighbor as yourself." This is broad and general, but includes everyone we come in contact with. It's also a more well rounded approach than simply providing the poor with a warm room and a cup of coffee. No question those things are good and valuable, but it's a pretty shallow level of relationship. Again, the principle is "Love your neighbor.", not "love your neighbor, but especially the poor.". If I was to apply your logic, I would ask something like, "Why, when Jesus was setting out what HE Himself called the second greatest commandment (love your neighbor...) did he not even mention the poor?". The clear literal words of Jesus are right there, how could anyone suggest otherwise?

I think part of the difference here is that MA and I are looking at the overarching principle, and how does that play out with everyone we come in contact with. Not simply focusing on one group.

I guess I'm a little taken aback that Jesus referred to the "Love your neighbor..." commandment as literally the second most important commandment in the entire Kingdom of God.#1 love God with all your heart, mind, soul, strength. #2 love your neighbor as yourself.

Yet your refer to #2 as " the notion of doing unto others, WHOEVER the "others" might be,". In what seems to be a dismissive tone. Why would you disagree with the clear literal teaching of Jesus, by simply passing of commandment #2 as a :notion". Any other commandments strike you as "notion"s?

This is getting stranger. I started out agreeing with the principle of your post,but expressing concern over one word. I even suggested that if given more context that I might not object. Yet this has devolved into a "disagreement" over which "neighbors" should be loved first. Seems like quite a waste of time.

I'll try to put something together on the bigger picture of Matt 25, when I have time. Since we've moved so far from that here I may just do it as a post at my blog. If I do I'll let you know.

I'll close with this, I'll probably donate to the Kickstarter campaign, because I think that what your church is doing is a good thing. I'll have to see what I do at the fundraiser for a local organization on Thursday, but I'll definitely kick in something in the next week or so. You can keep on with your narrowly focused efforts, and I'll applaud you. Then you can let others choose to serve who they choose and support who they support, knowing that we are called to "love our neighbors" without regard to their socioeconomic status.

Sound reasonable?

Alan said...

Wow.

Imagine if these chuckle-heads donated $0.10/word to actually doing something good, instead of wasting time typing and re-typing and re-re-retyping their stupidity over the translation of "to" vs "for".

According to a simple 2 second cut-n-paste job into Word, they'd have paid $1400, instead of doing absolutely nothing to help anyone.

Way to go guys! Its clear you really care FOR the poor (or TO them, whichever you prefer).

Dan Trabue said...

Craig...

Again, the principle is "Love your neighbor.", not "love your neighbor, but especially the poor."

Well, this would be one area where we disagree. I think the principles found in the Bible include, Love your neighbor, especially the poor, exactly, literally, specifically.

Is there much difference? Perhaps not, it might help explain some of the head butting we have. But clearly, Love your neighbor is a biblical principle. And, just as clearly to me, we need to look especially to the needs of the least of these.

I think the poor and marginalized are SO often specifically set apart NOT just as a random happenstance and those texts could just as easily have said, "for the rich," but rather, that they say what they say specifically for a reason.

God exhibits throughout the pages of the Bible literal extra concern for the poor and needy. The call for us to look especially to the needs of the least of these is oft-repeated and I don't think a reasonable look at any of these verses - or all of these verses - can lead us to the conclusion, "Well, it doesn't really matter that the words say SPECIFICALLY 'the poor,' it's just a general concern for everyone..."

Feel free to disagree. I just think you have to slight a large swath of Scripture to change that meaning.

To recognize the literal multiple serious teachings of how vitally important it is how we treat the poor is not to slight loving others, just recognizing the strong emphasis the Bible puts on what we do for, to and with the poor. Nor is it to say that we ought not love the wealthy or the middle class. Just that the Sheep's salvation in this parable was not recognized by how they treated anyone else but specifically the poor and needy.

Craig said...

30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’[a] This is the first commandment.[b] 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Seems like Jesus might not agree.

"There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Funny He didn't mention anyone's socioeconomic status at all.

Maybe he actually meant "...greater than these", Oh except for that parable.

Or maybe He changed His mind Between Matthew 22 and Matthew 25. You just never know.

Or maybe all those OT verses were just the poor marginalized Hebrew children trying to make themselves feel better because they kept getting picked on.

It's certainly a well known fact that folks on the right side of the political/religious spectrum and "the rich" actually do nothing to help the poor.

Dan Trabue said...

Craig, do you understand that I'm not saying that loving the poor is "greater than" loving your neighbor? Indeed, they are part of "the neighbor."

And, yes, he did not mention socioeconomic status in that passage, but he DID clearly and specifically mention it in multiple places.

Does that mean nothing? Do you think that Jesus said, "the poor" repeatedly just as a lark? That it was entirely irrelevant? Or do you think it matters that he said that?

It sounds like you think it is irrelevant, and that's a shame.

Marshall Art said...

It means simply what is put forth: Help the poor. But no teaching regarding helping the poor is a setting apart of the poor as one who is holy is set apart. There's simply no basis for this notion.

Think of it this way: The subject of a sermon by Jesus is the treatment of the poor. The poor being the subject does not equate to setting them apart in any way whatsoever. They are simply the subject of His teaching at that given time.

You also ignore context, which you insist is important in how you interpret Scripture. The context here is that the poor were not given much consideration by the average joe of the period and as a result, their suffering was great. The teachings of Christ regarding the poor was a reflection of this dynamic and He sought to remind his listeners that the poor were in need of what the better off could provide. He did so by telling them that what they do for the least they do for Him. But that is not to say that the same doesn't go for how we treat anyone else.

Again, He's not setting them apart at all, but merely reminding the better off not to forget the less fortunate. It is very much the same as His teachings regarding how we treat our enemies. Is He setting apart our enemies for special consideration? Are they holy because they are our enemies?

Marshall Art said...

And speaking of enemies, Alan seems to want to perpetuate hostilities. Why he feels it necessary to call the three of us "chuckleheads", while at the same time doing that which he chooses to accuse us of doing is not in line with the teachings of Christ at all. How hypocritical of him to waste time admonishing the three of us for our discussion of Biblical teachings when he could be out helping the poor, considering he just pointed out how its not possible to do both.

Alan said...

God loves everyone equally, and he roots for the underdog.

Are you people really so dim that you can't see that's what Dan is saying, and that is both Biblical (pick a hero of the Bible, they're often what society counts as losers), nor is it contradictory in any way.

Or do you know what he's saying, but not arguing would give you nothing better to do with your lives Either you're dim, or just enjoy arguing about nothing. I can't really see any other option.

Alan said...

"considering he just pointed out how its not possible to do both."

I'm not the one arguing the either/or here, Einstein. That would be you and Heckle over there.

Alan said...

Or is he Jeckle? It is so hard to tell you two apart sometimes.

Craig said...

Dan
Thanks for restating what I've said several times. I appreciate it.

Craig said...

Dan
Thanks for restating what I've said several times. I appreciate it.

Marshall Art said...

"Are you people really so dim that you can't see that's what Dan is saying,"

What Dan has been saying is that the poor and homeless are holy, and that Jesus/God has set them apart. Are you really so set on attacking people like Craig and myself that you can't muster the grace Dan insists is essential in discussion here? Try reading the comments without the hissy fit emotion and contempt.

"I'm not the one arguing the either/or here, Einstein."

But it was indeed YOU who suggested, by your comment on October 8, 2013 at 2:47 PM, that our time spent here means we're capable of doing absolutely nothing to help anyone. See what happens when you don't read the comments calmly with a sincere desire to understand?

Marshall Art said...

I would also say that it only sounds nice to say that God "roots for the underdog". I don't think you can support the notion that His choice of servant was based on a greater love or concern for the downtrodden. His choices had more to do with demonstrating His power to lift up such people against the powerfully haughty and oppressive. Also, as Paul says in 1 Cor 1:26-29. Economic status wasn't all, however, as those God picked were spiritual and faithful people more often than not.

So this affinity you guys think God/Jesus has for the poor is a misapplication, misunderstanding of what is going on. Sure, it sounds more Kumbaya, but it isn't accurate.

Marshall Art said...

Oops,

As Paul says in that 1 Cor tract, it was so that no one could boast.

Craig said...

As I've thought about this discussion, I'm left with 2 thoughts.

1. Dan just isn't that good at answering questions when he doesn't want to.

2. As I look back over the last 15-20 years, I realize that I've spent much more time doing life for and with "the least", than I've spent talking about it.

Feodor said...

Craig: "This is a stretch. Can you please cite the Biblical reference for the 'transitive property' or show me where I can find 'If A=B and B=C then A=C' in the Bible."

This is why the Earth is going to die from greenhouse gases. Because Holy Scripture doesn't say a word about them.

Feodor said...

How horribly ironic that, though Christ came to liberate us, the weakest among his body enslave themselves to the medium rather than the incarnate word - the only who can free their souls from printed prisons.