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July 29, 2013
Taming the Tongue
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare (Proverbs 15:1, NLT).

Friend to Friend

It had been one of “those” mornings and I was behind schedule in preparing to teach the women’s Tuesday morning Bible study at our church. I am fairly certain I did not exude peace and joy as I rushed around – as my Mama would say – like a chicken with its head cut off. The auditorium was set up correctly. The soundman had my power point ready to go and was waiting to do a sound check. The coffee pot was plugged in and doing its thing. Smiling ladies gathered to greet the Bible study members as they arrived. I paused and breathed a sigh of relief. It looked like everything was ready – everything except my heart.

I knew I needed to spend some time alone with God before standing to teach His Word, so I found a quiet room where I could escape for a few minutes of solitude. As I began to pray, the door flew open and crashed against the wall behind it as the husband of one of our group leaders burst into the room. I could tell by the look on his face that he was not happy and that whatever was wrong was definitely my fault. In a very loud and very angry voice, the man began to explain the problem, ending his tirade with the question, “And just what are you going to do about it?”

Sidebar: Guess what lesson I was teaching that particular morning. Remember, God definitely has a sense of humor. The lesson title was “How to Tame Your Tongue.”

I knew what I wanted to say to the man. I also knew God didn’t want me to say it. In a rare moment of wisdom, I faced my accuser with a smile and whispered, “I’ll tell you exactly what I am going to do. I am going to do whatever it takes to make you happy.”

I was completely unprepared for the man’s reaction. His mouth fell open, his eyes widened in surprise – no, make that shock – and he stumbled backwards as if I had hit him. The silence was deafening. We stared at each other for what seemed like an hour before he finally whispered back, “Thank you!” Without another word, the man turned and literally ran out of the room. The most amazing part of this story is that from that day on, he has been one of my strongest encouragers.

The Bible works, girlfriend! When God says that a gentle answer “deflects” anger, He really means it. In this verse, “deflect” means “to change course” or “to force the alteration of plans.” When anger is met with love, it is forced to change its destructive course. The plans of the enemy are altered when they are forced to comply with God’s truth. A sweet response yanks the fuse right out of an emotional time bomb that is set and ready to explode. We need to choose our responses instead of allowing our reactions to dictate the words we speak.

Godly responses begin in the mind. I believe that our thought life is the front line of battle for the control of our entire life. Psalm 34:13 warns, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.” The word “keep” indicates action on our part. We decide. We choose what is allowed to take up room in our minds. It is literally the idea of a guard standing at the gate of the city, stationed there to keep watch. He is there by invitation only. If we want to live right and speak right – we must think right.

Godly responses come from the heart. If there is something wrong with our words, then there is something wrong with our heart. The truth of Proverbs 16:23 is profound in its simplicity, “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth.”

A judge utters a few words and a guilty man is taken to death row.

A friend speaks a word of encouragement and a desperate heart finds hope.

A mother lashes out with angry words and the light in her child’s eyes is gone.

A wife offers a word of forgiveness and a marriage is restored.

A gossip makes a phone call and a reputation is destroyed.

A teenager says “no” and changes the course of her life.

Words are powerful. Words can destroy or build. We need to make the choice today – to respond in the right way to those angry words that are surely headed our way tomorrow.

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To the parents of Trayvon Martin, I don’t personally know you, but I pray that this message somehow finds its way to you. You have had thousands of people offer their condolences over the past year, and I am sure that you have received many sentiments concerning the verdict.

I would like to offer some sensitive but much needed advice. As much as you may not be up to it, you need to put your legal & business hats on. There are a lot of people that are going to attempt to take advantage of your misfortune. As you have already seen, Trayvon’s name and image is popping up on everything from baseball caps to t-shirts. Please make sure that you have his name and image copyrighted and licensed. There are people with little to no moral turpitude and they will surely capitalize on the current momentum.
With that being said, there is nothing wrong with mobilizing and rallying behind the Martin family, because the issue is so much greater than this one moment. It was a similar situation in the summer of 1955 when a young boy named Emmett Till was brutally beaten and murdered for whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. The men who did this were tried and acquitted, even with eyewitnesses. Yet, his death galvanized the black community across America when his mother refused to have a closed casket funeral because she wanted the world to see the type of hatred that permeated America.

Once again, America, your slip is hanging. You are showing the world your true colors. You are letting those that you preach human rights to see that your platform of perfection is not so perfect.

The black community in 1955 rallied behind Mamie Till (Emmett’s mother) and the civil rights movement was ignited. Several months later in December of the same year a Lady by the name of Rosa Parks decided enough is enough and refused to relinquish her seat to a white man. She was arrested, but she just happened to work for the NAACP, and the organization organized a boycott, and in the process, recruited a young black minister by the name of Martin Luther King Jr. to head the movement. At the time all those involved were ordinary people living ordinary lives, but they met their moment with faith, courage and determination.

This was not a racial flare-up, no, this was a stand. This was not a moment in which riots would be followed by silence. This was not a moment where blacks were concerned about the opinion of their white associates. This is where the ordinary became extraordinary when the faith (revealed through their actions) of common people met the power of God and created the perfect storm.

God has been presenting opportunities for us to stand for years, but people and organizations sought to use them for personal and political gain. We are upset because of the injustice we witnessed with the Martin family, but black families have been experiencing this same pain for years. We all have stories of racism and hatred.

I am not preaching hatred of any race; that would make me worse than those I speak out against. In fact, I must admit that even right now, some of my strongest supporters are white. With that being said those who are truly my friends and my family in Christ will support me supporting my people.

In his “I Have A Dream” speech Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the “Urgency of Now”. He warned against taking “The tranquilizing drug of gradualism”. Martin warned the nation that the discontent of the black man would not subside until his concerns had been addressed. He asserted that there could be no tranquility in America as long as the black man was still not free. Dr. King gave his life in pursuit of this dream. Medgar Evers died in pursuit of this dream. Blacks were beaten, sprayed with fire hoses, and bitten by dogs in pursuit of this dream.

Somewhere along the way, we lost our focus. Somewhere along the way “kind of” became good enough. Somewhere along the way we became satiated with minimal progress. I would suggest the dream has faded. I would suggest that the vividness of this dream that once drove our people to stand, even to the point of death, has been darkened by the lethargy of a generation of mediocre people. It has become acceptable for the black man to meander through the maze of mediocrity. It has become the common course of action for blacks to settle for dwarfed goals and colorless dreams. It has become the way life for blacks to be patted on the back in lieu of fair compensation.

We are a people that descend from royalty, our pedigree is that of aristocracy. We have the blood of kings and rulers coursing through our veins. I want to believe that Trayvon Martin did not die in vain. I want to believe that we have finally come to a point where enough is enough. I want to believe that we will not be willing to go quietly into the night having made some noise but receiving no response. I want to believe that we are ready to show America that this mobilization was more than just a hand full of black people looking to blow off some steam.

Just as Dr. King implied, we cannot allow this nation to return to business as usual.  We cannot allow another injustice to be swept under the rug. We must come together and collectively determine what we seek. We must be willing maximize our economic power and refrain from patronizing anyone that does not support us.

Yes, the majority of us are Christian people, and you may be concerned about what this means for you, but Christianity has never been a passive movement. We must be willing to stand and take what we rightfully deserve. This movement is not about hatred, and it is not antithetical to the Christian faith. This is about understanding that prayer without faith is powerless and faith without works is dead. We have been praying to God and He has been telling us to stand. Not riot, stand; not whine, stand; not finger point; stand; not pass the buck; stand.

I am not speaking of grasping at entitlements. Entitlement have crippled our race and made us easy prey for those who would seek to manipulate and exploit us. If we would unite and stand as one, not one of us would have to ask the government for anything. We have been conditioned to cheat ourselves. This is where it ends. Trayvon Martin cannot be just another dead black kid in America. Trayvon Martin has to become the battle cry of a restless people. Trayvon Martin must become the icon of solidarity that drive us to a place of discontent. We must wake up and remember the feeling of emptiness that we felt when that verdict came down.

I tell you my brothers and sisters: If we don’t see change, we have no one to blame but ourselves. ~

Dr. Rick Wallace

July 15, 2013
Ask and You Will Receive
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7, NIV).

Friend to Friend

I have always loved giving gifts to my children – all kinds of gifts including hugs, kisses, time, and love – as well as material things like toys, books, and clothes. When the kids were young we didn’t have much money, so the gifts were small, but the kids didn’t seem to mind. I often scrimped and saved in order to buy a certain item for a birthday or for Christmas, and loved every minute of it.

Dan and I now have five grandchildren and I am in so much trouble! I want to give them everything! I know I need to give them the important things such as love, time and training in the ways of God, but I find myself in the same situation I was in when our son and daughter were babies – little money but a big desire to give.

I once took our daughter-in-law shopping for Jaydan and Lelia, our five-year-old twins. I had a list of items I wanted to purchase but was disappointed when I found only half of the items on the list. However, it was getting late, and the babies began to “tell” us that they were ready for dinner and bedtime. We checked out, loaded the babies into the car, and headed home.

When Jodi leaned over to kiss my cheek and thank me for the gifts, I looked at her and said, “You are so welcome, honey, but it’s not enough!” Jodi chuckled, but I was serious! “No, you don’t understand,” I continued.  “We have to go shopping again because I haven’t given the babies enough and my heart is not excited enough yet!” I know. I am totally ruined, but I am going to try very hard not to ruin Jaydan and Lelia. (The projected success rate does not look good right now, but I promise to work on it.)

On the way home, I began to analyze my words and my heart. I fully realize that material things won’t satisfy the deepest needs of our grandchildren. I am also committed to investing time in their lives to help them find Jesus Christ and discover His plan for their lives. Honestly, I don’t really know how to explain what I feel for our grandchildren, but it is sort of like watching my heart walk around on the outside of my body. I know I can love them in so many ways…and I do…and I will…but I always want to give them more.

Our Father has the same heart – a giving heart – when it comes to giving His children good things. The problem is that we don’t really believe that truth. We tend to measure His love and benevolent heart of giving by how much we have done or accomplished, or even by what we haven’t done and promise not to do.

We are missing the truth that God’s love simply cannot be measured. God doesn’t love us because we are so lovable. God loves us because He is love.

One of the most tragic results of our unbelief is an ineffective prayer life. We pray, not really believing that God wants to or really will answer those prayers. Jesus addresses this issue in Matthew 7:7-11.

Matthew 7:7-11 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”

Jesus is teaching about prayer and about the very nature of God. He relates it to something we all can understand, the child-parent relationship. The son has been out in the fields working all day long and by the time he comes home, he is starving. His family is seated at the dinner table as dishes of steaming, delicious food are being passed around. I can almost see that tired and hungry boy’s eyes zeroing in on the food, salivating in anticipation of the meal before him. Then imagine that the father, seeing the hunger of his child, picks up a rock, tosses it to his son and says, “Here! Eat this!” Jesus is driving home the truth that good fathers want to give their kids good gifts. Now if this is true of earthly parents (and grandparents), imagine what our Heavenly Parent wants to give us – if only we would ask.

No one’s voice sounds sweeter to God than your voice, girlfriend. Nothing in the universe could keep Him from giving you His full attention when you pray. In fact, He longs to hear your prayer. In Psalm 34:8, the psalmist invites us to “taste and see that the LORD is good.” In this verse, “Lord” means “Jehovah, Abba Father.” In other words, your Abba Father, Dearest Daddy, is inviting you to come to Him in childlike faith, with a hungry heart so He can fill it with the gifts of peace, contentment and a satisfied spirit.

Don’t think you have to figure out a way to steal a blessing from God. Don’t believe you have to trick Him into giving up what He would rather keep for Himself. It is God’s very nature to give to His children. He has made all of His resources available to you. Do not doubt for a moment that He is a giving God with a heart that longs to bless, to encourage, to empower and to love you. God is not only able to answer your prayer, but God wants to answer your prayer. Ask and you will receive.

In the introduction to this series we discussed briefly the different types of suffering that a believer will experience over the course of their life here on earth. We understand as believers that suffering, at whatever stage and in whatever capacity we meet it, is a tool designed by God as a directive catalyst toward spiritual maturity.

As we move through this study we will gain valuable insight on exactly how God uses suffering to train, correct, strengthen, and even protect His people. When this study was first introduced to me in its original form some years ago, it changed my perspective on how I view and received adversity in my life. This is extremely important in the process of moving along the continuum towards spiritual maturity.

As we move deeper into this study you will be faced with a multiplicity of scripture. The reason for this is that a life void of scripture is a life void of power. It is the primary priority of every believer to engage in the consistent daily study, intake, digestion, metabolism, and inculcation of Bible doctrine. One of the greatest deficiencies of the modern believer is sound doctrine, resident in their souls. We tend to lean too much toward emotionalism, which has no foundation to support us when we are bearing the burdens of conflict and suffering.

Some of the core concepts in this lesson were originally presented by the late R.B. Thieme Jr., someone I have always respected as a Bible teacher and expositor. Over time, I have revisited these concepts multitudinous times and I have developed a deeper understanding and the concepts have broadened. It is not important who gets credit for this, because God is the author.

Suffering has multiple purposes and these purposes can best be understood in relation to the believer’s spiritual growth or progression towards spiritual maturity. Basically there are five categories of Christian suffering. The first two are primarily associated with spiritual childhood (the stages of spirituality that range from spiritual infancy through spiritual adolescence. These two categories are designed as punitive measures by God. The last three are associated with spiritual adulthood and are designed for the sake of providing blessings for the believer.

It is important to understand that although these categories of suffering are associated with certain stages of spiritual advancement, they can be experienced by any believer at any time. For instance, a spiritually mature believer can find themselves in a state of carnality and suffering as a means of punitive (punishment) and correction; while an immature believer can find themselves suffering for blessing through making good choices.

This study series is designed to examine the multiplicity of problems that believers encounter in the way of suffering and the divine solutions available to them in any stage of suffering. Suffering has purpose and the answer to dealing with suffering is extensively delineated through scripture. We will learn how to engage our struggles without becoming emotional, frenetic, unglued or defeated.

The five categories of Christian suffering are as follows:

Punitive

  1. Self-Induced Misery – the consequences of poor decisions.
  2. Divine Discipline – the move of God to correct poor decisions and wrong actions

For Blessing

  1. Providential Preventive Suffering – Pressure applied by God to prevent you from making the wrong decision or doing the wrong thing (Paul’s Thorn in The Flesh, 2 Cor. 12:7-9)
  2. Momentum Testing – Suffering used as a barometer to gauge the believers progression and impetus towards spiritual maturity
  3. Evidence Testing – Suffering used as evidence of a believer’s maturity and God’s sovereignty

All suffering, in some way is designed by God for the purpose blessing; the circumstances that surround the suffering will provide the clarity that reveals the purpose. The important thing is for every believer to have doctrinal orientation so that they might be able to understand the spiritual implication of the physical manifestations that are contributing to their suffering.

One of the primary problems with a vast majority of Christians is that they use emotion as a barometer and catalyst to move them through their daily encounters. God designed emotions to be a responsive mechanism not the catalyst for problem solving the issues of life. We are to have Bible doctrine inculcated deeply into our heart (the right lobe of the soul) in which a foundation is developed on which the believer can learn to apply the doctrine that they have learned to the circumstances that they encounter.

Suffering functions as a guardian for the adult believer in the same way that a parent functions with as a guardian for a child. Basically the restraints that are used and put in place for children are replaced and enforced by suffering. The dynamic of suffering serves to deplete us of our own resources and it forces us to lean and depend on God for our daily provision. Suffering makes us more pliable for the hands of the Potter.

In the same way that parents are more than disciplining agents for their children, suffering is not simply God’s way of disciplining us. Suffering is a great instructor as it demands your attention. As we are forced to use the provisions of our God, our appreciation and love for Him is strengthened and we become more in tune with His will for our lives.

As we move through this study series we continue to develop a new perspective of suffering as we dismiss both, the proclivity for asceticism and the victim complex. We will learn that when properly engaged, suffering will always catapult us toward our divine destiny.

Contrary to popular beliefs among many believers, suffering is not something to be sought out, there is no intrinsic value in suffering itself. The value is in taking the lesson and the purpose involved in the suffering and maximizing its potential. Suffering should never be a perpetual force in the life of a believer. If it is, there are other elements that must be addressed.

In the same sense, believers are not to take on a victim mentality when faced with suffering and adversity. They should engage it with faith and certainty that a sovereign and omniscient God is in complete control. When the believer uses all of the Divine assets at their disposal, there are no circumstance that can negatively impact their peace and state of happiness. ~ Dr. Rick Wallace

 

“Christianity is not a religion of  suffering. Bible doctrine explains suffering, and metabolized , applied doctrine alleviates suffering in the soul. There is no asceticism in the protocol plan of God. Despite false teaching to the contrary, suffering for its own sake is not a legitimate Christian objective.

 

 

 

Tragically, many Christians never learn the doctrine of suffering. To their way of thinking, Adversity creates an aura of spirituality. Presumptuously claiming to follow Christ in His sufferings, they attach importance to their own pain as if it brought them closer to God. They distort their lives to fit a crippling false doctrine. They assume God honors self-sacrifice and commands them to suffer. This malignant idea breeds arrogance, destroys capacity for life, and blasphemes the character of God.” (R.B. Thieme Jr.)

 

 

 

Dr. Rick Wallace

 

 

One of the most crippling forces in this ethereal journey of Christianity is asceticism. When the Christian believer does not understand suffering as it relates to God’s divine plan, they erroneously apply value to being in a state of suffering. Too many believers have adapting suffering as their lot in life. They fail to realize God’s purpose in it for them, so they miss the chance to advance. God has no desire for you to be miserable, but He will use whatever means is necessary to insure your success in fulfilling your designed purpose. Paul endured suffering to insure that he would not be destroyed by his own arrogance (2 Cor. 12:7-9)

 

 

 

Suffering always has a purpose, whether for correction, protection, testing, or blessing. It is not God’s desire to destroy your happiness, but to provide you with the resources and assets that will solidify your happiness irregardless of your circumstances. Inner happiness is not circumstantial, it is based on the immutability of God and your position in His royal family. ~ Dr. Rick Wallace

 

 

This article serves as the preamble to my upcoming series on Christian suffering. There has been so much written and spoken concerning suffering. There are those that believe that suffering is an indication of some existing sin in the life of the one suffering. Job’s three friends took this line of rationale as they attempted to counsel Job in the midst of his pain. There are those that believe that suffering is the Christian’s lot in life and that it somehow signifies the validity of the believer’s faith.

The truth is that suffering does have purpose in the life of the believer. In fact, there are different types of suffering. There is punitive suffering which is punishment for sin and waywardness in association to God’s plan. We see this quite often in the Bible as Israel (God’s client nation) moves contrary to his will.

There is self induced misery; this is the situation when believers and non-believers alike generate anguish within their own souls as well as the overt conditions and circumstance they create around them. Because God designed the human to have volitional freedom, coupled with a sin nature (contracted at the fall of humanity), it is inevitable that man will make decisions that negatively impact their lives. There is a divine law of volitional responsibility which indicates that as a believer exercises their volitional freedom they are directly responsible for the consequences. This keeps us from taking the stance that we are being unjustly punished by God for executing the very freedom he gave. We do have the freedom of choice, but it comes at a price.

There is collective suffering. This is when an entire group suffers because the collective failed as a whole. A good example of this would be when the Israelites tarried for forty years in the wilderness because the majority believed the negative report of the 10 spies and ignored the positive report and vote of confidence from Joshua and Caleb. Not only did the whiners and unfaithful have to languish in the wilderness, so did Joshua and Caleb. Those two did not die with the rest, but they had to suffer through 40 years of delay because of someone else.

There is suffering for blessing, which is a broad topic. In this study, suffering for blessing is assigned to the believer that has steadied himself and positioned himself in the will of God and continues to execute the protocol plan of God. Even someone who was initially suffering as a punitive measure can move from punitive suffering to suffering for blessing. What this means is that the moment a believer realizes that he has sinned and that his sin has resulting in some form of suffering, he has the opportunity to repent and move toward God. If he does this, the suffering may very well continue, it may even intensify, but it is no longer for the sake of punishment, it is now for the sake blessing.

Suffering is a great teacher. It has the exceptional power to conquer ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) of the spirit. God knows how to get the attention of His creation.

There is providential preventative suffering designed by God to keep the believer from moving off course. A good example of this would be Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Paul tells us the thorn was given to him so that he would not become exalted within himself (arrogant and filled with pride [big headed]). The thorn in the flesh was a constant reminder to Paul that God was his source of power and that in and of himself, he was feeble and week.

Suffering comes as a test. You see, adversity is an unbelievable barometer to test the authenticity of one’s faith and their true commitment to God’s plan. I was once posed the following question: Can God trust you with trouble? Could God give the testimony he gave for Job concerning you?

In this study we will explore the importance of doctrinal thinking in the midst of heartache and struggles. So often, Christians take on a victim’s mentality and totally miss the opportunity to advance. There is no greater platform of advancement than suffering. Allow me to elucidate the previous statement. This does not mean that the Christian should look to live in a perpetual state of suffering. The true Christian’s life is characterized by victory and triumph. There will always be resistance and the enemy will always be present, but we are more than conquers (Rom. 8:37). What this means is that when you find yourself in the midst of the storm, you don’t crumble, you don’t cower, you don’t acquiesce to the pressure, you don’t point the finger of blame, you don’t whine and complain. What you do is gird up yourself with faith in your God and His purpose for your life. You allow God to use the storm to elevate you. Ask Joseph and he will tell you that a 13 year storm elevated him to the second highest position in all of the land of Egypt. Ask Job and he will tell you that a whirlwind entered his life, but it resulted in an undying legacy of faith and perseverance.

Actually suffering can be broken down into five major categories and we will become acquainted with them. We will learn how position ourselves in the storm. Remember, God is sovereign and nothing happens without Him allowing it, and if God allows it then it has a positive purpose in your life. So prepare to engage this study with an intensity that will help you grow closer to Christ as you grow thereby in the knowledge and grace of our Savior (2 Pet. 3:18) ~ Dr. Rick Wallace

You are invited to visit me at my Christian Impact site as well!

By ARYEH SPERO

Who would have expected that in a Republican primary campaign the single biggest complaint among candidates would be that the front-runner has taken capitalism too far? As if his success and achievement were evidence of something unethical and immoral? President Obama and other redistributionists must be rejoicing that their assumptions about rugged capitalism and the 1% have been given such legitimacy.

More than any other nation, the United States was founded on broad themes of morality rooted in a specific religious perspective. We call this the Judeo-Christian ethos, and within it resides a ringing endorsement of capitalism as a moral endeavor.

Regarding mankind, no theme is more salient in the Bible than the morality of personal responsibility, for it is through this that man cultivates the inner development leading to his own growth, good citizenship and happiness. The entitlement/welfare state is a paradigm that undermines that noble goal.

The Bible’s proclamation that “Six days shall ye work” is its recognition that on a day-to-day basis work is the engine that brings about man’s inner state of personal responsibility. Work develops the qualities of accountability and urgency, including the need for comity with others as a means for the accomplishment of tasks. With work, he becomes imbued with the knowledge that he is to be productive and that his well-being is not an entitlement. And work keeps him away from the idleness that Proverbs warns leads inevitably to actions and attitudes injurious to himself and those around him.

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Yet capitalism is not content with people only being laborers and holders of jobs, indistinguishable members of the masses punching in and out of mammoth factories or functioning as service employees in government agencies. Nor is the Bible. Unlike socialism, mired as it is in the static reproduction of things already invented, capitalism is dynamic and energetic. It cheerfully fosters and encourages creativity, unspoken possibilities, and dreams of the individual. Because the Hebrew Bible sees us not simply as “workers” and members of the masses but, rather, as individuals, it heralds that characteristic which endows us with individuality: our creativity.

At the opening bell, Genesis announces: “Man is created in the image of God”—in other words, like Him, with individuality and creative intelligence. Unlike animals, the human being is not only a hunter and gatherer but a creative dreamer with the potential of unlocking all the hidden treasures implanted by God in our universe. The mechanism of capitalism, as manifest through investment and reasoned speculation, helps facilitate our partnership with God by bringing to the surface that which the Almighty embedded in nature for our eventual extraction and activation.

Capitalism makes possible entrepreneurship, which is the realization of an idea birthed in human creativity. Whereas statism demands that citizens think small and bow to a top-down conformity, capitalism, as has been practiced in the U.S., maximizes human potential. It provides a home for aspiration, referred to in the Bible as “the spirit of life.”

The Bible speaks positively of payment and profit: “For why else should a man so labor but to receive reward?” Thus do laborers get paid wages for their hours of work and investors receive profit for their investment and risk.

The Bible is not a business-school manual. While it is comfortable with wealth creation and the need for speculation in economic markets, it has nothing to say about financial instruments and models such as private equity, hedge funds or other forms of monetary capitalization. What it does demand is honesty, fair weights and measures, respect for a borrower’s collateral, timely payments of wages, resisting usury, and empathy for those injured by life’s misfortunes and charity.

It also demands transparency and honesty regarding one’s intentions. The command, “Thou shalt not place a stumbling block in front of the blind man” also means that you should not act deceitfully or obscure the truth from those whose choice depends upon the information you give them. There’s nothing to indicate that Mitt Romney breached this biblical code of ethics, and his wealth and success should not be seen as automatic causes for suspicion.

No country has achieved such broad-based prosperity as has America, or invented as many useful things, or seen as many people achieve personal promise. This is not an accident. It is the direct result of centuries lived by the free-market ethos embodied in the Judeo-Christian outlook.

Furthermore, only a prosperous nation can protect itself from outside threats, for without prosperity the funds to support a robust military are unavailable. Having radically enlarged the welfare state and hoping to further expand it, President Obama is attempting to justify his cuts to our military by asserting that defense needs must give way to domestic programs.

Both history and the Bible show the way that leads. Countries that were once economic powerhouses atrophied and declined, like England after World War II, once they began adopting socialism. Even King Solomon’s thriving kingdom crashed once his son decided to impose onerous taxes.

At the end of Genesis, we hear how after years of famine the people in Egypt gave all their property to the government in return for the promise of food. The architect of this plan was Joseph, son of Jacob, who had risen to become the pharaoh’s top official, thus: “Joseph exchanged all the land of Egypt for pharaoh and the land became pharaoh’s.” The result was that Egyptians became indentured to the ruler and state, and Joseph’s descendants ended up enslaved to the state.

 

Many on the religious left criticize capitalism because all do not end up monetarily equal—or, as Churchill quipped, “all equally miserable.” But the Bible’s prescription of equality means equality under the law, as in Deuteronomy’s saying that “Judges and officers . . . shall judge the people with a just judgment: Do not . . . favor one over the other.” Nowhere does the Bible refer to a utopian equality that is contrary to human nature and has never been achieved.

The motive of capitalism’s detractors is a quest for their own power and an envy of those who have more money. But envy is a cardinal sin and something that ought not to be.

God begins the Ten Commandments with “I am the Lord your God” and concludes with “Thou shalt not envy your neighbor, not for his wife, nor his house, nor for any of his holdings.” Envy is corrosive to the individual and to those societies that embrace it. Nations that throw over capitalism for socialism have made an immoral choice.

Rabbi Spero has led congregations in Ohio and New York and is president of Caucus for America.

December 20, 2012
Long Walk Part of Gift
Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth
“Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:1-2 NIV).

Friend to Friend
An African boy listened carefully as his teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas day. “The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our friendship for each other,” she said.

When Christmas day came, the boy brought to the teacher a seashell of lustrous beauty. “Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?” the teacher asked as she gently fingered the gift.

The youth told her that there was only one spot where such extraordinary shells could be found. When he named the place, a certain bay several miles away, the teacher was left speechless.

“Why…why, it’s gorgeous…wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get a gift for me.”

His eyes brightening, the boy answered, “Long walk part of gift.”

I just love that story. During this holiday season, I watch as people scurry about swiping those plastic cards through the credit card machines faster than a speeding bullet. And yet, God has already shown us that the most precious gifts cannot be bought or sold. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

The magi also knew about the joy of giving. While they gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ child, they also gave another gift…a long walk. We don’t know how far the magi traveled, but we do know that it was a distance that took months, perhaps years. Their long walk was part of the gift.

I wonder how far we are willing to go to worship Jesus…to bring our gifts to him. I wonder how far out of the way we will go to praise him. Do we only give to Him when it is convenient or easy? Or do we give what He wants most – a portion of ourselves, our very lives.

I think the little African boy had the right idea. The real gift wasn’t the shell; it was the sacrifice he had to make to give it.

Let’s Pray
Dear God, thank You for the gift You gave us through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  I pray that I will keep gift-giving in perspective this holiday season and give gifts from the heart rather than the pocketbook.  Help me to see that a “long walk,” or a portion of myself, is the greatest gift of all.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

    Pray While Praying

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