Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: materialism

Truth and reality

In simple terms, truth is something that we trust in and base our lives upon. Reality is what others see from the way we live. Is there a gap between what we say we believe to be true and what is revealed by the choices we make in life?

We say we are saved by faith, not by works — would others say we that we seem to be afraid that something terrible will happen of we don’t do things just right?

We say that we love our neighbours as ourselves — are there people that we just can’t seem to stand?

We say that we trust in the Lord to look after our material needs and we don’t have treasures here on earth — does it look like that to other people?

We say that we are humble people — how do we react when people criticize something we have said or done?

We say that we respect those in authority — how often are we heard making critical remarks or telling jokes about them?

What does our reality show say about what we really believe to be truth?

The same question applies to those who say that they believe there is no meaning to life, that we are just random blobs of protoplasm that appeared by chance and there is no purpose or consequences to what we do. Do they live like there is no meaning or purpose for the choices they make? What about the things that other people do that affect them?

God and Mammon

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.  (The words of Jesus, quoted in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13.)

Here is a stark warning that the pursuit of spiritual gain and the pursuit of material gain are not compatible. In such a materialistic age as we live in it is hard for us to fathom that this could be true. Yet here is another pronouncement of Jesus for reinforcement:

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:31-33).

Here is a clearly stated promise that if we make spiritual gain our goal, we will not suffer material ruin. On the other hand, it is clearly implied that to make material gain our main priority will lead to spiritual ruin.

This is a basic truth that is supported by many other statements throughout the New Testament. There is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that the pursuit of material gain will be beneficial to our spiritual life.

We must also resist the temptation to make either poverty or prosperity the gauge of a person’s spiritual life.  North America is a land of opportunity and  many Christians here have attained to a level of prosperity that is well above that of most Christians in other lands. This is no proof that we are more spiritual than they are, or that God is more pleased with us.

There are people in North America who have been denied access to the opportunities most of us take for granted. Others, for various reasons, seem unable to see or to manage the opportunities that are available to them. This is not proof that they are less capable of spiritual gain or that God is angry with them.

According to the social conscience of our time, material poverty is the one great sin of our society. In the light of eternity, the spiritual poverty of those who live for ease and pleasure is the great sin that will bar them from heaven.

How to catch a monkey

If you want to capture a monkey you first need to get a wooden box and fill it about half full with stones. Then cut a hole in the lid just large enough for a monkey to get his hand through, throw some peanuts on top of the stones and securely fasten the lid to the box. The only other thing you need is a rope strong enough that the monkey cannot break it. Now you take the rope, hide behind a tree and wait for a monkey to come along.

When the monkey appears he will be tempted by the smell of the peanuts, he will go closer and closer to the box, look around for any sign of danger, then thrust his hand into the box and grab the peanuts. When he tries to pull his hand back out he cannot because now it is a fist full of peanuts. He will try and try to get his hand out, but he will not let go of those peanuts.

That’s all it takes to trap a monkey. Now all you have to do is walk up behind him, put the rope around his waist and tie it. Then you can break the lid to set his hand free and let him eat the peanuts.

Or so the story goes. I do not have any first hand experience with this method, never having been in a land where monkeys roam and not having any desire to catch a monkey if I had been.

However, I’m afraid that too often I have been that monkey. Satan laid a trap for me, I grabbed what was offered and then I was trapped. Why is it so hard to let go of those things that we know have led us into a trap? Is there anything in this world that is that important?

The Sabbath: rest for the body or for the soul?

Philo of Alexandria, defending Jews from Roman accusations of laziness because of their strict observation of the Sabbath, wrote:

“On this day we are commanded to abstain from all work, not because the law inculcates slackness. . . . Its object is rather to give man relaxation from continuous and unending toil and by refreshing their bodies with a regularly calculated system of remissions to send them out renewed to their old activities. For a breathing spell enables not merely ordinary people but athletes also to collect their strength with a stronger force behind them to undertake promptly and patiently each of the tasks set before them.”

How many Christian readers of this blog would say a hearty Amen! to that defence of the Sabbath? I have often heard the same arguments stated in defence of Sunday as a day of rest, albeit with somewhat less eloquence. Folks, we are missing something here if Philo’s argument makes sense to us.

Jewish author Abraham Joshua Heschel, in his book The Sabbath, points out the error:

“Here the Sabbath is represented not in the spirit of the Bible, but in the spirit of Aristotle. According to the Stagarite, ‘we need relaxation, because we cannot work continuously. Relaxation, then, is not an end’; it is ‘for the sake of activity,’ for the sake of gaining strength for new efforts. To the biblical mind, however, labour is the means toward an end, and the Sabbath as a day of rest, as a day of abstaining from toil, is not for the purpose of recovering one’s lost strength and becoming fit for the forthcoming labour. The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life. Man is not a beast of burden, and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of his work. ‘Last in creation, first in intention,’ the Sabbath is ‘the end of the creation of heaven and earth.’”

In other words, the Sabbath was intended to draw man into a closer relationship with God and heaven, not to give him rest for his earthly toil. There is no biblical basis for arguing the benefit of the Sabbath as a rest in order to be able to work more efficiently.

Consider these verses from Isaiah and consider if they don’t point to the New Testament era where Christians enter into a perpetual Sabbath, not seeking salvation through works, but learning to delight in the ways of the Lord:

“If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Isaiah 58:13-14).

The Sabbath © 1951 by Abraham Johua Heschel, published by Farrar Strauss and Giroux, New York.

Doctrines of the humanist religion

1.  Nothing is real that cannot be understood by the human mind.

People choose to believe in spirits, magic, witchcraft, astrology, scientific theories or various “holy books.” These are merely attempts to fit all things seen and experienced into a framework that appears to give a logical explanation for every detail and event. I may call myself a lover of the truth, when in reality I am unwilling to believe anything unless I can explain it to suit my own intellect.

But the God who is really there does not fit man’s measure, He is a revelation, not an explanation.

2. Man is inherently good – all his failures are due to a lack of knowledge. He will make better decisions if he is better informed.

We may think we need a better understanding of how to appease the pagan gods or spirits, psychological counselling in order to understand the root causes of our emotions, or a university education to give us advanced mental tools to cope with the world we live in. How often have we said “If I had known then what I know now, I would never have done what I did,” when the real problem was not a lack of understanding, but the real problem was that we found the temptation overwhelmingly attractive?

 

Knowledge cannot give us the strength to withstand the seductive power of sin. A true knowledge of God will both open our eyes to the danger and give us the spiritual fortitude to choose not to yield.

3. It is a great evil for a man to be deprived of the things that bring him pleasure.

The things might be material goods, recognition, pride, bodily comforts, the right kind of work, or the right amount of leisure time. Is not the good life a sign of the favour of the gods, or of God’s blessing? Why can’t I have work that is ideally suited to my nature and expectations? Why can’t my wife, husband, parents, friends or boss treat me better? If only I had a little more money, a better job, or if only I lived somewhere else, things would go better.

How happy are the people who have the things that we think we need?

There is a widespread belief in our day that we have a right to physical health. We may base this belief on our faith in modern medical research, in the idea that physical healing was provided for in Christ’s atonement on the cross, or in natural healing, herbs, psychic healing, or in some form of shamanism. In each case, when one who holds to such a belief is faced with an incurable sickness it brings about a crisis of faith. Some believe that admitting they are sick would be a lack of faith, thus they resolutely refuse to face reality, living and dying in unreasonable fear. Others spend all their substance in search of healing, travelling over land and sea in search of a doctor or healer that has the secret to make them well. Then they die, leaving their families destitute.

4. The evil that men do is produced by their natural instinct for survival in a faulty environment. Man will only be truly happy and good when all sources of trouble and worry are removed.

Life insurance, property insurance, health insurance, unemployment insurance, social welfare programs, labour movements, peace movements, liberation movements, revolutionary movements, eternal security, reincarnation, the millennium, the social gospel – all have their origin in the premise that the basic goodness of man will show itself once all the external hindrances are removed. Some of the things mentioned have worked for the material betterment of people, but is there any evidence that they have helped produce happier, kinder, better people?

All of these thing are only vain attempts to hack away at the branches of sin, none of them attack the root of sin.

All four of these doctrines come into play in our society’s ideas about child-rearing. We are told that a child can only develop her true potential for good if she is given maximum access to information and allowed freedom to choose what she shall believe and do. Is it any wonder that many parents speak of their children as a burden? Is it any wonder that when parents grow old and come to their declining years, their children consider them a burden?

(to be continued)

 

Courtesy

Courtesy and courtship are derived from the same root word and both convey the idea of trying to please someone else.  All other things being equal, the business that will thrive is the one that greets and serves its customers with genuine warmhearted courtesy.

On a trip some years ago, we stopped for gas around dinner time and decided to eat at the lunch counter attached to the business.  The waitress, perhaps the owner’s daughter, appeared to feel that it was beneath her dignity to wait on tables.  I believe the food was good, but we didn’t feel like we would need to eat there again.  At supper time, in another town, another café, we walked in the door and a waitress greeted us with a warm smile, led us to a table and provided prompt, friendly service throughout our meal.  I don’t remember that there was much difference in the quality or price of the food, but the courteous way we were treated in the second café made a huge difference in the way I remember those two meals.

I often stop at a Christian book store when I am in Saskatoon, as much for the coffee shop than for the books.  I am a totally boring person, always ordering the same thing, and the ladies in the coffee shop know I want a cappuccino with amaretto syrup before I open my mouth.  A while back, their espresso machine broke down and for two weeks they couldn’t make my cappuccino.  The third week, I cane to town early for a dental appointment.  After leaving so much money there, my wife suggested that I really couldn’t afford a cappuccino.  I went anyway and the ladies informed me that because I hadn’t given up on them, they were going to give me a free cappuccino.  Now that was service that really hit the spot!

I went to a pharmacy to get a prescription filled and there were two people ahead of me at the counter.  The first, an elderly gentleman, asked a question of the young clerk.  He didn’t understand her answer, so she tried again.  After the fourth explanation he seemed satisfied.  I couldn’t discern any hint of exasperation or condescension in the young lady’s attitude; she really wanted to help this confused old gentleman.  I was so impressed that I forgot all about being impatient.

The receptionist at my eye doctor’s office is like that.  One time when I came in for an appointment, she was talking on the phone to a client who had missed his appointment.  He had been in a few days earlier for tests, but couldn’t seem to understand why he needed to come in again to see the doctor.  When the receptionist was free to greet me, I told her that I hoped she would still be there when I got old and confused.

Behind the front counter of the vet clinic in our nearest town there is a little office where I spend a few hours every week working on their bookkeeping.  I can’t see what is going on out front, but I hear a lot.  Some pet owners have way too much time on their hands and expect the staff will have time to listen to all their stories.  Others are hypochondriacs on behalf of their pets.  Some are difficult, some are model customers, showing appreciation for every little thing that is done.  As far as I can tell, all are treated with the same cheerful and patient courtesy.

What about our attitude when we go into a place of business, a professional office or a government office?  We appreciate it when they are courteous to us, won’t they appreciate the same level of courtesy from us?  It seems to me that I have come to this late in life and I probably still have much to learn, but here are a few pointers.

Learn people’s names.  The waitress who serves me most often at the coffee shop is Karen.  My eye doctor’s receptionist is Sandy.  Making the effort to learn and use a person’s name shows that you realize they are an important person doing an important job.

Say thank you, and mean it.  The waitress, clerk or receptionist in front of me is just as important a person as I am.  Take time to notice what that person is doing and let her (or him) know that you appreciate her (his) efforts to help you.
Tip generously when you eat in a restaurant.  This is a subject that seems to be poorly understood by some Christian people.  It was said some years ago that when restaurant staff saw a table full of people bow their heads to pray before a meal they understood that they weren’t going to get much of a tip. Is it still that way?  Shame on us if it is.

We may think they are already being paid, why should we give them more?  These servers are hard-working people who receive a low wage, on the understanding that a good part of their earnings will come in the form of tips.  How important do we think we are that we expect to be treated royally without helping pay for the service?  A deacon of our acquaintance taught his children that if they couldn’t afford to leave a proper tip, they couldn’t afford to eat in a restaurant.

It really comes down to the concept that courtesy is much like courtship — trying to please others.  If we are cheerful and considerate of others, we will likely find that our encounters with grumpy and difficult people become quite rare.

Vinnie and Minnie are asked a question

[This is part of a larger story, which hasn’t been written yet.  So I ask you, my dear readers, is it worth writing more of the saga of Vinnie and Minnie?]

Vinnie and Minnie had been faithful members of the Coulee Bend Assembly of Spirit-Filled Conservative Christians for several years now.  When brother Harmon began selling air ionizers they bought one and were fully convinced that it had saved them a sniffle or two.  They bought a magnetic water purifier from brother Cavendish and were certain that their water tasted better than it ever had before.  However, when brother Eustace tried to sell them a device that would enhance the urim and thummim energy in their bodies and cure almost any disease they might not know they had, they began to be a little concerned.

“Isn’t that something from some funny Eastern religion?” Minnie asked.

“Oh, no.  It’s a natural source of energy in the human body and the secret of stimulating it has just been rediscovered from the ancient Jewish Kabbala.”

“How much does this thing cost?” asked Vinnie.

“Only fifteen hundred dollars, and it will save you thousands in medical and drug bills!”

“I don’t know,” Vinnie said.  “We need time to think about this.”

“A whole lot of time,” added Minnie.

After brother Eustace had left, Minnie asked, “Has it ever seemed to you that the folks in our church seem more interested in making money than in making sure they stick to the truth?”

That weekend, there was an article in the travel section of the Coulee Bend Journal about a nearby Christian group who led very simple lives.  They shunned automobiles, telephones and electricity and seemed to earn their living by making handcrafted articles and home baking that they sold to tourists.  The newspaper gave directions to find the shops owned by these people.

Vinnie and Minnie were intrigued and the next weekend they went for a drive, found the shops and began looking over the merchandise.  They bought a pie and a few little knick knacks, but found the prices quite high.  This didn’t matter so much, these people needed to make a living.  The real purpose of their trip was to talk to the people and find out about their Christian faith.  But there they drew a blank.  When they asked questions, the people seemed to not know what to say or were suddenly too busy to talk.

Vinnie and Minnie were still curious.  In the coming months they visited other locations where people of this religious group lived.  They began to accumulate a lot of interesting stuff, but never got any closer to learning what these people believed.

On the way home from one such trip, Vinnie said, “I’m beginning to think that these people are not a lot different from the people in our church.  They are more interested in money than in other people.”

It was getting late when they arrived on the outskirts of Coulee Bend.  Vinnie asked, “Would you like to stop for supper at that new restaurant on Oak street?”

“Why don’t we?” Minnie responded.  “I’m hungry, yet I’m too tired to think about fixing much of a meal by the time we get home.”

A few minutes later they walked into the restaurant, where a cheery young lady met them, led them to a table and gave them menus.  When she returned a few minutes later to take their orders, Minnie couldn’t resist asking:

“Do you mind if I ask a question?”

“Not at all.  Go ahead.”

“Why do you wear that black thing on your head?”

“It’s a symbol of submission to God’s order,” the waitress replied with a smile.

After she had taken their order and walked away, Vinnie said, “Wow!  You got a straight answer.  That was different.”

They asked more questions each time the waitress came to their table and learned that the owners of the restaurant and some of the staff were members of the Mennonite church on the north side of town.  The waitress seemed completely unruffled by their questions and gave simple direct answers.

Before they finished their meal, the owner of the restaurant came by their table, introduced himself and asked whether they were enjoying the food.  The dam of Vinnie and Minnie’s frustrations burst and they began to unload all their disappointments with the “plain” communities they had visited and even with the people of their own church.

The owner listened politely, expressed sympathy for their disappointment, then added, “I doubt if any of those people really meant to deceive or disappoint you.  They probably all feel they are serving God as best as they know how.”

“But they just don’t seem interested in other people.”

“Do you think they might say the same thing about you and me?  It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the details of running a business that we tune out other people.  I agree it shouldn’t be that way, but you’ve given me another reminder that I need to look up from time to time and be aware of the people around me.”

When Vinnie and Minnie paid their bill, the waitress said, “Thanks for letting us be your hosts this evening.  Come again!”

“We will,” they answered in unison.

As they relaxed in the comfort of their own home that evening and reflected on the events of the day, Vinnie mused:

“That was really a loaded question: ‘Do you think they might say the same thing about you and me?’  Maybe that’s the answer we’ve been looking for.  All this time we’ve been seeing the faults in other people.  Maybe we need to look at ourselves and see if we can’t become more like the kind of people that we want others to be.”

Separate from the world

The text which follows is a very much abridged excerpt from J. C. Ryle’s Practical Christianity, which was first published in 1867.  John Charles Ryle (1816-1900) was a leader of the evangelical wing of the Church of England, and bishop of Liverpool from 1880 to 1900.

The subject perhaps was never more important than it is at the present day.  There is a widely spread desire to make things pleasant in religion – to saw off the corners and the edges of the cross, and to avoid, as far as possible, self-denial.  On every side, we hear professing Christians declaring loudly that we must not be narrow and exclusive, and that there is no harm in many things which the honest saints of old thought bad for their souls.  We may go anywhere and do anything and keep company and plunge into anything, and all the while may be very good Christians – this is the maxim of thousands.  In a day like this, I think it good to raise a warning voice and invite attention to the teaching of God’s Word: “Come out and be separate.”

When I speak of the world, I mean those people who think only or chiefly of this world’s things, and neglect the world to come: the people who are always thinking more of earth than of heaven, more of time than of eternity, more of the body than of the soul, more of pleasing man than of pleasing God.  It is of them and their ways, habits, customs, opinions, practices, tastes, aims, spirit, and tone that I am speaking when I speak of the world.  This is the world from which Paul tell us to ‘come out and be separate.’

I shall try to show what true separation from the world really is.

1.  First and foremost, he that desires to ‘come out from the world and be separate’ must steadily and habitually refuse to to be guided by the world’s standard of right and wrong.

2.  He that desires to ‘come out from the world and be separate’ must be very careful of how he spends his leisure time.

3.  He that desires to ‘come out from the world and be separate’ must steadily and habitually determine not to be swallowed up and absorbed in the business of the world.

4.  He that desires to ‘come out from the world and be separate’ must steadily abstain from all amusements and recreations which are inseparably connected with sin.

5.  He that desires to ‘come out from the world and be separate’ must be moderate in the use of lawful and innocent recreations.

6.  Last, but not least, he that desires to ‘come out from the world and be separate’ must be careful how he allows himself in friendships, intimacies, and close relationships with worldly people.

I offer these six general hints to all who wish to follow Paul’s advice and come out from the world and be separate.  In all doubtful cases, we should first pray for wisdom and sound judgement.  In all doubtful cases, let us often try ourselves by recollecting the eye of God.  Would I really go to such and such a place, or do such and such a thing, if I really thought God was looking at me?  Finally, in all doubtful cases, let us find out what the conduct of the holiest and best Christians has been under similar circumstances.  We need not be ashamed to follow good examples.

The destructive power of envy

Back in the 1960’s I was managing a grain elevator in a small Saskatchewan town.  Norman, the biggest grain farmer in the area, had a farm worker named Lenny, a former long haul trucker.  Norman put a lot of confidence in Lenny, paid him well and provided a good house for him and his young family.  He even promised to help Lenny start farming on his own, by renting some land and using Norman’s equipment.

Most of the time Lenny knew that he had latched on to a unique opportunity to build a future for himself and his family.  However, he liked to take a few drinks after work and the alcohol blurred his vision.  When he considered Norman’s wealth and his own meagre financial situation, it didn’t look fair.  The more he drank, the worse it looked.  He expressed those feelings to others, but had enough sense to avoid contact with Norman when he wasn’t sober.  Finally the inevitable happened: one evening Lenny was in an alcohol-fuelled state of mind and Norman came over to talk about the next day’s work.  Lenny unloaded all his grievances about the unfairness of the financial disparity between Norman and himself.  Then he went back to being  a truck driver.

George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm, is a parable of the folly of thinking that we will all get a bigger piece of the pie if we get rid of the one who has the biggest piece.  In the book, the pigs on Mr. Jones’ farm convince the other animals that they are being exploited by Mr. Jones.  They drive Mr. Jones off the farm and go about running it themselves, the pigs talking all the time about how they will all be better off as they work together.  Working and living conditions seem to be deteriorating, yet the pigs are such convincing talkers that eventually they sit in the farmer’s house playing cards and drinking toasts with neighbouring farmers and the rest of the animals cannot tell the difference between the pigs and the farmers.

When we are self-centred, we see life as a zero sum game.  The size of the pie is fixed, so when my neighbour gets more there is less left for me.  When enough people think this way, it discourages any activity that might grow the size of the pie.  People watch to make sure no one is getting more than his fair share.  The economy stagnates; the pie remains the same size, or even shrinks.

All men are created equal, but we have different talents and skills.  Some are able to see a need and find a way to satisfy that need.  In doing so, they enlarge the pie, creating job opportunities for others and possibly other business opportunities.  Does it matter that they get to eat a larger piece of the pie?  Or am I thankful that they have increased the size of my piece of the pie?  Envy is a powerful emotion and doesn’t respond well to logic.  If my piece of the pie is all I can eat, does it really matter that my neighbour has a larger piece?

My uncle Henry always admired his uncle’s farm.  This was just what he would like to have for himself, a beautiful yard and big, well-kept buildings that made a statement about the prosperity of the owner.  One day Uncle Henry learned that the bank was about to foreclose on his uncle.  Moreover, the bank wanted to make a quick sale to avoid further expense.  Uncle Henry was in a position to buy it for what the bank was asking and he went home to tell his wife the good news.

Aunt Helen was a quiet and submissive wife, who never disagreed with her husband.  But this time she said, “Henry, you can’t buy that farm.  People will say you took advantage of your uncle when he was down.”  That was the end of it.  Uncle Henry learned to appreciate his own farm more and never again cast envious glances at what had been his uncle’s dream farm.

“May each one of you, rather than considering his own interests, consider also those of others” (Philippians 2:4, as it reads in the Louis Segond French translation).

Should Christians tithe?

Some Christians firmly believe that the Old Testament 10% rule is still in force for Christians today.  They tell inspirational tales of someone who was struggling financially and could hardly find any spare change for the collection plate.  Then they began to give 10% off the top of their income and, as if by magic, all their financial needs were supplied.

There are quite convincing arguments against the 10% requirement for Christians in the new dispensation.  First, there is no command to tithe to be found anywhere in the New Testament.  Second, it is argued, the tribe of Levi was given no inheritance in the promised land, thus the tithe was a tax to support the Levitical priesthood and is not needed in the present dispensation.

I believe these are entirely valid arguments.  Does that leave Christians with no direction or guidelines on how much to give?  If we are looking for a hard and fast rule, I don’t believe we are going to find it.  What I read in the New Testament leads me to the gut-wrenching conclusion that God wants everything I have and everything I am.

The rich young ruler could not handle Jesus’ command to sell everything.  Most of the rest of us would like to squirm out of it, too.  We may blithely say, “Everything I have belongs to Jesus.”  Would an impartial bystander be likely to believe that from the way we use our time and the material things that come into our hands?

“For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”  (1 Corinthians 4:7).  If everything that we have comes from God and is only a loan to us, can we then give 10% back to God, use the other 90% selfishly, and consider ourselves free?

Here is how it looks to me — the most important thing is that God wants us to trust Him completely, not only for our eternal destiny, but for all aspects of our earthly life.  He wants us to trust Him for our material needs, to trust Him to care for our family, our health, and to lead us in a way that will bring true happiness.  “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).

When faced with decisions regarding any aspect of our life, our prayer should be, “Lord, what couldst thou have me to do?”  Asking that question, and waiting for the answer, will save us many heartaches.

I hope this doesn’t sound hopelessly idealistic.  I believe it is eminently practical, but we make lots of mistakes in living it.  I like the British expression of “muddling through.”  I’m afraid that’s all that I am capable of, yet I believe that with God’s help I will be able to muddle through somehow.  “ For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).

Back to the question in the title, I don’t believe that the New Testament Christian is obliged to give 10% of his income.  Many find it a useful guideline.  Some give much less, according to their circumstances and stage of life.  I know many who give several times 10%.  Is it OK to give 20% of our income and 0% of our time?  Perhaps the point is to never feel like we are doing God a favour by our giving.  It didn’t really belong to us in the first place.

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