Are we called to sell our possessions and give to the poor?

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jwalsh
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Are we called to sell our possessions and give to the poor?

Post by jwalsh » Mon Aug 19, 2019 4:28 pm

Does anyone know if Steve has a topical lecture on the concept of ownership/possessions?

I've been reading through the latest issue of Plough Quarterly, a magazine published by the Bruderhof community, and have felt convicted by their willingess to forsake the private ownership of property and live in full community as the body of Christ.


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Some excerpts from a couple articles in this issue:
It’s important to make a distinction that the New Testament doesn’t speak of voluntary poverty and community of goods as rigid ethical demands, as if owning property were a sin in itself such as lust or idolatry. This misunderstanding stems from the legalistic need to reduce discipleship to a list of duties and prohibitions. Far from it: community of goods in the New Testament is simply the practical expression of love when it overflows into economics. Naturally, this can take many different forms. Here’s some first-hand evidence that a life beyond capitalism is not as unattainable as it’s made out to be:

This summer the Bruderhof community celebrates the beginning of its hundredth year of living together in full community of goods. Over its history, our community has had its share of imperfections and follies, just like any group of human beings. But by the grace of God, and with thanks to friends far and near, we’re still here.

The Bruderhof originated in an unusually fertile and febrile moment: Germany immediately after World War I. In 1920 the theologian Eberhard Arnold moved with his family from Berlin to a small village to start an intentional community. Initially, this was a circle of young Christians disillusioned with the church’s complicity in the militarism that led to World War I. With the Sermon on the Mount as their charter, they drew inspiration from the early church and the Anabaptists as well as Francis and Clare of Assisi, the early Quakers, and the religious socialist movement that included Christoph Blumhardt and Karl Barth. The idea of a rural settlement came from Gustav Landauer, a Jewish anarchist visionary who had been assassinated by right-wing thugs the previous year (page 112); Landauer also inspired the kibbutz movement, which was forming around the same time.

A century later, our community remains small in comparison with many churches. Still, it’s home to three thousand people of many nationalities – in two dozen locations on five continents – who live together and share everything. In our case, this sharing takes the form of a lifelong vow of poverty: we each own literally nothing.

https://www.plough.com/en/topics/commun ... cs-of-love

Christ clearly means what he says when quoting the prophet: he has been anointed by God’s Spirit to preach good tidings to the poor (Luke 4:18). To the prosperous, the tidings he bears are decidedly grim: “Woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full; woe to you who are full fed, for you shall hunger; woe to you who are now laughing, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:24–25). As Abraham tells Dives in Hades, “You fully received your good things during your lifetime… so now you suffer” (Luke 16:25). Christ not only demands that we give freely to all who ask from us (Matt. 5:42), with such prodigality that one hand is ignorant of the other’s largesse (Matt. 6:3); he explicitly forbids storing up earthly wealth – not merely storing it up too obsessively – and allows instead only the hoarding of the treasures of heaven (Matt. 6:19–20). He tells all who would follow him to sell all their possessions and give the proceeds away as alms (Luke 12:33), and explicitly states that “every one of you who does not give up all that he himself possesses is incapable of being my disciple” (Luke 14:33). As Mary says, part of the saving promise of the gospel is that the Lord “has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away starving” (Luke 1:53). James, of course, says it most strikingly:

"Come now, you who are rich, weep, howling at the miseries coming upon you; your riches are corrupted and moths have consumed your clothes; your gold and silver have corroded, and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasure in the Last Days! See, the wages you have given so late to the laborers who have harvested your fields cry aloud, and the cries of those who have harvested your fields have entered the ear of the Lord Sabaoth. You have lived in luxury, and lived upon the earth in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts on a day of slaughter." (James 5:1–6)

https://www.plough.com/en/topics/faith/ ... capitalism

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Homer
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Re: Are we called to sell our possessions and give to the poor?

Post by Homer » Mon Aug 19, 2019 10:56 pm

Christ not only demands that we give freely to all who ask from us (Matt. 5:42), with such prodigality that one hand is ignorant of the other’s largesse (Matt. 6:3); he explicitly forbids storing up earthly wealth – not merely storing it up too obsessively
Is giving feely to all who ask the loving thing to do? IMHO some discernment or leading of the Spirit should be employed, not seeing Jesus' as giving a rigid law. I have been directly asked for money for booze, for example. One clue in the statement is the impossibility of one hand not knowing what the other does.
He tells all who would follow him to sell all their possessions and give the proceeds away as alms (Luke 12:33), and explicitly states that “every one of you who does not give up all that he himself possesses is incapable of being my disciple”
IMO Jesus wasn't teaching us law but what kind of person we should be. As Dallas Willard pointed out we shouldn't make Jesus "meaner than Moses". Willard also said that if we literally give away everything, then when we encounter someone in need we will have nothing to give them.

The Apostles certainly did not take Jesus literally for we see them planning to take up their boat and fishing gear right after the crucifixion and go back tp fishing. It might be said that at that point in time they did not know better but archeologists seem sure they found Peter's much later home (I believe it was in modern Syria, can't recall, definitely not Rome). They apparently identified it by writings on the wall and it was significantly better than an average home of the day.

How much money is wealth and what makes it obsessive? How much is it OK to have so as not to burden others if calamity befalls you, as it does so many now days?

And is the Proverb now false:

Proverbs 13:22 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,
And the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.

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steve
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Re: Are we called to sell our possessions and give to the poor?

Post by steve » Tue Aug 20, 2019 9:56 am

Hi jwalsh,

My views are very much like Homer's, though I was once much closer to the Bruderhof in my thinking on this subject. In studying and meditating of the teachings of Christ, through the years, it became plain the degree to which Jesus used hyperbole in his teaching. It seems dangerous to assume that any given teaching is using hyperbole, without adequate warrant, but there are ways in which to recognize this feature, e.g.,

1) When the terms are obviously exaggerated—as when the amputation of a hand, a foot, or an eye is recommended (Mark 9:43-48); or when Jesus describes a person sinning against you seven times, and repenting all seven times, all in one day (Luke 17:3-4); or when He speaks of not letting one hand "know" what the other is doing (Matt.6:3); or about the need to get a "plank" out of our eyes (Matt.7:5);

2) When there are exceptions, or qualifications, stated elsewhere in scripture—as when Jesus says to give to all who ask (Luke 6:30), but Paul strongly forbids the supporting of those who will not work (2 These.3:10); or when Jesus says we must "hate" our wives and children (Luke 14:26), but such would be forbidden in the. majority of scripture (1 John 3:15; Matt.5:44);

3) When Jesus Himself, and His disciples, did not follow the teaching literally—as when

a. Jesus says that anger (seemingly all anger) is as bad as murder (Matt.5:22), but He Himself acts in anger (Mark 3:5);

b. Jesus says that one who calls another a "fool" faces the fire of Gehenna (Matt.5:22), but Jesus and Paul both call people by this term (Luke 24:25; Gal.3:1);

c. Jesus says not to pray where others can overhear, yet He and the disciples all pray in front of others (John 17; Acts 4:24-30);

d. Jesus tells His disciples to sell and give away everything (Luke 12:33; 14:33), but Jesus and His disciples still wore clothing (John 19:23), carried a oxg of money (John 12:6), and have things like fishing equipment (John 21:3-4), houses (Mark 14:3; Acts 12:12), etc.


4) Where a seemingly absolute prohibition is softened or qualified by the completion of the statement [a form called a "limited negative," where the seemingly-absolute negative, in the first clause, is implied to be controlled, or "limited," by the second clause]—as when Jesus says not to invite your friends to your house to eat (Luke 14:12-14); or when He forbids working for food (John 6:27).

We need to be aware of the degree to which Jesus' Jewish hearers were accustomed to such hyperbole in spoken communication (as are we, in modern times). To take Jesus' teachings legalistically is to miss His entire point in teaching. Jesus said that the great command is to love. The particulars of Jesus' teachings are simply so many illustrations of how to be loving, humble and genuine. Application of the duty to love, in any given situation, must be governed by knowledge and "discernment"—

"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and discernment" (Phil.1:9).

I do have some lectures on wealth in my series, "Toward a Radically Christian Counterculture," which you can access here:

https://thenarrowpath.com/audio/topical ... Part_1.mp3

https://thenarrowpath.com/audio/topical ... Part_2.mp3

https://thenarrowpath.com/audio/topical ... Part_3.mp3

https://thenarrowpath.com/audio/topical ... Part_4.mp3

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jwalsh
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Re: Are we called to sell our possessions and give to the poor?

Post by jwalsh » Tue Aug 20, 2019 1:21 pm

Thanks, Steve and Homer.

I appreciate the thorough replies and the links to your lecture series. My take away is that we need to be willing to surrender all of our possessions to God, but it is unlikely we will be called to that extreme level of sacrifice.

I love how you put it: "Application of the duty to love, in any given situation, must be governed by knowledge and discernment."

I tend to look for shortcuts or step-by-step directions, which is part of the appeal of legalism. But in His infinite wisdom, it seems God prefers to lead us in a more general "long obedience in the same direction." This can be quite frustrating for the impatient among us, who want to know exactly where we are going! :)

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Paidion
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Re: Are we called to sell our possessions and give to the poor?

Post by Paidion » Tue Aug 20, 2019 9:38 pm

Hi Steve,

I thought I would check out just one of your statements that seem to be intended to show that Jesus used hyperbole:
You wrote:Jesus says that one who calls another a "fool" faces the fire of Gehenna (Matt.5:22), but Jesus and Paul both call people by this term (Luke 24:25; Gal.3:1);
In Matthew 5:22, Jesus used spoke of calling someone a "μωρος" (morōs)—from which comes the English word "moron."

However, in both Luke 24:25 and Galatians 3:1, Jesus as well as Paul used a quite different word "ανοητος" (anoātos), a word that can mean "not able to understand."

Both the Diaglot and Young's Literal Translation render the word as "thoughtless" in Luke 24:25 as well as in Galatians 3:1.

To call someone a "fool" seems far more of a putdown than to call them "thoughtless." To call someone a "fool" seems to indicate that you consider them to be a hopeless case, and also seems to indicate anti-feelings, perhaps resentment, toward them.
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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steve
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Re: Are we called to sell our possessions and give to the poor?

Post by steve » Tue Aug 20, 2019 10:34 pm

Thanks for the clarification, Paidion!

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Paidion
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Re: Are we called to sell our possessions and give to the poor?

Post by Paidion » Wed Aug 21, 2019 5:44 pm

And thank you, Steve!

However, I would like to point out that my assertion that the English word "moron" was derived from the Greek "μωρος" (morōs), was mere supposition on my part.

A few minutes ago, I looked it up and discovered that my supposition happens to be correct.

From Wikipedia:

"Moron" was coined in 1910 by psychologist Henry H. Goddard from the Ancient Greek word μωρός (moros), which meant "dull" and used to describe a person with a mental age in adulthood of between 8 and 12 on the Binet scale.
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

Avatar shows me at 75 years old. I am now 81.

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