Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds & The Injured – 6

shepherd-carrying-sheepGood Shepherds Bind up the Flock

the injured you have not bound up

In the following post, we will be discussing the third clause in this verse.

Ezekiel addresses the failings of the shepherds of his day, and the application to today’s environment is uncanny.

Ezekiel 34 :4
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

True Shepherds Bind up the Broken

This portion of the verse we are considering needs to have some terms defined.

Binding

Binding speaks of bandaging, or restraining. Throughout the book of Ezekiel, this term pictures a tying or fastening. See below for Strong’s definitions.

Broken

Broken defines many types of damage, such as rupturing, crippling, rending violently, being wrecked, crushed or quenched. See below for Strong’s definitions.

True Shepherds Mend the Flock

Ezekiel is describing a very damaged and hurting flock. He is also describing a flock that is being ignored by those who have a calling to minister to them.

In the New Testament, Jesus mentioned the binding the shepherds of Israel were performing. It has changed somewhat since the days of Ezekiel, but only for the worse.

Instead of ignoring the flock the shepherds seem to be taking advantage of the flock. The flock was hurting, and the shepherds loaded them down with burdens, and refused to help them.

Matt 23 :4

4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.

Story Time

Recently, I was sitting in a McDonald’s trying to enjoy a cup of java, watching those about me. Things have not changed much about the flock of God. Many in this place seem (only God knows) to be aimless and placing their trust in empty promises.

Just this weekend many folks trusted in the hope of a Mega Millions lottery, where the jackpot was over $640,000,000.

Did you hope in this?

Winning the lottery is a proven recipe for disaster, yet so many hope in the chance of winning more money than they need.

Prov 23 :5

When your eyes light on it, it is gone,
for suddenly it sprouts wings,
flying like an eagle toward heaven.

prov 11 4

Prov 11 :4

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.

Prov 11 :28

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.

The sad thing is that many shepherds in the church would encourage seeking this worlds goods. Simply to live in opulence or to find comfort and safety. They would say that He died so that we might live (in comfort)! He became poor that we might have (physical) riches. These dear folk need to read the Bible instead of their imaginations.

Some shepherds in the church would allow (encourage?) the chasing of the wind (seeking wealth), with justifications such as

chasing the wind

If you win you could support the poor
If you win you could help your children
If you win, you could build a church
If you win you could help missionaries…..

It is a rare person that can steward earned wealth properly. Earned wealth is a trust that is granted from the Lord and it is a responsibility to be faithful in the correct distribution of it, to honor the One who bought us.

I can’t imagine the burden and distraction of “found” money, and the emotional turmoil it would cause.

Keep it away! Father, help me understand that riches are a false hope. May You bind up our brokenness, and in that binding, give us the desire and wisdom to help others find Your mercy and kindness.


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Strong’s definition “Bind”
– Transliteration: Chabash – Phonetic: khaw-bash’ – Definition: 1. to tie, bind, bind on, bind up, saddle, restrain, bandage, govern a. (Qal) 1. to bind, bind on 2. to bind up b. (Piel) to bind, restrain c. (Pual) to be bound up – Origin: a primitive root – TWOT entry: 599 Part(s) of speech: Verb
Strong’s definition “Broken”
– Transliteration: Shabar – Phonetic: shaw-bar’ – Definition: 1. to break, break in pieces a. (Qal) 1. break, break in or down, rend violently, wreck, crush, quench 2. to break, rupture (fig) b. (Niphal) 1. to be broken, be maimed, be crippled, be wrecked 2. to be broken, be crushed (fig) c. (Piel) to shatter, break d. (Hiphil) to cause to break out, bring to the birth e. (Hophal) to be broken, be shattered – Origin: a primitive root – TWOT entry: 2321 – Part(s) of speech: Verb

Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds & The Sick – 5

shepherd-carrying-sheepGood Shepherds Heal the Flock.

the sick you have not healed

We are going to continue in Ezekiel 34:4, and with this blog, we will look at the second clause of Ezekiel 34:4.

Good shepherds heal their flock, seek the flocks health, look for signs of life and pray for the best for the flock.

Ezekiel 34 :4
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Remember that the principle complaint against the shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel’s day was that they did not feed the sheep. The following clauses show how their utter disregard for the sheep, (typified by their not feeding the sheep) was expressed in other ways. The issue in this blog is that the shepherds were not healing the sheep.

True Shepherds Heal the Flock Spiritually

Luke 4 :18

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

I have placed the passage in Luke 4:18 as a primary reference due to the clarification it gives me about what is being healed. Jesus healed physical sickness when He was on earth (and He still does) but the emphasis of His healing ministry is spiritual.

True Shepherds Prioritize the Healing

If I get healed of a sickness today, tomorrow I may die. Healing of sickness is a wonderful gift of God, something that is granted to the believer and non-believer based solely on the mercy of God.

The great physician

Spiritual healing is a potentially eternal condition, that has ramifications in this life and the one to come. His ministry is to heal the sheep of a greater sickness than mere cancer, heart disease or a brain tumor.

Of course the very verse I am referring to above may speak of physical healing (recovering of sight to the blind), but considering how Jesus spiritualized various promises in the Old Testament (see previous blog “A Literal Bible”) the recovering of sight may be referring to spiritual understanding.

Luke 9 :11

When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.

This verse is definitely speaking of physical healing, but the point I would like to draw your attention to is that He healed them that realized they needed healing!

He came to call the sick so that He might heal them. To find healing, one must admit to their illness. This admission of illness (spiritual) may seem counter-intuitive, even fearful, but this verse teaches me of the desire of the Good Shepherd – He will heal all those that need healing.

Is it too much to say that He is anxious (I speak foolishly) to heal those who seek Him.

A True Shepherds Motivation for Healing

Lets consider the motivation for the two types of healing (physical and spiritual) from the perspective of the Great Healer.

1 Peter 2 :24

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Of the many verses that speak of healing, the passage in 1 Peter draws me in. Did the atonement grant physical healing to those who have enough faith?

Story Time

A while back I was chatting with a Word of Faith preacher concerning physical healing and the miracles that his church regularly experiences. I asked him about a couple of issues that concern me.

My first question was “Does 1 John 1:9 describe forgiveness as an act of mercy on God’s part?” He agreed, yet I drew his attention to the phrase “faithful and just” in the verse. This phrase tells me that the reason God forgives His people of the accidental sins they commit is due to His faithfulness to the righteous (just) conditions His people are under, not an emotional response based on our strong(?) faith.

1 jn 1 9

When we confess our sins, HE FORGIVES.

In other words, God forgives His people because of the “covenant/contract” He has entered into with His Son, due to His Son’s obedient sacrifice, and our relationship in Him.

It is not an act of mercy that motivates God primarily, but His faithfulness and justness that motivates Him to forgive His people, if we confess our sins to Him.

The second concern was logical. I pictured what I imagined as a typical gathering at his young preachers church. Say one person gets a healing due to their faith. What about the “99” others. Granted some may not need healing. Some may, but do not receive. What does that say about their status of being a believer?

It seems that if I were in the crowd, and listening to the teaching that the death of Christ afforded all believers (who had enough faith) to claim their physical healing, and yet not receive a healing, I would begin to question my salvation.

After all, if God won’t heal a temporal sickness, what makes me think He will heal my eternal sickness.

This young preacher admitted to not having considered these topics. He seemed to be an honest man and I appreciated his willingness to discuss these issues. I believe he has a sincere desire to be healing the flock, but his zeal for God may not be according to knowledge.

The important issue is that God has supplied a Good Shepherd to the church and that Good Shepherd heals His flock.

bad_shepherd 2

If you are associated with a group that is abusive or harmful, and not reflective of the Good Shepherds character, it may be wise to consider the Master and listen to His voice.

His sheep hear His voice


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Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds & The Weak – 4

shepherd-carrying-sheepA Good Shepherd Strengthens the Flock.

The weak you have not strengthened

Verse 4 has a number of clauses that define the actions of the evil shepherds.

The Good Shepherd is described in the New Testament as fulfilling each of the activities God addresses when He rebukes the evil shepherds.

I loved seeing this – how that the Good Shepherd supplies the very needs of the sheep as opposed to those who simply abuse the flock for self-gratification.

Ezekiel 34 :4

The weak you have not strengthened,

the sick you have not healed,

the injured you have not bound up,

the strayed you have not brought back,

the lost you have not sought,

and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Strengthening Shepherds are Gentle

Remember that the principle complaint against the shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel’s day was that they did not feed the sheep. The following clauses show how their utter disregard for the sheep, (typified by their not feeding the sheep) was expressed in other ways. The issue in this post is that the shepherds were not strengthening the sheep.

Matt 12 :17-21

17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

The Good Shepherd will be gentle with the flock, seeking to encourage some, as one would encourage a smoking flax to reignite, and refusing to damage a bruised reed.

Matthew 12-20 A Bruised Reed-portrait

This truth has been very refreshing to me, teaching me that the Lord’s attitude toward a weak child is not that of sneering at them, or despising them or ridiculing them. He will strengthen them, even at the point of their greatest weakness.

A bruised reed has no structural strength. It is literally useless. So often, I consider those that are damaged to be useless, but this seems so anti-Christlike. His attitude is to strengthen the flock, and the verse above exhibits His attitude towards the weakest and most hopeless condition. Ever try to get smoking flax to reignite?

Strengthening Shepherds Supply Strength to Others

Luke 22 :32

32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

The true Shepherd strengthens His people, sometimes through very unexpected methods. This passage is reflecting the time of Jesus speaking with Peter after his denial. How small Peter must have felt, how unworthy! Yet Jesus, in giving the command to strengthen the brethren, strengthened Peter. Peter needed to know how Jesus felt about him and Jesus trusts him with caring for the flock.

This is something wonderful!

The Spirit of the Good Shepherd will be reflected in mutual encouragement among His people, in their communion with each other.

Who is your Good Shepherd? Your Pastor, Priest, Minister?

good shepherd

His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him. But if you are in a religious system that does not allow you to obey your Lord, either through your conscience, the written Word or otherwise, it may be profitable to compare your earthly shepherd with the Good Shepherd.

As we venture through the remaining parts of the verse, it will become obvious that Jesus is the perfect anti-type of these wicked shepherds.

The sheep hear His voice and they follow.


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Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds Compared – 3

shepherd-carrying-sheepShepherds Compared

In an earlier blog, I mentioned how the passage describing shepherds in Ezekiel 34 seems so very modern.

Many times I have come across men (and women) who say they are shepherds and yet might not like to consider what Ezekiel says. Some may say they have had a calling, a vision, a dream.

Ezekiel doesn’t seem to care about stories. He is looking at the impact of the shepherd’s shepherding on the sheep.

Stories are fun and lately have become outlandish as to how some are “called” to be His shepherds. But in the end, they are simply stories, stories that the gullible or (too) trusting want to believe, because of dry skin on thier ears (itchy ears – get it?).

Lets consider what Ezekiel is trying to teach us. In the following blogs on Ezekiel 34, I would like to settle on the 4th verse for a bit.

Ezekiel 34 :4
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

This verse defines the failures of the shepherds of Israel during Ezekiel’s time. Instead of simply finding fault, (due as it may be), I would rather contrast these shepherds with the Good Shepherd that we seek to follow.

The Good Shepherd Is Against The Bad Shepherds.

Ezekiel 34 :9-10a

9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:

10 Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.

God will put a stop to these bad shepherds from feeding His flock. The food these shepherds were feeding the sheep must have been bad food, food that might be described as “leavenous” in a few hundred years after Ezekiel preached! (Jesus ofter warned His disciples of the leaven of the….)

The Good Shepherd God Has Placed Over Us.

Ezekiel 34 :23-24

23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.

24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken.

God’s servant David, otherwise known as the King of Glory, Jesus Christ the Messiah, the Great and Good Shepherd, He shall feed us.

Are you being fed by the Master? Are you in communion with Him? Do you hear His voice? He is teaching us, are we listening?

By the way – I didn’t ask if you are going to church regularily, or doing good things in the sight of men, or obeying some preachers wishes.

Is He teaching you?

In the next few posts, let’s look at each of the complaints against the bad shepherds. Hope to visit with you again.

May God bless you and your loved ones!

He is Good.


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Ezekiel 34 – A Good Shepherd Described – 2

shepherd-carrying-sheepA Good Shepherd Feeds the Flock

Recalling the previous verses in Ezekiel 34, the emphasis of God’s complaint against the shepherds is that they are not feeding the sheep.

Lets read the verses again and consider a key characteristic of a good Shepherd.

Ezekiel 34 :1-3

1 The word of the LORD came to me:

2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?

3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.

The key characteristic of a true shepherd is to feed the flock.

The Good Shepherd Fed His Flock

When Jesus was restoring Peter, He reiterated three times to feed the flock.

John 21 :15-17

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

It is instructive to remember that the last words Jesus told His apostles was to be “teaching them to observe all that I command”

Peter Fed the Flock as a Faithful Shepherd

Peter got it! I think he really got it! He understood a shepherd’s responsibility and passed on this key characteristic to his readers.

1 Peter 5 :2

2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;

Paul Fed the Flock as a Faithful Shepherd

Paul got it too, and he passed it on to his readers!

2 Timothy 2:24

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,

Paul Expects His Converts to Shepherd by Feeding the Flock

Interesting that Paul expects to get some milk from the flock. This is even described as a right for apostles to expect some milk from the flock (see verse 12). Paul teaches this, but relinquishes that right in order for the gospel to have one less obstacle (Paul’s word not mine).

Notice that in the next two passages, Paul expected his converts to continue to feed the flock, to pass truth on, since the truth is the very lifeblood of the church, and by it we are able to stand.

Acts 20 :28

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

2 Timothy 2:2

2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Chief-ShepherdThe Chief Shepherd Feeds His Flock

Golly – the very passage in Ezekiel 34 speaks of the priority of teaching within the Shepherds ministry to His flock. God will set up the Shepherd, and the first activity He is seen to perform is to feed the sheep.

Ezekiel 34:23

23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.

God has set up His One Shepherd to feed His flock. Are you receiving sustenance from the One Good Shepherd?

It is obvious that God is feeding His sheep, and that He has supplied the Good Shepherd to perform this ministry. Feeding His sheep is the emphasis of the Good Shepherd, but God wants to express His all-encompassing concern for His sheep by describing the various other activities of the Shepherd that pleases God.

Although only One Shepherd fits this description perfectly, it is very instructive to consider the characteristics Ezekiel descibes in this passage, in order to understand God’s will for men who would call themselves shepherds of God’s flock.

(P.S. – Continually reminding someone they are a shepherd may be a clue!!)

This we will do in the following posts. Hope you can join me.


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Ezekiel 34 – Introduction -1

shepherd-carrying-sheep

My wife and I were reading in Ezekiel 34 a few nights ago.

During the reading, it occurred to me that this passage is very New Testamental.

By that I mean, many phrases within this passage are directly addressed in the New Testament.

You know, I would consider this passage to be very modern, dare I say it – even applicable to us today.

Lets read the first three verses to get a gist of the passage, and then let me know what you think!

Ezekiel 34:1-3

1 The word of the LORD came to me:
2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?
3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.

It seems the Lord is using the picture of the shepherd/sheep to describe the spiritual relationships between the leaders of Israel (both political and religious) and the “rank and file” of Israel – what we might call “the laity” in today’s Christian environment.

The principle complaint against the shepherds was that they fed themselves, to the exclusion of feeding the flock. Of course the leaders fed some of the flock, but as we will see, it wasn’t an enviable condition to be in if you were a sheep!

The shepherds of Israel ate the fat.

It seems that the word fat in the first phrase of the charge may be translated as milk (some translations use “curds”). This would show a progression of abuse on the part of the shepherds as to what they demand from the sheep. Since the milk of the sheep was not restricted from the shepherds, the Lords complaint must be regarding the abuse of this privilege.

Excessive taxation and the demand of religious obligations was “milking the flock”, in a very real manner. Today when we talk of “milking it”, I think we are using the term in a similar manner.

The shepherds of Israel clothed themselves with wool.

shepherdcarrysheep4

Sheep are to supply wool. It is one of their principal functions. So again, the issue must be the abuse of the privilege. In the same way that the milk supplied a temporary need, the wool supplied a more permanent benefit to the shearers. But the next phrase seems to indicate that those that were giving the benefits of milk and wool were not being fed, which reinforces the original charge against the shepherds. They (the spiritual leaders of Israel) were taking from the flock, but not feeding them!

The shepherds of Israel slaughter the fat ones.

The final function of a sheep is to supply food to the owner. It seems the shepherds fed these particular sheep. Please understand this is not an enviable position to be in.

If you were starving, at least the shepherds of Israel were just using you (taking milk and wool), instead of intending to kill you.

I suppose a number of questions rise in my mind. Fellow blogger Gerry Palermo suggested I build a survey of the questions. Check out Ezekiel 34 – Introduction -1 – Survey for a chance to respond to the following questions.

  • How do you see the Good Shepherd?
  • Does the Good Shepherd require milk, wool and meat from His flock? Selah.
  • Is He demanding more than you can supply?
  • Do you feel that you are not able to satisfy the demands of the Master?
  • Do you worry about His intentions?
  • When things are going well, do you worry that you are being set up?

Jesus rescuing lamb

By asking these questions to the sheperds of Isreal, Ezekiel is condemning these actions. The character of God in not such, that His intent is to simply take take take.

He does expect fruit from His followers, which is simply the natural outgrowth of abiding in Him. He feeds us, clothes us and provides life, that we might produce fruit for His glory.

Consider the difference. The true Shepherd is fundamentally different than the shepherds Ezekiel is preaching about in this passage. In the following posts, I hope we will find the contrast to be obvious!

Let us give thanks for our Good Shepherd!


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Taxes & Churches – Avoiding Taxes

taxes-150x150Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from? I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?

Consider the third topic of discussion.


3. Churches Existing Only to Avoid Taxation

 TAXES & CHURCHES

The third time this struggle came up for me is a conversation I had with one of my daughters friends a while back.

He was telling me about some house churches in a town north-west of where I live that were avoiding the paying of property taxes by claiming their home as a church and hiding behind the 501 (c) 3 status.  I don’t know where this young man is in relation to the Lord, but his take on the situation was bang on.  He said that it was obvious, in some of the churches, that the only reason the “church” existed was to avoid the paying of property taxes.  (Is the common refrain of offence ringing in anyone’s ears?)  My goodness.  

Summary Arguments

I can imagine some of the arguments that might arise if this teaching were to be taken seriously by the modern church.

  1. If churches had to pay taxes, missions would suffer.
    • But why would missions need to suffer?  Why not cut church staff, and allow the rank and file of the church to step up.  I think if you have been reading my junk for a while, you realize that I also struggle with what I think of as “professional christianity”.  We hire those to serve us, when we as believers need to serve one another.  It is a crippling disease within the western church.  But this is not the purpose of this blog.
  2. If churches had to pay taxes, there would be less service to the believer, less perks within the church.
    • No free study manuals, coffee, padded pews, etc.  Is that what the body of Christ is all about for you?
  3. If churches had to pay taxes, the growth of the modern church system would come to a grinding halt.
    • Large mega churches would definitely become rarer, since their tax burden might restrict future building plans.  Some existing churches would fall into default because they aree leveraged beyond their means.  
    • When this argument comes up, I often think of the struggling Chinese church prior to and during Mao’s revolution.  All modern western missionaries were pulled from China during the revolution and the western church bemoaned the situation, thinking that without the american missionary leading the church, the church would fall apart and disappear. Have you considered the last 100 years of the Chinese church?  If the rate of Christian growth continues, the nation of China will become a predominantly Christian nation within a generation or less.  (Very similar to the events of the early church in the Roman nation!) And this type of growth without any fancy buildings, professionally trained staff, or weekly entertainment get togethers.  

Amazing!

 TAXES & CHURCHES

What think ye? Is there something I am missing? 

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Taxes & Churches – Benefiting from Taxes

taxes-150x150Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from? I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?

Consider the second topic of discussion.


2. Churches Benefiting from Taxation

The second time this conflict arose in my thinking was over a period of two or three months.

I would occasionally drive by the construction of an alley way that would service a large church in the neighborhood. This alley will reduce traffic disturbance on the frontage road by supplying an additional exit from the church, and I am all for increased safety.

But doesn’t it seem backwards somewhat?

The general population (taxpayers, which include some believers admittedly) is blessing the institutional church, relieving a burden caused by the growth of a church.  A burden (the construction of the alley in this example) caused by the institutional church but not being relieved by the institutional church.  
They do have their rights!

What think ye? 
Is there something I am missing? 

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Taxes & Churches – Avoid Offence – 3

taxes-150x150Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from? I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?

Consider the first topic of discussion.


1. Christians are to avoid offence

Consider the following passage.

1 Peter 2:13-17

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,
 
or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.
 

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

 

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Peter told the believers to submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.  Of course we live in a nation that allows protest, but I wonder if believers are to protest as much as we do. 

 TAXES & CHURCHES

It is interesting that Peter uses the term “cloak of maliciousness” in reference to the freedoms we possess as Christians.  This cloak refers to a covering, and I think Peter is fearful that believers will use their declared freedoms, as a covering of actual malicious (evil) motivations and deeds.

I also understand that at the time of this discussion with my friend, the proposal was not an ordinance of man yet, so as far as I can tell, the church had every right to speak to God about this possible injustice.  But once this amendment passed, the church should, with well-doing, put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.  (Not be foolish men, who needed to be put to silence).

In each of these passages, the Bible seems to be telling us to take the loss for the sake of others.  Do not offend, humbly pay your taxes and do good.

What think ye?  Is there something I am missing? 

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Taxes & Churches – Avoid Offence – 2

taxes-150x150Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from? I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?

Consider the first topic of discussion.


1. Christians are to avoid offence

Consider the following passage.

Romans 13:7

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

 TAXES & CHURCHES

In Romans 13:7 Paul told believers to pay their taxes, and since churches were in private homes, it seems obvious that if there was a property tax in those days, Paul was telling them to pay it.  If the ruling city officials request assistance from the general population to improve the living conditions of the community, does it not seem to be a sacrifice that would be well pleasing, in order to be a blessing on the community?

Fighting this proposal in the public arena was a no win situation for the church in my opinion.  The early church spoke to God about seeming injustices (see Acts 4:23, 12:5, etc.) and not to the general population.  (I guess the early church didn’t understand the power of public relations to turn the heart of a king/mayor!)

What think ye?  Is there something I am missing? 

Use the contact form below to share your thoughts.


 

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Taxes & Churches – Avoid Offence – 1

taxes-150x150Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from? I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?

Consider the first topic of discussion.


1. Christians are to avoid offence

Consider the following passages.

Matthew 17:24-27

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?”
 
He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?”
 
And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.
 
However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

When Peter was asked about the temple tax, Jesus sent him fishing and paid the taxes with a coin from the fishes mouth.  It is interesting that the Lords motive for paying the taxes is to avoid offending.

The background is the temple tax that the Jewish religious aristocracy required for the maintenance of the temple.  But note that Jesus likens this temple taxation to the more common taxation of the overlords within the land, that is, the Romans, who are referred to as the “kings of the earth”.  Interesting comparison!

So who are the “strangers” in this text?  Who did the Romans tax?

It is common knowledge that one of the responsibilities of conquered lands within the Roman empire was to bear the tax burden for the kingdom of Rome.  When Jesus refers to the children is this passage, He is referring to those who were free-born children within the Roman nation, that is, those born to Roman citizens.  Therefore the strangers are those who are the conquered.  So the comparison that Jesus makes is to liken the temple tax responsibility to the strangers (the Jewish religious aristocracy?) and to state that those who follow Jesus were the true children.

If I am following the Lord’s logic, this means that true children of the kingdom are free of this responsibility – that is, to pay any (temple) tax.

But not free from the responsibility to love.  We are not to offend our neighbor and in standing up for our rights (in not having to pay some tax), I am afraid we offend.  (Golly, after I finally considered this topic, it offends me!).

 TAXES & CHURCHES

Remember the atheist friend that was doing the surveys about the future taxation.  He certainly saw an apparent contradiction between the churches words and works.  And he certainly was able to use this experience to shore up his belief that the church was simply a business.

What think ye?  Is there something I am missing? 

Use the contact form below to share your thoughts.


 

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Taxes & Churches – Introduction

taxes-150x150

The city I live in was trying to find support for an amendment to the city charter.  This amendment would charge a fee/tax (based on the size of the property’s impermeable surface, ie parking/roofing) to property owners to fund an account for the improvement of roads and drainage in the city.

I knew a fellow (an atheist friend) that was actually out among the population seeking to drum up support for this amendment.  He would chat with me about the reactions he would receive and the general feelings of the city population. 

Two groups stood out in fighting against this proposition. 

I suppose you could guess the first group to oppose this amendment – malls, with their profit driven focus and huge parking lots – this would definitely impact thier bottom line causing greater overhead and therefore smaller profit margins.  Business you know

The other group? – Churches.  

And this is where I began to struggle.  Consider the reason for taxes. 

Is it not to share the burden of services for the general public?

Did not the Lord state that it is better to give than receive? 

Are we not to be a blessing to the community we live in? 

Are we not to bear the burden of our brother, doing good to all?

Which brings me to my struggle.  

Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from?  I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?  

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?  

The next three posts will attempt to consider this question.   Use the contact form below to share your thoughts.


 

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A Study of Eternal / Everlasting

everlastingEverlasting – It boggles the mind – at least my mind!

How can I grasp this concept?

I remember laying in bed at night when I was a young’n and thinking about the eternal, and just when I thought I had it figger’d out, some extra years would appear in my thoughts. I felt like a dog chasing my tail!

“Everlasting” in the Bible

When I was a dog chasing my tail, I didn’t have the desire or will power to go to the source to research this concept. Now that I am a Christian, I have the Word of God to search for answers.

infinity 3

So lets Consider the Bible and search for answers.

First off, lets find out the words, in the Old and New Testament, that the inspired writers used to describe this concept!

Four Old Testament Hebrew words and three New Testament Greek words are translated to describe the concept of eternal/everlasting .

infinity 2

OLAM – Old Testament “Eternal”
The most common word in the Old Testament is “OLAM”.  The following table analyzes this word in describing various eternal/everlasting things.

You might be asking by this time – What’s your point Carl?

infinity 1My point is that we cannot interpret the Word of God in a strictly literal, “technically accurate” manner.  Some folk have complained that this makes the Bible an unreadable document, that is, they could not simply pick up a Bible and understand it correctly.

When was the last time you considered the Bible to be a cartoon?  When I pick up a Blondie or Garfield cartoon, I don’t intend to spend more than a few seconds (at most) in understanding the message being conveyed.  I think the attitude towards the Word should be somewhat different.

The Bible was written in a completely different culture, time and place than what we live in.  To assume that  we have the right to simply understand the message in a 20th century North American context is foolishness.  Unless, of course, we see the Bible as a magic talisman, instead of a message from the living God.

In the case of this particular study, I find it amazing that some things that are described as eternal and everlasting (in our mindset) are not!

Does this take away from the core definition of eternal/everlasting? No – the core meaning is the core meaning!  What I think I have tripped over is how the overall context can affect the specific message of a particular word.

What do I mean?

Consider

Gen 9:16

And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

What will happen to this covenant when there is no living creatures on the earth?  (BTW – that will happen!)  It is eternal between the two parties that enter into the covenant, so the default message is that although the term everlasting is used, it is not everlasting/eternal. The everlasting condition of this covenant is dependent on the existence of “every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth”.


How about this one.  The land of Canaan is to be an everlasting possession for the seed of Abraham.

Gen 17:8

And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

Two issues erupt in this verse.

  1. Who is the seed of Abraham?
  2. Is this promise or it’s reaffirmations unconditional?

The first point is simple to answer.  Paul labors the point of describing who the seed is in the book of Galations.

Gal 3:29

And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Then two more issues occur to me. – (Come on Carl – gimme a break!!)

Was this promise or it’s reaffirmations unconditional?  Or did the Jewish people misunderstand this verse and “literally” interpret the promise, assuming the land was theirs unconditionally forever?

The very next verse after the great promise to Abraham, the Lord stated…

… Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

Unconditional promise?  Could the Jewish nation survive if they were disobedient and rebellious? (Did they?)  Could they assume upon verse 8 and ignore verse 9?  (What about the nation of Israel today?  Are they presently keeping “my covenant”? )  The everlasting possession was dependent on the Jewish nation’s keeping of “my covenant”.  It is very interesting to me that the covenant being referred to here was the Abrahamic covenant and that the nation’s allegience to the Siniatic covenant revealed the heart of the people towards God.  Additional examples of how the eternal/everlasting concept is modified by the context, can be found above and I would encourage you to consider them.

Does this contextual effect on the concept of eternal/everlasting continue into the New Testament?  I will leave that for you to study out.  Get back to me when you find something out, eh?

I gotta go study some Garfield!garfield


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Salaried Pastors? A discussion with a Pastor 3

Salary 2Quite awhile ago I sent out an email to a number of prominent pastors (8 or 9) within the area I live in.  One out of the nine responded in an effort to minister.  The following  conversation is with that one pastor who sought to help.  I appreciate his willingness to enter into a discussion with me.

This third post is simply some wanderings and considerations I have had after my discussion with the Pastor!  Give me some feed back if I’m way out of line.


Consider 1 Corinthians 9:12

Remember that the topic of this passage is support (not salary) of an apostle, a traveling minister.  These verses, IMHO, do not apply to elders and pastors of local churches, who are able to maintain outside employment to assist the local body if in need.

1 Corinthians 9:12

If others (referring to other apostles – check the context!) share this rightful claim on you, do not we (Paul and his party) even more? Nevertheless, we (Paul and his party) have not made use of this right, but we (Paul and his party) endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

salary 3Is not Paul stating that using this “right”, (that is, support from a body of believers) actually hinders (places an obstacle in the way) the gospel? This is an apostle (not an elder or pastor) teaching this truth about an apostles right to support, which Paul is refusing to exercise.

How can local pastors refer to this same passage (1 Corinthians 9) to establish this right they believe they have, and yet miss this verse?

One important item that I need to clarify, for I know what some may be thinking.  I am not advocating abandonment of the Christian minister.  Support and salary are two completely different topics, and the New Testament exhorts believers to support those who are ministering among them.

Support for a Christian minister, coming from those blessed from his ministry, is a direct relational blessing.  If believers would remove themselves from unbiblical obligations, they could freely give funds, gifts and blessings to Biblically directed recipients, such as:

  • The poor (including widows, orphans, etc)
  • Travelling missionaries (those in a similar situation as the apostle in 1 Corinthians 9)
  • Christian ministers that trust in God.

An additional verse that some may appeal to, to justify the salaried position within the family of God is Galatians 6:6.

Gal 6:6

6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.

Two things to notice

  • The context of this verse is general Christian living, not the requirements of a contractual obligation to a separate group of specialized Christians.  I once asked how this verse justifies the salary of a pastor but does not apply to a Sunday School teacher, or a “lay” Christian teaching in some manner.
  • The good things are just that – good things.  Encouraging words, financial help, a bag of groceries, an invitation to supper, a new car,  etc.

I love the opportunity to assist those I know of that are in need, or that I “sense” may need a “blessing”.  I believe the Lord is able to direct His people to assist His people.  Is that wrong?  Too simplistic?  Too ideal?

salary 1It is becoming obvious to me, that salaried positions for local elders/pastors seems to be foreign to the New Testament.

Help me find justification for the salaried position, so that I can sense that the modern church is still somewhat on track.

Although not scripture, it is interesting to review what an early church document reveals how Christians treated this topic.

Didache 2

Notice what the Didache (Also known as “The Teaching of the Twelve.”) teaches.

Chapter 11. Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets.

didache

Let every apostle that comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain except one day; but if there be need, also the next; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.

A little later in chapter 11…

But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him; but if he says to you to give for others’ sake who are in need, let no one judge him.

Wow

Story Time

This topic, since I have been considering it for a period of time, was on my mind this morning, when I was visiting with a brother.  He mentioned that the church he belongs to is putting on a Christmas pageant and that they had sold 14,000 tickets, ranging from $8 to $14 each.  I mentioned that, at an average price of $10 per ticket, that church pulled in $140,000, and that this should pay for the minister’s salary.

Oh no no, he says – Our pastor makes $200,000,  plus benefits, vacation and a yearly month-long sabbatical.  Oh and this particular church has a $20,000,000 capital budget for renovations and building projects.

Silver and gold have I none – Peter – 1st century


 

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Church Things – “Gimme More Money” Training

Dollar-SignIf you give me money, I will train you to fleece your flock better!!!

I received an email recently from some christian organization, and to be honest with you, (as if I  have been lying to you up till now!!), I well nigh wanted to call these people and yell at them. 

But then I thought I might get talked into giving them some money, so I changed my mind!

First thing that got me was the artful manipulation of word-speak these hucksters use to entice christian leadership to join their organization (There’s that word again – organization!)

Secondly, after they have prettied up their message with high faluting terms, the topic itself is offensive. 

To see professional Christians (should there be any such thing as a professional christian?), offer to train other professional Christians to lure cash out of “high capacity givers” seems at best deceitful and at worst simply an act of exercising avarice. 

As a non-professional christian, I can assume any church I might attend is being led by a professional christian who is trained in pulling funds, offerings, tithes, love gifts, cash, money…. out of my pocket so they may pay

  • their own salaries

  • the salaries of their staff

  • church mortgage(s)

  • church overhead

  • entertainment needs

  • technical supplies

  • office supplies

  • utility bills

  • insurance premiums

  • Sabbatical leave

  • furthering education

  • holidays

  • expansion dreams

  • maintenance requirements

  • …………….

Brothers and Sisters – take back the freedom that you have been granted in your faith, and determine to be giving people to those the Lord describes in the NEW TESTAMENT.  (A cursory reading of the New Testament will easily convince you that the influences we find ourselves under in the current “church” is completely out of whack with the will of God.)

Buildings and staff do not further the gospel.   Buildings and staff simply feed the wants of US, and in the doing, cripple us as Christians.

As a matter of fact, the size and affluence that some church buildings try to exude, along with the exorbitant funds required to staff these temples of pride are a major stumbling block to many of the lost today, and dare I say to an increasing amount of believers.

I have chatted about how I feel about the current  church organization found in the USA in other blog posts.  This latest one was simply fueled by a single errant email that somehow crossed my path.

By the way, check out the subscription fees required to join this elite organization – dang that word “organization” comes up alot! 

Almost $1,200.00 a year to join, unless you go with the annual membership, which is soooo reasonable at just under $1,000.00 per year! 

And remember, the church that buys this package for their staff will need to ask their flock for more money to pay for this training! 

But don’t worry – that will be easy, after this training has been absorbed.


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