Set a Watch

When we speak, we have a reason for doing so, a goal, a motive. We’ll be judged by what we say, and for why we say it, so we should be careful whenever our mouth is open, and set up a kind of gate keeper, a watch, a guard, to check every syllable coming out. (Ps 141:3) What should we be checking for?

First, is what we’re saying true? Is it aligned with reality, as best we know? If it isn’t, we shouldn’t say it; only speak truth. (Pr 8:7) Lying isn’t an option. (Ps 119:163)

Yet even if something’s true, that doesn’t mean we should say it. (Jn 16:12) We need to be thinking about our audience, and considering how our words will impact them. Speaking truth is insufficient in itself; we must speak the truth in love. (Ep 4:15)

We should speak to heal and build up (Ro 14:19), and this requires discernment. (Pr 15:28) Pushing truth on those who aren’t willing to obey deepens their condemnation (2Pe 2:21), and there are deeper truths that only the mature can digest. (1Co 3:2)

How often am I trying to impress someone, showing off? or just thinking out loud, sorting through my own confusion, and simply filling the air with my words? or trying to manipulate someone into doing what I want, focused inward, on myself? Am I ever actually trying to harm someone? (Pr 12:18)

Do I listen to others, trying to understand where they’re coming from? How can I edify you if I don’t know you, without any sense of what you’re struggling with, where you’ve been wounded, how you’ve been lied to?

We’re doctors in a pandemic, amid the sick and dying. We have a cure, a balm, a surgical knife, but most folk don’t want to be well, only to be at ease in their diseases. (Jn 3:19) We can only help those who sense their need and want to be whole (Mk 2:17), and even these we cannot rightly help unless we understand their need. We must ask and listen, observe and ponder, diagnosing our patient first. (Php 2:4) What does the Great Physician in us see? What do we we see Him doing?

Pray before speaking (Ja 1:19); let God Himself be the watchman of our lips. (Ps 19:14)

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Tithes and Offerings

It’s all too common for us to complain about how churches are always asking for money; many pastors expect us to support them with a tenth of our gross income, claiming anything less is robbing God. (Ma 3:8) Most take a public collection every Sunday to remind us, making us feel a bit uneasy if we don’t fall in line.

The Bible has a lot to say about money and how to use it, and the clergy are quick to point this out. What they don’t tell us is that when Paul the Apostle addressed the topic of supporting Christian ministry, he didn’t mention the tithe; he quoted an obscure Mosaic law about not muzzling an ox as it was treading corn. (1Co 9:9-10) The reason is simple: the tithe has nothing to do with supporting Christian ministry; it never has and it never will.

Tithing is God’s way of providing for the judiciary and temple system within the nation of Israel, as well as a safety net for any poor living in the land (De 14:28-29), and a means of funding an annual family pilgrimage to the Feast of Tabernacles. (De 12:17-18)

The Levites are charged with maintaining the temple and sacrificial system (Nu 18:6), and also for administering justice in civil disputes. (De 17:8-9) In this role, the Levites haven’t been given their own farmland, and so have no way to earn a living for themselves (De 18:1); they depend on God’s chosen people doing the right thing and taking care of them. So, as keepers of the law (De 17:18), the Levites have a vested interest in ensuring the people have access to and understand God’s law, encouraging God’s people to earnestly follow it, and in being exemplary spiritual guides of the nation. Think of it as the basis of separation of powers in government.

Although the temple system vanished in 70 CE (He 8:13), it isn’t obsolete – the temple’s been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times. It will return, and the biblical sacrifices restored. (Re 11:1) The church hasn’t replaced Israel, and has no right to our tithes and offerings.

Even so, giving financially to support christian laborers is definitely taught in scripture; as they invest so much time in caring for our spiritual well-being that it’s difficult for them to support themselves, this is perfectly reasonable. (1Co 9:11) When men of God are pouring into our lives like this, by all means, taking care of them is the right thing to do. (1Ti 5:17-18) This is not, however, an application of the tithing principle; it’s free-will giving based on spiritual relationships, and varies by circumstance.

Evidently, most Christian pastors are not feeding the flock like this; very few have a personal relationship with any of their members, or any real clue how any of them are actually doing spiritually. They believe they’re entitled to a comfortable salary for producing a weekly sermon, running the church as a commercial business, and providing counseling or consolation from time to time. This isn’t God’s intent, not by a long shot; it’s actually quite harmful to the church, preventing the regular, organic participation of brothers in the assembly.

While I wouldn’t say supporting the typical Christian church is necessarily a sin, I do think it’s unwise unless there are no better options, which may indeed be the case. Biblical foundation is exceedingly rare today, yet we’re called to be good stewards of our time, energy and money, focusing all, everything we are, on honoring God the best we know how. (De 6:5) We must make the best of what opportunities we have, but we shouldn’t be ignorant of the underlying principles, or let anyone guilt us into supporting what’s essentially corrupt, foreign to the Word of God.

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No Difference

Black Lives Matter is on the march again, insisting we defund our police, claiming police brutality and racism as their righteous cause.

It sounds good; black lives do matter, but what are the numbers? Three unarmed (non-attacking) blacks killed by police so far in 2020 (by 5/26); ten in 2019; 14 in 2018, in some 375 million police interactions annually, as scores of police are killed yearly by blacks. Unjust police killing is microscopic in light of the real issues, and de-funding police will definitely make things much worse; BLM must be up to something else.

Don’t look at what they’re saying – look at what they’re doing: leveraging resentment to destroy american businesses and destabilize our society, while further endangering inner-city, black communities and increasing poverty, division and suffering, all in the midst of another election cycle. This is then their goal: undermine free-enterprise and an incumbent presidential candidate who doesn’t support their marxist agenda.

So few are aware of the facts, or even interested; leftist leaders cower to appease the mob, conceding the racism narrative, while inner city business districts are thrashed and even more blacks are killed in riots; whites are kneeling in public self-abasement, apologizing for white privilege, and anti-unconscious bias training is suddenly being imposed at my work.

It’s difficult to engage in honest dialogue about the real problems, at least between opposing sides. Speaking out against the insanity and violence, or even being related to someone who dares to, is suddenly cause to be fired. It’s craziness on an epic scale, and it’s evidently not up for debate – that might expose the real issues and lead to real solutions. But this isn’t the intent of those who are rioting, or of those supporting them.

So, do black lives matter? Of course they do, as much as any lives. (Ro 10:12) But no one of interest is saying otherwise, so why are we rioting about it?

This isn’t the right question, because racism isn’t the real issue. What are the right questions?

Is it wrong to resist police? Yes, it’s immoral to fight civic authority – always. (Ro 13:2) This concept is fundamental to our way of life, dear to Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. Without this we cannot live in peace, yet open contempt for police is being excused in the name of justice, making it even more difficult to police our streets and endangering us all. Simply teaching our children to respect authority solves a lot of problems, all by itself.

And what about responsibility? What part do life choices play in our success? (Pr 13:23)

In 1965, with civil rights in place, one in four (25%) black children were born out of wedlock. By 2015, half a century later, (77%) it was 3 out of 4!

Fatherlessness is now rampant in the US, and this isn’t due to racism or police brutality; it’s massive social pathology – no culture can defy basic moral reality on such a scale and survive. (Ma 4:6) Some ethnic groups do much worse than others, but it’s unrelated to skin color; it lies in our mindset, our world view. Imagining we’re powerless victims promotes irresponsibility, resentment and hatred, in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. (Pr 22:13)

Taking personal responsibility for our own welfare is how we escape poverty, and it’s independent of race: apply yourself in school, prepare for the work force, and get a job before starting a family. (Pr 24:27) When low income children follow this path, the odds they’ll end up back in poverty are only 6%.* It’s the American way – how our society works. So, how do we empower more of the poor to get on board?

Our primary obstacle isn’t actually the poor – corrupt politicians subvert all that would be helpful: wholesome values, charter schools, safe streets, job-rich economies. Pretending to align with the poor by promising handouts, they’re empowered by dependency, division and fear. When they do obtain power they don’t actually fix anything. Why would they? Once the poor find their own way, who needs socialist politicians?

All this hullabaloo isn’t about racism, or the poor; it’s about power.

We must be so much more careful who we put in office. We can no longer afford to vote sentimentally, based on on how we feel; scrutinize candidates for a track record of solving complex, real-world problems. Seldom will any politician actually be good; the right choice will be the lesser of two evils.

And what about white privilege? The term itself is racist: attributing characteristics to an individual because of their race. There’s no other reasonable way to define racism, and we must have no part of it.

Should anyone apologize for some perceived advantage? being white, or male, or healthy, or beautiful, or American, or having parents who didn’t divorce or abuse them? No – it’s irrational to feel guilty for what we don’t control, something we didn’t personally do. This does no one any good. We should be thankful for every privilege, and diligently make the best of every honest opportunity; this is good for everyone.

We don’t love by bowing to unreasonable demands, but by speaking truth to those who are seeking it, and by helping those in need who are doing what they can to help themselves. (Ga 2:10)

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