When people talk about original sin, they love to point to toddlers committing two obvious sins: lying and screaming “MINE!” all the time. It’s so desperate and obvious it makes us laugh.
Nobody laughs when adults do it, though.
Which is why I am bothered by the sudden eruption of Christians, most of them political conservatives, who are screaming “MINE!” when they don’t like the idea of the government redistributing wealth. It’s not that I don’t blame them. I’m very sympathetic. I don’t like the government taking my money and giving it to someone else, either.
Did you notice the word my in that last sentence? Think about that for a moment. Then think about this: It’s a very short trip from complaining about giving money to the government so the government can give it to other people who may need it to complaining about giving money to the Lord so the Church can give it to other people who may need it.
The Bible says this:
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Part of what made the early Church so radical to the Jews is that they got the concept of being dead. They understood it legally and spiritually. Someone declared legally dead could no longer be said to own anything. And spiritually, they understood it based on what John the Baptist initiated and Jesus advocated as the way of fulfilling all righteousness:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
When you and I went down in that water, what came up from it was new. Whatever we were died. And what emerged from that water had no claims on the old life and the things of the world, for that new person was dead to those things, a new life now joined to Christ in His death.
This is why baptism has seen its meaning diminish in most churches today: We don’t stress that the person who comes out of that water is not the person who went in. We don’t talk about the burial. We don’t mention the old life that was abandoned for a new one that has us living as if all you and I own now is Christ, for we are in Him, and all we have is Him.
Those in the early Church understood the full meaning, though, which is why they could say what they did:
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.
Many will reply that I’m opposing capitalism. That’s the usual retort. But the truth is that I haven’t seen genuine capitalism in a long time. Genuine capitalism is a fantastic economic system in the hands of God-fearing people. In the hands of such godly people it works beautifully on a local scale for they balance the health of the local community against any race to the price bottom by any one controlling interest.
But the truth is that capitalism today is run by people who do not fear God. Such godless people long ago abandoned the health of the local economy in favor of globalism, where all that matters is the lowest possible price—which means that someone inevitably suffers for that price because community loses all meaning when the entire planet is involved.
Plenty of Christians make excuses for the condition of capitalism today. If I read my Bible correctly, though, I can’t see that God was ever keen on excuses.
Capitalism, socialism, communism—all have their evils. But the one system I never hear enough about, the one that is 100 percent evil-free is God’s system, the Kingdom (or call it Kingdomism, if you like).
The economy of God’s Kingdom is made up of people who died to self and gave up the childish notion of “MINE!” These people are puzzled by arguments in favor of 10 percent, because each of them realizes that all that is around them is in play at all times for the Lord and His Kingdom. Their lives and everything in them are 100 percent purchased and owned by Jesus.
We live in what some have deemed a “praise & worship generation.” I would argue that few of us understand what genuine worship is, especially in the context of our death and burial in Christ.
This classic verse says it all:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
We are the sacrifice. And just a little study shows us from the Scriptures that what is sacrificed is never intended to get up from the altar, dust itself off, and go on as if nothing happened. No, the outcome for the sacrifice is death. And it isn’t a 10 percent death or even a generous 15 percent one, but 100 percent.
But that is my worship: 100 percent of all I am and anything connected to me. That is the life that fully celebrates Jesus and worships Him in Spirit and in truth.
Do we understand how far we are from the ways of the Kingdom? I know I do. And I understand it more each day. I want to crawl off the altar of sacrifice. I don’t want to be dead. I like “MINE!” too much, too.
Yet as each day passes, I enjoy that kind of compromised, half-dead, zombie-like existence less and less. Now, I can see what Jesus intended. And it is so much more than any of us can comprehend.
I want to be fully dead. It’s the only way to truly live.
16 thoughts on “Bank Account of the Living Dead”
Beautiful, Dan! Your thoughts on capitalism are right on. People say it’s the death of it now, and perhaps it is, the death of what capitalism has become, not what capitalism can be in the ways you mentioned. Adam Smith would be appalled at what is called capitalism today. Wasn’t there a sense that capitalism would only truly work if people were of a benevolent spirit?
But even more than this, you’re also right about our knee-jerk reaction to grasp what isn’t ours in the first place. Even if we don’t want the government to take it, can we at least be a little more winsome with our verbiage? Do we have to follow the lead of the talk radio/tv people? We’re not trying to hold onto a slot on the airwaves and sell advertising. We can afford to be calm and keep from slandering people. We have eternity, right? And isn’t our testimony as peace-filled followers of Christ more important than what happens in our government?
And don’t even get me started on fear. Those who shouldn’t have a bit of it are those who allow it to rage through them. Some of the comments I see on facebook and blogs etc. would lead one to think God took a nap. It’s practical atheism at it’s most pathetic if we truly believe in the power of Christ. But, oh yeah, he let himself be nailed to a cross. (Who wants to think about *that* in times like these.)
And now I’m rambling.
Thanks for writing!
I think this last year for me has been one of understanding (and not just in a head knowledge way, as I already knew these things that way) that:
1. I am not in control.
2. All that I am and all that I have is God’s.
3. If I do not learn to die, I will never fully live.
4. I am selfish by nature, but I am putting on Christ’s nature, which is perfect.
5. We Christians in America are so very far off the mark. We have syncretized the true Faith with American civil religion and worldliness.
And I am just as bad as most people. Where I feel things are different for me is that I now see this and realize how far off the mark I am.
I’ll echo Lisa’s comments — tremendous post. Thanks, Dan.
Thanks for reading and for being a friend, Bob!
Dan, I’m a little confused. I understand that we are to be sacrificed 100% to God, but I don’t see how that should mean we are to be 100% sacrificed to the government.
Although I’m sure there are Christians out there who are greedy and ungenerous in general, I suspect, or rather hope that most Christians make a distinction between God and government when thinking about what is theirs.
As a blood bought, engrafted, adopted, child/servant of the living God I completely belong to Him and everything that I am or have is because of Him. I have no rights in this matter. I am a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ (God help me to be a good one!).
As a free citizen of the United States of America however, I not only have the right, but also the duty to scrutinize, protest, agitate, and argue over things like taxes and so forth. To do any less would make me an ungrateful and irresponsible citizen who is doing wrong by my fellow countrymen and government by letting things just take place without engaging in the political system. That is how our government is meant to work.
Yes there are bad people involved in Capitalism, (I actually prefer the term ‘free markets’, which is more explanatory . I think ‘Capitalism’ was coined by Karl Marx if I remember correctly.), there are also bad people involved in Christianity. Should this cause me lump it together with ‘-isms and ‘-anities’ that are bad and then toss it out the window? I don’t think so.
Just as we owe it to God to be ‘sold out’ completely to him, we owe it to our national Forefathers to be responsible with the great (but imperfect) system that they have left us with.
I think Jesus summed it up pretty well when he said” Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”
With all that being said, I completely agree with the overall idea of your post. God help us to be truly dead so that we can be truly alive!
I enjoy your writing immensely and have been challenged in many ways by your insights. Keep up the good work!
In truth, this post has almost nothing to do with government.
The point I’m trying to make is that I hear a lot of Christians howling about the redistribution of wealth. My question is this: If they hate the government doing it, how sympathetic are they to the Church doing it? I’ve got to believe the answer to that is “not very sympathetic at all.” If you and I are howling “MINE!” in one case, aren’t we going to do the same in ALL cases? C’mon, let’s be honest here!
I have long stated at Cerulean Sanctum that Christians howling about the way the government works is exceedingly hollow. For the very things we howl about are those functions that the Church in America voluntarily surrendered. The Church used to be the entity that redistributed wealth, but it seems we are not as much interested in doing that as we once were, just as we once ran most of the world’s health care and are not so much involved in doing it, at least here in the States.
What I am coming to realize is that I really don’t own anything. If God wants anything of mine, as someone who is now dead to the world, then He gets it. Period. No questions asked. Done.
That’s a hard concept to grasp for us Americans because it flies in the face of the American Dream and the core concepts of rights and self-determination. The problem is that God’s Kingdom and the American Empire don’t always align. Sadly, too many Christians choose America over the Kingdom.
I don’t judge them, though, because I tend to be more American than I am Christian. But I’m slowly changing my emphasis and allegiance. Not because I don’t love America, only that I love the Lord and His Kingdom more. That’s where my allegiance should be.
Realizing that God wasn’t a communist was a big obstacle in my faith. I resisted (or maybe more accurately used it as an excuse for my resistance) because I didn’t like the idea of communism on political and social grounds.
But the more I’ve worked on that relationship with God, the more I’ve learned (and been taught) that God isn’t a capitalist either.
I think God is fine with people having lots of stuff. I think God wants people to be blessed and have “things”. But not if those things get in the way with a relationship with him.
Wealth all too easily becomes an idol.
Wealth not only becomes an idol but it blinds people also. It’s like the move The Matrix and “the world that has been pulled over your eyes.” It’s one of the world systems, and because it is so prevalent and enormous, we have a hard time grasping it and how it influences everything we do.
The Gospel shatters that illusion.
I’m having a very hard time justifying capitalism as it is now practiced, without any input from Scripture. It’s become nothing but a “I’ll get mine whether or not it hurts anyone else” game.
I also think that if Christians had understood that 100% belonged to God and been willing to sacrificially give to those in need, we wouldn’t be giving as much of “our” money to the government.
I’ve said this before and have been rebuked for it, but all along in this scandal that nearly destroyed our economy, Christians certainly stood in the gap and could’ve said something. But they didn’t. I know that there were believers at all levels in some of these investments banks who could have opposed all these ludicrous debt vehicles. But did they? Or were they more worried about their jobs? Or worse, were they convincing themselves that, hey, everyone else is doing it, so why should I not get in on a piece of the action, even if it will blow up someday?
Excellent post Dan,
I think the comment about “Render unto Caesar” is an interesting one, for the opposite reason that the commentator intended. The Jewish people did not like the Tax, and wanted to use it as a way to trap Jesus.
His response was one that loosely communicated, “Don’t fight it.”
Paul says similar things as to our response about those in authority over us.
Seems our capitalistic response is maybe not the way that Jesus or Paul would have done things.
I have never heard a sermon that correctly identifies Jesus’ second part of that verse. I don’t believe we correctly interpret the “and to God the things that are God’s.” We immediately think money. But what is God’s?
Well, I am. I belong to God. Am I rendering myself to God? Am I being a living sacrifice like in Romans 12:1?
That’s the answer that so seldom is heard.
What is Communism without the use of force? Giving. 🙂
I discovered your blog in a search for Terry Talbot’s song “Bibleland,” and I’ve been enjoying looking around. I really appreciate your discussion of this subject! So often in political/public discourse, Christianity is warped out of recognition. You restore its clarity here.
Have you ever seen ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’? It’s an ’80’s movie about a tribe of bushmen who discover a discarded Coke bottle, and it tears at the fabric of their community because it introduces the concept of ownership. (They decide to get rid of it, in fact.) I was reminded of it as I read this; in some ways it could be read as a parable of what’s happened in the American church.
Thanks for being a new reader! The Best Of links in the sidebar can direct you to some of the more stimulating posts here on Cerulean Sanctum. I hope you stick around and contribute to the conversation.
Yes, I have seen that movie. Your illustration using it makes perfect sense and is highly apt. Thanks.