Vegar Ottesen

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En nåde-sentrert og Jesus-etterfølgende politikk

Publisert: 17. sep 2011 / 775 visninger.

Følgende post skrev jeg på engelsk for et annet forum. Jeg kan forsåvidt oversette det, men oversettelser fjerner ofte en språklig komponent som ikke alltid er ubetydelig. Jeg har derfor valgt, iallefall i første omgang, å ikke oversette teksten. Tross språket tror jeg posten - på engelsk eller norsk - vil kunne være av interesse for lesere her på Verdidebatt.no.

Some people, Christians and non-Christians alike consider capitalism the sole answer in the political scene of this day and age. Many disregard the consequences an excessively strict (or loose) adherence to capitalism can cause. I think we need to consider the political scene to be wider. More diverse. Capitalism, in it’s true form fosters a love for money, it's the driving force behind the ideology after all - the individual's desire for personal profit. Which according to the bible is antithetical to love for God. Love for money, and a system which rewards and encourages this tends strengthen the strong at the expense of the poor. One might call it economically based social darwinism. Especially when it is taken too far.

We as Christians have a calling above and beyond the making of money. Ours is the duty and privilege to help those in need. To work for love and righteousness. In this post I will concern myself mainly with one particular group Jesus was a part of, and the bible speaks very fondly of: The poor.

Mother Teresa helping the poor

The bible is very clear about what we as Christians should do regarding the poor. There are many verses concerning both what to do with the poor, what mentality we should have towards them and what consequences we will face should we help them, or neglect them.

Let us begin with what the bible says about helping them:

Deut. 15:7 If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

Deut. 26:12. When you have finished paying the complete tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and the widow, that they may eat in your towns, and be satisfied.

Lev. 19:19. Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God.

Is. 58:66 Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Jer. 22:3. Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

Luke 12:33."Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys."

Luke 3:11. And [John the Baptist] would answer and say to them, "Let the man with two tunics share with him who has none, and let him who has food do likewise."

Mt. 5:42. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

So we can see that the bible is indeed quite clear in it’s instructions: “Help the poor”. It is also very clear that there are benefits to giving this help:

Prov. 22:9 He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.

Jer. 22:16 "Did not your father eat and drink, and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; then it was well. Is that not what it means to know Me?" declares the LORD.(my emphasis)

Deut. 15:10. You shall give generously to [your poor brother], and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings.

Prov. 19:17. He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed.

Jer. 7:5-7. "For, if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever."

Is. 58:10. "And if you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness, and your gloom will become like midday. And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail."

Luke 14:12-14.When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Luke 12:44. "Sell your possessions and give alms; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

Mt. 19:20. The young man said to Him, "All these commands I have kept; what am I still lacking?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

I think we can say that helping others is probably a blessing in itself. Mercy and compassion have good effects on us as the merciful and compassionate as well as the one receiving the help. Yet sometimes, even though we know we are supposed to help others, and realize that doing so brings benefits and blessings we do not always consider the effects of just standing by, and watch.

This also does have consequences though. Not helping and not showing compassion can be harmful. As Albert Einstein put it: “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

The bible reveals that God has more than a few thoughts on the matter of just standing by and NOT helping the poor:

Ezek. 16:49. "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it."

Is. 10:1-3. "Woe to those who enact evil statutes, and to those who continually record unjust decisions, so as to deprive the needy of justice, and rob the poor of My people of their rights... Now what will you do in the day of punishment, and in the devastation which will come from afar?"

Luke 1:52. "He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were hungry. He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed."

Ezek. 22:29,31."The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice... Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads," declares the Lord GOD.

Jer. 5:28."[The wicked] do not plead the cause, the cause of the orphan, that they may prosper; and they do not defend the rights of the poor. Shall I not punish these people?" declares the LORD. "On such a nation as this, shall I not avenge myself?"

James 5:1-6.1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

Luke 6:24. "But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full"

Luke 16:19-25. "Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs would come and lick his sores.
Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.'
But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony...'"

And of course, one verse sums what will happen to those who give and those who don’t quite nicely:

Mt. 25:31-46. "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on His left.
Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'
Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite you in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'
And the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'
Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'
Then they themselves will also answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?'
Then He will answer them, saying, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Harsh words. Perhaps necessary though. If everyone contributed and helped in an organized fashion, there would be no poverty in the world.
Yet how does this connect with politics? Does the bible say much about how governments are to approach the issue? Not much I believe. Not directly. But there are some verses. Prov. 31:8 says the following as a commandment to kings: "Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy." - not to mention that Jesus in His time never said that the aid to the poor and unfortunate should not come from a collective system as well as the individual.

We need to look at the intention of the bible. God clearly identifies with and yearns to help the poor, as shown in the verses above. He has commanded us to help them, to fight for them. To speak for those who cannot speak themselves. He even says "woe to those who are rich, for they are receiving their comforts in full". Can we then support a system that helps the rich at the expense of the poor? Can we excuse supporting such a system by saying “It matters not, I give on a private basis so I will not give on a collective basis”? I do not think we can. A government can reach further than our own two hands. Combining public aid and private would probably be dynamite compared to either alone.

As it is very clear Christians are supposed to be loving, caring, helping the poor, freeing the captives and so on, it is important that we seek to do this in all aspects of our lives. And this includes politics. We need to seek a solution that the poor will benefit from. It is time we apply the love, compassion and care Christianity as a religion, relationship and ideology has in it's very core to this sadly neglected part of our modern lives (in democracies) that is politics. I am not suggesting we make he governments Christian, just that we work as the bible tells us - as advocates for the hungry, the poor, the weak, the downtrodden and oppressed. The best way to do this is probably to help them stand on their own legs. To ensure that they get paid fairly for their jobs. To help them get free healthcare, clean water and perhaps most importantly, make sure they all get a decent education. An educated person has more resources with which to approach the world, with which to conquer problems and be a resource in his or her community.

We need, as always, to not only look abroad, but also look to the poor and needy right among us. While we may live in rich countries or rich neighborhoods, we must not neglect those who live in our own nations as well as foreigners. We need to fight for and support a political system that encourages and provides an education. We need a system that provides necessary healthcare for all. That will work to ensure good public services like clean water. The necessary infrastructure and so on. In doing this capitalism has failed. We need a viable alternative. Socialistic democracy, social liberalism or ‘the third way’ provide the political systems already put in place. Applied Christianity is possible. We only need to seek it, and work for it. For the sake of the poor, and through them the sake of Jesus Christ.

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