The Doc File

The online journal of Luke Dockery

Tag: Poverty

The Fall of Man and the Sociological Consequences of Sin

Aftermath of Boston Marathon bombing.

In our continuing discussion of the Fall of Man in Genesis 3 and the widespread devastation of sin, we have already covered the theological and personal consequences of Adam and Eve’s misdeed; in this post we turn to the sociological fallout of that sin, or the way that sin affects our relationships with one another.

Returning to our text, we can see this dimension clearly played out in verses 11-13:

“[God] said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’”

People were created to live in community with one another. Specifically, Eve was created to be the perfect partner for Adam (Genesis 2.18-25). But when God confronts Adam and Eve with their sin, something very significant (and unfortunate) happens: the unity that had previously existed between Adam and Eve is shattered as Adam immediately blames his wife for the sin which they had committed together.

This brings a conflict and disharmony between them that would be passed down over time (Genesis 3.16), and we can see it unfold in the pages of Genesis in the accounts of numerous broken relationships—Cain’s murder of his brother, the depraved society of Sodom and Gomorrah, the distorted relationships between Sarah and Hagar, Jacob and Esau, Jacob and Laban, Joseph and his brothers, and more. But the problems certainly don’t stop there—this same conflict and disharmony continues to darken and distort our world today.

Our world is deeply flawed by sin, and this manifests itself everyday sociologically, as we treat one another in a wide array of horrible, messed up ways:
  • On an international level, countries wage war and kill because of conflict over ideology or resources.
  • Systemic evils such as poverty, abortion, racism, sex trafficking, government corruption, lotteries, and more stem from our exploitation of our neighbors in order that we might obtain our own selfish desires.
  • Horrific acts of incomprehensible violence fill our news cycles. Mass shootings at elementary schools, the use of passenger airliners as terrorist missiles, bombings at marathon finish lines and incomprehensible barbarity at soccer matches shock and dismay us and cause us to weep.
  • Our interpersonal relationships are also a mess. Dishonesty, reckless ambition, and violence abound. The (supposedly) lifelong bonds of marriage are broken on a whim.
And the sum result: our society as a whole stagnates and decays, as people live lives marked by self-interest and fear of one another. The community for which we were created is broken.
Sin destroys our relationships with one another.

Destroying the Works of Satan

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at a youth rally and my topic was the purpose of the church. I talked about how the church is God’s vehicle for saving the world today (through the preaching of the gospel), for influencing the world and trying to make it a better place (through service), and equipping Christians for those first two tasks (through education and discipleship).

And those are all pretty standard ideas—we hear about those things a lot when we talk about what the church should do. But the church has another important purpose that is often neglected in such discussions: the mission of the church is to oppose and destroy the works of Satan.

In 1 John 3.8, John said that Jesus came to earth so that “He might destroy the works of the devil.” In Ephesians 6.12, Paul says that our struggle as Christians is not against flesh and blood, but against the forces of darkness.

These verses make it clear that as the church, we are a part of a spiritual battle against Satan and his influence. Moral corruption and sin are the works of the Devil (and we focus on things like that a lot),  but so are things like disease, starvation, poverty, terrorism, and racism.

When you look at all the sad and messed up stuff that happens in our world—do you think God likes that stuff? Of course not! Children starving to death in the developing world, or innocent people being killed because of racial wars, or bombs going off at marathon finish lines—those are works of Satan, and when we take part in efforts to fight against those things, we are fulfilling the purpose of the church in opposing and destroying the works of the Devil.

To me, realizing that when we fight against evil, we’re part of a cosmic struggle and are fighting against Satan himself gives us a whole new level of motivation for doing it. The decisions we make each and every day are important because we have the opportunity to stand up against evil.

A cosmic struggle against evil: think about that the next time one of your friends tells a racist joke—are you going to sit there and laugh at the works of Satan, or realizing that God loves all people regardless of race and that racism comes from Satan, are you going to speak up and put a stop to it?

Or the next time you have an opportunity to give to people, maybe people living on the other side of the world who have less than you do—are you going to be willing to use what you have to fight against the works of Satan like poverty and starvation, or are you going to hold onto those things so you can continue to pursue the idolatry of the “American dream”?

Studies show that a whole bunch of teens leave the church after high school, and I think a big reason for that is because it just doesn’t seem like the work of the church is all that important. After all, if we narrow down what church is to only a couple hours of activity a week, of course its importance is going to be diminished. But when we realize the cosmic nature of the struggle we are involved in—saving the world, serving the world, training Christians to do those things, and opposing the works of Satan—we see that the church is absolutely a cause worth giving our lives to.

Ice Cream Offsets

Several months ago, in a post about how Christians should use their blessings to bless others, I mentioned that Americans spend $20 billion each year on ice cream, which is enough money to provide everyone in the world with food and clean water for a year.

That statistic blew me away when I first heard it, and after I referenced it in a sermon (shortly before I included it in the blog post), it became particularly convicting to me—I just couldn’t get over the amount of good that could be done if the collective money we threw away on ice cream could be channeled into helping others.

After being bothered about it for a while, I came up with the idea of “Ice Cream Offsets”. Based loosely on the (somewhat humorous) notion of carbon offsets, Caroline and I decided that we would scrupulously keep track of the amount of money we spent on ice cream for the remainder of the year, and then donate that same amount to an organization dedicated to fighting hunger.

Certainly I realize that this is not the most efficient way to combat world hunger—after all, I could just cut out ice cream altogether and donate even more money. However, I felt like this was a tangible way for us to take part in the solution of a problem, and theoretically, if every American did the same, world hunger would cease to be an issue (besides, we like to eat ice cream!).

So, here are our ice cream expenditures since late March of 2011, when I began to keep track (You’ll notice that Caroline and I are particular fans of Cold Stone Creamery):

  • Shake at Steak n’ Shake (3/27)—$3.00
  • Maggie Moos (5/14)—$4.50
  • Klondike bars from Wal-Mart (Uncertain date)—$3.00
  • Cold Stone Creamery (Uncertain date)—$9.32
  • Cold Stone (7/1)—$9.32
  • Cold Stone (7/14)—$9.44
  • Cold Stone (7/31)—$9.32
  • Cookies and Cream from Wal-Mart (8/23)—$2.00
  • Andy’s (9/4)—$6.00
  • Cold Stone (9/9)—$9.32
  • Cold Stone (12/31)—$9.32
  • Total for the year—$74.54

To “offset” the amount of money we spent on ice cream in 2011, we made a $75 donation to Lifebread, which is a neat organization that helps to fight hunger and poverty in Africa in a unique way, while also spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.

One final note: the intention of this post wasn’t to make you think how generous we are for doing this—a $75 donation didn’t require a great sacrifice from us and we don’t deserve any praise for making it. However, as Christians, I believe we are to look for ways to give more and more of ourselves all the time (including our time, our efforts, and our money), and this was one way for us to do this. Maybe it will encourage someone else to do something similar.

Using Our Blessings To Bless Others

As Americans, how blessed are we?

Here’s a staggering statistic: each year, Americans spend roughly $20 billion on ice cream. That sounds like a lot of money (because it is), but it’s such a big number that it’s hard to understand or quantify. So what could you do with $20 billion, the amount that Americans spend each year on ice cream?

That amount of money would be enough to provide everyone in the world with food and clean water for a year.1

Wow. That blows me away (and makes me feel a little sick to my stomach).

Recently, I read Crazy Love by Francis Chan—you may have heard of it because it’s a super trendy Christian book at the moment. Honestly, I wasn’t all that impressed (which is my general reaction to super trendy Christian books), but Chan did have some good things to say, and this quotation alone may have been worth the price of the whole book:

“Remember the story where Jesus fed thousands of people with one boy’s lunch? In that story, according to Mathew, Jesus gave the loaves to His disciples and then the disciples passed them out to the crowd. Imagine if the disciples had simply held onto the food Jesus gave them, continually thanking Him for providing lunch for them. That would’ve been stupid when there was enough food to feed the thousands who were gathered and hungry.

But that is exactly what we do when we fail to give freely and joyfully. We are loaded down with too many good things, more than we could ever need, while others are desperate for a small loaf. The good things we cling to are more than money; we hoard our resources, our gifts, our time, our families, our friends. As we begin to practice regular giving, we see how ludicrous it is to hold on to the abundance God has given us and merely repeat the words thank you.”2

As Christians, we’re pretty good about being thankful for what we have, but probably not as good as we should be at sharing what we have with others—and it should be pretty obvious that just saying “thank you” falls short of the standard that Jesus sets for His followers when there are others around us in desperate need (see James 2.14-17).

As Rob Bell puts it:

“The best question isn’t, ‘What can I get?’ To take the way of Jesus seriously, is to realize that the best question is, ‘What can I give?’ Because all of us can give something—here, now, today, and then tomorrow and then the next day. What can you do to be more generous? What is the next step for you? You have been blessed. What can you give? Who are you going to bless?”3

It is imperative that we as Christians learn to move beyond saying “thank you” to getting to the point where we consciously and intentionally think about how we can use what we have to bless others.


• • •

1Rob Bell, “Rich,” NOOMA 13 (2006).
2Francis Chan, Crazy Love (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2008), 120-21.

3Bell, “Rich.”

Abortion, Part 3: How I Vote

This is the third part in a series on abortion, and specifically on why I feel abortion is the single most important issue when it comes to voting. My views on abortion are based on certain philosophies and premises, which you can catch in Part 1 and Part 2.

In this post, I’m going to shift gears a bit and try to explain how I vote in general. It’s been a difficult post to write in a lot of ways, but it’s been good for me to flesh out my thoughts.

Abstaining From Politics

As a quick note, I should mention that there are some who believe that Christians should abstain from politics and voting altogether. After all, our true allegiance is to Christ, not some earthly office or entity, and Christianity is about being salt and light, not about getting others to do what God wants via legislation.

While I respect that view, I also believe that the thinking behind it is flawed—I’m confident that God wants us to use every avenue we have to influence others for good and inject the values of His Kingdom into the world, including our political voice.

Political Parties

On my Facebook profile, my political views are listed as “Inconsistent”. I described them as such not because I consider them to be inconsistent with each other, but because I consider them to be inconsistent with either of the two major parties that dominate our political landscape today.

Generally, I have conservative views on economic issues. As a product of (among other things) Harding University’s Belden Center for Private Enterprise, I believe that capitalism, low taxation, and limited government regulation of business are generally good things.

That being said, those views (some of which are pretty strong) don’t really impact my vote that much because at the end of the day, no matter which party is in control, as Americans, we are among the wealthiest people in the world. If our economic recession lasts longer than expected and cuts deeper than expected, as Americans, we will still be among the wealthiest people in the world.

Instead, the side of politics that matters more to me are the “social” issues, or maybe a better term (which I’ll use for the rest of this post) would be “moral” issues. From a Christian perspective, it’s fundamental that morality is more important than money—how good you are is more important than how rich you are.

And that’s my major problem with the Republican Party—while they may agree with me on many moral issues, when push comes to shove, they just don’t consider those issues to be as important as money. And worse, I think some Republican candidates don’t care about them at all, but just pay lip service to them in order entice me to vote for them.

Of course, on the other hand, you have the Democrats, who I disagree with on a lot of moral issues and disagree with on economic policies.

So here I am, inconsistent with both major political parties, determining my vote based on the issues that I think are most important—the moral ones.

Moral Issues

Christians (and others) who support pro-choice candidates are quick to point out that there are a lot of moral issues besides just abortion—and they’re right. There’s a bunch of them, and I could probably do weeks’ worth of posts covering them all, but instead, I’ll just briefly mention a few in order to illustrate that my views are somewhat scattered across the political spectrum (I won’t mention abortion, since that’s the subject of the next post).

As I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, the teachings of Jesus on the “Least of These” influence my thinking on a lot of these issues:

“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 also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, “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.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

(Matthew 25.41-46.)

Environment

God created this world for us to use, and also for us to take care of. This idea of stewardship represents a balance that I think a lot of people miss.

Having said that, I think the case for Global Warming (or, “Global Climate Change” now that statistics show that we’re not warming as originally predicted) is unconvincing, and has become overly politicized, as evidenced by the fact that the significant number of scientists who have refuted global warming have been silenced and ridiculed.

Gay Marriage

God defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, and as Christians, I think we should do what we can to support that definition. To me, that certainly includes opposing gay marriage, but at the same time acknowledging that, with the divorce rates we have, American heterosexual couples are doing a good enough job of destroying marriage without help from anyone else. Let’s protect marriage, but let’s also admit that homosexuals aren’t the only ones who are bringing damage upon it.

Immigration

The Bible is pretty clear as to how we are to treat the foreigner—with hospitality. Because of this, I have very little patience with the general position of the Right on immigration.

I realize that we have a lot of illegal immigrants in this country, but I’m also virtually certain that the vast majority of them would choose to become legal if it were easier for them to do so. That’s what I call the iTunes Effect: when the iTunes store gave people an affordable, legal alternative to stealing music, many, many people immediately took advantage of it. I may be naive, but I think immigration would work in much the same way.

Furthermore the U.S. has always been a country of immigrants. It’s how we got our beginning, and it’s what gives us our identity. The Statue of Liberty actually says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free…” but all too many people seem to want to add an “unless they’re from Mexico” clause to the end. I think that’s ridiculous. And sad. And not biblical.

Poverty

I feel convinced in my own mind that ideally, it should be the job of the Church, not government, to take care of the poor, but considering that Christendom as a whole hasn’t done a very good job of that, government helping out might not be a bad idea.

I question whether or not the typical policies of the Democratic Party really help out the poor that much, but at least, in theory, their heart is in the right place. And to those with more conservative views who think that taxation basically amounts to stealing (a view I’m sensitive to), I think it’s important to remember that Jesus didn’t say, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s—unless he asks for more than you want to give him.”

At the same time, I see a lot of inconsistency regarding political views on poverty. If poverty was such a big deal to the Left, you would think they would also oppose things like state lotteries (which statistics have shown feed off of the poor) and alternative fuel sources such as ethanol, which take food (corn) and turn it into fuel when thousands of people around the world starve every day. It makes me wonder if poverty is the Left’s lip service issue just as abortion is the Right’s.

War

I know that this is a major issue with some people, so I may not do it justice in my brief comments, but I’ll try.

I’m not a pacifist. I think war is a terrible thing, and should be avoided when possible, but I also think it can be justified. I think that’s a Biblical view, although I respect the opinions of those who disagree.

Regarding our current war, I know it’s very unpopular, but if we’re honest, I think we’d acknowledge two things. First, back when war was declared, the vast majority of politicians (although our President-Elect is a notable exception) and the vast majority of American citizens were in favor of it. I think too many people are trying to deny responsibility for that. Secondly, having made the decision to go to war, it’s incredibly irresponsible to just pack up and leave in the middle when all indications are that things will get worse if you do. That might be the case now, and it certainly was the case back when the Left first started demanding a pullout.

Having said that, if all the Iraq War accomplished or all it was about was removing a dictator from power who had committed genocide on his own people, then I think it was justified. Similarly, if Hitler had decided not to invade every country in Europe but had still gassed every Jew he could get his hands on, I think war would have been justified in that situation as well.

Conclusion

Once again, my point in bringing up all these issues is not so much to convince anyone on any particular subject, but rather to illustrate what I believe is a consistency among my views on different moral subjects, but an inconsistency between the moral views I hold and the views generally held by either major political party.

So what does that leave me with? Since there are clearly a lot of moral issues, and my views on these issues don’t all line up neatly with a specific party, how can I ever choose to vote for one candidate or another?

Well, if all issues were created equal (you can see where I’m going with this), I wouldn’t be able to—I’d be locked in a stalemate of conscience. But that’s not the case. Sometimes, the magnitude of a particular issue can make it so important that it should take preeminence over all others.

Slavery was such an issue, and abortion is another.

© 2019 The Doc File

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑