THE CLASH OF CASH AND TRASH AT THE INTERSECTION OF MAMMON AND JESUS

If you were to take a seat on a bench near the corner of 4th St and Ave R on most any given day in the city of Lubbock, Texas, you would see, more often than not, a beggar “flying a sign” asking for money.  If you were a concerned Christian living in Lubbock, Texas and drove by this intersection, you would immediately begin evaluating the circumstance, your level of concern, and the options by which you might interact.  Of course the evaluations and considerations you engage in do not happen in a moral, emotional, political, economic, psychological, sociological, or spiritual vacuum, but rather all of these filters quickly come to bear on your thoughts.

The stage is now set for drama.  Not some shoot’m up action flick (so don’t get too excited), but in the heavens and behind the veil there is a drama unfolding which is playing out in our world here and now, yet goes almost unnoticed (so maybe take it serious anyway).  We will call our not-so-Shakespearean play The Clash of Cash and Trash at the Intersection of Mammon and Jesus.

Now, I am no politician, no economist, and I am not a psychologist (though I play one in my mind sometimes), but I am a street minister who has read my Bible and has been involved with street ministry over most of the last two decades.  During that time, I have witnessed the politically minded, the economists, and the shrinks coming out of the woodwork to guide our “concerned Christian living in Lubbock, Texas” in the ways of ministering to the beggars addressing the church, various parachurch organizations, and doing so supposedly in honor of Jesus.

The almost universal conclusion they come to is that this “concerned Christian living in Lubbock, Texas” will do harm to the beggar (and to themselves and to the larger economy) if they give a dollar (or maybe a hundred) to the beggar at the intersection of Mammon and Jesus.  They will tell us that we are “enabling” the problem to continue, that we are creating dependence upon our charity, and that we are developing a “savior complex” in ourselves while exacerbating an inferiority complex in the beggar, thus we should not give.

Oh, yeah.

They write whole books on this stuff.  Bestseller list books.  They hold seminars, webinars, teach courses, and post YouTube videos and podcasts outlining this stuff.  It has become an industry in and of itself now, and a “concerned Christian living in Lubbock, Texas” can even pay her church $30 to take their class outlining how and why NOT to give money to the poor (in the name of Jesus, of course).

If you are the “concerned Christian living in Lubbock, Texas” and you happen upon the intersection of Mammon and Jesus, you are already feeling a flood of emotions and thinking a ton of thoughts.  I cannot address them all, but they range from disgust, fear, pity, and frustration to anger, compassion, and embarrassment.  And among the thoughts… you are likely to wonder what other neighbors will think of you if you give a dollar to the beggar.

Yeah.  I think that last bit happens a lot.  Maybe not universally, but I bet that while your conscience is feeling pricked, and you consider all the stuff you have and all the lack this beggar appears to have, there is this other little battle in your soul about what people will think of you if you reach in your pocket, slow the pace of traffic piling up behind you and watching as you roll down your window and offer your alms.  And in Lubbock, Texas, odds are (if you are thinking about what other people might think) you think they will think you are a fool.

But you are in luck.  The charity industry of Lubbock, Texas is counting on you to think those thoughts and get a little bewildered by such emotions.  They are here to help with that.

If you go online or look up the phone number(s), or check the missions board at your church, you can find important charitable organizations in Lubbock where you can sign up to volunteer, and where you will be expected to undergo training in which the above mentioned books and seminars form the basic curriculum.  There you will learn to conform to the philosophies and agendas (or risk being labeled “rogue”), chief among them being NOT to give money to the beggars – but of course the organizations where you will offer your volunteer work will be more than happy to accept your offerings on behalf of the poor!

These organizations (for the most part), the bestselling authors they adhere to, and most of your fellow volunteers will offer their service, so they say, in honor of Jesus Christ.  Their lectures, books, and seminars will be peppered (to varying degrees) with Bible references.  Your fellow workers will come from various churches and will be motivated to care based on their faith.  And you, our “concerned Christian living in Lubbock, Texas,” will find it easy, then, to believe these agendas and philosophies do in fact honor Jesus.

But when you are sitting there in the little training seminar listening to all the lecture, the video, and the discussion questions, at some point there will be a chance for you to ask a question.

I want to suggest one.

“If Jesus tells the rich man in Mark 10 to sell everything he owns, give it all to the poor, count his blessings in heaven, and then to come follow him, then why is that not an option for concerned Christians living in Lubbock, Texas as they come to the intersection of Mammon and Jesus?”  

Yeah.  When Jesus tells that rich man to do that, it is in direct response to that man’s question about what he must do to inherit eternal life!  So it’s a big deal.  Now, of course you may not want to sell all you have and give it to the poor either.  And you may not sense that Jesus has demanded it of you.  After all, he was talking to that particular man on that particular occasion, and so I need not think it has anything to do with me personally and you need not think it of you either on this occasion.  I get that.  But how can the charitable organizations of Lubbock, Texas all come together and train you that what Jesus tells that man is not even an option for you?

In fact, if you follow through on the argument(s) made by some of these “authorities” leading you in this training, they will have you provide loans to the poor and charge them interest.  (A good rate, of course… in fact a charitable rate, but interest nonetheless!)  And the Bible clearly prohibits exactly that!  What happened to Jubilee and forgiveness of debt?

So here’s another question you might ask while you are there:

“Isn’t my offering of money, time, energy and skills to this charitable organization actually “enabling” the charitable organizations, the best selling authors, and in fact a whole industry to teach us not to do what Jesus says?”

 

Oh my!

 

What if I just gave a couple of dollars to the beggar instead?

Remember now, THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THE CHARITY INDUSTRY IS TRYING TO THWART!

 

If I go look at the charitable organization’s CEO’s refrigerator, will I find a beer or a bottle of wine in it?  Where did the money come from to purchase that?

 

Isn’t this starting to get a little hypocritical?  Sort of a log in your own eye kinda thingy???

 

If I go look at the charitable organization’s CEO’s search history on his computer in his office, will I find porn on it?  Where did the money come from to purchase that computer, that office, that air-conditioning and the secretary?  … oh… and the porn???

 

Oh my!

 

Does this mean that the charitable organization should not receive my money, my time, my energy?

(By their own logic, it does.)

Or does it mean there is a LOT of rethinking to do about the clash of cash and trash down at the intersection of Mammon and Jesus?

Well, I am committed to the notion that there is a lot of rethinking to do there.  But I am also mindful that if you dare to ask the simple, honest, and important questions I outline here, you will be picking a fight.

I know, because I dared to ask.

I am now one of those “rogue” kind of “concerned Christians living in Lubbock, Texas.”  I got a fight instead of honest answers.  (Oh, and I lost the fight.  I didn’t win anything.  I didn’t want to beat anyone up, but maybe get some conviction where it counts would have been a good thing.  But it got me in a fight, and I lost.)

 

So now I pose these questions to you.  You, the concerned Christian living in Lubbock, Texas.  Maybe I get some honest answers from you?  Maybe some conviction?

Think about it.

Let’s talk…

 

6 comments

  1. Tim McGee · August 29, 2020

    I was part of an organization or business people whose purpose was rooted in volunteering. Be it charitable or civic, we raised a little money and then gave it away. And we tried, sometimes successfully, to get our members to volunteer with those who received the little bit of money we gave away. It worked, for the most part. But then we decided we needed to make a bigger impact (that’s an inevitable offshoot of any “organization” led by business people). So we found ways to raise quite a bit of money, through sponsorships and fund raising events complete with all the tricks needed to separate well-off people from their money. But the more money we gained, the more organization was “needed” around the money. And we “had to” establish an actual 401(C)(3) charitable foundation. The kicker was, of course, that they money was harder to give away. We had to follow laws and rules to do so. Other “organizations” had to apply to get funding. Some had to present formally to us to tug at our hearts for money. All this, of course, were part of the various tricks to get well-off people to separate from their money. So the fund raising was even more successful. And it worked for what is was built to do–which was far less than what we did with the little bit of money we raised and gave away in the “old days.” Visible, measurable and properly accounted for was the new normal. It sucked. I left.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Agent X · August 30, 2020

      Sorry I am so slow to reply…

      Thanx for your comment. IF I am catching your drift (sorry, I am dealing with major distractions…) there is not JUST an honesty factor (or lack of it) at work here, but a red tape factor too. I have considered that factor before too.

      I don’t see the red tape factor – the complications of bureaucracy – to be worthwhile enough reasons for pulling the plug on charity. There are things that big money and bureaucratic/administrative organizations can TIPICALLY do that will not be accomplished by individuals almsgiving.

      I think it needs to be addressed, acknowledged, and therefore is never a complete answer, but I don’t think it should stop the process – necessarily.

      That said, I am not really a fan of it either. Jesus did not establish a 501c3 or any other kind of parachurch organizations. He establishes a CHURCH. These other things are nice, maybe helpful, but not actually necessary in the fullest sense. They also are not biblical or Christian. Not really.

      Jesus is sufficient. He is honest. He is SELF-sacrificial and so are the members of his body. He works miracles. He brings LOVE to bear on the world which touches hurts money never will.

      Jesus does not need the help.

      It will always be an EXTRA and never a necessity.

      Though I dont run around trying to abolish 501c3’s and so forth, I do very much try to show the distinction and to put them in a proper perspective.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. anonymous~ · August 29, 2020

    I love you guys! This is really good stuff, and please keep it up! I mean, kicking the devil in the shins every chance we get! Useries, what a joke! God forgive them, for they know not what they do!
    If it’s not obvious… I absolutely love your post!
    God bless!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agent X · August 30, 2020

      Sorry I am slow to respond!

      Thanx for your comment.

      I am so glad you are jazzed by this post.

      Yes. God forgive them. They DONT know what they do.

      I am only just figuring it out myself. But I have seen enough to know that by undercutting Jesus on the one hand (rather than trusting him in a FULL GOSPEL sense) while claiming parts of him on the other (and then finding it necessary IN THAT situation to supplement him) is to reject him in the final analysis. It is time for these PhD types to wake up to that fact.

      Look. Most of these PhD types are smarter than me. Definitely better educated and so forth. So why trust me over them? How is it that what I offer is better than their offerings?

      I think their offerings are interfered with by Mammon. Mine are not.

      When you get a JOB at a seminary or university and start publishing books, heaven help you if you too blatantly attack Mammon! If you go to chewing that out hammer and tong, you will work your way out of a job! So, there is a constant barrier there for any divided soul, and we all struggle with that!

      Like

      • anonymous~ · August 30, 2020

        Angent X, I too fight with my flesh, the devil, and the world constantly in one way or another ever day. And, yes, the PhDs of the world/church are a barrier sometimes, okay.. often, for guys like us who are able to see through their deceptions and slander of what we cherish more than life itself. As I see it, my job as a brother of Jesus is to call them out every chance I get, and that is no easy task, I know!
        I was just thinking, and praying about this last night… Crying out to God over how smart they are compared to me, and how it’s so hard to have to look at the enemies of my God on account of ugliness, and brutality of their deceptions! Hurting souls through their philosophies… Sending ( possibly) injured souls to hell over a dollar! Yet, I too have been out witted by the enemy more than I want to admit because of my pride. I’ve had to acknowledge that most people, for or against God are smarter than me, and that’s ok. Because I know who I serve! The holy one of Israel is on my side! You and I both know what Paul talked about when he said, ravinious wolves would infiltrate the church, and spare no one, paraphrasing of course. To me, these are the same phantoms that our Lord fought with when he was walking the earth.

        These guys are not of God!
        They are children of the devil trying to kill the flock that my precious Lord shed his blood for! This is what God has laid on this old man’s heart.
        I know by reading your post that your more educated than I am, and that is a good thing because God gifted you for this fight, and with the understanding, and wisdom he’s given you, you can fight them knowing it’s like David and Goliath… Their just uncircumcised Philistines ( demons) and you, my friend have the word of your testimony, and the blood of the Lamb of God on your side! So let’s both keep slinging those rock’s!! Knowing who it is that we serve! And that we are just seed planter’s for the Lord. Someone else will water 💦 them. Just keep planting those seed’s, and they will be received by the ready soil of hungry souls. I know I don’t get to pick who they are, God knows his lost children. My job is to plant his seed, and always that means something in me has to die for me to see his truth, and continue down the path through the valley of the shadow of death knowing that he is with me!
        Forgive my rambling, I’m old lol.
        To me, it’s a beautiful thing to watch, and be in the battlefield for my God! Even when I’m scared, and confused because I know he is always… Always there with me! Amen!
        Keep up the good work!

        PS: I am going to work through the book of Isaiah still. And, hopefully the rest of the prophets with God’s help, of course.

        God bless you and your family! And thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Agent X · August 30, 2020

    To my way of thinking… (and I happen to believe that a finished piece of writing has a life – sorta – of its own somewhat independent (though I don’t believe totally independent) of the writer) so you might see something in this even I missed. I say all of that still respecting that in any piece of writing, to really understand it is to attempt to understand what the writer meant by the words s/he chose and the ordering inwhich they appear. (A dance, in a sense)

    Now… putting all that existential weirdness to the side…

    To my way of thinking… the post points to (or begs further exploration of) the bit about Jesus. I did entitle it the INTERSECTION of Mammon and Jesus. While, I think I left a bit of fluidity in what that means, I think, and I hope, I drew attention THERE. And there are still lots of angles that we might come at that from which I am not at present thinking about. But as a Christian theologian, I am interested in what Jesus DOES and SAYS of primacy over what we do with those things. But then what we do with those things, I believe, are intended to honor what HE MEANS by them.

    When I read When Helping Hurts by Corbett, I am mindful AND APRECIATIVE of the fact that passages like Matt. 25 and 1 John 3 are brought up for consideration right in the opening pages of the book! And I am respectful of the fact that we all might view the meaning, the authoritative quality, the demands placed on us and so forth by those passages differently. We might all come to those passages fairly reasonably and leave with differing conclusions. I get that. And I will weigh out the reasonableness of all comers and find some more reasonable than others while maintaining respect for those I find less reasonable.

    That is starting to get complicated, I know, but not too bad at this point. It gets far more complex IN THE DETAILS of each and any argument. But at least we are IN THE GAME so to speak of being BIBLICAL at this point, and I find THAT to be respectable.

    I also appreciate their fairly good theological analysis in the first chapter (I think it was in chapter 1) about Shalom. I think they managed to not use that word, but that is what they analyzed, and their analysis was pretty good. I fault them in their application of it.

    But back up, for simplicity’s sake, to the two passages they site right in the opening pages. Matt 25 and I John 3. I find their application and their finer analysis of those passages to be wanting. In fact, I find them especially abandoned. It’s not like they open with these passages and then develop the rest of their thesis based on them. It’s more like they use these proof texts to pepper their book with Bible. Some pertinent verses got sited and then they moved on to other things for which these verses have only the least tertiary influence with – and I am being generous.

    But consider this:

    Does Jesus ever contradict himself? Does the Bible contradict itself?

    For us Bible believers, the answer is no.

    Now… there are places in the Bible where the prima facie case suggests there are in fact contradictions. And there are lots of unbelievers who have looked at the Bible and at what Jesus says and come away saying: Ha! There is contradiction.

    Thus enters the SMART people who sort this kind of thing out. We must read these things in certain contexts. It helps to read them in original languages and so forth too. But when you get a broad enough context in which to set smaller and relevant contexts, you can begin to demonstrate continuity.

    One of the simplest examples I can give for this KIND of thing comes from my academic study of APOCALYPTIC literature. Apocalyptic is highly symbolic language. To take every word of it literally is to miss the point. But of course this means you must learn to understand the symbols, and then to understand them in their ancient cultural contexts and so forth. All of that is up for grabs, it seems. But it’s not quite the anything-goes, free-for-all that it seems at first blush.

    So to demonstrate the process in language we ourselves use all the time, academic types tell us to imagine a 1000 years from now archaeologists unearth some newspapers and a couple of newsreels dealing with football and baseball. With the scant evidence they have, they theorize about how these games are played. They begin to sort out that baseball is played with a small ball, a bat and base plates and that football is played on an open field with a very odd shaped ball and endzones. These future archaeologists are doing pretty good so far, right?

    But one of the news paper clippings claims that the Dallas Cowboys beat the San Fransisco 49ers 56 to 3 in an “earth shattering game.” An “earth shattering defeat” or something to that effect.

    Now, based on other evidence about San Francisco, our archeologists know that the area is prone to earthquakes, but the sports writer was using a figure of speech which is symbolic much like Apocalyptic lit is to us. IF the archeologists take that phrase literally, they will try to theorize that we (by then) ancient ones actually thought that the game caused an earthquake!

    It is obvious to us now that such is NOT the case, but to them, it will require analysis, peer-reviewed research and debate.

    So, I am making that kind of room here for our differences of opinions. We really can come to different conclusions about Jesus and the Bible even by honest methods and one, two, or all of us might be wrong about some bits of what we see and think about that.

    However, our commitments to these things don’t become formed in emotional, political, sociological vacuums. Thus, we are not always quite as honest as it would seem. We deceive ourselves too.

    So When Helping Hurts starts off looking at some important passages and even makes some interesting theological statements, but then seems to betray all of that in favor of telling us NOT to give money to the poor – something completely foreign to the Bible and to Jesus.

    Now. Let’s be careful here.

    I did not claim that Jesus tells us to give money to the poor. There is no sentence in the Bible that I am aware of where he specifies that we give MONEY to the poor. But likewise there are none that say you shouldn’t either. But there are several sentences placed on the lips of Jesus which strongly suggest that money is at least one option! And I mean they are so strongly suggestive of it that you really MUST make a case that he didn’t mean that, and I think you have your work cut out for you in making it – IF you are going that way. However, Corbett and Fikkert just take it for granted that they don’t even need to address that at all. And in fact, their thesis leads to statements about making loans which actually do violate at multple levels multiple passages all through the Bible.

    And Jesus does tell at least one rich man to sell it all and give it to the poor! That strongly suggests giving away the MONEY. We see the church in Acts 2 and 4 doing something VERY MUCH LIKE this. Jesus says to GIVE to all who ask. He says to give freely, since it was freely given to you. He proclaims in multiple places the forgiveness of debt and of Jubilee. Mother Mary even prays about how the rich will be sent away empty! but the poor filled!!!

    Corbett and Fikkert even quote a passage about the Acts church, but fail to quote the whole verse and certainly leave out the context! I mean if they just put the whole verse in with the verses preceeding and following it, they would have had enough context to challenge their own thesis almost into the ground!!! But they ignore that instead.

    So, they show me that on the one hand, they ignore what does not suit them, and what SEEMS to contradict them, and they do it while peppering their work with some quotes and citations which lend to the idea that they are in fact being biblical. But since they go a particular direction with all of this, and since part of their thesis actually contradicts the Bible at some important places, I look at where they have gone and I see Mammon!

    They are smuggling in a worship of Mammon while giving Jesus lipservice. They are hamstringing the words and acts of Jesus, not telling the whole story, not putting any of that in context, and thus it is some really pitiful work!

    But they are PhD types!

    Wow!

    I went to school for this stuff, and I am certain that if I turned in a research project as poorly managed as this book, I would be challenged on it. I think my grade would suffer.

    However, I notice that NOT GIVING MONEY TO THE POOR also fits very nicely with the prevailing politics of the day. It also fits with greed. I notice that in America, for sure, we have a very powerful health-n-wealth gospel with mega churches to match. If you want to SELL books, When Helping Hurts and books like it are a good way of doing that.

    This, then, is, to my way of thinking, the intersection of Mammon and Jesus. At least one angle on it, and one I think we need to talk about more thoroughly.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s