Posts tagged with: idolatry

retired-workAs Christians in the modern economy, we face a constant temptation to limit our work and stewardship to the temporal and the material, focusing only on “putting in our 40,” working for the next paycheck, and tucking away enough cash for a cozy retirement.

Such priorities have led many to absorb the most consumeristic features of the so-called “American Dream,” approaching work only as a means for retirement, and retirement only as a “dead space” for recreation and leisure.

Yet as retiree Glynn Young reminds us, God never intended for our work and stewardship to end or sunset as we get older. Though our “day jobs” and economic activities may conclude, there is always plenty of work to be done:

As the time approached for me to seriously considering retiring, I discovered something: retirement is not a biblical concept.

Moses led the Israelites until he died and God buried him somewhere in Moab. David was king until he died. Paul and Peter continued their ministries until they were martyred. Even the Apostle John, exiled on Patmos, the only disciple who (it’s believed) died of old age, was still working, writing down the vision given him.

The Bible has no retirement road map. But it does have a concept that applies to retirement in the twenty-first century, and that concept is stewardship.


daniellionsdenRuberns (1)We have routinely pointed to Jeremiah 29 as an introductory primer for life in exile, prodding us toward faithful cultural witness and away from the typical temptations of fortification, domination, and accommodation.

As Christians continue to struggle with what it means to be in but not of the world, Jeremiah reminds us to “seek the welfare of the city,” bearing distinct witness even as we serve our captors. We are to “pray to the Lord for it,” Jeremiah writes, “because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

The Biblical examples of how this actually looks are numerous, and in a new post at The Washington Institute, Thomas Kent draws our attention to one of the most prominent:

The story of Daniel teaches us that it is possible to live a faithful life even during exile in a pagan land and amidst a culture antithetical to God’s law. As if spurred on by Jeremiah 29, with competence and character, Daniel contributes with “an excellent spirit” to the prospering of Babylon. Other high officials, jealous of Daniel, “sought to find a ground of complaint against Daniel with regard to the Kingdom”, but they could not because Daniel was faithful. When thrown into the lion’s den, God delivered Daniel and protected him because he trusted in God. As Christians in the marketplace, we must approach our work in the same fashion: we must strive to be faithful and we must trust God.


Blog author: jsunde
Friday, January 22, 2016

OneNationUnderGod_CVRChristians continually struggle to find the right approach, balance, and tone in their political witness, either co-opting the Gospel for the sake of political ends or retreating altogether out of fear of the same.

In their new book, One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics, Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo pave a fresh way forward. Though I haven’t quite finished it, thus far the book offers a refreshingly rich assessment of political ideology as it relates (or doesn’t) to the Gospel and Christian mission.

In a piece for Canon and Culture, Ashford whets our appetites on this same topic, providing a clear overview of how Christianity differs from conservatism and progressivism, as well as where and how we might engage or abandon each.

From my own experience, Christians seem to have an easier time discerning these distinctions with progressivism, most likely due to its overt rejection of or disregard for permanent truths. With conservatism, however, we tend to forget that without a particular focus on transcendence, conservatism languishes in its own shortsightedness and folly. (more…)

greedy-bastardsRecently, Rev. Robert Sirico spoke in Chicago. He was asked a question regarding income inequality. His answer was that he didn’t care how much money Bill Gates had, nor did it matter to him the difference between Gates’ income and say, Warren Buffet’s. Nor did he care about the difference between how much wealth Gates has and his own personal income. No, Sirico said, what he cared about were the poor: those people so disconnected from the global marketplace that they were not able to live above subsistence level. How do we help them?

One popular answer right now is to “share the wealth.” Those with a lot of money should give a big chunk of it to the poor. Then everyone will be “even.” That seems reasonable, right?

Not so fast, says Rev. Dwight Longenecker, writing at his Patheos blog, Standing On My Head.


Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller

In a recent appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Tim Keller discusses the major themes of his new book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, which aims to properly orient our work toward worship and service (HT).

In the interview, Keller argues that we live in a culture that has misplaced its identity in work, rather than pursued it as part of a deeper, more sacred commitment:

When you make your work your identity…if you’re successful it destroys you because it goes to your head. If you’re not successful it destroys you because it goes to your heart—it destroys your self-worth… What you need with faith, is faith gives you an identity that’s not in work or accomplishment, and that gives you insulation against the weather changes. If you’re successful, you stay humble. If you’re not successful, you have some ballast. So, basically, making your work your identity, kind of an idol, to use Biblical terminology, is maybe the big sin of New York City.

There is, of course, a balance, and much of Keller’s book is devoted to uncovering this balance. As he goes on to explain in the interview, “Work is a great thing when it is a servant instead of a lord.”


Arabic icon of St. John of Damascus

Today (Dec. 4) is commemorated an important, though sometimes little-known, saint: St. John of Damascus. Not only is he important to Church history as a theologian, hymnographer, liturgist, and defender of Orthodoxy, but he is also important, I believe, to the history of liberty.

In a series of decrees from 726-729, the Roman (Byzantine) emperor Leo III the Isaurian declared that the making and veneration of religious icons, such as the one to the right, be banned as idolatrous and that all icons be removed from churches and destroyed. The Christian practice of making icons dates back to decorations of the catacombs in the early Church as well as illuminations in manuscripts of the Scriptures; indeed, many icons can be found in manuscripts of the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures and several icons have even been uncovered in the ruins of synagogues.

Naturally, most Christians of the time protested. Patriarch Germanos I of Constantinople was forced to resign and was replaced by Anastasios, who supported the emperor’s program. This began what is known as the iconoclastic controversy. It spanned over 100 years, and the iconoclasts in the Roman (Byzantine) empire martyred literally thousands of the Orthodox who peacefully resisted and destroyed countless works of sacred art that would be priceless today. Whatever one’s understanding of the place of icons in the Church today, this controversy was a clear abuse of government power that resulted in great tragedy. (more…)

Kishore Jayabalan, director of Istituto Acton in Rome, is quoted extensively in a story about the Vatican’s note on economic centralization written by Edward Pentin, a reporter for the National Catholic Register. If you wonder why the Acton Institute is around — why we feel the need to connect your good intentions with sound economics — well, Kishore explains:

Kishore Jayabalan… welcomed the Vatican’s attempt to deal with the economic crisis, but he said their conclusions were based on “political and economic ignorance rather than experience.”

But the note, written by the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, lacks more than sound economics; it lacks theological depth. It speaks throughout of the common good, but without a moral framework, that common good can have little ethical consequence. The kind of economic reform the note calls for could only be motivated by a conception of the common good rooted in a full, Christian understanding of human nature. Jayabalan again: “[the note] doesn’t speak of God or the natural law and so neglects this substantial notion of the common good,”

There is comparatively little talk even of greed and idolatry in the note — those vices seem get more attention at Occupy Wall Street drum circles than at the PCPJ. We’ll talk about them though:

Jayabalan, a former official at the Pontifical Council, said greed and idolatry are permanently recurring temptations that require “constructive ways” to combat them. And yet “quite surprisingly for an office of the Roman Curia and from a Catholic perspective, the note does not tell us much about the spiritual battle that must take place.”

Rather than draft this note, Jayabalan said the Vatican should have drawn on the “economic wisdom of the division of labor” which would have told them “to stick to what it knows and does best.”