On PoserorProphet’s advice

PoserorProphet challenged me yesterday:

It ain’t easy, eh, Peter? You might discover a new and more joyful life if you sold everything you have and gave the money to the poor (not something I usually suggest but it seems appropriate to what I’ve seen of you). Just a thought.

This challenge is evidently based upon the story of the rich young ruler (Mark 10.17-30 and parallels). I suppose that PoserorProphet is right, and I would be happier and certainly more care-free if I sold everything and gave it to the poor:

Nah, there ain’t nobody in this whole wide world
Gonna tell me how to spend my time
I’m just a good-lovin’ ramblin’ man
Say, buddy, can ya spare me a dime?

Yeah, I don’t care when the sun goes down
Where I lay my weary head
Green, green valley or rocky road
It’s there I’m gonna make my bed

(Barry McGuire and Randy Sparks, “Green, Green”)

I just have a couple questions about the application of this advice to my life:

(1) After selling everything I have, may I just leech off my wife?  I am more than happy to do that.  Or must she also sell everything she has too?  If that’s the case then:

(2) If we both sell everything we have and give it to the poor, what are we supposed to live on  here in Canada? Do you want us to go on welfare? Should we live in government housing. You see as an investor and my wife as a business woman, selling everything we would mean unemployment. Or after selling her third of the business, should my wife return to her brothers and beg for her job back and work a salaried position? Why would that make her more joyful? Tell me what shall life be like after selling everything and giving it to the poor?

(3) Who is going to support our church, our priest and his family, when our contribution to the church is lacking. Surely some others will rise up, but wouldn’t you (Poser) require that they also sell everything they have?

(4) What of the numerous Christian ministries in theological education, evangelism, and benevolence that we have supported over the years? We will have to end our continued support for such ministries. That’s ok, as long as others step up, but then wouldn’t you tell those people too that they must sell everything they have and give it to the poor.

(5) Just exactly which poor are we supposed to give it to? The homeless? The almost homeless? The working poor? The poor in Spirit? The poor in Africa?

(6) Will the poor use the money in a responsible fashion? Let’s say I just go to downtown Toronto and hand some poor homeless person a $100,000 cheque? How would that change his life? Would it help him or would the money just be squandered within a matter of days or months? Would he just go buy blow and blow his brains away? Or would it actually change him so that he could become like I am now so that you would have to tell him too to sell all he has and give it to the poor? Then wouldn’t it just be better if I keep the money rather than putting him into the situation of you having to tell him to sell everything?

(7) What should I tell my employees? I suppose the 25 employees Cathy has would carry on after she sold her business to her brothers. But what if Cathy’s contribution to work is what holds the thing together and the business ends up bankrupt without her sound fiscal management. What will happen to those 25 employees, their wives, children and their other dependents? What of the Wycliffe student I promised a year long job too? What about my housekeeper? What are they supposed to do? I suppose they are certainly industrious and could find other employers, but wouldn’t you tell those employers too to sell everything they have and give it to the poor?  And once there are no rich people left, who is going to employ the people looking for work? Sean Hannity has a refrain:  “No poor person ever gave me a job.”

(8) What about the other people that depend on me? If we sold everything we have, there would be another family besides us that would be homeless, and then what should I tell them? Sorry, PoserorProphet called me to sell everything I have and you can come with me and live on the streets of Toronto too or in some homeless shelter (where ever it is that you are calling us to live).

(9) What about the volunteer work that we do for our church?  We use our home as the base of operations. So we should just tell the church, sorry we can’t do that work anymore because we don’t have computers and the other equipment that we need to do those ministries?  But we are more than happy to come and eat your food.  Can you please pick us up from the shelter and give us a ride?

Craig Carter wrote this just two days ago:

Liberal Christians seem awfully confident that you can be half socialist and not go too far and lose all liberty. Maybe they depend on conservatives to keep them from going all the way – sort of like teenagers depending on parents to say no when they want something harmful. Instead of thinking for themselves they just rely on parents doing the agonizing and deciding where to draw the line.

I urge you to grow up a little bit and think about this flippant advice. Your current crop of professors don’t seem willing to give you this admonition (correct me if I’m wrong); either that or you’re not listening to them.  Your counsel lacks wisdom.  I know that you aren’t really open to taking me seriously because you think that I am hilarious.  But what would be the personal ramifications to each “rich” person, their families, and their other dependents?  What would be the effects upon their churches and the other ministries that they support, if they followed your advice?  What would be the economic consequences on a macro scale if all the rich people in the world took your ill-conceived and juvenile advice?  What if every responsible person took your advice?  What would happen to all those who depend on them to be responsible and to work hard?  “And the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

I know it was what Jesus commanded the rich young ruler.  But Jesus was a prophet, not a poser, and he knew that man and the ramifications of his selling everything.  Unlike this new generation of socialist and radical Christians, Jesus did not give this same advice to every rich person he encountered.  And how do you know that it wasn’t just a test, like the requirement that Abraham sacrifice Isaac?  Is it not enough for God to know that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son?  So had the rich young ruler showed his willingness, maybe Jesus would have said that he’d passed the test and would have permitted him to remain rich provided that he live for the advancement of the Kingdom of God instead of for his own personal kingdom.  The vast majority of rich Christians in the early church were not required to sell everything but admonished to remain generous and supportive of the mission of the church, to be hospitable and to provide for widows and orphans.  I.e., not too much different from what my wife and I endeavor to do, with the little money that the governments permit us to keep after taxes.  And actually, we could retire now and go live well in some tropical country.  But we still feel called to work so as to have something to give (Eph. 4.28).

4 thoughts on “On PoserorProphet’s advice

  1. Actually, I wasn’t being flippant, nor was I suggesting that everybody should follow this model. In fact, this is the first time I have seriously made this suggestion to anybody (and I’ve known more than one ‘righteous investor’). Like I said, this advice just seemed to be a good fit for what I’ve seen of you.

    But, as I also said, and as your post clearly shows, it ain’t easy. Glad to see you’re giving it some thought, though.

    • I may be the first, but I don’t suppose I will be the last person you ever tell to sell everything, since you have argued that the Bible opposes private poverty. This is what you wrote:

      As Pierre-Joseph Proudhon once said: “Property is theft” and it is not only theft because private property requires us to steal that which belongs to others, it is also theft because it steals our humanity from us. Of course, if one is speaking in biblical terms about those things which make us less than human then one would need to employ the language of idolatry. Which, again, is why Proudhon – an anarchist who trained as a theologian – is onto something when he states that “Property is the last of the false gods”. No wonder then that he interprets the 8th commandment (“Thou shalt not steal”) as saying “Thou shalt not lay anything aside for thyself”. This interpretation fits well with the actual practice of the Israelites in the wilderness, as they were only permitted to collect enough manna to last them one day.

      So by telling me to sell all I have, you are only acting on your growing conviction that private property is a sin. Investing requires outlay of built-up private capital, otherwise the investor has nothing to invest. So the investor is the sinner par excellence.

      Perhaps “flippant” is incorrect, since it would suggest that you aren’t serious. “Pretentious” or “presumptuous” both seem to fit much better. You are not the first Christian socialist/anarchist to give this advice to me either when I mention my that I am an investor.

      Your response however shows a complete lack of willingness to engage any of the multiple questions that I ask. Don’t you think that you should have thought of some of the answers before you advise (and that is why “flippant” still seems to fit despite your protest). Or are you the type of spiritual director that just gives suggestions but leaves the poor lambs to work out the details on their own?

  2. As a person who lives by the fruit of the gospel, I am grateful for those who by dint of hard work, good fortune, or some other means have come into the possession of material resources and who have been compelled by the Spirit of God to be generous. Money is not a problem for God and the Bible does not decry private ownership of property. The idolatry of wealth and the hoarding of property is another issue all together, and this can happen whether one is rich or poor; greed doesn’t know economic class boundaries.

    Though the Israelites were admonished to faith and radical dependence on God during their travels in the wilderness, they certainly were not poor, having only recently despoiled Egypt of her wealth, and most assuredly did not continue that lifestyle upon entering and conquering the promised land wherein they enjoyed, “houses they did not build, and vineyards they did not plant.” Private charity and generosity towards the poor (specially the “widow and the orphan” are indicated in the Bible, demonstrating that even biblically speaking there was such a thing as aid going only to the “deserving poor” i.e. those who were destitute through no fault of their own and who lacked other means of support) would be impossible without private property ownerships or at least concepts. Moreover, the New Testament paints a picture of a radically economically integrated Christian community in the midst of an extremely stratified society, but both rich and poor are warned against favoritism, greed, and encouraged to exercise prudence and generosity.

    In other words: if you’re not actively in mission as a Christian worker, make as much money as you can and give as generously as you can so that the mission may move forward.

    Hallelujah Christ is Risen!

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