Category Archives: church

And Jesus Showed God’s Love by Guiding Sick, Injured, Poor People to Purchase “Free Market” Care

Portion of terra cotta panel at a former hospital in Liverpool. HistoricEngland.org.

Now, I hope you, dear reader, know that the title to this essay is absurd.i  The current state of affairs of our nation’s “health care” is problematic, and may soon get much worse in terms of how we (so-called Christians) treat people and in comparison to how other “westernized” countries of means, who seem to be less “Christian” than the U.S., treat theirs. I’m not just talking socialized medicine necessarily, but costs relative to care generally; they obviously consider what is going on with health care deliverers and regulate things appropriately to keep costs far lower than what you find in the states (while maintaining better health outcomes, too).ii  Why are these other countries more astute and caring than us in this “great and smart nation”? Who or what we serve is the difference. Our country serves Money (behind the guise of Freedom).iii

Of course our current system is broken, and virtually everyone agrees that it needs at least some fixes. But those who justify repealing “Obamacare” (the Affordable Care Act) are not dealing with the core issues that are driving costs, while also ignoring a not-so-distant past when a great many persons didn’t have insurance. Ignoring all the heartache, deaths, bankruptcies, and suicides from that time, and the pre-ACA steep rises in premiums as well. Repealing Obamacare and throwing money at the states—much less money over the course of years—will not at all solve the basis for the wildly high costs of health care in America (which are still rapidly rising). The ACA contributed to this problem, but it’s not at all the single cause. The GOP talked of draining the swamp, but they are mired as deep into it as ever, as far as I can see; they couldn’t even include in their proposed legislation one of their long-term pet ideas, to open up insurance competition across state lines.iv

As it stands right now, the very very poor will still be eligible for Medicaid in the near future.  A number of poor that are in expanded Medicaid states will lose out relatively quickly (and I am going to say that it was cruel to leave people uncovered simply because they lived in a geography of no such expanded coverage), including the elderly in assisted living environments. I know that there’re plenty of people out there who don’t want to pay for much medicaid because they think people receiving it are lazy and taking advantage of the system. I’ve seen hearts-of-stone arguments regarding this, and it is not up to Christians to worry and judge so much about deceivers (and a lot of fraud is perpetuated by doctors, not patients). Deceivers will be found out and God will deal with them in His own way; our role is to lead people to Christ, even deceivers, if possible. We’re supposed to be the lights in a dark place here, not the judge.

The fact that there may be deceivers has nothing to do with helping the sick, who are often very poor because of their illness. It makes zero sense to push people who are very ill to work harder or at all in order to pay for health insurance: how can they work, and who would hire them? A lot of people get fired when they become sick—are you going to make their employer hire them back?  To even suggest this requirement is a hypocrisy and promoting a deception.  I bet a lot of these same people would nurse a sick or injured dog and not think anything of it. The dog would be getting all that care and attention for free, yet they insult and kick around those beings made in God’s image.  “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:9, NIV).

But What Did Christ Do and Teach about Sickness and health?

Whatever it was He did and taught, that’s what we’re to do (or at least try!). The very first hospitals that freely treated poor patients were Christian, because the followers that started them received Christ’s teaching and tried to follow His example.  What was Christ’s example?  Well, get this.  It is estimated that He spent 80% of His time healing people.v  He met people where they were at in their need in order to show that God was a God who was there for them, not some aloof diety.  If you haven’t gotten this from reading the New Testament, read it again more carefully.  There’s a difference between how we perceive what is written regarding what was said and what was done. Seeing as the disciples didn’t have computers and cheap paper, you have to think about what was going on based on the few words chosen.vi  “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25, NIV). (I love John. Just think what a bold statement that was for his time period.) So, I think I could write a book on Jesus’ and his disciples’ works of healing, but I’m going to limit the examples to two very brief ones here; two that I think provide much insight into God’s will for our thinking in this matter (and the author of both, Luke, was a physician).

The Good Samaritan

(The full and short story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37.) In this story, a “faithful” person wanted to justify himself, we’re told (that is, justify his actions or lack thereof), asking Jesus to define “neighbor” (the person who he had to love as himself).  So, Jesus told the little story commonly known as The Good Samaritan.  In it, two spiritually high-level Jews purposefully ignored a half-dead man lying in the road.  The man was there after suffering violence. But a man who the Jews would have despised (if not really hated), a Samaritan, stopped and helped the stricken stranger.  (Samaritans were considered idolatrous half-breeds who accepted only Moses’ scriptures and ignored the rest).  He not only treated the man’s wounds as best he could right there in the road, but took him to an inn and paid for his expenses, including whatever additional treatment the inn keeper could provide.  So Jesus’ (offensive) answer to the question was that the stranger in need who you happen to come across is your “neighbor” and worthy of your assistance/love. Perhaps God puts such situations in front of us, expecting us to provide His blessings–to be His hands.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

(The full and short story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31.)  Another story Jesus told was that of an unnamed “rich man” and a poor diseased beggar named Lazarus.  Lazarus suffered greatly, and his situation hadn’t changed after someone laid him at the rich man’s gate. The rich man lived in luxury his whole life, never lifted a finger to help Lazarus (even with him at his gate!), and ends up in hell upon death.  Sometime later, Lazarus himself died and was carried to Abraham’s bosom (without getting into a big theological discussion, just say heaven).  Lazarus, although he suffered on earth and might have seemed cursed to some, was in fact blessed by God; God knew his name and in the end Lazarus found rest and peace. The story continues with Abraham telling the rich man, who tries to intercede on behalf of his still living brothers, that his brothers (like himself) have not listened to Moses and the prophets. Therefore, neither will they listen to someone who was raised from the dead. They have no faith in anything or anyone else.  All in life is for self, and they are so focused on that that they can’t see anything else.

The poor and diseased are at our gate, the gate of the wealthy and powerful United States, and we only hear of ways to cut back funds for them in order to help those better off.  We don’t hear talk about greed, the high value of medical industry stocks that benefit government employee pensions, the extreme amount of money the medical industry puts into lobbying, advertising, and other types of influence, etc.  Costs do need to come down for everyone, but not at the expense of the poor, disabled, diseased, and elderly.  Price reductions need to come down by appropriate and humane means that deal with greed, corruption, and catering to the wealthy.  And our church leaders need to say so out loud, to let those in need see that God is there, and loving, and not an aloof diety.  God isn’t dead, but what of the visible church?

Notes

i  Setting aside for a moment the fantasy of a truly “free market” economy, such a market would be for choosing which potato chip brand you want to buy, not whether or not you or your child lives or dies. Markets have nothing at all do with the human need to get life sustaining help from one’s fellow man. It’s too weird that this kind of thing even needs to be said . . . that there’s this context in America where the idea of needing to say it had been formed. I don’t see how we can move further away from God than we are now.
ii  See 2015 International Profile on Health Care Systems (at the time of this writing, the most up-to-date report) and The U.S. Health Care System: An International Perspective (2016).
iii  And why don’t we have preachers out there preaching on greed and the root of evil, money (1 Timothy 6:10, but many more verses are needed for the understanding of greed and its consequences)? Jesus was radical. When He walked the earth, people knew of Him. It is really no wonder the church in America is so weak, as it just doesn’t seem to even exist.  Jesus knew what people’s needs and concerns were, he was anti-establishment (anti-world system) and the book of James is very much so as well.  I think people know this inherently; they know if God is speaking to them and their needs, and they’re not seeing it come out of today’s Christian institutions. Preachers aren’t publicly denouncing financial scandals or a living wage being denied to laborers.
iv  Besides the sources found in note ii regarding costs, here are bipartisan recommendations from persons well-experienced in the system: JAMA Forum: Reforming Medicaid
v  Healing is a Major Aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
vi  You have to use your imagination, as the common expression goes, but some Christians fear this type of mental exercise. Many only use the scriptures as a moral rule book, and they like to throw that rule book at people. Right living comes after receiving God’s spirit, not before. In any case, a dashed reading through the scriptures will not yield the insights into God’s will that we need for living His way.

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Michal the Maligned; King David’s First Wife

English: Michal lets David escape from the win...
English: Michal lets David escape from the window. A painting by Gustave Doré, 1865. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not a feminist, but it doesn’t take a feminist to see the mysogeny in some Judeo-Christian circles when King David is so glorified while persons like Michal, David’s first wife, are vilified.  If Michal can be so maligned, then any woman can.  David treated Michal (and his other wives) like his property in more ways than one, and many “believing” men still see David’s actions in a righteous light.

King David, Israel’s most revered king [1], who was chosen by God for that role and for his part in God’s redeeming plan, was a poet and a bit of a prophet, but he did things that God did not approve of and which are utterly un-Christlike/un-Christianlike [2] (read about Judah and others that God used and you’ll see that He didn’t forcefully make them “saints”).  As always, we should recognize and praise the good, but we need to also recognize the bad and not repeat it.  We are also called to recognize and help the oppressed.

Background

What got “me going” on this subject at this time was a biography of David.   In the introduction the author claimed that the only thing David did wrong was have Uriah the Hittite murdered because he wanted the man’s wife (Bathsheba).  Though the author didn’t provide the reference for his claim, it comes from 1 Kings 15:5:  For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.  Since there are other things written in the Old Testament that David did that displeased God, this statement can be taken as a generalized commendation, just as other kings received generalized condemnations; and “in the case of Uriah the Hittite” David committed many deep sins, not just one.  (Note, however, that this particular verse seems to have been added to scripture later since it is not in the oldest versions of the Greek Old Testament).

Continue reading Michal the Maligned; King David’s First Wife

Who Will Enter God’s Kingdom?

bad trees don't produce good fruit
Bad fruit — it can look good on the outside while it’s rotting on the inside. With God’s help in discernment, we should be able to recognize bad fruit. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Jesus, in Matthew 7:18).

I was reading Matthew today and came across the below group of verses.  It made me think about my own salvation and if I’m on the right track.  I have these times where I wonder if God expects more of me, if I’m letting Him down, and if He’s really paying attention to me anymore.  I think all believers go through times with thoughts like that.  I do believe I’m saved, as Paul wrote: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16).   But I also think Paul wrote his passages about persevering  for a reason, that people can indeed fall away from the faith (become apostate).  One example from Hebrews (12:1-3):

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

The following passages from the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, consisting of three paragraphs and concepts, is a good reminder to consider:  where we’re at in our faith; if our faith is matched by our actions; and, if our righteous-looking actions are hiding unrighteous motives.  It is that last bit that is the scariest.  Those persons who do NOT enter God’s Kingdom, even though they seemed like they were powerfully working for God, seem to be surprised.  Perhaps it is yet just another deception they are trying to pull off, or, they are so deluded they can’t even tell the difference.

Continue reading Who Will Enter God’s Kingdom?

Words Christians Use Explained: “B” Terms

An Angel Met Balaam with a Sword (illustration...
An Angel Met Balaam with a Sword (illustration from the 1897 Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us by Charles Foster) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

This is the second in a series of “Words Christians Use,” or simply, the first section of a Christian dictionary/desktop encyclopedia.  Short phrases may occasionally be included, and some words or phrases have a Christian base but are used more often by the general public.  (Click  for >  “A” terms.)

(c) Vicki Priest________________________________________________________________

Babylon.  This word probably isn’t used as much as it should be.  Not for the historic city it was, but for the its symbolic Biblical meaning.  “Babylon” (or mystic Babylon) refers to the world system, containing religious and political aspects, that are corrupt, self-centered, and against God.  It is the global anti-God if you will.  Since the Bible tells us that Satan is the ruler of this world (a lot of folks seem to forget that; see John 12:31), mystic Babylon seems to be a simple way of referring to the physical manifestation of the Satanic world system.  Not all Christians interpret the symbolic use of Babylon so broadly, but view it as a term used for any corrupt commercial center that is or will be judged.  In any case, many who call themselves Christians today don’t recognize the anti-God nature and effects of modern global corporatism and such and appear to support “mystic Babylon”; this could explain the term’s relative non-use.

Bacon (and Biblical laws).  Just kidding.  Christians don’t use the term “bacon” more than anyone else, BUT, bacon can be the focal point of an important lesson.   Christians are often accused of “picking and choosing” which Biblical laws they follow.  Aside from certain sects and annoying individuals, the accusation itself is false or deceptive.  It is based on ignorance of the difference between a Jew and a Christian.  Christians don’t follow the Jewish laws–the laws of ISRAEL–because Christ’s work set believers free from them and from the Jewish nation.  Folks, it’s not a matter of “picking and choosing”; Christians are not Jews and so don’t need to follow the laws of Israel.  God told the Israelites not to eat pork, and He had good reason.  But Christians are free to eat pork.  There are some prohibitions that were maintained under the new covenant, however, that are reiterated as sin against God in the New Testament (like any sex outside of marriage [and marriage is maintained as heterosexual] and deceiving people).

Serious pot-o-bacon
Is there ever enough bacon? (Photo found on internet and is somewhere at http://www.foodown.com)

Continue reading Words Christians Use Explained: “B” Terms

Words Christians Use Explained: “A” Terms

James Arminius (1560-1609), Pastor, Professor,...
James Arminius (1560-1609), Pastor, Professor, and Theologian.  One of a pair with a portrait of his widow, Lijsbet Reaal, by David Bailly (1620) (Photo credit: Wikipedia).

You guessed it.  This is the first in a series of “Words Christians Use,” or simply, the first section of a Christian dictionary/desktop encyclopedia.  Short phrases may occasionally be included due to an associated controversy.  It seemed appropriate to begin with “A,” so let’s just dive in.

(c) Vicki Priest

Acts, Book of.  The Book of “Acts” doesn’t refer to a play.  “Acts” is the word used instead of “activities” or “doings” that we might more ordinarily use today, in reference to what the earliest Christians did.  That section of the New Testament covers the time from immediately after Christ’s death, probably in AD/CE 30, to  AD/CE 60 or 61.

Adam.  Adam is widely known as the first human made by God, but there’s more to understand about “Adam” than that.  First, God said He made man in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27), but “man” is the term for “human,” since man includes both “male and female” (see verse 27).  Second, it is very basic and very important to Christianity to understand that Adam was the cause of the Fall of Man, and not Eve.  God had instructed Adam to not do something (eat of the Tree of Life), and he disobeyed God by following Eve’s lead after being deceived by Satan.  Eve had been mistaken and Adam could have corrected her, but instead, he purposely defied God.  Because of Adam’s action, the entirety of humankind fell from God’s grace.  Third, Jesus Christ is referred to as the new Adam in the New Testament.  Jesus came to take away the sins of all those humans who would accept him and his obedient work in God.   Jesus’ complete obedience was, and is, the [only] corrective to Adam’s (and thus humanity’s) disobedience.

Continue reading Words Christians Use Explained: “A” Terms

John Lennox on the Resurrection: why Hume, Dawkins, and others got it wrong

John Lennox, Oxford professor and Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science, concisely gives us compelling reasons why two widely used anti-resurrection arguments don’t make much sense:   Hume’s and Dawkins’ on “no possibility of miracles,” and the more widely scoffed-at “empty tomb” claims by the first Christians.

What amazes me, as it astonishes Lennox, is that anyone can rationally affirm and adhere to the 18th century philosopher Hume’s argument against miracles, which says that:  miracles go against the laws of nature, therefore they don’t exist.  We study nature and have found  laws of nature by observation, but we can’t rightly claim that something doesn’t exist or won’t happen just because we know of such laws.  What is even more odd is that Hume didn’t actually believe the Laws of Nature were necessarily always uniform:  “He famously argues that, just because the sun has been observed to rise in the morning for thousands of years, it does not mean that we can be sure that it will rise tomorrow.  This is an example of the Problem of Induction: on the basis of past experience you cannot predict the future, says Hume.”  If this is so, then “if nature is not uniform, then using the uniformity of nature as an argument against miracles is simply absurd.”

In his usual clear style, CS Lewis points out how easily Hume’s argument can be refuted (as quoted by Lennox):

If this week I put a thousand pounds in the drawer of my desk, add two thousand next week and another thousand the week thereafter, the laws of arithmetic allow me to predict that the next time I come to my drawer, I shall find four thousand pounds. But suppose when I next open the drawer, I find only one thousand pounds, what shall I conclude? That the laws of arithmetic have been broken? Certainly not! I might more reasonably conclude that some thief has broken the laws of the State and stolen three thousand pounds out of my drawer. One thing it would be ludicrous to claim is that the laws of arithmetic make it impossible to believe in the existence of such a thief or the possibility of his intervention. On the contrary, it is the normal workings of those laws that have exposed the existence and activity of the thief.

After making some thoughtful points, Lennox concludes:  “When a miracle takes place, it is the laws of nature that alert us to the fact that it is a miracle. It is important to grasp that Christians do not deny the laws of nature, as Hume implies they do. It is an essential part of the Christian position to believe in the laws of nature as descriptions of those regularities and cause-effect relationships built into the universe by its Creator and according to which it normally operates. If we did not know them, we should never recognise a miracle if we saw one.”

Lennox goes on to use biblical passages to flush out the truth that people at the time of Christ, and earlier, didn’t easily believe miracle stories either.  They knew how nature worked and what was unusual or seemingly impossible.  Therefore, their ancient witness is just as valid as if you or I saw Jesus resurrected.  Lennox also discusses the real importance of female witnesses to the resurrection.  Please see his article for the full discussion of certain anti-resurrection arguments used by skeptics, and the thoughtful responses he provides.  And, have a joyful Easter!

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World Jews outraged by Christian murders, our own government isn’t

This is the crime against humanity of our time. It is the religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing. It is deliberate, it is brutal, and it is systematic. And I, as a Jew, want to say that I stand solidly with Christians throughout the world in protest against this crime. And I am appalled that the world is silent.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (2013 Erasmus Lecture)

. . . the Jews seem to be the ones most outraged by it. . . . It’s shades of the past that a world that is indifferent to such brutal actions becomes indifferent to anybody’s suffering.

The White House—the whole Western community—ought to be taking action, as we would against any country that engages in this kind of action. Look, overall the West is muted in their response to the killings of Christians by the thousands, from Indonesia to Nigeria to Tehran to Damascus. Where is the outcry? Christians and Copts [are being killed] in Egypt, other countries—and hardly any response to it. . . .  Where are the [United Nations] Security Council resolutions? Why aren’t the condemnations coming from them?

Malcolm Hoenlein, head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

The above quotes are from the First Things article, “Jews and the Persecution of Christians” by Tom Wilson; the Hoenlein quotes were taken by Wilson from an interview of Hoenlein in The Time of Israel.

. . . the Middle East [was] once home to countless thriving Jewish communities, only for them to have been decimated in the mid-twentieth century. With the rise of hardline Islam and growing turmoil in many of these countries, Christians risk sharing a similar fate. . . .  A century ago, Christians constituted 20 percent of the population of the Middle East; today, that number stands at just 4 percent.

Jews care.  A lot of Jews get it.  What is with us?  Why does our own country, and the West, not care?  The western media is biased in its reporting when Christians are killed in countries like Sudan.  They seem to be ashamed that Christians even exist and that violent-minded Muslims are justified in doing evil.  But where is the Christian response, the Christian outrage?  If it doesn’t exist, then it can be surmised that Christians don’t really exist.  At least, our own government’s weak response against the atrocities can certainly be viewed as nothing but hot air.  But why should our government do anything about it or care, when we people of faith don’t even seem to??

Churches are our gathering places.  Why aren’t churches organizing anything to raise awareness about what is going on in the world?  If they don’t know . . . what excuse can be given?  Maybe some pastors are writing newspaper editorials and encouraging action by their flock–I don’t know.  Feel free to let me know of examples of such action in the comments below, or provide links there to Christians groups and organizations that are trying to do something about this (I don’t mean groups that report on it only).  Thanks.

Where I’ve Been, lately

Welcome all, and the Lord bless you.  For some time I slowed down here while I did some training and “setting up shop” in the grants writing field.  But then I stepped back after becoming discouraged, realizing I needed to rethink my goals and strategy.  That sounds so . . . blah and businessy, doesn’t it?  But it’s actually true.  I wasn’t approaching things the right way and had to calm down about it.  Be still and know the Lord, right?  Yes, be still.  And listen.

In the meantime, during Christmas break time, I decided to go ahead and get going on an idea I’ve had for a long time.  And that is coming up with a clothes design called “Monkwear” (apparently the name has been used before since I couldn’t use that name on Twitter).  I have always had this tug on my heart, this desire that stems from sadness, that Christians should be more united.  Christ prayed for it, yet, we seem so much at odds with each other so often.  So I thought it would be neat if Christians would wear similar and humble clothes all at the same time–to show unity and to be encouraged by seeing siblings in Christ that we don’t personally know.  How much stronger would some of us be if we could only see how many really had faith, and were willing to show it (in what seems a non-confrontational way)?

Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:17

So Monkwear.  Brown simple clothes to wear one day a week or month.  I’m still working on a basic design I want to have on my version of Monkwear; I want to get it “right” and it’s daunting.  In the meantime (again), I’ve been learning GIMP and whatever else I need to know to sell designs on CafePress.  I might do another outlet later, but it’s CafePress for right now.  In case anyone is interested, I have these designs up now; there are even some “With Christian Eyes” things there.  This is not to promote my blog, since the url is not on it, but the sentiment CS Lewis wrote:

“I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

The shop at CafePress is Monkwear and The Priest’s Dabblings, and you can connect with me on Twitter if you want at MonkwearCP.   (You can sign up for deals and coupon codes, which provide significant discounts – see CafePress home page.)  Thanks SO much for reading this far, and for visiting my shop if get THAT far!  In this media-saturated age, I know how much your time and attention are worth.

Be one, Jesus prays.   From John 17:23 (V Priest design).
Be one, Jesus prays. From John 17:23 (V Priest design).
Rooted in Love; Ephesians 3:17b-19 (artwork by V. Priest [c])
Rooted in Love; Ephesians 3:17b-19 (artwork by V. Priest [c])
For Valentine's Day, or any day.  V. Priest (c)
For Valentine’s Day, or any day. V. Priest (c)
With Christian Eyes bumper sticker.
With Christian Eyes bumper sticker.

The Parable of the 10 Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13): Confusion and Understanding

Light your lamp (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/848608).
Light your lamp (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/848608).

Prior to my pastor’s recent sermon on having faith that you’re saved even when you feel inadequate and have doubts, I was wondering about the meaning of what Jesus said in the “Parable of the 10 Virgins” in Matthew (25:1-13).  Whenever this parable was brought to my attention, it bothered me, and it was on my mind prior to that sermon.  Maybe God was trying to tell me that my concerns about the parable were not applicable to me, and followers of Christ like me, and that there was another meaning to it that I simply wasn’t grasping.  In my 19 years of having been a Christian, I had not come to terms with this parable, which seems kind-of pathetic and embarrassing.  I want to dig deeper into this parable—car to come along?  Here is the parable (NIV):

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.  The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.  “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’  “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.  The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’  “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’  10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet.   And the door was shut.  11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’  12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’  13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

The concluding verse exhorts us to keep watch always.  And that is good and necessary, and is repeated elsewhere:  “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Luke 12:40; see also Matt 24:42, 44; Mark 13:35).  The problem is, the young ladies weren’t keeping watch in an ordinary New Testament sense.  The five that got into heaven fell asleep just like the five that didn’t get into heaven.  The difference was in the oil–in their preparedness–not in their actual watchfulness (being awake, having one’s eyes open, looking toward Christ, etc.).

And the problem with this, the oil issue, is at least twofold.  One, oil is commonly known to be symbolic of the Holy Spirit, which we receive from God (we don’t take it or buy it).  Related to this is, (2) how much of our own work do we need to do to be saved?  First, one must read and understand the parable correctly.  Depending on the version I had read in the past, it wasn’t always clear to me that the five foolish virgins didn’t have any oil at all.  This needs to be clear:  five of the virgins brought lamps with them that were . . . empty!  Who does that!?  These were the foolish virgins, we’re told, but it still took a lot of time for my mind to register that someone would bother to bring lamps that didn’t have any oil.  (Truly, what is the point?  It’s like pushing your gasless car somewhere, expecting to drive it off later without filling it up.)   For a long time I thought that the virgins in question had oil in their lamps when they left their homes, and that they didn’t bother bringing extra and thus ran out (this is the take on it that Kaiser et al present, too).  But that’s not what the parable says.  In any case, let’s look at the oil issues I mentioned.

If oil represents the Holy Spirit in this parable, as it does elsewhere in the Bible, then the foolish virgins didn’t have the Holy Spirit.  They wanted into heaven, but they didn’t really accept God (God’s spirit); they weren’t true believers.  If you are sincere in wanting to be with God, God will give you His Holy Spirit; if you just want the goodies of heaven without acknowledging God’s will, your heart is in the wrong place.  So, the only work necessary is to actually believe in God and His son’s work:  “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent (John 6:29).  And according to the parable, if you have God and His Holy Spirit you will be saved even if you get drowsy waiting.  This is quite comforting, and the opposite meaning of what I had originally thought regarding this parable.

One reason why I had a bit of a hard time with this parable is that it didn’t seem logically cohesive.  What I mean by that is, we believers are the church, which is referred to as Christ’s bride in the New Testament.  So, why would the ten virgins (and thus the message) refer to believers, who are already behind the door in the parable (as the bride)?  The virgins are attendants, not the bride; the Syriac and Vulgate versions of the New Testament make this clearer by adding in verse 10 that Christ came with his bride.

We know that the context of the parable is eschatological, that is, regarding the end times.  Only two of the commentaries I have here address the actual relevance of this issue, and they appear to disagree:  Enns 2008, which mentions the theological stance that the wedding takes place in heaven, while the banquet takes place on earth after Christ’s second coming, and MacDonald 1995, which seems to place the wedding and the banquet together (in heaven).  The time is during the tribulation, so the virgins represent true believers and those who aren’t true.  But, why use the term virgin, instead of just person?  Since Christ’s bride – the church – is already in heaven (behind the door), then why are the people in the parable referred to as virgins?  It makes me think Jesus is talking about the Jews during the tribulation period.  Certainly his audience at the time was made up of Jews, and MacDonald (1297) refers to them as those with messianic hope.

Israel is specifically called out in Revelation 7, where during the time of the opening of the Sixth Seal a certain number of Jews will be marked as saved; that is, sealed.  In the New Testament, God seals us with, and gives us, the Holy Spirit (2 Cor.s 1:22; Eph.s 1:13, 4:30).  But whether or not the “virgins” refer to Jews alone, or the wedding feast takes place in heaven or on earth (or even if that has any relevance), people will indeed be saved during the tribulation and the mark of this is the seal of the Holy Spirit, just as it is prior to the tribulation.  The admonition to always be ready and waiting for the Lord’s return is true at all times prior to the actual wedding banquet, announced in Revelation 19, which happens after all the seals are opened, all the bowls of judgment are emptied, and all the trumpets sounded, but before the final battle and binding of Satan (this order is according to the literal reading of Revelation).

The message to walk away with is, don’t be foolish but wise and receive the Holy Spirit, and after that keep vigilant in waiting for the king’s return.  However, we can take comfort that Jesus “knew” the five virgins who did in fact drift off to sleep, but who had held on to God’s seal.

_____

Sources

Dunn, James, and Rogerson, John. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub Co, 2003. Print.

Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008. Print.

Kaiser, Jr., Walter C., et al. Hard Sayings of the Bible. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996. Print.

MacDonald, William. Believer’s Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub.s, 1995. Print.

Plummer, Robert L. 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2010. Print.

 

Pastor Chuck Smith, 86, has died

. . . and is joyously with the Lord (Thursday morning, Oct. 3rd).  Here are a couple of article links about the man who started the nondenominational Calvary Chapels.  He was sharp to the end, giving his last sermon just last month.

Christianity Today

The Christian Post

Update 10/13:  (1) A surfer’s memorial–a paddle out- will be held Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Huntington Beach pier, north side, starting at 10 am.  (2) The large public memorial service will be at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Oct. 27, starting at 5 pmUpdate:  You can watch the tribute at Chuck’s website.

Update:  There is a new web page up that is Chuck Smith’s biography, basically.

You may have heard already that Smith’s son-in-law, Brian Broderson, is the new senior pastor.  The Orange County Register published a pretty detailed article on Chuck and Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa here, and there are links to more related articles at the Register, too.

Update 10/20:  I didn’t go to the paddle out, but images of it were displayed at the service today.  Very awesome!  A DVD of it is planned.