Greed & Oppression of the Poor (Bible Study) – Part 3

[To read this study in its entirety, please go to the Bible Studies page on this website and download the PDF.]

Exodus 22:25, “If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them.”
Leviticus 25:36-37, “Do not take interest in advance or otherwise make a profit from them, but fear your God; let them live with you. You shall not lend them money at interest taken in advance, or provide them food at a profit.”
Context: God instructs the Israelites to treat family members who fall on hard times as they would a resident alien.
Deuteronomy 23:19,20, “You shall not charge interest on loans to another Israelite, interest on money, interest on provisions, interest on anything that is lent. On loans to a foreigner, you may charge interest…”
Ezekiel 22:12, “In you, they take bribes to shed blood; you take both advanced interest and accrued interest, and make gain of your neighbors by extortion; and you have forgotten Me, says the Lord.”
Context: Numerous, unrelated laws are listed in Exodus 22 & Deuteronomy 23. Ezekiel 22 prophecies against Jerusalem.
Analysis: Israelites were not to charge interest when lending to one another. Charging interest to one’s own countrymen for necessities and consumer products does nothing to benefit the national economy. It only makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. It’s the rich who have the excess money to lend, and it’s the poor who lack funds and need to borrow. Over time, as the poor continue to pay interest, their limited income is transferred to the rich who collect that interest.
Does this mean that we should eliminate charging interest in America? First of all, doing so would be a tremendous shock to our economy and would probably collapse it. The country would have to have been set up as interest-free from its inception. Second, these passages only address lending to those in need, not those who seek to buy non-necessities despite lacking the money to do so.
By modern American standards, God’s rules on interest are unfair, because the lenders lost real dollars if inflation increased while the debt was owed. Lenders were only to lend money as a charitable act, not as an effort to profit from those in need. God expects the rich to make sacrifices for the poor, because He wants the poor to enjoy a quality lifestyle, since they too are created in His image.

Matthew 25:27-28, “Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents.”
Context: In verses 14-30, Jesus tells the parable of the talents in which a man gave three of his servants money to invest for him while he went away, and when he returned, the two men to whom he had given the most returned the money with interest, while the man who had only been given one talent had buried it in the ground and returned it without interest. Verses 27-28 are the man’s response.
Analysis: Most Christians interpret this parable as a directive for us to use our God-given gifts (talents) to serve His purposes. We follow this interpretation, because the word “talent,” which once described a monetary denomination, now means ability. I won’t dispute this interpretation, because serving God with our abilities is a good idea. But let’s not ignore this parable’s literal interpretation.
When we make money and desire to give more than the required 10%, we should invest the money and grow it for God’s purposes, rather than turn around and give it right back to Him. If Christians had done this over the centuries, the money available for ministering to others would be exponentially more than it now is.
So why haven’t Christians invested for future giving? Many have avoided it because they believed that Jesus’ return was imminent. They didn’t invest in the future, because they didn’t believe in a future. That’s one of the dangers of proclaiming that Jesus will return within the next few years or decades (the other danger is that people will lose faith in Jesus when He fails to return within the predicted time).

Greed & Oppression of the Poor (Bible Study) – Part 4

[To read this study in its entirety, please go to the Bible Studies page on this website and download the PDF.]

Exodus 22: 22-24, “You shall not abuse any widow or orphan.”
Context: Various laws are listed in this section on Exodus.
Analysis: Why are widows and orphans so special? Because, along with aliens, they had no inheritance in the land. In Israel, men inherited land from their fathers as they became adults (they did not have to wait for their fathers to die like we do today). As women reached adulthood, they left their fathers’ lands to live on their husbands’ lands. On these lands, people grew their food and built their homes with the resources of the land. So this inheritance of land gave young Israelite families what they needed to survive. It’s quite different from our society in which young people venture out on their own lacking both food and shelter and having to earn enough money to obtain it.
Widows, orphans, and aliens, however, could not share in Israel’s inheritance, and therefore, lacked proper food and shelter. That’s why God so frequently calls the Israelites to look out for their interests.

Exodus 23:8, “You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.”
Context: Various laws are listed in this section on Exodus.
Analysis: Bribes still exist today, but are illegal. They’ve been replaced by campaign contributions from those who seek to influence politics to their own benefit rather than the benefit of the common good.

Ezekiel 18:5,7, “If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right…does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment…”
Context: This quote ultimately ends with God promising life to someone who is this righteous.
Analysis: This passage calls for a righteous man to be both passive and aggressive in his righteousness. In other words, he must avoid oppressing and robbing others, but he must actively help those lacking food and clothing. Too many times, we base our righteousness on what we don’t do and fail to balance it with charitable actions.

Leviticus 25:39-40, “If any that are dependent on you become so impoverished that they sell themselves to you, you shall not make them serve as slaves. They shall remain with you as hired or bound laborers. They shall serve with you until the year of jubilee.”
Context: Chapter 25 addresses the year of jubilee as well as mercy on the poor.
Analysis: Bankruptcy was non-existent in ancient Israel. If someone owed a debt greater than they could pay, they had to sell themselves into slavery. Here God requires that fellow Israelites receive better treatment than slaves would have received, and that their debts be forgiven in the year of jubilee, which occurred every 50 years.

Deuteronomy 5:14, “But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.”
Context: The Ten Commandments are reiterated in Deuteronomy. This time, God explains why the Sabbath is so important for the people.
Analysis: The penalty for breaking the Sabbath was death. Most of us judge the death penalty to be far too harsh for such an act, because we think of the Sabbath in terms of our own decisions to work. However, as we see in this verse, God prohibits work on the Sabbath primarily for the sake of others. Throughout history, workers and slaves have been forced to labor seven days a week—wasting their lives away while suffering physical exhaustion. God hates this oppression so much that He required the maximum penalty for those who imposed it upon others.
This is why Jesus would later say, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” God didn’t create the Sabbath day laws or any other laws for His direct benefit; He created them for our benefit, so that all of His children may live a quality life instead of a miserable one.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 11, “If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be… Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.’”
Context: Chapter 15 begins by requiring that the Israelites grant a remission of debts every seven years—yet another one of God’s commands of mercy toward those in need.
Analysis: This mercy toward the poor, while not well-defined in terms of percentage of income, was mandatory for all of God’s people who had more than they needed.
The question we need to ask ourselves is whether God is calling for personal or government-enforced charity. Here in Deuteronomy, God gives laws to the nation of Israel. These are not suggestions on how individuals should behave; these are requirements for how an entire nation must behave. So we can conclude that God required the nation of Israel to force its people to share their wealth. How they carried this out is not entirely known.

Deuteronomy 23:15, “Slaves who have escaped to you from their owners shall not be given back to them. They shall reside with you in your midst, in any place they choose, in any one of your towns, wherever they please; you shall not oppress them.”
Context: Numerous, unrelated laws are listed in this portion of Deuteronomy.
Analysis: These are likely to have been slaves that escaped from other nations. They were to know a better life among the Israelites. It’s likely that many of them came to love God as a result of this compassion (that is, if the Israelites actually obeyed this command).

Deuteronomy 24:14-15, “You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.”
Context: Numerous, unrelated laws are listed in this portion of Deuteronomy.
Analysis: Nobody does this today. In the sales world, some companies delay commissions as long as possible so that the payroll expense will be pushed into the following quarter and the resulting numbers will deceive potential investors into believing that the company is more profitable than it really is.

Psalms 10:2, “In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor—let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.”
Context: The psalmist beseeches the Lord to bring justice upon the wicked and rescue the oppressed.
Analysis: Out of our arrogance, many of us blame the poor for their poverty. We then credit the wealthy for their success and regard them as righteous, and thus, we join the wealthy in schemes to keep the poor in their poverty. Should Christians continue to support the wealthy at the expense of the poor, more and more of us will be “caught in schemes they have devised,” and join the poor in their poverty over time.

Psalms 12:7, “‘Because the poor are despoiled; because the needy groan, I will now rise up,’ says the Lord. ‘I will place them in the safety for which they belong.’”
Context: In this psalm, God comes to the rescue of the poor.
Psalms 14:6, “You would confound the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge.”
Context: King David laments of all the evil in the world.
Proverbs 11:24-25, “Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want. A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water.”
Proverbs 13:23, “The field of the poor may yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice.”
Proverbs 14:31, “Those who oppress the poor insult their maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor Him.”
Analysis: How do we insult God by oppressing the poor? Many politically-conservative Christians say that those who are smart and work hard achieve financial success, while the poverty of the poor results from their laziness and stupidity. As for laziness, many hard-working people struggle to support their families. And as for being smart, we can’t all be Einstein. If we were born too stupid to figure out how to get rich, we are as God made us. Does the Bible tell us that less intelligent people should struggle to survive as punishment for their stupidity? If God gives us our smarts, skills and lucky breaks, we have no business being arrogant toward those who receive a less lucrative package of abilities from Him. When we blame the poor for their lack of intelligence, we insult God for making them as they are.

Proverbs 19:17, “He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his good deed.”
Analysis: This verse brings to mind Jesus’ statement, “As you’ve done it unto others, you’ve done it unto Me.” As I’ve previously stated, God creates rules not for His own direct benefit, but for the benefit of His children (which is all people, not just the ones whose beliefs match ours). Yet, somehow, according to this verse, God benefits when we love others well, especially the needy.

Proverbs 21:6, “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.”
Analysis: When we Christians think of committing sins with our speech, we tend to think of using bad words. But the Bible shows us here (and in many other passages) that lying to gain wealth and take advantage of others financially is a far greater sin of the tongue.

Proverbs 21:13, “If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard.”
Analysis: In our modern society, where exactly do we hear the cry of the poor? Those of us who live well, live in areas where there are no poor. And even when we walk or drive through an impoverished area, it’s rare that we hear people cry out.
Yet the poor do make their voices heard in our society, but in an organized fashion. They organize politically to cry out for money to pay for health care. They organize into unions to cry out for fair wages – wages that provide food, clothing, shelter, basic enjoyment (yes, having some pleasure in life is a necessity), and a respectable share of their company’s profits. Yet many of us ignore and oppose their organized efforts, because we believe that those who fail to prosper in the land of opportunity deserve their poverty, and those who prosper in the land of opportunity shouldn’t have to share.
But remember that opportunity is only opportunity. Opportunity combined with hard work doesn’t assure prosperity. Many try their best and still come up short. The formula for prosperity is hard work, plus opportunity, plus God-given ability, plus knowing the right people, plus luck (changes in market conditions, etc.). Only hard work is within our control, the rest is beyond any person’s control; therefore, we must not arrogantly close our ears to the cry of the poor in our country. Much of their suffering is beyond their control.

Proverbs 22:9, “Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.”
Proverbs 22:16, “Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss.”
Analysis: How does a person enrich oneself by oppressing others? One way is to make employees work too many hours, thus depriving them of the quality life that God desires for all people. We live in a culture, even a Christian culture, which smiles upon those who work too hard. Christians have their favorite Bible verses that call for hard work and responsibility, but they overlook passages like this one that warn of working people too hard.
When we work too hard, we fail to have the quality relationships with others that God desires, and we find no time to serve Him, because we devote our lives to serving our employers instead.
How does the sin of “giving to the rich” while “oppressing the poor” “lead only to loss?” This verse may merely speak of spiritual loss or God’s retribution, but it may, on the other hand, be a warning to us today as many politically-conservative Christians seek to cut taxes for the wealthy while making life harder on the poor and working class. Such an approach is bad for the economy, ultimately hurting the rich too, because the fewer people you have spending money, the worse an economy is. (For example, if 80% of the population can afford to have their carpets cleaned, more jobs are needed, and more money is earned, in the carpet-cleaning industry than if only 20% of the population can afford to have its carpets cleaned. Since it only makes sense to clean carpets every so often, the wealthiest 20% will not spend their extra wealth on enough carpet-cleaning service to make up for the money not being spent by the bottom 80% of income earners.)

Proverbs 22:22, “Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate.”
Proverbs 23:10, “Do not remove an ancient landmark or encroach on the fields of orphans.”
Proverbs 28:3, “A ruler who oppresses the poor is a beating rain that leaves no food.”
Proverbs 28:27, “Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but one who turns a blind eye will get many a curse.”
Analysis: Altogether, we have eleven Proverbs opposing oppression of the poor. Anything addressed eleven times in a single Bible book must be one of God’s top priorities. We can no longer allow other issues to take precedence over this one. This is far more important that worries about gay marriage, creationism, alcohol consumption, secular music, etc.

Proverbs 25:21, “If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink.”
Analysis: Jesus’ teachings were often based on the Old Testament. His command to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) may have been inspired by this verse. Taking care of the needy is of greater importance than loyalty to our causes. It doesn’t matter if they believe what we believe politically or religiously. What matters is that they live a quality of life that anyone created in God’s image (which is everyone) deserves.

Ecclesiastes 4:1-3, “Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power—with no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead, who have already died, more fortunate than the living, who are still alive; but better than both is the one who has not yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.”
Context: King Solomon shares his God-given wisdom.
Analysis: Does this mean that we should encourage abortion, because the never-born are better off? Of course, not! However, this verse teaches us that suffering oppression in this life is worse than being dead or never having been born. Therefore, politically active Christians need to adjust their priorities accordingly.

Isaiah 1:17, “…learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
Context: This verse is part of a vision Isaiah had concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the years prior to Babylon’s conquest of Judah. It commands the Jews to behave as God had always desired.
Analysis: If we American Christians have a political calling from God, this verse reveals it. It’s not simply enough to personally avoid hurting others. This passage calls us to rescue the oppressed from the harm of those who oppress them.
How do we do that?
Do we kidnap them from their workplaces and take them somewhere nice?
This verse commands us to plead their cases, to defend their causes. Only politically-oriented action will accomplish this. It’s a sin for us to neglect their causes.

Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free…”
Context: Early in Jesus’ ministry, He read this quote from the book of Isaiah in the synagogue and proclaimed that this prophecy had been fulfilled in Him.
Analysis: Some might argue that this quote refers to the poor in spirit, but there’s no evidence for that. The “good news” to which Jesus refers is that God’s supports the poor and opposes their oppressors.

James 2:5-6, “Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court?”
Context: All of chapter 2 addresses the sin of favoring the rich over the poor.
Analysis: It’s unlikely that the rich oppressed Christians by taking them to court to sue them over money, since Christians probably had little of that. Instead, the rich may have made false accusations against Christians because they hated them for supporting the needs of the poor over the desires of the wealthy.

James 2:15-16, “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”
Context: All of chapter 2 addresses the sin of favoring the rich over the poor.
Analysis: Contrary to what many Evangelical Christians believe, life on this earth does matter. Notice that neither this verse nor any other verse requiring us to help the needy says that we should do so for the sake of converting them to the faith. We are to help the needy…period!

James 5:4-6, “Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.”
Context: Verses 1-3 also warn the rich, but do not address specific sins.
Analysis: Holding back wages is a sin that many Christians think is impossible to commit in modern America. But let’s think for a minute what happened when these laborers were hired. They were told they would receive a certain amount of money for a certain amount of work, yet once the work was performed, the failed to receive all of what they were promised.
Having spent over 15 years of my life working in sales, I’d have to say that the majority of employers deceive potential sales reps about the income they will likely earn. This is easy to do since sales reps are paid, at least in part, in commissions. A set income cannot be pre-determined, so recruiters exaggerate the amount a given rep is likely to earn. So the reps wind up earning less than they were told for the hours they work.
The inverse of this is when an employer accurately tells potential employees what salary they will receive, but fails to inform them how many hours they will have to work to receive that salary. When employers overwork salaried employees, this too is stealing wages.

1 John 3:17, “How does the love of God abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
Context: Love for others is a dominant theme in 1 John. John encourages Christians to make sacrifices for others, much like Christ made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.
Analysis: Both James and 1 John call us to action in helping the poor. Prayer, worship, and preaching the gospel are essential to the Christian life, but should not take so much of our time that we fail to serve the needs of others.

Greed & Oppression of the Poor (Bible Study) – Part 5

[To read this study in its entirety, please go to the Bible Studies page on this website and download the PDF.]
God’s Judgment of the Oppressors

Isaiah 3:14-15, “The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people: ‘It is you who have devoured the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?’ says the Lord God of hosts.”
Context: Isaiah prophecies against Judah (the southern kingdom) during the time period in which Israel (the northern kingdom) was under siege by Assyria.
Analysis: One of two things is happening here. Either, the wealthy vineyard owners are underpaying their workers (and God is saying that the workers deserve more of the spoils), or the nation’s leadership is taking from small, local farmers and hoarding the spoils to support their luxurious lifestyles.
Some might see the latter explanation as one that opposes taxation. But, as we’ll see later, there’s a difference between taxes that take from the wealthy to help the poor and taxes that take from the poor to enrich the wealthy, as these taxes do.

Isaiah 5:8, “Ah [‘Woe to’ in the NASB], you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land!”
Context: Isaiah prophecies against Judah (the southern kingdom) during the time period in which Israel (the northern kingdom) was under siege by Assyria.
Isaiah 10:1-2, “Ah [‘Woe to’ in the NASB], you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey!”
Context: Isaiah prophecies against Israel.
Analysis: Notice that God addresses politics as He rebukes those “who write oppressive statutes.” I’m unaware, however, of any civilizations that have passed laws requiring the wealthy to oppress the poor. It’s not what the law commands that oppresses the poor; it’s what the law permits. Allowing business and legal practices that make life harder for the working class is the sin of which this verse speaks.

Isaiah 58:3, “‘Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?’ Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.”
Isaiah 58:6-7, “Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and to bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”
Isaiah 58:9-10, “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.”
Context: Isaiah prophecies against Judah.
Analysis: Verses 3-9 demonstrate that God turns His back on nations that neglect the needs of the poor. Some Christians say that the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 are evidence that God is turning His back on the United States. If they are correct, it may not be the sins of the non-Christians (such as homosexuals) fueling God’s anger, however, but the sins of the Christians who oppress the poor. Remember, it wasn’t the World Gay Center that fell; it was the World Trade Center. If this disaster was indeed God’s punishment on America, it was our business practices He was judging, not the sexuality of non-Christians.

Jeremiah 5:28-29, “They have grown fat and sleek. They know no limits in deeds of wickedness; they do not judge with justice the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. Shall I not punish them for these things…?”
Jeremiah 6:6, “For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Cut down her trees; cast up a siege ramp against Jerusalem. This is the city that must be punished; there is nothing but oppression in her.”
Context: Jeremiah prophesied to Judah during the years prior to its fall to Babylon.
Analysis: Notice that, in chapter 5:28-29, God wants the wealthy to “make” the orphans prosper. He denies the wealthy the right to do whatever they want with their money and power. When they assume such a right, God’s punishment follows.

Amos 2:6-7, “Thus says the Lord, ‘For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals—they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way.”
Amos 4:1, “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on Mount Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, ‘Bring something to drink!’”
Amos 5:11-12, “Therefore, because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate.”
Amos 8:4, “Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring ruin to the poor of the land…”
Context: God speaks against the sins of Israel and goes on to promise a day of judgment upon it.
Analysis: We’re seeing an abundance of verses in which God promises wrath for His people who oppress the poor. Will we American Christians experience this wrath? Will oppressing and neglecting the needy, while supporting the wealthy, be acceptable as long as we do it in Jesus’ name?

Ezekiel 16:49, “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and the needy.”
Context: Ezekiel is prophesying against Jerusalem.
Analysis: This is yet another example of God infuriated with a nation that fails to care for its poor.

Daniel 4:27, “Therefore, O king, may my counsel be acceptable to you: atone for your sins with the righteous, and your iniquities with mercy to the oppressed, so that your prosperity may be prolonged.”
Context: Daniel interprets the dream of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.

Micah 2:2-3, “They covet fields, and seize them; house, and take them away; they oppress householder and house, people and their inheritance. Therefore thus says the Lord: Now, I am devising against this family an evil from which you cannot remove your necks; and you shall not walk haughtily, for it will be an evil time.”
Context: Micah prophecies judgment against Samaria and Jerusalem.
Analysis: Here the word “covet” again applies to the desire to acquire someone else’s property.
Unlike portable objects, houses and lands are immovable. To take them requires a political or financial scheme. In modern times (at least up through 2008), this scheme might involve a loan to someone who’s unlikely to be able to keep up with the payments, or even an Adjustable Rate Mortgage in which the lender knows that the borrower will be forced to foreclose when interest rates rise, thus allowing the lender to seize the property and sell it at a profit in the event that prices rise after the loan is issued.
Many people support schemes like these by placing all blame on the borrower for wanting and borrowing more than they can afford. But I know from both sales experience and being the target of mortgage industry sales pitches that mortgage sales reps twisted numbers in order to deceive potential homeowners into borrowing more than they could afford. The mortgage companies didn’t care if the people couldn’t pay (because they sold the mortgages off to be bundled into securities); they only cared about the size of their commissions—the bigger the loan, the more they earned. Granted, in the end, this wasn’t a scheme to take property, but it was a scheme to run up prices, earn big payouts, and earn additional refinancing income when the rates adjusted on the ARM’s, all at the expense of unsuspecting individuals. Either way, it’s an example of oppressing “householder and house, people and their inheritance.”

Malachi 3:5, “Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear Me, says the Lord of hosts.”
Context: Unhappy with the behavior of the Jews during the decades following their return from Babylon, God promises future judgment upon Israel again, but this time, through the coming of Jesus.
Analysis: How are “hired workers” oppressed in their wages? It’s possible that their promised wages were withheld, but businesses that practiced such things probably had trouble recruiting workers after a short time. It’s far more likely that these businesses oppressed their workers by paying them too little.
As Americans, this makes no sense to us, because we’re taught that it’s right, as well as “just good business”, to pay workers as little as the free market will allow. The goal of any supposedly efficient business is to minimize the cost of labor in order to maximize profits. In such a world, there’s no such thing as paying a worker too little; if an employer’s compensation for a particular job is below that job’s market value, then qualified workers will find “fair” wages elsewhere and the job will never be consistently filled.
But this passage indicates that God holds a different set of values. Maybe workers deserve more than being paid as little as the free market will permit. Maybe they should be paid wages that reflect the value of the workers’ contribution to their employers’ success. Or maybe they should be paid enough to afford food, shelter, clothing and basic enjoyment of life, since they’re of great value, being created in God’s image.
That’s not to say that businesses struggling to survive are guilty of sin when they pay workers low wages. But when corporate executives and investors earn several hundred times as much as their employees, who are paid as little as the market will allow, they likely violate God’s words in this passage.

Matthew 25:41-46, “Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they will also answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw 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 tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Context: Jesus explains that on Judgment Day, He will separate the righteous from the evil. The righteous will receive eternal life, while the evil will face God’s wrath.
Analysis: In the Old Testament, God brings wrath upon the nation of Israel for their neglect and oppression of the poor. Jesus’ ministry, on the other hand, focused upon individuals rather than upon a nation.
We who oppress and neglect the poor will suffer eternal punishment. Many Christians might argue that we receive forgiveness for this if we believe in Jesus, but that’s only if we repent of this behavior and try to turn away from our sin. Remember, in Matthew 7:21, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my father in heaven.” Jesus makes it clear that mercy on the poor is a vital part of God’s will. Therefore, it’s a requirement for eternal life.

Luke 6:24, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.”
Context: Chapter 6 is Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount. Some will argue that this is a different sermon, because verse 17 says that Jesus came down to a level place. However, many mountains have level areas, and the text does not say that He came off the mountain. Also, the events that follow the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew follow this sermon as well.
Analysis: Are all wealthy, full, and happy people going to hell? Probably not. Here, Jesus warns the wealthy that their prosperity on earth will one day end, and that if their prosperity results from oppression of the poor or causes neglect of the poor, they will be the ones suffering for eternity.

Acts 5:1-5, “But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the Apostles’ feet. ‘Ananias,’ Peter asked, ‘why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were of the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!’ Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard it.”
Context: See Acts 4:32, 34.
Analysis: Why did Ananias and Sapphira lie? Were they required to sell their property and give all the money to the church, or had they promised to do so in an attempt to impress others? I guess we’ll never know. It’s enough to make us wonder whether all Christians must sell their homes and give the proceeds to the church. There are, however, biblical references to Christians owning homes, such as 1 Corinthians 11:22 in which Paul says, “Do you not have homes to eat and drink in?” So we need not jump to a rash conclusion based on this example.

Greed & Oppression of the Poor (Bible Study) – Part 6

[To read this study in its entirety, please go to the Bible Studies page on this website and download the PDF.]
Taxes/Redistribution of Wealth

Leviticus 19:9, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.”
Context: Numerous, unrelated laws are listed in this portion of Leviticus.
Deuteronomy 24:19-21, “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, orphan, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.”
Context: Numerous, unrelated laws are listed in this portion of Deuteronomy.
Analysis: Imagine not only farmers, but manufacturers as well, having to allow the poor to walk away with free goods. Do you think they would cry that it’s unfair? You bet they would. We could argue that verse 9’s command is the equivalent of paying taxes, since it’s nationally mandatory for all farmers and benefits the needy. Yet many Christians whine about having to do that, too. We argue that our sharing with the poor should be voluntary rather than be required by the government. But the Bible shows us here that God required His nation to share with the poor.

Leviticus 27:30, “All tithes from the land, whether the seed from the ground or the fruit from the tree, are the Lord’s; they are holy to the Lord.”
Context: Chapter 27 instructed the Israelites on which things were to be set aside for the Lord.
Analysis: A “tithe” is ten percent of one’s income. This tithe was, in reality, a tax, because it was mandatory for everyone. While the tithe is said to be the Lord’s, that just means He determines who should receive it. Many Christians follow this command today, but on a voluntary basis. They contribute after paying taxes. But for the Israelites, the tithe was their federal tax.

Deuteronomy 14:22-23, “Set apart a tithe of all the yield of your seed that is brought in yearly from the field. In the presence of the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose as a dwelling for his name, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the firstlings of your herd and flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.”
Context: The second half of chapter 14 addresses tithing.
Analysis: This is known as the Festival Tithe. The fact that God required a feast is further proof that He wants His people to have some enjoyment rather than continually suffer to impress Him.
This tithe was not for ministry, but for the common good. Since a tithe is a percentage of one’s possessions, those who have more pay more. The poorest people paid the least in God’s taxation system, but benefited the most.
Today, our government follows a similar model. If it needs to raise taxes for the common good, the rich pay the most, because it’s the rich who hold most of the nation’s wealth. Whenever politicians call for lower taxes, they aim to lower them for the rich at the expense of the common good.

Deuteronomy 14:28-29, “Every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce for that year, and store it within your towns; the Levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat your fill so that the word of God may bless you in all the work that you undertake.”
Context: The second half of chapter 14 addresses tithing.
Analysis: God calls on the Israelites to look out for those who have no land. In early Israel, people received land through inheritance. Those who had land could grow food and build a home. Those who didn’t have land had to rely on the generosity of others. This law is the equivalent of a tax on property owners for the benefit of the poor.
Today, many Christians believe that taxing those who have more than enough and redistributing it to those who don’t is evil. To say so is to say that God is evil, because, as we see here, God is the creator of a national, mandatory, systematic redistribution of wealth from the prosperous to the poor.
Some will say that such redistribution is unfair, but God is far more concerned with everyone living a quality life than He is about fairness. Fairness isn’t a major principle promoted by the Bible, but God’s love is.

Deuteronomy 23:24, “If you go into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in a container.”
Context: Numerous, unrelated laws are listed in this portion of Deuteronomy.
Analysis: Notice how this verse addresses not the poor who have no property, but neighbors. In order to be someone’s neighbor, you must own land, so this verse addresses land owners—people who weren’t totally impoverished like the widows, orphans and immigrants were. God required them to share with one another, at least in terms of satisfying their own hunger. (He also allowed trespassing. The idea that a person can’t even walk on the land God created, because you now own it, is anti-biblical.)
Again, this is unfair, because one neighbor may have a bigger and more fruitful vineyard than the next. And maybe that’s because one neighbor is more talented than the others. Most modern American Christians would say that the man who is more talented and more fortunate (and maybe even harder-working) than his neighbors shouldn’t be forced to share with them, because fairness dictates that he gets to decide what to do with anything he produces or earns.
But that’s not how God sees it. God proves here that He desires a society that mandates sharing. That’s not to say that God is a communist, but neither is He a right-wing American capitalist who takes property rights to the extreme.

Malachi 3:8-10, “Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In your tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflow blessing.”
Context: God continues to express displeasure over His people’s behavior.
Analysis: Here God is furious, not because individuals failed to make voluntary, charitable donations, but because the nation failed to collect its taxes (tithes). The food needed to provide for the Levites (who were government workers, since Israel was a theocracy), to provide for the poor, and to create enjoyment for the common good (the festival tithe) had not been collected; therefore, people created in God’s image suffered. They were robbed of what they deserved. And, as Jesus said, “As you’ve done it unto others, you’ve done it unto Me.” That’s why God accused the Israelites of robbing Him by failing to collect the tithes.

Greed & Oppression of the Poor (Bible Study) – Part 7

[To read this study in its entirety, please go to the Bible Studies page on this website and download the PDF.]

Taxes and Wealth Redistribution – Part 2

Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Context: This is one of Jesus’ various teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. This same quote also appears in Luke 16:13.
Analysis: I’m listing this passage again here among the tax verses, because so many Christians are obsessed with avoiding taxes to the point that they oppose God.
Yes, it’s difficult to see a significant portion of our paychecks go to someone other than ourselves. And, yes, the government doesn’t spend all tax money wisely. But we must not let our love of money harden our hearts and distort our theology.
In recent years, I’ve heard an increasing number of Christians say, out of their hatred for paying taxes, that a national, mandatory redistribution of wealth is evil. But since God created a national, mandatory redistribution of wealth for ancient Israel, anyone who says that redistribution of wealth is evil says that God is evil.
Some might argue that our secular government doesn’t have to do it God’s way. But when we vote, our only choices are to vote for God’s way or Satan’s way. While I’ve never read the Satanic Bible (for fear of being possessed), I’ve read commentary on it. And its message is basically, “Do what you want. If you want to help others, that’s fine. But if you want to put yourself first, that’s fine, too.” Satan is pro-choice all the way, whether we’re talking about abortion and adultery or money and business. God is never pro-choice. He requires that we put others needs on the same level as our own. If we’re going to be politically involved, how can we not vote to do it His way?
Right now, many politically conservative Christians are following the master of greed, obsessed with hoarding more money to themselves and hateful toward those who long to see all people created in God’s image enjoy at least some quality of life.

Matthew 17:24-27, “When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, ‘Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?’ He said, ‘Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, ‘What do you think Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?’ When Peter said, ‘From others,’ Jesus said to him, ‘Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.’”
Context: This passage appears to be unrelated to those which precede and follow it.
Analysis: The temple tax was required of all adult Jewish men. It was needed for temple upkeep. In this story, Jesus does not oppose it, thus proving that He does not oppose taxation for the sake of the common good.
Jesus’ remark that the “children are free” implies that He should be free from paying it since He is the Son of God. Nonetheless, He pays it so as not to give people a reason to oppose Him

Acts 4:32, 34, “The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common… There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned land or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the Apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as they had need.”
Context: The Gospel catches on quickly and with great enthusiasm as the disciples begin to preach it.
Analysis: This scene horrifies American Christians who see pure capitalism as gospel, because we have in these verses the early Christian equivalent of a commune, and a commune-inspired economic system is communism.
Should we practice communism in an effort to emulate the early Christians?
Not necessarily.
First, let’s look beyond modern economic systems and examine the principals involved. The intent of these actions was to ensure that “there was not a needy person among them.” This has always been always God’s desire. The solution was that everyone in the community would give up what they had in order for this intent to become reality.
Today, our society in America is wealthy enough that we don’t have to give up everything to help those around us. But we also lack the right to keep our wealth to ourselves.

2 Corinthians 8:13-15, “I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, ‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.’”
Context: Paul attempts to inspire the Corinthian church to give to less fortunate churches by referencing the overwhelming generosity of the Macedonian church.
Analysis: The last sentence of this quote allows for some to have much and for others to have little, so it does not support communism in which all people earn the same. It does, however, support a system in which the wealthy give up excessive wealth so that the poor may enjoy a quality lifestyle. In fact, all the Bible’s greed and oppression laws were given to the Israelites for this purpose. If God desired a system like this for His nation, should we not desire such a system for ours?
Why do so many Christians promote a different system, in which the wealthy have exceedingly great wealth, far beyond what any person can enjoy, while the majority of citizens work their lives away while struggling to survive, and then it’s up to the whims of the wealthy to determine who will receive charitable donations? Is it not better to have a system in which those with exceeding wealth are forced to share it in order to lighten the suffering among all those in need? God thinks it is.

Galatians 2:10, “They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.”
Context: Paul recalls meeting Jesus’ disciples at the council of Jerusalem (see Acts 15) in which they approved of his ministry.
Analysis: Jesus’ disciples could have asked many things of the Apostle Paul, but they asked only one: that he support the cause of the poor. All leaders of the early church were in agreement on this issue. Anyone who claims to be a Christian today must share the same priority.

We’ve just reviewed 96 Bible quotes that oppose greed and oppression of the poor. None of the other subjects we’ve covered received this much biblical attention. Even adultery, fornication, and homosexuality (which we haven’t covered) are only addressed a combined 64 times (approximately) in the Bible.
Despite the Bible’s emphasis on greed and oppression of the poor, most churches have opted to have other priorities. According to Compassion Magazine, a publication from a Christian charity (Compassion International) focused on releasing children from poverty, “Nearly half of all Christians went to church last year [2007] without hearing a single sermon about the poor or the biblical mandate to help the poor.”
Wow! Half of all churches ignore the most frequently addressed sin in the Bible! Why don’t they have time to address one of God’s greatest priorities? Many of them are too busy addressing man-made religious rules or emphasizing theologies built upon solitary Bible verses. Other churches have the time, but demand that their congregations donate to the church rather than to the poor. Also, many churches tend to be one-dimensional. One church will focus nearly every sermon on evangelism. The next church will hype Christ’s imminent return, week-in and week-out. Another church will repeatedly preach that Christians must take political control of America. Yet others talk about nothing but sexual immorality. Some of these topics, like evangelism and sexual immorality, must be addressed at times, but not to the extent that the majority of God’s biblical message is ignored.

Nudity (Bible Study)

[To read this study in its entirety, please go to the Bible Studies page on this website and download the PDF.]

For many Christians, including myself, we were taught growing up that nudity was sin number one. We were taught that it’s wrong to allow members of the opposite sex to see our private body parts, and that it’s wrong to look at the private body parts of members of the opposite sex. We were taught that any exposure of private body parts (or, 100 years ago, even the exposure of knees and shoulders) causes sexual immorality and angers God.
But is this what the Bible teaches?
Many people believe that men’s overwhelming attraction to the sight of body parts is natural and only avoidable by hiding bodies from view. Indeed, that’s what our culture, and especially, Christians, have taught us. But that’s not what the Bible teaches us. Here’s a look at what the Bible says about nudity:

Genesis 2:24-25, “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”
Context: These verses follow the description of the creation of Eve. They also wrap up the creation story.
Analysis: Since these verses describe the state of humans before the fall, we may conclude that both marriage and nudity represent a part of God’s original design for mankind. Yet today, we use this quote to promote marriage, while we ignore this quote when we prohibit nudity.

Genesis 3:7, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.”
Context: This verse is included in the story of the fall of man. Just prior to this verse, Adam and Eve obeyed the serpent who told them to eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so that they may be like God. By doing so, Adam and Eve disobeyed God. After eating the fruit, Adam and Eve realized that they were naked and felt the need to cover up.
Analysis: We see here that it was Adam and Eve’s decision to wear clothing, not God’s. Nowhere does God command Adam and Eve to put some clothes on.
Some Christians believe that the forbidden fruit represents sex. However, the Bible shows that it doesn’t. First of all, God told Adam that he could not eat of this fruit before Eve was even created (Genesis 2:16-17). Second, the fruit was from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, not the tree of sex. Third, God’s instruction in Genesis 2:24 was for the two to become one flesh. In other words, He instructed Adam and Eve to have sex.

Genesis 3:9-11, “But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’”
Context: As the story continues, Adam and Eve meet God for the first time after eating the forbidden fruit.
Analysis: Notice that Adam and Eve are unconcerned over seeing each other naked. They are only concerned that God will see them. After eating the forbidden fruit, they knew they were sinful and that God would be unhappy with them, so they tried to cover up their physical bodies, because that was all they could cover. There was no way they could cover their consciences.

Genesis 3:21, “And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.”
Context: This verse appears after God told Adam and Eve how their lives were about to become difficult as a result of their sin. This verse appears before God banished them from the Garden of Eden.
Analysis: The Bible gives no reason for God’s decision to make clothing for Adam and Eve. The act reveals both God’s compassion for them, despite their great sin against Him, and His realization that their shame was irreversible at this point in time. So, out of His mercy, He aided them in covering that shame as much as possible.
To believe that God made clothing for Adam and Eve so they would not see each other naked is illogical. They were husband and wife and would go on to have at least three children together, so we know that they continued to see each other naked. Since the garden was devoid of other people at this time, we cannot conclude that God clothed them so others would not see their nakedness. Since God created their clothing immediately before He banished them from the Garden of Eden, it’s likely that He did so to protect them from the elements (cold, rain, sunburn, etc.) of the outside world.

Genesis 9:20-25, “Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.’”
Context: This story appears after the flood and after God makes a covenant with Noah. Noah curses his grandson, Canaan, because Canaan’s father, Ham, saw his nakedness and told others about it.
Analysis: Shame over nudity was big in the early years of the Bible, but this shame was not commanded by God. It was merely part of the culture. We must be careful not to assume that the behavior of Old Testament characters results from the command of God. God never commanded that people feel shame over nudity.
Notice that Noah was ashamed that his sons saw his nakedness. Women were not involved here. This shame over nudity had nothing to do with the opposite sex. If this shame were indeed required by God, we would be in defiance of Him today when exposing our bodies in same-sex locker rooms and restrooms.

Isaiah 20:2-4, “…at that time the Lord had spoken to Isaiah son of Amoz, saying, ‘Go, and loose the sackcloth from your loins and take your sandals off your feet,” and he had done so, walking naked and barefoot. Then the Lord said, ‘Just as my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and portent against Egypt and Ethiopia, so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as captives and the Ethiopians as exiles, both the young and the old, with buttocks uncovered—to the shame of Egypt.’”
Context: These verses follow a couple chapters in which God prophecies against Egypt and Cush (now Ethiopia). This particular prophecy foretells their being led away as captives, naked.
Analysis: While Isaiah was not naked by his own choosing, the fact that God ordered him to go about naked demonstrates that He did not oppose public nudity. As I stated in the Creationism study, God never leads His people to sin.

Job 24:7, 10, “They lie all night naked, without clothing, and have no covering in the cold.”
Isaiah 58:6-7, “Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and to bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”
Ezekiel 18:5,7, “If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right…does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment…”
Matthew 25:41-46, “Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they will also answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw 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 tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
James 2:15-16, “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”
Analysis: Notice that these quotes never say, “If you see someone naked, look away, so you don’t become aroused.” In fact, no Bible verses attribute sexual sin to nudity. Rather, they attribute nudity to poverty.
Public nudity appears to have been common in both Old and New Testament times, as hieroglyphics show ancient Egyptian slaves/servants going about naked, while both Mark 14:52 and Acts 19:16 recount a couple of people losing all of their clothing (which apparently came off easily) when someone tried to seize them. It’s possible that public nudity may have even been a turn-off in those days, because people have historically been attracted to appearances associated with prosperity (like obesity in the Middle Ages), not poverty.
I could have listed more verses which associate nudity with poverty, and I could have listed prophecies that associate nudity with poverty, shame, and losing all that one has. But I’m sure you get the point: nudity and sexual immorality are biblically unrelated.
Some might argue that the anti-incest verses of Leviticus 18 & 20 associate sex with nudity, because the more literal Bible translations like the NASB use the words “uncover the nakedness of…” to describe incest. Notice, however, that to uncover someone else’s nakedness, a person must actively remove the clothing of another, since sex is difficult to perform when clothed. These verses do not label nudity as a cause for sin. Rather, they forbid the removal of clothing from family members for the purpose of having sex with them.

1 Timothy 2:9, “…women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes…”
Context: Verse 8 is a request for men to pray, and verses 11-15 address whether women should have authority over men. Chapter 3 then presents qualifications for the appointments of elders and deacons.
Analysis: This verse defines what it means to “dress modestly.” It opposes women wearing expensive, fancy clothing as a means of showing off. Today, this message applies more to the wearing of jewelry and designer clothes than it does the revealing of skin. That’s not to say Christian women may show off their bodies by wearing revealing clothing or clothes that make body parts appear larger than they are. Doing so will trigger men’s sexual interest and create temptation.
Some Christians say that women should cover everything that might be appealing to a man, but that’s a bit extreme. If we were to be consistent in that argument, we would have to discourage Christian women from showing their hair, because many men find long hair attractive. The only reason we don’t become aroused by the sight of it is that we see it all the time and nobody forbids us from seeing it. If, however, all American women kept their hair covered, as fundamentalist Islamic women do, we men would be sexually aroused in the rare instance that we see a woman’s forbidden long hair.
If the Bible neither opposes nudity nor labels it as a cause for sex, why then do so many of us label it as a big sin? We do it for the same reasons as usual: because it’s measurable, and it’s perceived to be a sin-preventionism. Like most measurable sins, nudity attracts far more scorn than biblical sins like gossip, slander, and judgmentalism, because nudity is visible, and these biblical sins are not. Prohibition of nudity is also a sin-preventionism, because we believe that people will face greater sexual temptation when seeing nudity.
Indeed, public nudity does pique most men’s sexual interest, because we are unaccustomed to seeing it and are raised to think it’s a big deal. If we had been raised in a society in which nudity was common, and neither hyped nor opposed, we’d have a healthy attitude toward it. But since the church has forbidden it and linked it to sex for hundreds of years, we are mired in a distorted view of it.
On the other hand, if nudity and revealing outfits were to never be seen again, men would still experience the same level of sexual desire and temptation. They would focus their desire on whatever they could see. I was once told by a Marine who served in Afghanistan that some Afghan men were attracted to women with bushy eyebrows. Why? Because that’s all they could see. Likewise, if we were all nudists, men’s sexual desire would not be any greater than what we experience today. No matter what the dress code, men’s sexual desires will remain constant, and men will be most tempted by the most attractive women.
I’m not recommending that we become nudists. If we did, we’d refuse to sit down on public transportation and church pews unless we first cleaned them with sanitary wipes and disinfectants. Yet we’d have no pockets in which to carry them.
The proper Christian approach to nudity is to avoid its over-hype. When we teach young people that it’s a big deal, it becomes a big deal. It doesn’t matter whether we make it a big bad deal or a big great deal. Attitudes won’t change overnight, however, since our society as a whole makes it a big great deal. But we need to remember that they do so as a reaction against longtime Christian anti-nudity over-hype.

Pride, Spiritual Arrogance & Judgmentalism (Bible Study) – Part 1

[To read this study in its entirety, please go to the Bible Studies page on this website and download the PDF.]
Of all the sermons I’ve heard since I began attending Evangelical churches in 1990, there are few that I remember. However, there was one sermon I will never forget. It was the summer of 1993, and a pastor at Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee gave a sermon on the sin of pride. I remember this sermon for two reasons: Number one, I probably learned more in that sermon than in any other, because I had never seriously considered the negative effects of pride on our lives. Number two, and more important, it was the only sermon on the negative effects of pride that I’ve ever heard, even though I’ve listened to over 1,000 sermons in my life. Is the sin of pride so insignificant that it only deserves to be the focus of one in every 1,000 sermons? Let’s take a look at all the Bible verses that instruct us on the matter and see just how significant the sin of pride is in God’s eyes.
Proverbs 6:16-19, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
Context: Unlike most of the books in the Bible, the book of Proverbs has no context. Its verses contain general wisdom which is meant to apply to everybody.
Analysis: These are not the only things that the Lord hates, but pride is first among those listed here.Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I hate.”
Analysis: Pride and arrogance are the foundation for numerous evil acts. Jesus even said to His disciples that “an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God (John 16:2).” Those who persecuted Christians were arrogant in their beliefs and failed to examine whether or not their beliefs and actions were appropriate. Likewise, much of our sin is also the result of arrogance and failure to re-evaluate our ways.Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
Analysis: Those who are proud in their knowledge are closed-minded and are often proven wrong later. Those who are humble keep their minds open and learn the truth.
Also, we are often proud as the result of our circumstances, such as having a prestigious job title, making a lot of money, or having a beautiful physical appearance. Our pride turns to disgrace when we lose these things or fail to obtain them in the first place. When we possess biblical humility, on the other hand, we realize that all people are of equal value in God’s eyes, regardless of their circumstances. So we become free of having our self-worth determined by these ever-changing events. Biblical humility prevents us from being too proud to associate with the beggars, while it frees us from being too ashamed to associate with those whom society deems as elite.

Proverbs 13:10, “Through presumption comes nothing but strife, but with those who receive counsel is wisdom.”
Analysis: Just like we saw in verse 11:2, know-it-alls create trouble, but those who are willing to listen to others gain useful knowledge.

Proverbs 16:5, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; assuredly, he will not be unpunished.”
Analysis: This proverb flies in the face of what our culture teaches us today. We teach children to be proud in order to counter any feelings they may have of inferiority, when we should teach them biblical humility. Meanwhile, many of us Christians believe we are so much better than those who do not live our version of the Christian lifestyle.

Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
Analysis: Those who think they are unbeatable invariably get beat.

Proverbs 21:4, “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, is sin.”
Analysis: This verse couldn’t be any more clear—pride is sin. Of course, I must clarify that there are several definitions of pride. Webster’s defines pride as “1 a) an unduly high opinion of oneself; exaggerated self-esteem; conceit b) haughty behavior resulting from this; arrogance. 2 proper respect for oneself; sense of one’s own dignity and worth; self-respect. 3 delight or satisfaction in one’s own or another’s achievements, in associations, etc.”. The Bible opposes both the first and third definitions. The second definition is acceptable, however, because we are allowed to feel good about ourselves. But we are prohibited from feeling that we are better than others because of our actions, possessions, children, or any other reason.

Proverbs 27:1-2, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”
Analysis: Boasting is simply a verbal expression of pride. Boasting about past or anticipated success has become more common in recent decades, whether it be in professional sports, music, or everyday life. It’s seen by many Americans as a cool thing to do. Yet, when we exalt ourselves above others in this manner, we earn their resentment, thereby creating divisions among people rather than unity.

Pride, Spiritual Arrogance & Judgmentalism – Part 2

[To read this study in its entirety, please go to the Bible Studies page on this website and download the PDF.]
Isaiah 2:11, “The proud look of a man will be abased, and the loftiness of man will be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.”
Isaiah 2:12, “For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty and against everyone who is lifted up that he may be abased.”
Isaiah, 2:17, “The pride of man will be humbled, and the loftiness of men will be abased, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.”
Context: Chapter 2 of Isaiah prophecies the Judgment Day of the Lord.
Analysis: Since Isaiah was a prophet, he usually focused upon the nation as a whole rather than upon individuals. These three verses predict that God will have a Judgment Day for Judah in which the proud will no longer have any reason to be proud. That prophecy of Judgment Day became reality when Judah fell to Babylon in 586 B.C.

Isaiah 3:16-17, “Moreover, the Lord said, ‘Because the daughters of Zion are proud and walk with heads held high and seductive eyes, and go along with mincing steps, and tinkle the bangles on their feet; therefore, the Lord will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs, and the Lord will make their foreheads bare.’”
Context: Isaiah prophecies against the women of Judah.
Analysis: How many times have we heard that confidence is the number one trait to which members of the opposite sex are attracted? Apparently, people have not changed one bit in over 2,500 years. These young women of Israel were full of pride and used it to seduce men. Even though we may find pride attractive, God finds it repulsive.

Isaiah 5:15, “So the common man will be humbled, and the man of importance abased.”
Context: Chapter 5 contains various woes to evil-doers.
Analysis: There are many examples in the Bible of proud kings whom God opposes; but here in this verse, God opposes the pride of the common man as well.

Isaiah 5:21, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.”
Analysis: This is one of the most convicting verses for me, personally. If I write something that I think is brilliant, I tend to think that I’m pretty smart.
When we have an understanding which others lack, it’s easy to think that we are wiser than they are. However, the biblical mandate is that we remain modest in our evaluation of our own intelligence. If we maintain a biblical focus and achieve a biblical level of intellectual modesty, we will never find ourselves insulting or talking down to others who disagree with us. Rather, we will “be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition [2 Timothy 2:24-25].’”

Isaiah 13:11, “I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless.”
Context: Here, God says He will bring down Babylon as well. This prophecy was fulfilled when King Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.
Analysis: Notice that the “ruthless” are described as “haughty.” The mean-spirited nature of the ruthless is rooted in pride. They believe that the oppressed deserve to suffer more than the oppressors, and they desire to be like God by inflicting judgment on those whom they’ve judge to be less worthy.

Ezekiel 16:49, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and the needy.”
Context: Chapter 16 is a prophetic allegory in which Jerusalem is portrayed as an unfaithful woman.
Analysis: If there’s a verse in the Bible that convicts us where we are today, it’s this one. Many of us Christians in America are arrogant and live with careless ease. Yet we often neglect the physical needs of the poor, because we blame them for their poverty, and we focus our money and energy only on evangelism.

Obadiah 1:3, “The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in the loftiness of your dwelling place, who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to earth?’”
Context: Obadiah prophecies against Israel’s enemy, Edom, who delighted in the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
Analysis: This verse addresses a nation of people who thought themselves clever for living in places that they believed to be out danger’s reach. In recent times, we Americans, accustomed to safety and success over the past century, believe that we are assured future security as well. Therefore, we live for pleasure on earth rather than for God’s purposes.

Malachi 4:1, “‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and evil-doer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.’”
Context: The book of Malachi prophecies against the behavior of the Jews in the decades after their return from the Babylonian exile. Much of the bad behavior that caused the first fall of Jerusalem had returned, so God prophesied that judgment would come again. But this time, the Messiah would come first.
Analysis: The arrogant get first billing here, ahead of the evil-doer. When Jesus came several centuries later, warnings to the arrogant were a top priority for Him, too.

Pride, Spiritual Arrogance & Judgmentalism – Part 3

[To read this study in its entirety, please go to the Bible Studies page on this website and download the PDF.]
Matthew 6:1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men in order to be noticed by them; otherwise you will have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”
Context: This verse is from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus follows this verse with three examples supporting this statement: examples of people giving money, praying, and fasting, while hoping that others take notice.
Analysis: While some of the Old Testament verses addressed the pride of a nation, Jesus’ entire ministry focused upon individuals. At this point in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives examples of pride rather than simply preaching against pride itself. As I stated in the Why Use the Every-Verse Method, Jesus was not the law-giver. He is not creating new laws here in this sermon. Rather, Jesus is applying the Old Testament anti-pride verses to everyday living.
Jesus’ message here is that we should never hope to impress others with our service to God. While the Pharisees may have gone to extremes in order to be seen by others, we must be mindful of our motives even when our showing off is difficult for others to identify.

Matthew 7:1-3, “Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
Context: This quote is also from the Sermon on the Mount.
Analysis: This quote from Jesus is both well-known and controversial. It in no way prohibits Christians from judging which actions are right and which are wrong. If we were unable to judge actions, we would be unable to control our conduct. This quote is about judging people.
Unfortunately, many Christians take this verse to mean that it’s okay to judge people, as long as we don’t sin ourselves. We fail to realize that Jesus’ primary focus in the Sermon on the Mount is on the immeasurable sins of the heart, like hatred, lust, greed, and pride. While the Pharisees failed at these, they thought their sins were minimal in comparison to others, because they succeeded in measurable things like tithing and fasting. Likewise, we Christians today fail at the immeasurable matters of the heart while successfully following measurable rules. Therefore, when we consider this quote from Jesus, we should not give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and assume that our sins are minimal in comparison to others. Instead, we should refrain from judging others altogether, because our immeasurable sins may be even worse than those we judge.
Judgmentalism directly opposes the Christian way of life, because judgmentalism is the opposite of forgiveness. When a person sins, they sin against one of three entities: they sin against you or someone you care about, they sin against people you don’t know or care about, or they sin against God. When a person sins against us, what are we Christians to do? Forgive them. Every Christian knows that! But when a person sins against others, or especially, when a person sins against God, what do most of us Evangelical Christians do? We damn the sinner in our hearts by passing judgment upon them. If we are to forgive those who sin against us, are we not to forgive those who sin against others or who sin against God? A lot of Christians are willing to forgive those who harm them, but feel it is their duty to inflict some sort of verbal wrath upon those who sin against God. There’s no command in the Bible that we are to carry out God’s judgment against the infidels. God will be the judge in due time. Our role is not to be the judge, but to forgive others of their sins, since we are also sinful and lack God’s authority to pass judgment.
For an example of an appalling display of mass judgmentalism among conservative Christians, let’s look back to the 1990’s when a contemporary Christian singer committed adultery. Did conservative Christians forgive him? Hardly. They trashed his music and insisted that he be banned from the airwaves. To them, this man’s entire life’s work had become worthless, because they deemed him to be worthless. There was nothing wrong with his music. It was not as though his song lyrics described how much fun adultery is. Nonetheless, many conservative Christians argued that the singer had become a bad role model for other Christians, so they had to destroy his music to demonstrate their disapproval of his action. Had conservative Christians behaved in a Christ-like manner, they would have acknowledged their disapproval of adultery; but then, out of their faith in Christ, they would have chosen to forgive the singer and keep his music as a demonstration of forgiveness.
When somebody sins, we have only two choices: judge or forgive. The first is the way of the devil and the Pharisees. The other is the way of Christ.

Luke 18:9-14, “And He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, “God I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.” But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me the sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.’”
Context: This section of Luke lists various events and sayings from Jesus’ life that are not necessarily listed in chronological order. No context is provided other than what we read in verse 9.
Analysis: We’re all sinners, yet when someone commits a sin that we believe is worse than our own, our tendency is to despise them. It has become so commonplace for Christians to despise politicians, celebrities, criminals, party-goers, promiscuous people, etc., that we are infamous, even among non-Christians, for our arrogance and judgmentalism.
Let’s consider how this might look from God’s perspective. God is perfect; we are sinful. God commits zero sins during a person’s lifetime; a given Christian will commit thousands of sins. During that same period of time, a non-Christian living the wild life might commit a few thousand more sins than the Christian will. Let’s say the Christian commits 160,000 sins and the non-Christian commits 180,000. How does that compare to the zero sins that God commits? Isn’t there a much greater difference between zero and 160,000 than there is between 160,000 and 180,000? From God’s perspective, there’s little difference between the light sinners and the heavy sinners. They are both at the opposite end of the sin spectrum from God. God is willing to forgive either one through Christ. Yet, many of us Christians look upon those whom we think are worse sinners than ourselves with contempt, rather than with understanding that, from God’s perspective, we differ little from them.
Also supporting this point is another parable found in chapter 18 (verses 21-35), but this time it’s in the book of Matthew. In it, a servant is forgiven a huge debt by a King, but then refuses to forgive someone else for a much smaller debt. Most people understand that the King in Matthew 18 represents God, the servant whose debts he forgives represents us, and the fellow servant denied forgiveness by the first represents those we are unwilling to forgive. The great debt that the King forgives represents the great chasm between God’s perfection and our multitude of sins, which I just mentioned. The small debt that the first servant refuses to forgive represents the small difference between our sin and the sin of those we see as being worse sinners than ourselves. What many of us fail to realize is that the inability to forgive another person is the direct result of our pride over our own supposedly superior righteousness. If we realize that our debts (sins) are similar in size to the debts (sins) of those we despise for their sins, then our pride over our own righteousness is eliminated and we are better able to forgive others.
Many Christians mistakenly look at the parable from Luke 18 (quoted above) as nothing more than an invitation to admit that we are sinners. We think that we differ from the Pharisee in this story, because he failed to realize that he was a sinner and we realize that we are. Ask almost any Evangelical Christian if they are sinful, and they will reply with an emphatic, “Yes.” They’re well aware of this parable and other Bible verses telling us that everybody, except Jesus, is sinful. Sadly, this admission of sinfulness is nothing more than lip service for any Christian who looks upon supposedly more sinful people with loathing. The first verse in this quote, verse 9, tells us this that this parable is directed toward those who see themselves as more righteous than others, and who look upon seemingly less-righteous people with contempt. This parable instructs us to not only admit that we’re sinners, but also to douse our pride when tempted to compare our own righteousness with the righteousness of others.

John 9:39-41, “And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind.’ Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things, and said to Him, ‘We are not blind too, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, “We see,” your sin remains.’”
Context: All of John, chapter 9, tells the story of Jesus healing a man who had been born blind. The Pharisees were critical of Jesus for doing this on the Sabbath day.
Analysis: Jesus’ response here is more than just a clever comeback. Had the Pharisees been humble in their knowledge of righteousness, they would have refrained from passing judgment on Jesus for healing this man on the Sabbath day. Ironically, the Pharisees’ judgmentalism, born out of arrogance over their spiritual knowledge, invited God’s judgment in return. Jesus denied forgiveness for the sins of these Pharisees, because they judged Him as a result of their arrogant belief that they had perfect spiritual knowledge.

Pride, Spiritual Arrogance & Judgmentalism – Part 4

[To read this study in its entirety, please go to the Bible Studies page on this website and download the PDF.]

Acts 7:51-52, “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become…”
Context: Stephen, the first Christian martyr, speaks the word of God to the Sanhedrin (the Jewish court) after being brought to them by opponents of Christianity. After these words, the Sanhedrin stoned him to death under the supervision of Saul, who would later become the Apostle Paul.
Analysis: The term “stiff-necked” means stubborn. When we are stubborn, we are unwilling to consider the counsel of others, because we arrogantly believe that our way is the only way. Stephen points out to the Sanhedrin, many of whom were Pharisees, that they are arrogant, just like their fathers who killed the prophets, and he implies that this arrogance led them to kill Jesus.

Romans 2:1-3, “Therefore, you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. And do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and do so yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?”
Context: In the last half of chapter 1, the Apostle Paul writes of the many sins of the Gentiles who had not been exposed to the Gospel of Christ. Paul begins chapter two with a warning to the early Christians not to be arrogant toward those who did not live as wholesome a life as they did. We do not know exactly what kind of sins Paul addresses here; therefore, this quote a bit vague.
Analysis: Unfortunately, many Christians use this verse to support their judgmentalism in situations where the person they judge commits a sin that they do not. We have already learned, however, that the roots of sin are intentions of the heart, such as pride, greed, and hatred, so even if a person commits a sin that outwardly appears different from our own, their sin results from the same evil intentions that reside in our hearts, as well. For example, a man may be promiscuous, because his sexual conquests boost his pride. Meanwhile, a Christian may be judgmental, because looking down on others boosts his pride. Both of these men have the same root sin of pride in their hearts. But this pride manifests itself in different ways for each man. Therefore, since our differing sins share the same root, we are never free to pass judgment on those whose sins appear to differ from our own.

Romans 3:9-10, “What then, are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one…’”
Context: Paul uses the issue of judgmentalism in the church to set up an explanation of how we are saved from God’s wrath by justification through faith in Christ.
Analysis: Just as Jews were no better than Greeks, because both were sinful, we Christians are no better than non-Christians because both groups are sinful. The only difference is that we are justified through faith in Christ and, therefore, forgiven.

Romans 3:27, “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.”
Context: Same as above
Analysis: Since we are no better than others in God’s eyes, we have no reason to boast.

Romans 12:3, “For through the grace given to me, I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
Context: Paul goes on to say that each person within the church has his own role or skill that is of value to God. Apparently, some Christians were claiming that certain spiritual gifts were of greater importance than others.
Analysis: Again, the message to Christians here is that we are all of equal value in God’s eyes, so we are not to determine our self-worth by our God-given abilities, but by the fact that we are children of God.

Romans 12:16, “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.”
Context: Paul advises the Christians in Rome on how to behave toward each other, as well as toward all people.
Analysis: This verse reinforces Isaiah 5:21, in that we should not consider ourselves to be smarter than others. It encourages us to associate with people in all situations, and begins by telling us to regard all people equally.

1 Corinthians 4:3-5, “But to me it is a very small thing that I should be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore, do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”
Context: In chapter 4, Paul writes about what it means to be an Apostle of Christ.
Analysis: Paul begins by stating that he has little concern for how other Christians judge him and that he doesn’t even judge himself. He leaves the judgment to God, who knows what’s in our hearts more than we do.

1 Corinthians 5:12, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges.”
Context: Paul instructs the Corinthians to temporarily stop associating with a fellow Christian in order to discipline him for having an ongoing sexual relationship with his step-mother.
Analysis: At first glance, this verse appears to give Christians the right to judge others inside the church. This judgment of which Paul writes, however, is the judging of a deed as sinful and the determination of a method of discipline. Paul is not passing judgment on this man by calling him evil or non-Christian. He is only passing judgment on the deed.

2 Corinthians 2:6-7, “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, lest somehow such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”
Context: The person discussed here may be the same as the one who sinned in I Corinthians 5.
Analysis: Even if this is not the same man, we see that Paul recommends punishment followed by forgiveness as the antidote for major sins. Paul does not recommend that Christians judge the person and damn him in their hearts for years to come, like many Christians do today.

1 Corinthians 8:1, “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.”
Context: As we discussed in the Alcohol chapter, Paul addresses disputes and dangers involving the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to Roman gods.
Analysis: This verse is further proof that spiritual knowledge often leads to the sin of arrogance.

Galatians 5:26, “Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.”
Context: Paul encourages the Galatians to be led by the Holy Spirit in their behavior.
Analysis: When pride and arrogance get the best of us, conflict within the church results.

Galatians 6:1-4, “Brethren even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.”
Context: Paul gives a few more instructions as he closes out the letter.
Analysis: In the first sentence, Paul requires that Christians correct other Christians in gentleness, knowing that they, too, are susceptible to succumbing to temptation. This command is overlooked by many conservative Christians today, who address the sins of others with anger and judgmentalism. The gentleness of which Paul speaks comes from humility in knowing one’s own sinful heart. It is only out of arrogance that we harshly criticize others for their sins.
The last sentence of this quote provides us with the one exception in which pride is allowed, and that’s when we compare ourselves to our former selves. If your relationship with God and others has improved over the years, you are entitled to be proud of this accomplishment, as long as you compare it to the behavior of your former self and not to the accomplishments of others. This allowance of pride is similar to the 2nd definition of pride given in Webster’s.

Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Context: Paul encourages the Philippians to be like Christ by looking out for the interests of others.
Analysis: This quote is alternate wording for The Greatest Commandment of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” To do that, we must be humble. If we think of ourselves as better than others, we then believe our interests to be more important than the interests of others, and we end up serving only ourselves.

James 2:13, “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Context: This is the last verse of a discourse opposing favoritism. The recipients of this letter had been neglecting the poor among them, while they showered the wealthy with attention.
Analysis: When we judge a person of high social status to be more deserving of attention than someone of low social status, we are guilty of judgmentalism. When we seek the company of people with high social status over those with low social status, we are guilty of pride, because we often do such things in an attempt to elevate our own social status so that others will think highly of us.
Notice that the phrase, “mercy triumphs over judgment,” is similar to my quote from the Greed & Oppression study, which says, “when people are in need…fairness fails and mercy prevails.” When we judge people to be unworthy of assistance in the name of fairness, we practice judgmentalism. Those of us who do so despise mercy (mercy is never fair) and oppose God.

James 3:13-14, “Who among you is wise in understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.”
Context: James encourages believers to obey Godly wisdom.
Analysis: Notice the contrast between “gentleness” and being “arrogant.” Wise Christians share their wisdom in a spirit of gentleness. Those who speak from selfish ambition are harsh, critical, and arrogant.

James 4:6, “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”
James 4:10, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
James 4:11-12, “Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it. There is only one lawgiver and judge, the One who is able to save and destroy; but who are you to judge your neighbor?”
Context: James encourages the recipients of this letter to put an end to the fighting and quarrelling among them, which resulted from their own selfish desires.
Analysis: I have to admit that I don’t quite know what it means to judge the law. But I do know that this verse provides us even more biblical opposition to judgmentalism.

1 Peter 5:5-6 “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time.”
Context: In this chapter, Peter gives encouragement to the elders who were overseeing the church. He then advises the young men to obey their elders.
Analysis: The young men here are to be humble in their spiritual knowledge and be subject to the elders who have greater knowledge. However, the elders are instructed to be humble, as well. For God to be “opposed to the proud” is to say that those who are proud in their spiritual knowledge are enemies of God.

1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
Context: John warns against living by our fleshly desires rather than by living as God desires. The next verse states that the world is passing away, but those who live by God’s will live forever.
Analysis: The opposition to pride continues….

We have now reviewed 42 Bible quotes that oppose pride, arrogance, and judgmentalism. The total would be higher if I had included all the forgiveness verses in the Bible, because forgiveness is the opposite of judgmentalism. It is out of our pride that we pass judgment on others. Therefore, it is out of our pride that we fail to forgive, because it’s impossible to simultaneously forgive and judge a person, so any Bible verse that promotes forgiveness opposes pride.
Pride and greed are the root sins that lead to almost all other sins. Both of them are, in turn, rooted in selfishness. Out of our pride, we fight, pass judgment, fail to forgive, withhold mercy, cut off other Christians, and fail to help those in need, because we think that we would do better if we were in their shoes. Greed stands in the way of justice and the support of those in need, while it promotes dishonesty and oppression of the poor.
Pride and greed are the two mega-sins of the Bible. Yet most Evangelical/Fundamentalist churches focus so little energy on steering believers away from them. Instead, many of them focus on preaching man-made rules and beliefs that serve no purpose but to distract Christians from God’s will and to shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in peoples’ faces.