Does it Really Mean What They Say it Means?


A while ago I posted some thoughts about the “great delusion” referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2.

That reference relates to God’s future response to those who lack a love of the truth, a condition that will lead them to fall for the lies of the man of lawlessness (commonly known as The Antichrist).

Within that post I mentioned two cases of where that reference to “great delusion” had been adopted to illustrate contemporary events; with the suggestion that the God-sent great delusion had already been, or is currently being, fulfilled.

I tried to point out that those two examples were using scripture to support beliefs that the actual context of scripture didn’t support.

Similarly, my friend Steve recently posted an article on his blog, addressing the way that biblical instructions to pray for our leaders (for a very specific reason) had been subverted, and used in regard to praying for leaders for other purposes – that are different, and arguably contrary, to the reason given by Paul

I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I recommend a visit to Steve’s blog and read what he has to say.

https://cross-purposes.blogspot.com/2019/06/false-leaders-falsified-scripture-false.html

Recently I’ve been seeing another example of  scripture being used questionably:
2 Thess 3.

“The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” .

That statement is mostly used as a text opposing welfare aid – assuming that the “unwilling to work” are those in poverty who are relying on government help.

Little if any thought is given to applying it to the idle rich. Those who don’t work because of family wealth, or those who take phenomenal payments for comparatively little work.

It seems that believers and Christian leaders can so easily fall into the trap of using scripture to prove a point, or to promote an agenda, that scripture does not actually sanction.

Is that something that should concern us?
Or is it okay to use scripture as a tool to justify behaviours, beliefs and political dogmas that aren’t being addressed in the verses that are referenced?

How confident do we need to be that quoted verses are saying what we are being led to believe that they say?

24 thoughts on “Does it Really Mean What They Say it Means?

  1. I was recently talking to one of my sons about a somewhat related biblical concept. Thou shalt not steal. The same culture that had that law required people to leave the edges of their fields open to anyone who needed food. (There are more than ten laws.)

  2. The same culture that had that law required people to leave the edges of their fields open to anyone who needed food.

    And I’d suggest that those who relied on that “welfare” weren’t scorned because they hadn’t contributed to the sowing of the seed or the tending of the crop. They weren’t accused of ” receiving without working” while other people had to “work without receiving” – which is something I saw on a “Christian” website recently.

    There is a lot of condemnation of alleged “welfare cheats” but very little condemnation of wealthfare cheats who do everything they can to increase their already significant wealth usually at the cost of those far less fortunate.

  3. Well yes.

    And there is the parable that gets used to say an employer can pay whatever he/she wants to pay someone convinced to work — including starvation wages. But that parable, in fact, had someone pay a full day’s wage to some people (who worked all day) and a full days wage to some other people (who worked less than a full day). And, whatever was paid, the person with a field still had to provide the edges to whoever needed that.

  4. Farming or people with land are a different matter (or complex of matters) these days, at least in North America… as one example. Another example of something different is indigenous people living on what grows naturally in the forests or rainforests of the planet. In my country, I hear that “farmers” often lease land and thus owe the landowner(s) and so forth.

    Right now, with the trade war, some of these people are losing out. Many are going bankrupt. There have been subsidies to try and make up for the shortfall. (I also understand that some landowners/farmers — it all sounds layered and convoluted — get subsidies on a normal basis. But that’s not what I’m referring to.) Some of the millions, however, were sent by the Trump administration to billionaires in Brazil who aren’t hurting.

    Soo… I don’t mean to make a one-on-one comparison of ancient Israeli law to the real circumstances of people with access to land now. Nevertheless, when people generally try to use pieces of our Bibles to prove things, they ought to be more conscientious, as you were suggesting.

  5. Warning Against Idleness – 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12

    6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.

    14 “You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. 15 You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the Lord, and you be guilty of sin.” Deuteronomy 24:14-15 (ESV)

    Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard – Matthew 20:1-16 (ESV)

    20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius[a] a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’[b] 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

  6. And as I asked – what about the idle rich who do no work but are able to eat due to their great unearned riches?

    Why are THEY not viewed with the same “disdain” as the idle poor?

  7. Does the passage above make a distinction between the “idle rich” and the “idle poor”, Tim? No. Am I responsible for the attitudes and actions of those your are citing, Tim? No, I’m not. Are you assuming I would defend the “idle rich”? What’s behind your angry response?

    Idleness is sin, regardless of whether it is the idle rich or the idle poor. There have always been idle individuals, rich or poor. What do you want to do about it, Tim? Are you suggesting that inheritance is wrong? Do you propose that inheritances should be done away with? Rich parents have the option of cutting out their lazy children from their wills. If they don’t, that’s their problem, not mine.

    I’m not sure why you are reacting the way you are, given that I only posted the above passages response to previous allusions to them. I offered no commentary about them. I don’t obsess about other peoples’ riches. Do you? I am only accountable for how I handle my finances, and I am very generous with mine (not that it matters to you).

  8. The idle rich are largely considered not idle, because they spend time and energy taking money and habitat and freedom away from others. It takes craftiness.

  9. Does the passage above make a distinction between the “idle rich” and the “idle poor”, Tim? No. Am I responsible for the attitudes and actions of those your are citing, Tim?

    Please read the original post.

  10. “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

    “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

    “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

    “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

    “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

    “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

    “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16)

  11. A relevant quote from scripture, posted by Marleen in a comment on another thread :

    Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.(Eze 16)

    Significantly this is NOT the sin of Sodom that Christians express the most concern about. It’s interesting to ponder why that’s the case.

  12. Ezekiel 16:44-49 (ESV):

    “46 And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. 47 Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. 48 As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 Behold, 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 needy. 50 They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.” )

    “pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease. They committed an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.”

    It isn’t surprising once you “ponder” it, that a self-indulgent and depraved culture like Sodom (and the other cities around it), which was centered around pride, self-gratification of the flesh, and affluence, would have no reason to help the poor and needy.

  13. It isn’t surprising once you “ponder” it, that a self-indulgent and depraved culture like Sodom (and the other cities around it), which was centered around pride, self-gratification of the flesh, and affluence, would have no reason to help the poor and needy.

    It ought to be surprising that condemnation of homosexuality (the perceived “sin of Sodom”) is more prominent among Christians than condemnation of the ACTUAL sin of Sodom as reported in the Ezekiel quote.
    But it doesn’t surprise me when so many professing Christians are caught up in the “prosperity gospel” and its political soulmate.

    It’s so much easier to condemn sins of others, things that don’t affect us personally.

    THAT is why Christians find it much easier to condemn homosexuality but not the sin of Sodom addressed in Ezekiel.

    The ACTUAL sin of Sodom is influencing political allegiances – even DEVOTION – of many claiming to follow Christ.

  14. “But it doesn’t surprise me when so many professing Christians are caught up in the “prosperity gospel” and its political soulmate.”

    I’ve never been caught up in the prosperity gospel movement,Tim. But, is that what you think?

    You don’t know anything about my background and upbringing.

  15. The ACTUAL sin of Sodom is influencing the political allegiances – even DEVOTION – of many claiming to follow Christ.

    Political allegiance to ideologies that serve the rich at the expense of the poor.

    An example of this is found in the 1980s – which could be seen as the seeds of today’s political situation. Reagan slashed the higher level tax rates significantly. Not by coincidence, considering the great reduction in revenue, the homelessness rate increased to what were then record levels as welfare services were slashed to pay for the shortfall.

    Today tax rates continue to be cut to reward the already rich (the “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned”), while those who have relied on services (the poor and needy) financed through tax revenue are abandoned.

    Those political attitudes and practices are very much the way of the world – and yet Christians throw their support behind the ideologies and political parties who implement them, effectively participating in the sin of Sodom.

  16. http://www.religioustolerance.org/hombibg193.htm

    Consider:
    In ancient Jewish literature, such as the Ethics of the Fathers and the Talmud, there are many references to Sodom. The phrase “middat Sdom” was used. It may be translated as “the way the people of Sodom thought”. It meant a lack of charity and hospitality towards others; ignoring the needs of the poor, etc. In the Middle East, a person’s survival could depend upon the charity of strangers. To help strangers was a solemn religious duty of paramount importance. See Leviticus 19:33-34 and Matthew 25:35, 38 and 43.

    ….

    Jeremiah 23:14:”…among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers [rather than the hands of the afflicted and needy], so that no one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.” Jeremiah compares the actions of the prophets with the adultery, lying and evil of the people of Sodom. Homosexual activity is not mentioned.

    Ezekeiel 16:49-50:”Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.” God states clearly that he destroyed Sodom’s sins because of their pride, their excess of food while the poor and needy suffered [no strengthening of their hand instead]; sexual activity is not even mentioned.

    …….

    Ezekeiel 16:50: Although the preceding verse describes Sodom’s sins as pride, laziness, insensitivity to the needs of the poor, and haughtiness, verse 50 refers to the citizens of Sodom as having “committed abomination.” The Hebrew word “to’ebah,” translated here as “abomination,” was used throughout the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) to refer to various ritually impure acts, such as Hebrews and Egyptians eating together, Hebrews eating lobster, shrimp, or snakes, sacrificing an animal in the temple that contained a blemish, women wearing men’s clothing (e.g. pants), a man remarrying his former wife [if another man has been with her], etc. It was also used in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 to condemn same-sex activity between two males. It is not known which “abomination(s)” occurred in Sodom, but it could conceivably have [included] same-gender sexual activity.

    [We do know something extreme happened to a female servant — and not at the hands of (an)other females(s).]

    “…. 48 As I live, declares the Lord God, your [Jerusalem’s] sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you [Jerusalem, ancestry and birth in the land of the Canaanites, father an Amorite and mother a Hittite] and your daughters have done. 49 Behold, 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 needy. 50 They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.”

    https://biblehub.com/ezekiel/16-50.htm

  17. Even though verse 50 uses the word for abomination(s), it can (and maybe should) be taken as a repeat of verse 49. The idea of haughtiness or pride is in both. Both sentences pair attitude and behavior. I conclude that not caring about (to the point of, as a culture together, actually strengthening) the poor and needy is here shown to be put into the category of abominations. The laws were a process of associating things that seemed evidently (or viscerally) disgusting (maybe to most people) with further morals God wanted people to, no less and maybe with greater weight, take on in understanding. Or it could’ve been the other way around — it was common knowledge people should care about the less fortunate or those who are weaker or in need, and God didn’t want people to excuse desiring sex with angels (or anyone with power) in order to gain power (common in Canaan). It’s interesting that the foreign word used in Jude refers to other flesh (other being the word we use for heterosexuality, not homo). Either way, obsession with power to the detriment of others is in view. And the communication regards society, not random individual efforts.

  18. I think we’d all understand II Thessalonians 3:6-12 as what it is, a warning against the attitude of “entitlement:” that one need NOT work to eat, contrary God’s decree for man in Genesis 3:17-19.

    I think we’ve probably all met “ordinary” people who seem to have that sense of entitlement, and will “mooch” off others when they can. We’ve probably also perceived the sense of entitlement which, with notable exceptions, seems to be the attitude of many very wealthy people.

    Among people who practice Jesus’ teachings, His command to “give to everyone who asks you” (Luke 6:30) is a mandate. Those determined on a “moocher lifestyle” would think such people were “easy pickin’s,” and attach themselves to them. That had evidently happened in Thessalonika.

    I think we’d take II Thessalonians wrongly, however, if we saw it as an admonition to be “good stewards” of our wealth and only give to those who are “worthy:” or to use “commonsense” in our giving. Jesus’ command doesn’t take account of either (if anything, His words go AGAINST “commonsense”): and I doubt we can take Paul’s words as modifying, or setting aside, Jesus’ teaching in either of those ways.

    Paul’s command, in Jesus’ Name, is that we should ‘…keep aloof (or “avoid”) every brother who leads an unruly (NIV, “idle and disruptive”) life and not according to the traditions which you received from us” (v. 6). That “…by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:19) is undoubtedly one of those traditions. Paul offers his own example, and says it was so that “…we might not be a burden to any of you” (v. 8). It’s in connection to his own example that Paul says “If anyone will not work, neither let him eat” (v. 10).

    It seems to me Paul’s emphasis is MOST on the sinful uses of idleness, which impact the Body of believers: his admonition is, after all, about “…every BROTHER…”, v. 6) who will not work, and is resultantly “unruly,” “disruptive,” “undisciplined,” a “busybody,” and “a burden” on others.

    That being so, it seems like flouting God’s mandate in Genesis, the attitude of entitlement behind it, the idleness that grows from it, and the evil uses to which we (ALL are tempted to) put our idleness are the point. When those sins are by “brothers,” harming the Body…as is the situation Paul is addressing…it seems a matter for the CHURCH to deal with as Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-20.

    But these observations don’t, to my understanding, yield a Christian “policy” toward unbelieving “moochers” (of whatever economic status: for James 2:1-4 says economic status should be no part of our consideration). Like everyone else, they come under Jesus’ command that we “give to EVERYONE who asks you.” What Jesus says to do is “Christian policy.”

    Unbelieving moochers also come under God’s mandate that man earn his bread by (in the English proverbial phrase) “the sweat of his brow.” What are we commanded to do vis-a-vis unbelievers disobeying God ?: I’d probably put it as “call them to repent.” Which doesn’t negate the command we give to them.

    But how Godly is a call to repentance that comes from a sense of our own offended “righteousness” ? Isn’t that often what we hear from those who quote II Thessalonians 3:10b against other people: “I provide for myself by my own efforts…” (how Godly is THAT premise !?!)…”and HE should too” ? Don’t we hear in such “calls to repentance” the elder brother’s resentment toward the Prodigal Son ?

    Of those below the official “poverty line” in America, slightly over half of those 18-64 who were not disabled or in school worked at least 27 weeks of 2015 (the most recent year for which statistics are given). Some of the others found no work, or insufficient work. It’s at least a partial lie (and far from Christian charity toward them) to characterize the poor people as being UNWILLING to work.

    Probably we’d all agree that the faction whose intent is to foment resentment of the poor (people said to “receive without working” on the “Christian” website Tim referenced), to advance their POLITICAL agenda, deserve Christians’ outrage…not allegiance. Deserve too God’s harshest dealing…especially when they present their lies and hatred as His teachings.

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