My Friend's Challenge (Need Help)

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Jason
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My Friend's Challenge (Need Help)

Post by Jason » Wed Feb 02, 2011 4:54 pm

I have a Christian friend who's struggling quite a bit at the moment with the issue of the Bible's teaching on prayer. He brought up the verse in Mark where Jesus says to pray and not doubt, and the one in Matthew 6 about not worrying about food or clothing, but seek first the kingdom and these things will be given to you. Then he brought up Jesus' statement: "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

He then brought up the millions of people starving to death in Africa, some of whom he's met while traveling there. He said, "Surely some of those who are starving to death are Christians who have faith and are asking for food to eat. But it kind of seems like God IS giving them a stone and not bread, and a snake instead of a fish." I'm not sure he was entirely satisfied with my answer, so how would you reconcile these teachings with people who starve to death while praying for food?

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Paidion
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Re: My Friend's Challenge (Need Help)

Post by Paidion » Wed Feb 02, 2011 11:24 pm

Christ's conclusion in verses 12-14 may throw some light on the subject:

...so whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many, for the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

If we were starving, we would want people to give us food. Thus we should help provide for others who need food. This is normally how God provides for the hungry. If we do not do as Christ's teaches, we are in fact staying God's hand of provision.

There is no justification for people in countries such as the United States and Canada living in the lap of luxury, while there are people starving in "third world" countries.
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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steve
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Re: My Friend's Challenge (Need Help)

Post by steve » Thu Feb 03, 2011 12:51 am

While what Paidion said is true, there is, no doubt, more to be said. God's promises should be true for Christians, regardless how disobedient other people may be. Jesus could not make promises which would be impossible for Him to fulfill apart from the unpredictable obedience of others. Though scripture warns against the folly of trusting in men, Jesus was emphatic that men should, and can, safely trust in God.

There are passages that speak of material provision, but there are also some that speak of spiritual provision, using the analogy of the physical. For example, in talking about how earthly fathers will not deny their children the good things they ask for, in Luke's parallel, Jesus says, "How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13). It is possible that this parallel in Luke should inform our understanding of His intended meaning in Matthew 7:7-11.

When it comes to the promise of God's material provision to those who ask Him, Jesus illustrated God's commitment by appeal to His feeding the birds of the air. Since He feeds them, Jesus said, He will more surely feed us, who are worth more than sparrows. God feeds the birds and meets all of their needs, but not indefinitely. There comes a time, in the will of God, that birds are to die. He does not feed or preserve them beyond that point. The same is true for us.

If someone should see this merely as a more polite way of saying, "Let those people go hungry; if they starve, it was just the will of God for them!" they will be misreading me. The burden expressed in the post above was not concerned primarily with identifying or decrying the causes of world hunger, but with knowing how to vindicate the promises of God in light of such.

We clearly have no excuse if we do not do what we can to relieve the miseries of the less-fortunate. However, after every conscientious Christian has made the sacrifices necessary to feed the hungry—even if we divest ourselves of every penny—there will still be people in the world who will die from various causes...sickness, criminal violence, accidents, exposure, and even starvation. That is because death is in the cards for all of us, and there is no wonderful time or wonderful way for a human life to end.

Therefore, quite apart from what our duty may be with a mind to ending world hunger, starvation will remain a tragedy that seems to mock the promises of God, if we do not take into account that those promises are intended to apply within the timeframe of God's specific will for us. If I should someday starve to death, I would do so remembering that God had kept every promise to sustain me throughout my lifetime, and knowing that I had now reached the expiration date on my claim to them. I would see no reason to complain that I had not died in some less miserable manner, since I could not ignore the fact that I might otherwise have died in an even more miserable manner, from which this death saved me.

The case would be the same, theologically, if I were to die in an accident or from acts of war or criminal assault, since there appear to be promises that God's angels will protect me from all such (Ps.34:7; 91:11-12). The promises of God are subject to the will of God, and it would appear that God does not will that any people should live endlessly in their natural bodies. We are made to have a shelf life.

Some might cynically respond that this is a very convenient and non-falsifiable way of defending God's reputation in the event of unfulfilled promises, but such objections could only come from someone wishing to call God's reputation into question, and resenting every device that might deprive them of the opportunity to do so.

Though I myself have not seen all of my prayers answered, I have never had the slightest desire to translate such disappointments into questions concerning the faithfulness of God. The answers I here provide are those of faith. That is, I have total confidence in the goodness and veracity of God, and I have no difficulty (philosophically) in accepting as His will any of His providences or denials in my life or my death. Such resignation, as I see it, is one of the defining attitudes of a true Christian. That we should be content with God's providences is an oft-repeated commandment.

The promises of God are for the followers of Christ, and it goes without saying that the followers of Christ have once-and-for-all denied themselves, taken up their crosses and chiefly desire that God's will be done and that He be glorified in their lives and in their deaths. Since they do not love their lives unto death (Rev.12:11), they will not count it a strange or grievous thing when God takes them home, even if the method of His doing so should seem to involve the timely suspension of one or another of His promises of temporal sustenance or protection.

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Paidion
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Re: My Friend's Challenge (Need Help)

Post by Paidion » Fri Feb 04, 2011 12:04 am

Yes, God feeds the birds as Jesus said. But how does he feed them? Clearly, He does not drop food in their mouths as they sit in their nests. The sparrow must search for seeds until she finds them. Otherwise she and her young ones will starve. It seems that God provides for sparrows by having created plants bearing the seeds which sparrows eat. Of course, He also created sparrows with the constitution to eat and digest seeds.

Likewise God will feed us who are worth more than sparrows. But neither does God drop food into our mouths. We must work for it in some way. Some men reap crops for food. God made it possible for those crops to grow, and He created those types of food-bearing plants. In present-day complexities, people get jobs, are paid money, and are able to purchase food.

Jesus introduced the passage about God feeding the birds with these words:

... but God said to him, ‘Fool! this night your soul [life] is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’so is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." and he said to his disciples, "therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Luke 12:20-22

His main point seems to be not so much that God will provide miraculously and independently of man's efforts, as the importance of being free from anxiety. He repeats this thought in verses 25 and 26

... and which of you by being anxious can add a cubit [year] to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?

So God has provided a means for us to get food and clothing. But if we don't take advantage of His provision, we will not have them.

Thus the case with the starving in certain countries. The opportunity to get food ought to be there, but is not. Those opportunities have been concentrated in 1st world countries. People want to work and earn a living in some of those countries, but there is no opportunity. I think the rich countries and their inhabitants are somehow going to be held accountable before God for continuing to live in luxury while others are unable to have their basic needs met no matter how hard they try. Are the rich countries not, in reality, resisting the will of God by their greed, staying the hand of God from providing for the truly needy? Yes, handouts are only a temporary measure and will not in themselves solve the problem. Those hungry people need seeds, farming instruction, and a social order where they have opportunities for work.
Paidion

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charleswest
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Re: My Friend's Challenge (Need Help)

Post by charleswest » Sat Feb 05, 2011 9:12 am

Jason wrote:I have a Christian friend who's struggling quite a bit at the moment with the issue of the Bible's teaching on prayer. He brought up the verse in Mark where Jesus says to pray and not doubt, and the one in Matthew 6 about not worrying about food or clothing, but seek first the kingdom and these things will be given to you. Then he brought up Jesus' statement: "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

He then brought up the millions of people starving to death in Africa, some of whom he's met while traveling there. He said, "Surely some of those who are starving to death are Christians who have faith and are asking for food to eat. But it kind of seems like God IS giving them a stone and not bread, and a snake instead of a fish." I'm not sure he was entirely satisfied with my answer, so how would you reconcile these teachings with people who starve to death while praying for food?
"Surely some of those who are starving to death are Christians who have faith and are asking for food to eat."

Seems to me that the only One who would know for sure would be God Himself.

According to Scripture there is not one righteous forsaken not their seed begging for bread.
“I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views... ” Abraham Lincoln. Excerpt from a letter to Horace Greeley. 22 August 1862
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Perry
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Re: My Friend's Challenge (Need Help)

Post by Perry » Sat Feb 05, 2011 11:46 pm

charleswest wrote: "Surely some of those who are starving to death are Christians who have faith and are asking for food to eat."
Seems to me that the only One who would know for sure would be God Himself.
According to Scripture there is not one righteous forsaken not their seed begging for bread.
I presume you're referencing Psalms 37:25 which, in full, reads as follows:


I'm not sure you can extrapolate a universal axiom from something the psalmist says he's failed to see.

To me, the question sounds sincere and your answer a bit off-hand and cavalier.

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kaufmannphillips
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Re: My Friend's Challenge (Need Help)

Post by kaufmannphillips » Sun Feb 06, 2011 2:12 am

Psalm 37:25 states: "I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread" {ESV}.

But Romans 3:10 states: "None is righteous, no, not one" {ESV}

So it is no wonder that the psalmist never saw the righteous forsaken - there was none to be seen!

Hooray for theological algebra! :wink:
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"The more something is repeated, the more it becomes an unexamined truth...." (Nicholas Thompson)
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Perry
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Re: My Friend's Challenge (Need Help)

Post by Perry » Sun Feb 06, 2011 10:04 am

kaufmannphillips wrote:Hooray for theological algebra! :wink:
:D

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kaufmannphillips
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Re: My Friend's Challenge (Need Help)

Post by kaufmannphillips » Sun Feb 06, 2011 2:10 pm

steve wrote:
The promises of God are subject to the will of God...
Yes – they are subject to G-d’s will when G-d chooses to make them in the first place. And they are subject to G-d’s will when G-d chooses either to fulfill them or to default on them.

And one quite reasonably may gauge the value of promises (and promisers) by incidence of fulfillment and default. G-d should not be held exempt from this sort of appraisal, even if we really really like him.

But some confusion does come from misidentifying "promises." Many readers engage scripture carelessly and/or in an illiterate way. And so readers take promises made to other persons as if they had been made to themselves; and readers take promises as applying universally when they are phrased in a way that might afford limited fulfillment; and readers misconstrue wisdom-sayings as promises.

And some confusion may come from misappraisal of fulfillment and default. Perhaps a promise is still outstanding, and has not been defaulted on. Or perhaps it has been fulfilled in a way that has not been recognized by the appraiser.
steve wrote:
Some might cynically respond that this is a very convenient and non-falsifiable way of defending God's reputation in the event of unfulfilled promises, but such objections could only come from someone wishing to call God's reputation into question, and resenting every device that might deprive them of the opportunity to do so.
One does not have to be cynical to weigh the value of an argument. A non-falsifiable argument has limited worth: an argument that cannot be demonstrated to be false, also cannot be demonstrated to be true.

What is more, anybody with a commitment to truth will wish to call G-d’s reputation into question. If they have faith in G-d, they will hope to see him vindicated. But a desire to quash inquiry suggests a lack of concern for truth and/or a lack of faith.

When a fourteen-year-old rape victim is whipped to death under a 100-lash fatwa, then one had better inquire into divine character – both the character of the "God" behind the fatwa, and the character of the G-d who exists in a world where such things transpire.

And when one inquires into such grievous matters, one quite rightly should look for more than a convenient "device." Arguing that this girl "might otherwise have died in an even more miserable manner" would hardly be compelling, when G-d might have stopped her heart quietly in her sleep, or might have granted her unconsciousness after a dozen blows, rather than 70+.
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"The more something is repeated, the more it becomes an unexamined truth...." (Nicholas Thompson)
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Candlepower
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Re: My Friend's Challenge (Need Help)

Post by Candlepower » Sun Feb 06, 2011 5:51 pm

Paidion wrote:Yes, handouts are only a temporary measure and will not in themselves solve the problem. Those hungry people need seeds, farming instruction, and a social order where they have opportunities for work.
My post deals with that (highlighted) point Paidion made. The question is, what kind of a social order? Man's or Gods.

You’ve heard the adage, “Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach him to fish and he'll feed himself for a lifetime.”

Here’s a parallel: Deprive a man of land and he’s apt to steal or starve. Make him a landowner, and he’s apt to grow food to feed himself.

I contend that historically the problem of starvation is not usually the result of drought, pestilence, stupidity, or laziness. More often than we realize, starvation results from depriving people of property rights.

Private ownership of property has been rare in history and remains rare today. In some countries, there is no private property. In other countries there are varying degrees of private ownership of property. In no country that I know of is there a consistently Biblical property system. However, even with the unscriptural elements of eminent domain and property taxes, we in the West enjoy a greater degree of “property rights” than most of the rest of the earth’s population. We take the principle of private property so much for granted, in fact, that we often fail to consider it when we contemplate why so many people in other lands are starving. Often we blame their poverty on our greed, and then put a guilt trip on ourselves for not giving more of our stuff away to those suffering people. The fact is that no one is more generous with food, and everything else, than we in western nations are.

So, why do you suppose so many people in other lands starve while we in North America have plenty to eat? Is it because our soil is more fertile? No. That’s not the reason. There is plenty of fertile soil in many places on the globe. Some of the most fertile land on earth is in Africa. Is it because the people who live on our continent are racially or ethnically superior to people who live on the other continents? Are we smarter than they are? Are we physically stronger? Are we made of finer clay? No, no, no, none of those is true. In fact, the population of North America is well represented by a wide range of races and nationalities, unlike the populations of other continents, which tend to be more homogeneous. We are proof that people of every sort can be successful.

Human government causes starvation more often than do drought, pestilence, floods, or locusts. Here’s a good illustration: Toward the end of the Czarist era in Russia, private property ownership began to be allowed. Consequently, the Ukraine region became so productive that it became known as “The Bread Basket of Europe.” Then the communists captured the nation in 1917 and abolished private ownership of land. The Ukrainians fiercely defended their farms and resisted collectivized farming. Nikita Khrushchev earned the infamous title, “Butcher of the Ukraine” by squashing the Ukrainian resistance. Estimates of the number of Ukrainians murdered range from 4 to 12 million! The abolition of private property in Soviet Russia transformed the once productive Ukraine into an agricultural disaster area. Decades of chronic food shortages resulted, requiring routine importation of food. Here’s a link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor

The basis for private control of property rests in at least two Scriptural principles

1) “The earth is the Lord’s.” It does not belong to man individually or collectively. When God parceled out Canaan, He made families/individuals the stewards over His property. There was no provision made for control of the land by either a civil or a clerical bureaucracy. God knew that private stewardship (not collectivist ownership) would guarantee the most consistently productive economic system for people. It is self-evident that privately controlled property is more productive than centrally controlled property.

3) “Thou shalt not steal.” By forbidding stealing, (individually, or collectively through the state) God provided families with a high degree of economic security in their property. The Jubilee also worked in terms of this protection of private stewardship of the land. Property taxes are unbiblical, and are a violation of God’s system of private stewardship because they are a declaration by the state that it owns the land. Those taxes are a means of stealing from God, and they put every property owner in economic jeopardy of losing his property. As private stewardship of the land diminishes, the invariable result is an increase in poverty, shortages, and famine.

History is a record of civil governments declaring that the land belongs to them. Where Christianity has advanced, however, we see an increase in the Biblical principle of private stewardship of property, and a diminishing of the pagan principle of state control of property. That is why we see more prosperity and fewer famines in the West. Clearly, Western Civilization has been more influenced by the principles of Christianity than has the rest of the world.

Salvation is of God, and it includes more than life in the sweet by-and-by. It includes benefits for the here and now, if we live in terms of His will. We know that spreading the Gospel yields spiritual rewards, but sometimes we forget the wonderful terrestrial benefits it produces as well.

Rather than feeling ashamed of the blessings that have resulted from God’s system of private stewardship of God’s property, let’s give God the glory He deserves. And as we send the starving masses temporary relief, we should realize that the best thing we can do to help feed them is to advance the Kingdom of God, which provides not only spiritual bread, but physical bread as well.

Candlepower
Last edited by Candlepower on Tue Feb 08, 2011 11:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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