What Am I Going to Do with You People?

What Am I Going to Do with You People? June 3, 2010

I’m so confused.

Today I was doing a fairly massive amount of writing about tithing. In the course of that work I wrote,

If, as we have seen above, Paul makes a strong case for believers giving to the church, Jesus Christ makes an even stronger case for believers giving to the poor. Anyone who claims to be even nominally Christian cannot afford to ignore Christ’s clarion insistence that those who follow him must give to the poor and destitute. I would even go so far as to say that Christ so purposefully identified himself with giving to the poor that any Christian who does not tithe to the poor is really no kind of Christian at all.

And I thought: Dude! Reasonably sweet last sentence. So I ponked it up as a status thing on my Facebook page. I almost didn’t, because it seemed like such a boringly obvious thing to write, like “Bozo the Clown is less popular than he used to be!” or “Steak is better when you don’t bite it right off the cow!” But I put the thought/sentence up anyway. What the heck. It’s not like I don’t know how often I bore you guys anyway.

But holy (so to speak) cow! You’d have thought I’d put up a status-thing that said, “Today I bought an inflatable Jesus doll that I’ve dressed up in a teddy and am taking out dancing. Hope I don’t poke him!” or, “Has anyone but me ever noticed how much Osama Bin Laden looks like Jesus?”

Okay, well maybe not that bad. But my simple Facebooky observation about how much Jesus cared for the poor got a “thumbs up!” from some twenty people–and generated a surprisingly passionate thirty-eight comments.


Meanwhile, the piece I put up this morning that I thought was totally interesting,What is the Septuagint?” pretty wholly croaked on me.

Oh, sure, it got read a lot. I’m huge. But it didn’t get read as much as it should have.

Hey. It had the cool picture and everything.

Point being: Jesus loves the poor: controversial. Septuagint: boooooooooring.

One simply never knows, does one?

Actually–doi–I should have known. I got creamed for (an earlier version of) “Christians: No Fair Heeding Paul on Gays, But Not Jesus on Wealth.” I was amazed at how much anger I got for daring to suggest that Christians might want to think twice before accruing unto themselves too much money.

Why, you’d have thought I’d suggested something as outrageously offensive as … oh, I don’t know, that pretty young woman dressing sexily tend to attract the attention of creepy guys.

Again: one never knows.

But I’m tellin’ you, you guys have made me think that maybe tomorrow I won’t publish, “What is the Latin Vulgate?”, my maybe-not-as-fascinating-as-I-thought Part Two of today’s post.

Hey, speaking of what we both know (and of what I’m not ashamed to say I often unashamedly say), which is that I’ve got the greatest readers and commenters in the blogosphere, check out this comment from our new friend, Mark.

Latin Vulgate!

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  • Susan Prescott

    I thought your Septuagint post was very interesting actually. It was something I didn't know and I like learning new things. I didn't comment because I figured you would, as usual, be inundated with comments say how interesting it was and that my comment wouldn't matter. But I guess I was mistaken. So, for the record, I enjoyed your Septuagint post. 😀

  • Susan Prescott

    Er, "saying". Inundated with comments *saying* how interesting it was. *sigh* I'm sleepy.

  • Thank you!

    Ha! I KNEW it was interesting!

  • Alright Shore, I've had it up to HERE with you! How dare you suggest Bozo isn't as popular as he used to be? I mean, harrumph!

  • Troy

    I want to hear about the inflatable Jesus doll….

    uh, never mind…

  • onemansbeliefs

    Nothing gets people more stirred up than talking about…

    1) their money

    2) their kids

    3) someone else's sex life

    John: I have, on occassion, been antagonistic in regards to some of the posts here on your blog and I would like to submit an apology to you. In trying to be a good son, I have forgotten to be a good brother. I will do better in the future. Keep writing and I will keep reading and remembering that "iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

  • Lol! …one of my favorite sayings to people who complain about tithing and giving is that 90% is a lot to keep….

    Actually I am against most of what is taught in church about tithing. While I understand how some segments of the church teach that because Abraham did it before the law…therefore because we are not under law…we should do the same as Abraham to come under his blessings……. "HogWash"

    However…there is a lot in the New Testament in the Gospels and Episitles about being generous. In fact in Corinthians the Apostle Paul does say that the more generous you are…the more blessed you will be….He even goes to say that you will reap even more from your generosity.

    I tithe as a principal. I don't feel guilty if I can't some weeks. Other weeks I give more then a tithe. I believe that we shouldgenerally tithe into our local church. After all the church we are part of…is our spiritual home and needs looking after.

    There are some weeks however that I will tithe to another person or charity that I feel lead to give to. Such as the day I picked a mate up from the station to take home and shopping…however he wasn't able to cash his wage cheque as his boss didn't sign it…

    I took him shopping and filled his trolly up with more then he would have bought anyway. He is on a pension like myself. We support a couple of kids overseas in various orphanages also.

    I try and make generosity a way of life. I have experience poverty to the level where I lived in the back of my van for 6 weeks on $420 a fortnight…..14 months later I am still on a disability pension of about $640 a fortnight, plus a supplement of around $110 .but life is a little easier which makes it easier to be generous to those in need once again.

  • Zoomer

    Here's something I've sort of pondered and I don't have a good answer for it. In this country we have a big part of our wages taken out for Social Security and Medicare. Do we count that as part of our tithe to the poor?

  • DonP

    "ponked " ? Might want to look that one up on Google John. It ain't pretty. Otherwise: Ha! Ha! My advise>>>>>>>>stick to subjects that relate to those of us still down here in the fox hole of life. Keep your more pungent ( yes I used that word on purpose) Christian stuff for your seminary buds. Then, you didn't ask my advise and I am, after all covered with the mud of said fox hole.

  • Freda

    John, I truly hope you will never stop discussing these controversial topics. I grew up steeped in Christian Fundamentalism, went to Bible College even, and one of my biggest pet peeves is that there are so many subjects that Christians have pat answers for which they have never devoted any mental time to.

    Everyone forgets Luke 10:27 says "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your MIND." Too many Christians believe that faith equals BLIND faith, and they are not equivalent.

    To add to the confusion, many conservative talk show hosts (such as Rush Limbaugh and others) are followed devotedly by Christians who do not realize that some of what they promote is truly anti-Christian.

    For example, I have a close relative who is a college professor at a Christian college who specializes in sciences. He constantly amazes his students when he tells them that climate change is real, and there is a great deal of scientific evidence for it. Some students initially feel as if their very salvation is in jeopardy if they don't fall in line with the Big Business Rape-and-Pillage-the-World point of view. They're even more shocked when they are presented with the evidence.

    Likewise, suggesting that Christians don't accumulate wealth and give to the poor is anti-Republican. For the Christians who've mistakenly believed that being Republican is equivalent to being a Born-Again Christian, their immediate knee-jerk reaction will be to dismiss the concept.

    But you are correct. Christianity comes closer to socialism than the current Republican party. Of course Christianity represents IDEAL socialism – something we will not and have not encountered in this world.

  • John, check out this blogpost which was posted on a friend's facebook wall. It's good and speaking to exactly what you're talking about. http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2010/0

  • Dianne

    Sounds like I have to go back and see your ditty on tithing. (I hope 'ditty' isn't falling into the same category as 'cute' – I just couldn't think of the right word)

  • deb

    Zoomer…I think the distinction between a tithe (either to the church or giving to the poor) and taxes is that the former should be done from a willing heart vs. being forced to by the govt. and/or under compulsion or from a place of guilt. It's clear in scripture that God wants us to give because we are thankful for what He has given us and giving just a little back is a sign of gratitude and having a generous and compassionate spirit. All good things!

    One thing I might add, however, is that God also compels us to give in secret and w/o fanfare. Churches that require tithes to be "announced" from the pulpit ought to be ashamed of themselves! I also really have a difficult time w/Oprah…while she does a lot of good in the world with her significant wealth, bringing the cameras along to document and showcase the giving seems a bit self-indulgent. Only God can judge the heart, but giving should be done w/a humble and grateful heart, not so we can reap something in return.

  • deb

    "Christianity comes closer to socialism than the current Republican party. Of course Christianity represents IDEAL socialism…"

    Really!!!???? Socialist governments TAKE your money to redistribute it to the poor, whether you want to or not…Christ taught us to GIVE our money freely w/a grateful heart out of compassion, not compulsion. I'm not seeing the parallel here!

  • Elizabeth F.

    Please don't stop writing on esoteric subjects like the septuagint. Fewer comments could merely reflect that it's new information to some of us. Hard to quibble when hearing something for the first time. Or maybe there just weren't 38 people willing to admit that they can't pronounce, much less spell, septurn-thingamajig.

  • Well there is this:


  • Ace

    *snort* That is so wrong, yet hilarious. But still about, oh, 14 different kinds of wrong.

  • Jeremy


    I've only been following the blog for a few weeks, starting with your now famous "Ten Ways…" article. In that article, like almost everyone, I struggle with #1 (my camel is getting a little too fat), but especially #3 and #10. Reading things like your Septuagint post and many of the comments from all the recent topics make me realize just how uneducated I really am about the Bible and it's history.

    I don't even know where to begin to become more educated. Can you recommend some reading material for me?

    Thanks. 🙂

  • I'm just waiting for someone to wear the Pentateuch as a bikini, with 5" heels made of gopher wood.

  • Julie

    "Everyone forgets Luke 10:27 says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your MIND.” Too many Christians believe that faith equals BLIND faith, and they are not equivalent."

    I like that observation a lot. and it corresponds to one of my favorite parts of the Episcopal prayer for the newly baptized, that they should have an "inquiring and discerning heart."

  • David Clemens

    Actually he said you need to sell EVERYTHING YOU HAVE and give the money to the poor. Out of all of the things he said you need to do to get into the kingdom this is the only thing he says twice. Get busy if you want that mansion!


  • Diana

    1) Still snickering over the inflatable Jesus doll.

    2) I enjoyed reading about the Septuagint. I’m looking forward to your piece on the Latin Vulgate.

    3) Yeah, you start talking about what people should be doing with their money and you’re hitting them where they live. Especially if what you say happens to be one of those inconvenient quotes from Jesus.

    4) Yeah, Mark is cool. Welcome, Mark!

  • Matthew Tweedell

    She did say "IDEAL" socialism. Any idealist whose into socialism actually dreams of a day when their government will be able to take more of their money (if in a sufficiently affluent tax bracket) and actually DO more with it to improve the land in which they live and the society that lives there, making their world and their life more stable and comfortable. Freda didn't fail to mention that ideal socialism doesn't really exist in this world. Anyway, what you’re talking about sounds like communism, not socialism. True socialism isn't about the government or some particular class (in the case of communism–the working class; in the case of an aristocracy–the ruling class) taking anything unto itself away from the people; it's about the people–acting through a government formed of and by themselves for the pursuit of the common welfare–giving unto themselves according to some sort of established constitutional order.

    If you'd care to further explain your hostile reaction, I'd be more than willing to try to understand where you're coming from on this, deb.

  • whatifmovie

    He didn't say "you" need to sell everything you have. He said that specifically to one man who took too much value in his possessions. Of course Jesus didn't expect every man with possessions to become a person without possessions–otherwise no one would have been able to help the disciples with food/shelter/clothes/donkeys/etc.

    And John, saying that Jesus cared for the poor and that we should to is one thing. Saying that you're not really a Christian if you don't "tithe to the poor" is another. It's too full of a topic to cover in one witty and interesting comment. Our tithes are supposed to go to the church; the church should obviously then help the poor, and what does that look like?

    Are we supposed to hand cash to poor people? Is that what "tithing to the poor" means? Peter and John said to the poor man, "silver and gold have I none," and gave him something greater. I would argue that handing cash to poor people does more harm than good, which is why nearly every Christian aid and charity organization geared towards the poor doesn't provide money but stability and a message of hope amongst the meals.

    I think there does need to be an important conversation in the church about what it means to help the poor and needy, and by the same token, what it means to hurt the poor and needy. Government programs and cash on the street have done far more harm than good, so there's obviously a massive opportunity for Christians to fill that need. There's a significant cultural shift that must take place among most poor communities, and Christians should absolutely be a part of that.

  • whatifmovie

    It's Dallas, by the way. 🙂

  • Elizabeth F.

    In the midst of my getting all worked up about tithing yesterday, my boyfriend came home. He was raised in the Catholic school and church, so I asked him what he thought tithing was. After a couple of moments, he said, "Some kind of racket, I think. Like the Mob and extortion."

  • Elizabeth F.

    @whatifmovie: Government programs and cash on the street have done far more harm than good? Really? Not just ineffectual but actually harmful overall?

    I agree that there are great opportunities for Christians to improve communities, but I would argue that the change needs to happen across the board, not just in "poor" communities. I repeat, there is no secret beach party where the poor blow their welfare checks on mai-tais and dancing girls and laugh at having pulled one over on the rich. Some spend it wisely, some not as much. Most scrape through another day, and many of them would not have if not for the charity of others. See, the poor are like every one else. Only with less money.

  • Freda

    Matthew, thank you. You are so very correct. I mispoke – I should've said IDEAL communism.

  • Freda

    Thank you, Julie. ;o)

  • Matthew Tweedell

    I'm not sure which you actually had in mind, Freda. I just meant that what deb was describing was more like communism, since she seems to conceive of a government like a tyrannical overlord, support for which is more a compulsion than one's righteous and noble duty–not a very patriotic attitude to take towards government in general, when others, such as those in our military, willingly do THEIR duty, to support our government, run by *us*, for *our* mutual benefit.

    I think you might be right though, Freda, under King Jesus, we wouldn't exactly have democracy (which usually goes along with socialism, but not hard-core communism), but perhaps we'd have what the USSR *might* have attained if Stalin (and successors) had been more like Jesus Christ. Yet In this world you can't trust any individual (at least not Stalin, Mao, Castro, Jong-il, etc.) with that sort of power, because none of them is God—so you’re right that such is an ideal is never actually realized in this world.

  • Julie

    Thank you for that – it shed some light!

  • Diana

    I remember this! Yes, you're absolutely right–funny but so wrong.

  • Diana

    Yes, I agree with this, even though I really like Oprah.

  • Diana

    Yeah, I think there's truth to this.

  • Diana

    Thank you, Elizabeth–you're absolutely right.

  • Well at least it reminds us, HE knew the true meaning of TGIF!

  • Diana

    Yes! Isn't that the truth!

  • Diana


  • The poorest among us (Americans) have neither welfare or papers and the primary cultural difference I've noticed is an almost genetic appetite for hard work. I draw this conclusion from my observations of my friends and neighbors in a downscale area of the least affluent city in America. I'm 73 and can't remember previously seeing the phrase "tithing to the poor." I'm also having a little trouble remembering what I had for breakfast.

  • Ladyofleisuredc

    Ha! Most of my facebook friends are old church friends who don’t like me very much either. Maybe it is that one time I posted ‘God is pro-choice’