Saturday, October 27, 2007

Memo to Mr. Osteen from John Wesley

"I fear, wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore, I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches."

--- John Wesley (1703-1791).

44 comments:

Brotherhank said...

Amen brother.

brett jordan said...

propetic and apposite

Rev. Spike said...

!!!

I recently had someone ask me what my problem was with Olsteen and co. I think I said something like, "Jesus was homeless."

Rev. Spike said...

I see that you also have never had an original thought :)

So wonderfully put though. Thanks Ben.

Drew said...

I have been reading through Niehbuhr's Social Sources of Denominationalism and he uses that same quote in reference to the church of the bourgeoisie. Quite telling and poignant nearly 90 years later from Niebuhr's writing much less from when Wesley wrote it!

Ben Witherington said...

I have just come from what amounts to the home town of the Neibuhr brothers-- Lincoln, Ill. There father or grandfather was a minister at the Reformed Church there. What amazed me was this is still a very small town, 15,000 counting all the college and seminary students. And yet two of the great theological and ethical minds of our age began to learn the faith and to theologize right there. We should never, never underestimate what God can do, even in small places. Just because you come from a small place, doesn't mean you have a small mind, will have a small impact etc. Don't forget about whom it was said-- 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?'

BW3

Don Yeager said...

In John Wesley's Sermon #116, "The Causes of the Inefficacy of Christianity," he said that one of the chief causes of the ineffectiveness of Xty in general and of Methodism in particular was our lack of self-denial.
This included not only in the area of money and giving but also in fasting. He is somewhat shocked that Methodists in his day are not fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays as was his practice.
I wonder what Mr. Wesley would think not only of folks like Joel Osteen, but of ordinary Methodists like you and me?

Allan R. Bevere said...

Ben:

A timely quote from Wesley. Words not only for Joel Osteen, but for others as well, and here is my problem that I would appreciate a response from you.

We UMs are pretty burgeois. We like to think we are on the side of the poor, etc., but we are really status quo. We seem to believe that if we support policies that call for the government to do more, than we are siding with the least of these (which, of course, does not unfortunately include the unborn). And while I believe there is a place for government in dealing with those on the margins, we as the church truly need to emulate Wesley in his way of life and how he lived his life that freed up his own resources toward the poor.

I am just as guilty as the next person, but this is a serious issue for all of us. Joel Osteen may be one glaring and obvious example of excess, and, therefore, becomes somewhat easy to pick on, but what about all the subtle ways that Mainline Protestantism has been sucked into the status quo lifestyle, all the while assuaging ourselves because we support governmnet policies that are friendly toward the poor and the disenfranchised, while perhaps living in a way that Father John would be quite disappointed.

It just seems to me that there is plenty of hypocrisy all around.

How to work through all of this, I have no idea, but I am interested in your thoughts.

Blessings to you my friend!

goyomarquez said...

Huh?
John Wesley is basically saying that revivals bring prosperity and that prosperity tempts people away from God. How this is a rebuke to Pastor Osteen is unclear.

The same idea is contained in Deut. 8, where God tells his his people that he is taking them to a prosperous land, a land where they will lack nothing, where their silver and gold will be multiplied. He warns them not to forget that he is the one who gives them power to get wealth for if they do they will be destroyed by their enemies.

Do you notice what God doesn't do? He doesn't say I'm not going to take you into that land because when you prosper you may be tempted to follow other Gods. He warns them against the temptation and then takes them right into the land.

Perhaps someone could explain how any of this contradicts what Pastor Osteen is saying.

Greg Marquez
goyomarquez@earthlink.net
www.IVChristianCenter.com

Steve said...

Mercy, Mr. Wesley. Religious revival produces riches, and riches in turn reduce religion. Who, then, can be saved?

sam andress said...

If only Joel will read this...not sure if he reads much though, even blogs.

T Michael W Halcomb said...

goyomarquez,

an explanation: the problem with pastor Osteen is that he emphasizes the prosperity while glossing over the temptation that comes with it. but even more than that, the real problem is that Osteen is constantly talking about prosperity and rarely about God. i think Dr. W's quote of Wesley is meant to be taken in this light: Osteen is so focused on prosperity that knowledge / acknowledgment of God has been pushed to the background or completely out of the picture in some cases.

another problem here is that i think you're taking the OT passage a bit out of context. in that specific context, God was making an agreement with Israel, that is a totally different situation than w/Osteen & co; unless, of course, God has made some similar type of agreement with them. but if you ar part of the word of faith mvmt., trying to claim Israel's promise here as your own isn't problematic. anyways, i'm afraid your use of that story is a bit of a weak comparison.

www.michaelhalcomb.blogspot.com

Phil said...

This is my 3rd attempt at posting on this blog. Just now learning.

Osteen and his Lakewood church are in trouble as we all point out. He's just the latest in a line of mega-churches and televangelists. The problem is that he appears to be the genuine article in that, on the surface, there doesn't appear to be anything devious in him. He's emotional and crys easily and people eat this up.

I've been watching him close of late on his current book tour and the talk show circuit. When challenged, he responds that others are better at Scripture than he, that people have enough negative and stress in their life and he prefers to promote God's more positive characteristics such as Love & Mercy and apparently not others such as Just, Righteous and Jealous. This puts him somewhere between a New Ager and a Preacher.

Regards Methodism and politics, as one man said 40 years ago "you won't be acceptable to God based on your politics". We all know the process is corrupt from the get-go. Personally, I understand a certain amount of support during the nomination period but once chosen you vote and move on.

Finally, with Osteen, I rarely pray for someone I don't know personally, but in his case I have. Referencing OT promises to Israel may not apply well since neither Jesus nor the apostles make promises of worldly material wealth. Our reward is in the Spirit. Joel references God often, Jesus rarely (at the close of each broadcast). He seems close. Maybe he could get it right b/c there is, indeed, potential there to bring many.

Ben Witherington said...

Allan, I quite agree with this, but if the issue is influence, Joel Osteen has at this juncture the most influence, and should be most held accountable for what he says. To whom more is give... etc.

As for the query about Deut. 8, that's pretty irrelevant. The warnings against the accumulation of wealth itself are clear enough in the NT, not to mention that love of money is said to be the source of all sorts of evil. It is a mistake, a huge mistake, to encourage a fallen person to pour more gasoline on an already raging fire of desire for self- gratification and living large.

Ben W.

Michael Gilley said...

Good words I believe we all should bare in mind more often. Though it may not be at the level of Osteen's teaching, we all covet from time to time. If anything, may his false teaching serve as a warning to us all. Thank you Dr. Witherington.

goyomarquez said...

The Apostle didn't say the accumulation of money is the root of all evil. Isn't their a distinction between loving money and accumulating money, just as their is a distinction between making love to your wife and sexual lust, or eating a fine meal in an expensive restaurant and gluttony? Or as your John Wesley put it, referring to those who rail at money as the grand corrupter of the world:

" But is not all this mere empty rant? Is there any solid reason therein? By no means. For, let the world be as corrupt as it will, is gold or silver to blame? "The love of money," we know, "is the root of all evil;" but not the thing itself. The fault does not lie in the money, but in them that use it. It may be used ill: and what may not? But it may likewise be used well: It is full as applicable to the best, as to the worst uses…"
http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/wesley/serm-050.stm

Please post some more of those pretty clear warnings from the NT as I am not convinced this one supports your point.

P.S. I applaud your posters for their extreme diligence in watching and reading Pastor Osteen. A diligence so extreme that they are able to comment with such certainty on what he never says.

Greg Marquez
goyomarquez@earthlink.net
www.IVChristianCenter.com

Ben Witherington said...

Perhaps you have overlooked the teaching of Jesus on this matter, who says quite clearly "do not store up treasures on earth where moth and rust can attack.." Or where Jesus says that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God's kingdom, or the story of the rich young ruler that Jesus asked to give it all away and come and follow him, and so on. On this subject I advise reading the little booklet by Gordon Fee (available on the Regent College website) entitled The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospel.

The sad part about Joel Osteen is that he genuinely seems to believe what he is saying, not understanding how much of a perversion of the Gospel it is.

We all have an obligation to each other sharpen one another's proclamation in more Biblical ways, and this is one of those situations where it is needful. It has nothing to do with judging the spiritual status of another person (which is what Jesus meant by 'judge not lest...') it has to do with accountability in the body of Christ Everyone's actions are suitable for such a calling to account. I would also urge one and all to read Wesley's sermon "On the Use of Money"

BW3

preacherman said...

Ben,
All I was saying I don't think it is Christian for you to judge Joel Osteen like you are doing.

Phil said...

goyomarquez-

With all due respect, it would appear you are trying to justify the accumalation of wealth biblically. It's simply not there.

Ben cites two pertinent and key passages. I would add ..."nor a servant above his master". You might argue this was meant only for the Apostles but I don't think so.

Although Joel does seem sincere this may make his ministry that much more insidious. What if someone relatively weak in their faith, prays desperately for worldly gain and doesn't receive it. What will this do to their faith. Might they say "the heck with this, I got nothing that I wanted". Internet searches reveal that there are many Christians everywhere dealing with-The Problem of Pain.

It's estimated that Lakewood is bringing in in excess of $75 million/yr. That's still a lot of money even today. I would imagine Joel and the gang want and plan to do much good with it. But we've all probably experienced a little greed in our lives when we've had extra $.

Lets hope and pray that Joel proves us wrong.

Ben Witherington said...

Mr Preacherman, the Bible is pretty clear-- you shall know the tree, by the fruit it bears. This has nothing to do with judging Joel's relationship with Christ or spiritual status. It has to do with a quite appropriate evaluation of his words and deeds, something all of us have need of, frankly. So I think you have either misjudged me, or what I am doing, or what the Bible says about such matters.

Blessings,

Ben W,

Phil said...

There are all kinds of warnings in the NT about being careful and using discernment (if that's a more comfortable word). Too numerous to list.

The Apostle Paul was forever writing and visiting the early churchs to correct doctrine and theology. You can feel his anguish when you read them.

Right in MT, in the Parable of the Weeds, we are told [by Jesus] that the wheat and the weeds are co-mingled. If we didn't make careful judgements, what would keep us from joining dangerous and often deadly cults?

preacherman said...

I agree with Joel, too many preachers have focused to much on the negative view of God that many non Christians don't view the church as a place refuge, a place of help, but a group of people that have political views who judge and dare not ask for help. A God who is ready to strike you down if you do sin and make any kind of mistake. So, I say, Yeah for Joel's up-beat message. Praise God that Lakewood is largest church in America...May we learn some positive lessons from both the Church and Joel. I going to start reading his new book today.

Ben Witherington said...

Dear Mr. Preacherman:

The issue is not whether there are positive things to say about God. Nor is the issue that there have been some grumpy preachers trying to scare the Hades out of people. Both of these things are true.

The issue is trivializing God who is both holy and loving, both righteous and merciful, both just and compassionate, and not just one or the other.

The issue is also the trivializing and even neglect of the cross and the atoning death of Jesus, and a host of other essential doctrines, and replacing it not even with a sort of general feel good religion,(who doesn't want to feel good?) but replacing it with a false Gospel about 'if you just believe strong enough you will be awash with material blessings'.

There is not the slightest consideration in Joel's message that if such an outcome should happen, one might well be spiritually ruined by such a thing.

Nor will we be hearing a sermon on "suffering produces character" (Rom. 5) anytime soon in that church.

And frankly, the way that couple behaved recently when it comes to material things is shameful. Consider the recent snit that Joel's wife threw on a commerical airliner when the waitress, trying to please too many people at once, didn't quite jump fast enough to suit this woman. She nearly got herself thrown off the plane.What a marvelous Christian witness.

And this brings up another point. Rather than inculcating a servant mentality in the audience, in relationship to God, instead what is encouraged is a "I want to be served so I can live large" attitude towards God and other human beings.

In other words, this is a particularly obvious example of the consumer Gospel approach which is self-centered and narcissistic at its core.

So, I would urge you to read that new Osteen book with a critical eye-- and ask yourself 'What's missing here?' What's wrong with this picture?' And if you don't find anything amiss, then something really is amiss in your case.

Blessings,

Ben W.

Phil said...
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Phil said...
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hcfischer1 said...

The original post is very clever, I like it.

goyomarquez said...

Well I hadn't responded because I thought the discussion was pretty much over but lest anyone think I have surrendered, here goes.

Ben. You reference three scriptures two of which are from the same incident, i.e. the story of the rich young ruler, which is also the story of the camel through the eye of a needle. One version of that story is contained in Mark 10:17-30 but You've apparently forgotten how it ends:

“Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” Mark 10:28-30, KJV.

I don't know but hundredfold houses and land kinda sorta sounds like accumulation of wealth to me.

Your next scripture, Do not store up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust can attack, makes a better argument. But if you really believed that's what it meant you wouldn't have a savings account or a retirement fund.

I believe the appropriate context for that verse from Mat. 6 is found in the first few verse and the last couple verses of Mat. 6.

In the first few verses Jesus says that we shouldn't do our alms to receive glory of men but if we do them in secret God will reward us openly.

Wow God will reward us for giving to the poor! That is a typical jewish thought even to this day. This is what I believe Jesus means by laying up treasure in heaven as opposed to earth.

Mat. 6 then ends with this statement: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteouness and all these things shall be added unto you."

So God promises to reward us for giving to the poor, openly no less. And promises to take care of our material needs if we put him first.

In that context it hardly seems that Jesus means for us to be poor on earth.

Thanks for your kindness and gentleness in responding. It is something that is very rare in discussions of this sort.

May God richly bless you according to
Prov. 10:22 ;-)

Greg Marquez
goyomarquez@earthlink.net
www.IVChristianCenter.com

Phil said...

Regarding Wesley's comment, also see Rev 3:14 to the Church in Laodicea for additional biblical support

Ben Witherington said...

Well Greg, my brother your exposition is a classic example of wishful thinking I am afraid.

That Markan text says nothing about giving them 100 fold 'material' possessions during that era, nothing whatsoever. They were however promised spiritual family, not physical family. And if you study church history you will discover no such material bonanza happened for the 12 or the apostles. They did however endure persecutions!

Furthermore, what happens when the eschatological kingdom comes, stays in the eschatological kingdom. It has no bearing on what happens to us now. While we are at it, I would strongly urge you to read a more accurate Bible translation than the KJV. Try the TNIV for example.

Why in the world would you assume that the 'reward' God promises those who care for the poor would be a material one? To the contrary Jesus tells us exactly what the reward is for that--in his parable in Mt. 25.34-36. The reward is hearing the Lord say 'well done good and faithful servant, and being part of the eternal Kingdom of God. It has nothing to do with material blessings now.

You will need to come to grips with Jesus and Paul's teaching at some point, both the warnings about the spiritual dangers of accumulation of goods, but also the out right blessing of the poor-- See Lk. 6.20. Why would Jesus warn the rich they were in danger of experiencing what the rich man does in the parable in Lk. 18 while offering a beatitude on the poor, if in fact there was no spiritual danger in living a life of conspicuous consummation and material accumulation?

In the end I would urge you to re-think this whole deal. What you have done is blend together the materialistic American dream with the Bible-- and its a bad gumbo that plays right into human fallenness and our selfish and self-centered desires. Fallen human beings have an infinite capacity to justify their selfish and self-seeking desires. Christians must renounce such self-centerdness.

Blessings,

Ben W.

Phil said...

goyomarquez

I would suggest that hundredfold meant fellow believers. Rich in brethren. Did you ignore- in persecutions?

The promise in Mt 6, to me, is for material essentials such as food, clothing and shelter. I don't read much beyond that.

The riches Jesus speaks of are spiritual and the rewards are in Heaven [not necessarily on earth].

Eric Schansberg said...

I have limited, direct exposure to Osteen-- only a thorough reading of his best-selling book. From that, it was obvious to me that the criticisms of Osteen as health/wealth and "word of faith" are at best, simplistic and misleading, or at worst, slanderous.

While there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about Osteen's ministry, those two points are overblown.

For those who might be interested, I wrote a lengthy book review that appeared on the Acton Institute blog and my own.

http://schansblog.blogspot.com/2007/09/your-best-life-now-review-of-joel.html

Crossroads ABF said...

I have nothing to offer to a very good discussion other than having experienced the great spiritual wealth of some Kenyan Christians, I can't see how we believers are promised anything where it concerns material wealth. I, an American with extreme wealth in comparison to my Kenyan friends, am not spiritually worthy to untie their collective sandals.

Phil said...

crossroads abf-

I understand your feelings of spiritual unworthiness. I deleted one of my previous posts here, early this AM, because I decided it may not have read as though it came from a spirit of Grace.

It was directed at-preacherman and while deliberately provocative in an attempt to draw him out, I was concerned that the tone was not good. Though I was raised in a Christian home, raised in church, active in a church in the 90's, it wasn't until this past Spring (at age 50) that I finally "got it". I would be well-served to remember this before speaking in impatience borne out of frustration.

Ben W is better than me at this. Although I'm getting there so look out :-).

I do have a question however: What is the best way to start a new topic of conversation (other than starting my own blog). It involves Genesis and I would very much like some input from you all.

Yours In Christ,

Phil

hcfischer1 said...

The problem with the prosperity gospel is earthly thinking rather than kingdom thinking. The accumulation of earthly security and wealth means nothing to God. His priorities lay within souls and His glory. Perhaps Ecclesiastes could use a re-read, Solomon had all the earthly riches and yet it was all empty and vanity. Perhaps it should also be notes that even Jesus' disciples were poor, persecuted, and most martyred for their faith. Taking advantage of poor people by telling them that they will have health and wealth by following Jesus is not only misleading but also sickening. We were promised persecution and suffering for taking up His cross.

goyomarquez said...

Okie Dokie, let me take that volley and see if I can return it.

Ben You said: "That Markan text says nothing about giving them 100 fold 'material' possessions during that era, nothing whatsoever. "

Well what it does say is that anyone who has left house or lands shall receive 100 fold in this time. I don't know but houses and lands kinda sorta sound like material possessions to me. And Jesus said they would receive them "in this time." I'm reading from the king james are some of the other translations different?
Update; Just checked on my handy dandy computer Bible NASB, NIV, NRSV all concur with the KJV.
Q.E.D., as they say.

Next you say: "Why in the world would you assume that the 'reward' God promises those who care for the poor would be a material one?"

Well maybe because that's what the apostle Paul said as we see here: (This is from the NRSV since you seem to be a KJV hater ;-) ) 2 Cor 9* As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness {Or benevolence} endures forever.” 10* He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. {Or benevolence} 11* You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us;

(As you might know the NRSV marginal translation for righteouness as benevolence is proper because in first century Hebrew tzedakah, the word normally translated rigteouness had come to mean almsgiving, as it does to jewish people to this day. As a google search on tzedakah will attest.)

So Paul here says that your benevolence will result in you being enriched in every way. Cool! Anyway that's why I believe the reward God promises for those who help the poor is a material one.

From my point of view you have been excessively influenced by the syncretisim of Greek philosophy and Bible teaching which is the root of most Christian theology. The idea that material things are bad, or at best, that material things are not as important as spiritual things, is a platonic idea not a Bible idea and certainly not a Jesus idea. It's a gnostic idea.

It's been fun.

May the LORD continue to be your shepherd so that you never lack. Ps. 23:1

Greg Marquez
goyomarquez@earthlink.net
www.IVChristianCenter.com

Ben Witherington said...

Greg:

Two things-- righteousness (dikaiosune) does not ever mean benevolence in the NT. Period. Exclamation point. For that matter it seldom has even remotely that connotation in the LXX. And as for the Hebrew-- saddiq refers to a moral quality, not a benefaction. You are confused on these points. Secondly, Christian theology comes from the NT ultimately, and almost all the writers of the NT were Hellenized Jews, which is to say Jews profoundly affected by Hellenistic culture. It is a myth to say that Christian theology comes from an amalgam of Greek philosophy and other stuff. There is only a little evidence of Platonism's influence in the NT (e.g. in Hebrews possibly, or 2 Peter). If you mean later medieval theology, that's irrelevant. Early Judaism was not a monolithic thing, and it reflected the harvest of Hellenism in a way the OT does not. You cannot judge early Jewish theology purely on the basis of the OT. You need to read Wisdom of Solomon, Tobit, Judith, the Maccabees, Sirach, and a host of other sources to get the picture on the influence of Hellenism on early Judaism.

Blessings,

Ben W.

Phil said...

I've found that its very difficult to argue or debate someone into faith. I run into it all the time on TV, podcasts, blogs and face-to-face. I think this is why I became impatient in an earlier post.

Invariably, it's us that get dragged down. The debate devolves into what has been described as the "gnat syndrome". Arguing over this and that such as the exact meaning and perfect translation of a word from Hebrew to Aramaic to Greek or the meaning of a passage in the so-called context of the times.

I ran into this recently at a church we were attending and considered joining. Following Sunday Service the pastor led a Bible Study covering Matthew and I attended very enthusiastically. But everytime someone asked for clarification or the meaning of a passage he would pull out a book and say something like- Well, the scholars say, or the historians say this about that passage. I would speak up and give my thoughts, careful always to defer to the pastor. Finally, the last time I went, the pastor said "you'll have to excuse me but I have this brand new book 'on' the Book of Matthew" and people would ask their questions and he would bury his head in his new book to see what the "experts" said. I spoke up about something for the final time because I got one of those "if looks could kill...."

As I was driving home that Sunday, I kept wondering why a seminary-trained minister needed a book that was thicker than my Study Bible to explain Matthew. There are a few passages that took me some time to understand but invariably it was given to me.

There are many factors that bring a person to a deep and profound faith in salvation thru Christ.

But we must, however, perservere and in the immortal words of the Apostle Paul continue to "fight the good fight" because of our Hope.

Phil said...

Eric Schansberg-

Ah ha, you're an academic.

I read your review of Joel's earlier book. Absolutely, it was fair and balanced. I haven't read either book, just browsed the most recent one briefly at the bookstore. I have, however, watched many of his broadcasts from Lakewood.

I don't think anyone characterized him as evil incarnate.

OK, how 'bout this:

Maybe as Joel's faith IN JESUS grows, so will his congregation. And as he develops a deeper and more profound understanding, he will preach this from the pulpit at Lakewood. And maybe he will bring many.

That would indeed be awesome!

Steve said...

Not really sure why, but we seem to grow them here in Houston.

He probably wouldn't listen to Wesley anyway....

reckless_collards said...

To Don Yeager,

You wondered what Wesley would have thought of modern day Methodists.

He would tear up their ticket.

caucazhin said...

"And I will build bigger barns in which to store my goods"
I was in New York one day and found myself staring at Americas golden calf.

http://www.youngfromnewyork.com/travel/ph-finance/WallStreet-bull-1024x768.jpg

http://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=A0oGkkwKpDhHC7EAscFXNyoA?ei=UTF-8&p=wall%20street%20bull&fr2=tab-web&fr=yfp-t-471

caucazhin said...

I highly recommend reading MYTH OF A CHRISTIAN NATION by Greg Boyd because it parallels this conversation perfectly in my opinion.
And heres something for everyone to sink their teeth into.

http://www.zompist.com/meetthepoor.html

Rafael said...

Once again, Joel Osteen's utter failure to uphold Christian truth in an age of apostacy only further supports what is all too clear about his teaching: it is spiritually bankrupt.

Here is a link to articles our ministry has created on Osteen's heretical compromise that is anointed as "Christianity" today.

http://www.spiritwatch.org/behindsmile.htm

Dave said...

Don't know if this blog is thoroughly flogged, but I wanted to comment on the Markan text and the promise to those who have "left home or brother or sisters of mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel..." (10:29ff). As you look at the lives of the 12 (as Ben aptly instructs us to) we see that they did indeed receive a hundred times what they had left - including the persecutions! - precisely because in Jesus' inauguration of the kingdom we see that a new community was formed in which the social constitution was sharing, hospitality and generosity. Jesus signals a shift from family being defined by the paterfamilias but by a new Father (cf. Matt 23:9), and so Jesus insists when his 'family' (mother and brothers) come to talk some sense into him (Mk 3:31-5) that he says, "Here are my mother and my brothers" and then the kicker, "Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother (3:35)." And so the point: Following Jesus will not lead to material wealth (that is not the promise here), but participation in a new kind of community - a world wide community where I can walk into a group of believers and call them my "mother and brothers and sisters", because in Jesus, they are (cf. the Act 2:42ff.). And I have homes and fields all over the world, because we share (or must share!) all we have with each other (check out the giving of the Macedonian churches to the heavily persecuted and destitute church in Jerusalem that Paul so heartily affirms - cf. Phil 4). I owe at least part of this insight into Mark's record to Rick Watts at Regent College. I think this reading is in line with how the early church was learning (and not always getting - cf. Corinth!) to order their community in light of the inaugurated kingdom of God.

Peace to you all, Dave Fields
Kamloops, BC Canada