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Archive for March, 2009

Sticks ‘n’ Stones

“But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”  (Matt.12:36-37)

 

It’s widely accepted in our culture that what men do matters a great deal, but what they say is of little import.  “Talk is cheap,” we say.  Another popular idiom, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” makes this same point.  But this is not the Bible’s view.  For in Scripture it is words that are of primary importance, actions secondary.

The Scriptures begin with God speaking the heavens and earth into existence.  Commenting on this, the author of Hebrews states that, “the worlds were framed by the word of God.” Or as John puts it, “In the beginning was the word…all things were made through him.”

And not only did God speak the world into being, but according to Hebrews he also sustains it by, “the word of his power.”

Furthermore, we cannot separate the word of God from God himself.  Consider the following passage,

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, andis a discerner of the thought and intents of the heart.  And ther is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb.4:12, 13)

In this remarkable passage the author of Hebrews begins by talking about the word of God and ends with a point about God the Word and, in the course of doing so, identifies them as one and the same thing.  When we believe in Christ we belive his words, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (Jn. 5:24)

Clearly, the Bible puts great weight on God’s words, but what about ours.  How does God view what we say? Do our words matter to him, or is it only our actions that draw his approval of disapproval?  Proverbs tells us that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.  And Christ tells us that our words reveal the thoughts of our heart,

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.  Brood of vipers!  How can you, being evil, speak good things?  For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  A good man out of the good tresure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil tresure brings forth evil things.  But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”  (Matt.12:33-37)

 

 The immediate contex of this passage is the teaching the doctrines of God, metaphorically referred to as “fruit” by Jesus.  But the severe warning that ends this passage is confined not only to what we say about God, but encompasses all of our thoughts.  For Jesus plainly tells us that, “every idle word,” will be judged. 

Jesus further illustrated this point in the Sermon on the Mount.  For in his exposition of the sixth commandment, he refuted the popular rabbinic teaching of the time in this way,

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.  And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council.  But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matt.5:21, 22)

According to Christ, the prohibition of murder in the sixth commandment extended not only to the act of  physically killing someone, but also to unwarranted anger and  slander.  And these evil thoughts, whether expressed aloud or not, of necessity call forth God’s judgment.

In conclusion, while our culture holds words to be of little value, they are of great importance to God.  So much so that Christ makes the point that it is our words [note well that he does not say our actions] that will justify or condemn us. Therefore, in all of our speaking let us choose our words wisely.   

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Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight.  (Prov.11:1)

Diverse weights and diverse measures, they are both alike, an abomination to the LORD. (Prov.20:10)

This past Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced that the Federal Reserve would begin a new program of buying treasury debt.  There are two things remarkable about this program: its size and its method. 

According to Bernanke, the program calls for the purchase of up to $1.2 Trillion of government debt instruments.  This is unprecedented. 

What is more, these purchases will be made directly from the Treasury Department, not on the secondary market, as has been the practice in the past.  This will enable the Fed to directly underwrite the massive defict spending of the Obama administration. 

Some, praising Bernanke’s decision, have described this program as a bold move.  Others have expressed concerns that it is inflationary.  But a man with a Christian understanding of economics would describe it using this word:  theft.  Let me explain.

In the Bible money is a weight of some commodity.  For example, when Sarah died, Abraham bought a field from Ephron the Hittite so he could bury her.  According to Genesis 24:16, Abraham, “weighed out the silver for Ephron which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, currency of the merchants.” Since Abraham paid for the field with a weight of silver, he had to have scales to weigh it with.  And  God required those scales to be honest. 

For in a monetary system that depended on commodity weight, an unscrupulous merchant could cheat his customer by using heavy weights as counterbalances to buy and light ones to sell.  God explicity condemned this practice several times in the Old Testament.  In Duteronomy25:13-16 we read, “You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light.  You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small.  You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.  For all who do such things, all who behave unrighteously, are an abomination to the LORD your God.”  Here we see God condemning false units of account and approving true ones.  For more on this see Lev.19:36; Prov.16:11, 20:10,23 and Mic.6:11.

The US Dollar, like the Shekel of Abraham’s time, was originally defined as a weight of silver, but this is no longer the case.  Today the Dollar is a fiat currency, meaning it’s money because the government says it’s money.  As a result, tracking the value of the dollar is more difficult than simply looking at how much silver it can be exchanged for,  yet it is still possible to track the value of the dollar over time.  When economists do this, they find that since 1913, the year the Federal Reserve was established, the dollar has lost something like 96% of its value, or approximately 1% per year.  The result of the dollar’s devaluation is what we call inflation.  Or to put it in biblical terms, the Fed has, since its inception, persisted in using lighter weights every year, defrauding the American people.  Thus, Bernanke’s “bold move,” when considered in the light of Scriptures, far from being praiseworthry, is, in fact, a breaking of the eight commandment prohibiting theft and an abomination to God.

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