Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Least Of These

Oh, he was SO CLOSE!

Kevin DeYoung posted what could have been a very useful post yesterday on Matthew 25: Who Are 'The Least Of These'? Matthew 25 has been trotted out ad nauseum by "progressives" to scold evangelicals for not supporting income redistribution policies that trap poor people in an endless cycle of poverty and dependence but they rely on a completely erroneous assumption about Matthew 25. The narrative is that justification doesn't really rely on faith but rather on doing a sufficient number of acts of charity. That might not be the explicit message but it is certainly implied. If you don't feed the hungry or visit those in prison, you are going to hell (not that they believe in hell, except perhaps for Republicans). Actually reading the verses in their complete form gives us a subtle difference to that narrative and is so often the case the careful study gives a different picture than the prevailing narrative. Here is some of what DeYoung wrote:

What’s more important to me is that we handle the Bible carefully, both from the pulpit and in our public pronouncements. Which is why we should try to understand “the least of these” in its proper context. What Jesus says in Matthew 25 is not “conservative” or “liberal.” It’s Christian, and has everything to do with how we treat other Christians.

“The least of these” refers to other believers in need—specifically, itinerant Christian teachers dependent on other Christians for hospitality and support. That’s my answer to the title of this blog post.

So he was right on in the first paragraph. I made this point the other evening in Bible study looking at Acts 4:32-37. The Bible is clear that Christians should be charitable people but it is especially clear that our first priority ought to be providing for the needs of fellow believers. That is the message of Galatians 6:10, which DeYoung also quotes and is also the message of Acts 2 and 4 (the all things in common passages), Acts 6 (the distribution for widows), Romans 15:25-28, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, etc. While ought to be generous as we are able to those in need, we should never do so at the expense of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Where he goes astray is the second paragraph. He just can't seem to get out of the organized religion paradigm. He bases this on similarities between Matthew 25 and Matthew 10:40-42. While there are similarities between the two passages, Matthew 10 is specifically speaking of the disciples Jesus is sending out. Matthew 25 makes no mention of the disciples specifically or itinerant teachers or anything of the sort. The principle is the same but it seems pretty clear that Matthew 25 is directed at the church broadly speaking, not a specific subset. I am sure that travelling teachers fall under the category of those in need Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25 but so do other believers.

Once again we see the organized religion mindset intrude on an otherwise solid Biblical study.

2 comments:

Aussie John said...

Arthur,

You are so right! "Once again we see the organized religion mindset intrude on an otherwise solid Biblical study".

Once that "loyalty bug" gets into our thinking it reveals itself almost automatically. About half a lifetime ago I discovered, to my angst, that I had that very persistent, and insidious infection, which takes a long time to eradicate.

John Draper said...

How could it refer to itinerant Christian teachers if Jesus said it? There were no Christians at that time.