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« What Makes People Happy, Part 3: Pets | Main | What Makes People Happy, Part 4: Being Thankful »

July 01, 2007


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You can feed a woman a fish and make her dependent upon you forever, or you can teach a woman to fish and set her free.

I choose the later!

Excellent, excellent post.

"If you are not comfortable with how your church uses the finances at its disposal then you need to find another church."

Word. Though if people go to a small or newer church that is struggling to figure out the best ways to manage its finances/give to the community, they may want to prayerfully consider getting involved. One of the problems in churches is that everyone wants things done a certain way, but many aren't willing to be the people doing. At my last church, they actually gave out an itemized budget and let (all) members vote on it. If you're concerned about how your church is allocating resources, ask. If they won't tell you or don't like the answer well then ...

"We are to work hard, save, and invest so that we will someday have the means by which to help those who are in need."

I think that someday is both now and in the future (though maybe that's what you're getting at with the offering).

Thanks for the comment, carni. At my church, an itemized budget is also handed out during business meetings. Any member is welcome to question or suggest line items. It is a great privilege and helps to insure that church finances remain above board. I also find that those who complain the loudest about how money is spent are usually absent at these meetings...

The tithe while being a chance to show love for Christ can also be viewed as an investment:

Malachi 3:10
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

This has worked well for me since I made the commentment to tithe a couple of years ago. Even this year both my husband and I were able to get new jobs - the increased income is approx. 3 times what we gave last year.

Jessica, I am happy that you have been blessed in this way, however this promise was made to the Jews under the Law. Believers today have also been promised blessings, but they are not necessarily financial or material. I know many poor believers who are faithful givers - and there have been many throughout history. God has promised to meet our needs in ways that we cannot imagine. He has not promised to give us great financial blessings. If yout happen to be blessed in this way - great! But if we are not blessed with material blessings, our giving should not be reduced, neither should our faith in God.

Charity begins at home. Trust me, donating to a church when your Mother or Grandmother struggles pay for her monthly medicine doesn't impress God.

I'm wondering when believers will start practicing the year of Jubilee.

Rocket: excellent writeup, and 100% spot on. And I agree with your followup comment to Jessica. God does bless us in many ways, but those may or may not be financial blessings. However, I kind of doubt that if you're blessed in other ways, you won't really worry about finances too much.

Ted: The year of Jubilee was in the law given to the Israelites under the Old Covenant. Believers under the New Covenant (after the Day of Pentecost) are not bound by these laws.

Ted: "I'm wondering when believers will start practicing the year of Jubilee."

- or not wearing shirts of "mixed cloth" or segregating women during mentruation or stoning disobedient children or sacrificing animals... None of these regulations are binding to the New Testament believer. See the writings of the apostles Paul, Peter, John and others. However, I will admit that the year of Jubilee sounds like a great idea - unless you work for a credit card company...
Rick, glad you enjoyed it. I have spent a lot of time on this subject and I hope the post will be a help to some folks.

#3, taking care of the obligations, actually made an impact on me with the opposite thought: that waste and neglect are against God. Thanks for the insight!

Actually quite an interesting post for this non-believer, who would put no. 4 above nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the priority list. (I'm not sure whether they are supposed to be ordered or not though).

As a non-believer, why do you give offerings at all? Why do you even care about your fellow man if nothing matters in the long run anyway. Personally, if I were a non-believer, I would get all I could get, no matter the means. After all, if there is no God, why worry about treating others with good ethics and high morals?

I don't intend to be combative, I enjoy hearing other viewpoints and I intend to evaluate the prioritizing of this list.

I do not find my lack of belief in God to have any connection to my desire to help my fellow human. I strongly believe that things will not improve unless I (and by extension everyone else) makes an effort to improve things and I want things to be better than they are.

I don't for one minute wish to believe that the sort of person that wrote such a thoughtful post would act without ethics and high morals regardless of their beliefs. And I resent the suggestion that I lack morals and ethics. But I'm sure that you didn't mean to imply that :) .

You can take a similar argument in another direction. If you believe that you are saved by faith alone, then why bother to improve things here on Earth, God will make it all better. I'm sure you don't think that is a good argument, I have never met a sincere and thoughtful member of any theistic religion who did.

The only thing in your list that I distinctly don't do is no.1 setting aside a portion for the Lord. Which is understandable since I lack the relevant beliefs.

plonkee, Thank you for not taking offense. None was intended.

I guess my reason for seeking to improve things on earth is simply because Scripture commands the believer to treat his fellow man with respect and on numerous occasions the believer is exhorted to be kind and ethical toward his neighbor. We are asked to love our enemies, to treat the rich and poor alike, to not just pray for the thirsty and hungry, but to give them food and drink, etc.

We can agree to disagree on this point, but if there is no God, the Bible has no hold on our life. If there is no afterlife and if there is no purpose in our existence, then why try to do anything good? I guess what I am trying to say is that the idea of right and wrong originates with God. If he doesn't exist then it is up to me to determine what is right and wrong for me.

That kind of thinking leads us down a very dark and scary path. i.e., if I can cheat the gov't on taxes - I will; if I desire my neighbor's wife - I might as well take her, what is stopping me? if can get ahead by lying or stealing, why not? Sure, you could argue that I am hurting others, but why exactly is it wrong to hurt others? They need to defend themselves, survival of the fittest!

Ultimately all restraint that exists in mankind is placed there by Christianity. Without belief in God, there are no morals or restraint on society.

Boy, this is getting pretty deep for a personal finance blog... Hope I'm not boring anyone, but I enjoy this kind of discussion.

"if there is no God, the Bible has no hold on our life"

Agreed, although it is still quite a good book. Also, not all believers in God consider the Bible to have a hold on their life.

"I guess what I am trying to say is that the idea of right and wrong originates with God"

Disagree strongly. And that I think is the essential difference in our positions. I don't think that the idea of right and wrong originates with God, so I have no problem with society determining its own right and wrong.

"Without belief in God, there are no morals or restraint on society."

Disagree. My point is that there have existed people and groups of people who lack belief in God and yet still have morals. There are theistic arguments that get around this point. Essentially, your argument needs to account for the fact that I act with restraint, ethics and morals even though I lack belief.

We're kind of getting off the topic of personal finance, even though this is kind of interesting.

Yes, this is our fundamental disagreement.

Unfortunately, FMF is probably not the correct forum for this type of discussion, but I am going to continue the discussion. - if FMF shuts down this discussion, I understand - I believe that even though you personally don't believe in God, the Christian culture exercises a measure of restraint in your life. Your conscience has been trained by your surroundings to be sensitive to certain things.

For instance, I am sure that you and I both agree that murder is wrong. Why do we believe it is wrong? Here are some possibilities
1) You could say that it is illegal in my country. This is true, but what if my country declares murder to be legal? Is it then morally acceptable? What is the final standard? My country has declared that abortion in most instances and with most methods is legal. I disagree strongly on biblical grounds. What if my country declares that it is okay to end the life of anyone up to 12 months or who is too old or is infirm or mentally retarded or is of a certain race or religion. . . See where this takes us?
2) Some say that nature itself teaches that murder is wrong. I say, where? The animal world is an extremely violent place. Is the natural world the source of truth? Darwin posited the theory of survival of the fittest. Why does this theory supposedly work in the animal world, but not in human culture?
3) This brings us to an interesting question: Why (in general) is it okay to take the life of an animal but not okay to take the life of a human being? Without God in the equation, there is no difference between human life and the life of a mammal, fish, bird or insect.

We could go through a similar discussion of almost every aspect of life. The treatment of women - why do Christianized nations treat women with respect, but many cultures treat women as property? What makes one right and the other wrong? or are they equal? How about the morals of sex. Most civilized countries make it illegal to have sex with a minor. What makes this wrong? Other cultures do not have such prohibitions. Why is it okay in one culture to kill someone who has different religions beliefs, but in another culture, this is grounds for procecution?

Which culture is right and what is the final standard? Plonkee, your level of restraint is admirable, but what standard you trying to meet? The standard of your own conscience? If that is the case, there are a whole lot of people who do not have restraint but are acting within the bounds of their own conscience. Are we all to do what is right in our own eyes?

The standard of conscience fails us, the standard of government fails us, the standard of majority rule fails us, the standard of "historical practice" fails us. What is the final source of truth in regards to right and wrong?

My standard is Jesus Christ. I can never live up to that standard, but He has made a way for me to be acceptable in God's sight. "I am the Way the Truth and the Light, no man comes to the Father, but by Me." John 14:6

Meanwhile, back on the personal finance ranch.... :) Plonkee, you have an interesting blog, I find the differences and similarities between our countries in the area of finance to be fascinating.

I also find the differences and similarities between our countries fascinating. Of course I think we are better, but I'm sure thats just national pride ;). I looked at your blog and would be subscribing to your feed but I couldn't get it to load - maybe you should try feedburner.

"Why does this theory [survival of the fittest] supposedly work in the animal world, but not in human culture?"

Seriously, probably because we have evolved empathy. The only people who seriously act in the way that you've previously described the godless as doing (or wanting to do) are sociopaths and thats thought to be because they lack empathy.

"The treatment of women - why do Christianized nations treat women with respect, but many cultures treat women as property?"

I see your point and disagree, but this is a terrible example. Until recently (like the 19th century) wives were considered property in English law. Thats over a thousand years of Christianization where women were considered property. Its actually the Age of Enlightenment that saw attitudes begine to change - not known as a particularly Christian movement.

"Are we all to do what is right in our own eyes?"

Yes. If everyone did what they thought was right (not what they wanted to do) all the time that would be an excellent start. They don't though - well, at least everyone I know has acted contrary to what they thought was right at least once.

I do understand about Christianity. Due to different educational systems I've aquired more religious educaton than the average American and I'm fascinated by religion in general. I have read the Bible (although to be honest I'm sure I skipped over some of the genealogy sections) and I actually own a copy.

I realise that you feel that Jesus is your / everyones salvation and that it is only with his help that you / anyone can be good (for want of a better way of putting it). Since one of my personal beliefs is that I should be as open-minded as possible, I'm willing to accept that you could be right.

Even though I don't agree I'm happy with the argument that I am / anyone is only good because of God. Thats relatively non-offensive. Saying that because I am a non-believer I am intrinsically without morals is actually deeply offensive, I'm assuming that you don't exactly mean that.

"What is the final source of truth in regards to right and wrong?"
IMHO there isn't one. Truth can be found in many places.

Finally, I'm more than happy to continue this discussion as its civilised and interesting. If you prefer to email me directly, my contact details are on my blog.

Thank you for the interaction. I haven't figured out how to put an RSS feed on my blog yet and I may also change to a regular website soon in order to generate more revenue.
I don't want to deal with your comment in detail here. I may send you an email - just two comments:
1) The 1000+ years of Christendom that your refer to were under the Roman Catholic empire - very little that went on during that time could be considered Christian or biblical. You say that the turning point came during the age of enlightenment - I believe that the age of enlightenment came about as the influence of the RC church decreased and individuals were able to reach scripture in their own language and interpret it themselves. Men like Martin Luther, Calvin, Tyndale had great impact on theology and culture. Most of the early scientists Newton, Locke, Copernicus et al who founded the scientific method and revolutionized the way we look at the world, were devout men. We call is the Reformation.
2)I am sorry that you were offended by the idea that "I am a non-believer I am intrinsically without morals". I agree with you that it is a difficult idea. I actually believe that all mankind, without the influence of God, is intrinsically evil. We call it "total depravity". You, me, my children, my wife have all sinned and are completely unworthy of mercy from God. Even the good that we do as human beings is motivated by selfishness.

It would be fun to talk face to face on these issues. That way it would be easier to convince you that I mean you no offense and my attitude is not one of condescension. I am nothing in myself.

There are several of your countrymen who I greatly admire and want to study more: David Livingston, Charles Spurgeon, CT Studd, William Tyndale, John Wesley, George Whitefield and others. The UK has a great biblical heritage.

Ok, I'll stop. If you email, thats cool.

Just a couple of minor things - what I would take (in principle) offence at is all non-believers are immoral by definition and all believers are moral by definition. But I don't think that you are really saying that.

It would be fun to talk face to face. I'm quite relaxed and since you are so polite I have always assumed that you mean no offence and so none has been taken. I hope that you haven't taken any offence either.

Regarding Malachi 3:10: the context makes it pretty clear that this is a national promise, not a personal one. Not everyone who brings in a tithe to the Temple would become wealthy; but the society which fills the Temple would prosper.

A side issue to a different post: "what I would take (in principle) offense at is all non-believers are immoral by definition and all believers are moral by definition. But I don't think that you are really saying that."

He's definitely not saying that. He's saying that although any number of atheists may do wonderful things, be moral people, and even advocate morality, the philosophy of naturalism doesn't provide a logical ground for their morality.

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