Isaiah 5:1-7 (a continuation of 8.3.12 / Jn 12:23-28)
There was once an hour in my life where I would have agreed with Steinbeck and his assessments regarding the evils of capitalism. In that season (23 – 40), I had abandoned corporate life and would have booked my vacations (if I could have afforded one) at some negative altitude like Death Valley or the Dead Sea so that I might glorify the Lord in my sacrificial living. (Slight exaggeration but) I actually made a valiant stab at this lifestyle and to be honest I do not think the Lord was one bit impressed.
If you were to review my story, you might conclude with me, that God was working as valiantly as I to undermine my efforts and put me on another track entirely (which involved corporations and money and things I had vowed to avoid – and not all for very righteous motives). Into the complexities of corporate America, into family business, back into close proximity to my estranged family is where I believe the Spirit ended up leading our family in spite of my attempts of making applications of Jesus’ harder teachings.
Jesus goes on to say that if He be lifted up from the earth He will draw men to Himself. This surely applied to His mode of death. However, I think it also applies to the result of placing a Living Seed in the bowels of Satan’s domain. Whether its in Hell or our hearts, resurrection Life (if permitted) triumphs! It, by nature, breaks free of the power of death and of sin. It bears much fruit. It is attractive. It glorifies the Father.
That very same Living Seed resides in the hearts of those who publicly confess Him and are trusting Him as their Life and their Salvation, permanently modifying the soil conditions within us. Our hearts are now, by their new nature, the perfect growing condition for the Word of God. (Note; there is the assumption that in God’s sovereignty, His Spirit is orchestrating and making use of external circumstances to create sufficient heat to germinate the Seed. Most of you know what I am speaking of when I refer to “heat”.)
The deepest truth about our heart-soil today is not its bent of total depravity and propensity to stray from God. The deepest Truth about us right this very minute (with our new covenant) is that Jesus Christ indwells us and is now the essence of our being. You may be saying, “Well that makes the Good News just a bit too good for me! That is just not my theology AND its just not my experience”. (Note; We need to be honest enough with ourselves to admit that often the reason its not our theology is BECAUSE its not our experience.) Is it not possible that we would avoid a victorious theology regarding our hearts because; 1) it is painfully incompatible with our experience? 2) It would create new levels of personal responsibility to God if our hearts are in as good of shape as I am claiming.
My conclusions are neither complete nor are they perfected but they do lead me to believe a few things that “hating life” does not mean. I do not think a vow of poverty or an intentionally downward socio-economic lifestyle generates holiness. I do not think it glorifies the Lord in the least. I do not believe that the presence of money nor the absence of money have any bearing on holiness. I do not believe lives lived within a socialistic or communist regime are more likely to produce glorified saints any more than a capitalistic culture will. It is not about external conditions. It is all about our hearts and our heart’s orientation to money and power. The evil lay in the loving.
As one who has lived in an hour where things were lean (though by no means “dust-bowl” lean) and also in hours filled with material abundance (such as today), I have discovered that the Lord’s arm in not too short to create circumstances for growth in either climate. The Living Seed in our hearts (a former domain of Satan’s) will at appropriate hours (seasons) converge with external circumstances (courtesy of the Holy Spirit and seed previously sown) to promote a death of sorts. We will have to repent and side with His Truth over our old patterns of thought. Due to our resistance, some of our deaths may be quite agonizing. For those who belong to Him, the Living Word will ultimately grow and displace fallen understandings of the world, ourselves and God Himself. The fruit of His resurrection Life will be seen in us; the ruler of this world will be cast out and His Spirit will continue to draw men to Christ. In this hour He will be glorified!
Note; Please do not interpret my commentary as an unqualified endorsement of capitalism or democracy. Capitalism creates a host of unique temptations. I do believe we are still navigating through murky theology in the west. For the record and for future consideration, I believe strains of capitalism have found there way into western Christianity in the forms of doctrines that I feel sure would start Paul on an extensive letter writing campaign. But that is a subject for another day.
(Note: To my dear son Daniel, in whom I am well pleased; I know whose side you are on. I’m just having fun and further promoting our rich dialogue (which I dearly love). If you desire that I come to your class and give my take on the Grapes of Wrath, I’m all in, but be advised; it will probably not be from one who “hates” profits, capitalism and corporations in the same vein as Steinbeck.)
As I have read Jesus’ Word and attempted to walk in His Spirit these past 37 years, when Jesus speaks of “hating” this life or even our families, I think He was leading us to this idea; that there is no comparisons, even close, that can be made between His kingdom and the kingdoms of this earth; that there is no comparisons that we can make regarding familial ties as we have known them on earth to those that we can know in His kingdom.
Here is my best attempt at grappling with this hard word from our loving King; I think ultimately words like “hate” will be small and inconsequential in His kingdom which is coming and due to overtake our hearts. “Hate” is just a small temporary word that will be displaced by eternal words such as “Love”. Comparatively speaking we may, in a sense, “hate” bleached out, compromised motives and affections (however highly we might have appraised them in this life) once we taste more fully of the abundant ones He is endeavoring to impart to us.
Father, as for this hour (whether it be one of leanness or abundance), may we repent where we have opposed the Living Seed by depending upon external conditions. Allow us to acknowledge, that with the current circumstances of our lives, that conditions are ripe even now for germination, growth and an attractive harvest of righteousness, love, peace and joy. Right now Father, in this hour, be glorified in us. Amen.