Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sun Shining on Just and Unjust Alike ala Augustine

In reading through Augustine's City of God, early in book 1, Augustine takes on the question of why the unjust receive good things. The heading of Book 1, Section 8 is actually "Of the advantages and disadvantages which often indiscriminately accrue to good and wicked men." Augustine uses some language of storing up some reward (either wrath or blessing in judgment) that is reminiscent of Jesus' words in the Matthew 6 text appointed for Ash Wednesday.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Discipline of Lent -- Ash Wednesday Devotional

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

I remember, as probably everyone who ever learned to play an instrument, countless hours playing scales. Up and down they went. Each run moving to a new note and then running up another series and then another move and then another run… all within the same pattern of sharps or flats. And to be honest at the time, the notion of scales seemed completely inane. Wasn’t the point of learning an instrument so that I could make music? And I remember at one point in high school band, during a part of the year when the director had us all practice scales and then play them for a grade (those days made for sheer tedium, I tell you as every person played through the same scale, not all the brilliantly). I was to play a scale in either F#- or G -major and I was not real keen on dealing with all of those sharps or flats. And a friend sitting down in the tuba section (who knew far more music theory than I did), gave me a trick. He told me I could play the scale of F- or G-major, which was far easier since I only had to deal with one sharp or one flat. Well it worked. The band director, whose ear was not able to tell the difference (thankfully it was not my wife judging the scale; she would have known). I won. The idiotic scales had been bypassed and all was well. Of course, I got an “A.”

Friday, February 01, 2013

Against Tithing: Tipping, Justice and Ignorant Pastors

The story has gone viral. The pastor left a note on her check that said, "I give God 10%, why do you get 18?" In the aftermath, the pastor has come and sort of apologized (more of a "I'm sorry  I got caught" than a true "I'm sorry"). The waitress who posted the receipt on Reddit (not the waitress who actually waited on the pastor) has been fired. Several problems arise in the telling of this story and all of them are with the pastor and her understanding.

First was her ignorance of the restaurant's large party policy. She was in a group that automatically garnered a eighteen percent tip. Don't like the policy, don't eat there.

Second was her ignorance of server's wages. Servers are paid incredibly poorly. While minimum wages for most hourly workers has continued to rise, servers hourly wages have been exempt from such raises. Servers are dependent upon tips for living. Tips are not merely extras that supplement servers pay.

Third was the pastor's ignorance of tithing and rendering to God what is God's. I continue to speak against tithing if we hold on to the false belief that when we tithe, we give ten percent to God and the rest is ours to do with as we please. Tithing does not provide a firewall between money that belongs to God and money that belongs to me. After all, the earth is the Lord's and all therein.

When it comes to our money, the reality is that everything we have is to be used for God. Yes, there is money that we give to God through the church for its mission, but that is one way we participate in mission. It is not the only way. Supporting our family falls in there as well. Serving our neighbor does as well. I suggest to people that intentional giving is important when deciding what to give through the church. Because by practicing intentional giving, we can learn to be intentional with everything we have.

The pastor mistakenly believes the money she is paying for her food at the restaurant is somehow separate from her Christian vocation of serving her neighbor. She avoids justice by failing to provide for her neighbor's needs. If she cannot afford to eat out and pay the bill, she should not eat out. Hiding behind God and her office of ministry as a justification for shafting the server is unjustifiable. Justice is ignored. Servers are often on the edge of poverty. Not tipping for her foood can very possibly take food out of the server's mouth.