THE CONSEQUENCES OF INDUSTRIALIZATION FOR CHRISTIANITY

In this fast-paced life where each man tries to outplace another, it must be noteworthy to ponder on this question: Where is the time for family, the time to acquire wisdom, and the time for God? Apparently, industrialization has provided a fatal consequence that has created a spiritual lethargy in the hearts of many people. To illustrate this point, a man is more likely to wake up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning to drive to work but not to bring his family to a house of God and meet his fellow Christians for worship. This situation proves how the fast-paced, consumer-driven culture has groomed people who value material value over essential things like love, peace of mind, and security. It is a culture that has bred these ideas: money over wisdom, quantity over quality, and work over God.

People’s desire to acquire what they want by any means can be witnessed in different outlets of our kind. For example, microwaves instantly gratify one for being able to heat a meal in a few minutes. This meal will likely not taste as good as one that is skillfully prepared. Another example is slow internet connection which drives the public mad; therefore, it is common knowledge that many people pay top-dollar for the fastest internet connection to acquire more information at a greater pace. In the case of smartphones, they enable one to speak to a friend wherever the latter is, purchase an item desired only a moment ago, or Google something he or she is likely to forget tomorrow. All these situations show how instant gratification has become a marketing strategy for the industrialized world. In addition, the desire to acquire as much as possible in the shortest amount of time has made the modern generation into a people of constantly-growing impatience.

Another consequence of the industrialization of society is globalism. This result is not inherently evil in any sense since it having a basic understanding of other cultures, literatures, and religions is convenient and helpful. Globalism has connected the people through facets such as the internet, industry, and international politics. Considering these reasons, globalism has positive effects; however, how does it affect people in their everyday life?

Consider the famous fantasy novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit. The story begins with a hobbit who lives in a very closely-knit community of people. This community does not always agree with each other or necessarily appreciate another’s company at times, but the tale excludes the modern reality of globalism. The geography and understanding of other cultures the hobbits possessed was the feature of local legends and folklore, but the hobbits’ understanding of their own roots and ancestry ran deep. In this novel, Tolkien sets the stage of a community which revolves around the very opposite of globalism: localism. Neighbors acquired what was not rightfully theirs, the local alehouse was the go-to for every hobbit, and the gardener provided services for those in this closely-knit community.

This narrative is a far cry from the contemporary reality, which showcases men and women willing to drive miles upon miles to their respective jobs. The communal-style of living featured in the book is contrasted by globalism which encourages people to buy from large markets rather than locally or listen to globally-acclaimed music rather than local producers. The result of this practice is that people are incredibly likely to not know anything about the community where they belong. They are also likely to refuse to participate in local events. They would not be willing to understand the roots and ancestry of the places surrounding their homes. Needless to say, we have become a non-local people, with much of our lives taking place not in our local area, but in the cities which are miles away, and working with people who live maybe even farther. In a nutshell, globalization is a consequence of the industrialization of society; it has severed the historical affinity which men had with their local communities and the interconnectedness of neighbors and small business owners.

 

 

 

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THE SOCIAL GOSPEL OF JAMES

“Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you… You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.” (James 5:1, 6 NRSV)

 

The ideology which James maintains carries with it scathing words of rebuke for the “rich people… who have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure.” However, is there anything wrong with wealth? Everybody enjoys having nice possessions, so why would James, Jesus’ brother, rebuke those who enjoy their temporal, corporeal lives in the world?

James was a social reformer, and judging by this passage taken from his epistle, one can infer the presence of wealthy Jewish Christian in the first century of the church. To James, hoarding riches for oneself and living lavish lifestyles while those of the lower-class lived lives filled with hunger, thirst, and loneliness were ungodly. James’ mind would have been well-acquainted with a certain teaching of Christ. Eventually, it taught that the person of Christ resides within the hungry, within the thirsty, and within the lonely (Matt. 25:35). James saw the danger in living luxuriously lifestyles while letting the poor rot in the streets. James also saw that form of indifference as a deeply ungodly and non-Christian way of living. It was in this context that James penned the words, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries…”

The lack of concern for the poor is a gaping hole in the existence of the Christian church. Considering James’ words in the first century, we can only imagine what sort of polemic would be employed against the modern body of Christ! Will the Church heed the social implications of the gospel? Will we turn a blind eye to those in the streets and a deaf ear to those who beg all who can listen for help?

The atoning life and work of Jesus Christ is inseparable from its practical implication, which is to care and aid those who are weak and needy. In fact, James taught that the only “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27 NRSV). The blessed apostle’s definition of pure religion and its social ramifications remains as incontrovertible and applicable today as it was in the first century. Will we heed them?

 

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How can you heed James’ definition of pure religion?

THE SOCIAL TEST FOR JESUS

In Luke 7, John’s disciples told him about Jesus. He sent his disciples to Jesus to ask him if he was the Messiah, the one they were waiting for (or were they still waiting for another one to come?). During that time, Jesus already cured many diseases, stopped plagues, and warded off evil spirits, and healed those who were blind. Yet, John still asked as though needing proof: “Are you really the Messiah?” Jesus did not answer John’s disciples. Instead, he told John’s disciples to tell John of what they had seen and heard.

This account suggests that John was measuring Jesus up. He was unsure if Jesus was the one he was prophesying about. John and his disciples were expecting Jesus to have the spirit who would purge humanity of evil. However, Jesus operated differently. Instead of spending his time “purging” the world of criminals, he spent his time serving the weak. He gave relief to those who had been suffering and the poor were receiving glad news. As what Rauschenbusch writes, “Jesus felt that John would recognize the dawn of the reign of God by the evidence which he offered him. What, then, would be proper evidence that the reign of God is gaining ground in our intellect and feeling?”

In today’s world, what evidence should propel us to give to others for being Christ’s believers? Is it when we say that God changed our lives that we must give to others? Going to church every Sunday and labeling ourselves as Christians are certainly not enough. What is our weekly church attendance and religious affiliation to the hungry and the oppressed? These do not mean anything to them unless we extend a helping hand, like Jesus did.

People will not care about what you have to say unless what you will have to say will help them meet their basic needs. In a usual scenario, would you find yourself unable to pay attention to what another person is saying when you’re feeling hungry? It would be hard to focus on something when the discomfort of hunger is bugging you, wouldn’t it?

If people are suffering and you are not really doing anything to alleviate their suffering, then you wouldn’t really get the people’s attention. In the marketplace, to truly make your message heard and reach the heart of people, you need to serve them first. Like Jesus, the evidence of your faith in the Lord is reflected in carrying out His platform, which, at the minimum, is helping the poor and lightening their burden.

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Will you pass Christ’s social test?

SOCIAL PLATFORM OF JESUS

When Jesus arrived in Nazareth, he was brought up to the synagogue on Sabbath day, as was his custom, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. It read:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 14:18-19 NRSV)

 

The passage from Isaiah was important to Jesus as it summarized his aims for society in it. Jesus announced it as his program. Jesus promised that his aims would be realized: good news to the poor, freedom for the captive, and healing and restoration for the blind. Walter Rauschenbusch notes, “Social and religious emancipation are woven together in these phrases. Plainly Jesus saw his mission in raising to free and full life those whom life had held down and hurt.” Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21 NRSV). Rauschenbusch asks us, “Must the platform of Jesus be our platform and program?”

How have we lived our lives helping the poor, releasing people from bondage, giving sight to those who cannot see, and freedom for the oppressed? More importantly, are we the ones who are stealing from the poor, putting them in bondage, deceiving them, and oppressing further those who are already oppressed? What role have we taken on in our society? Again, have we taken on Christ’s platform for our lives or have we not?

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How have you taken on Christ’s social platform?

THE DANGERS OF WEALTH

Money is actually a form of test God gives us. Money reveals the status of our heart. It bares what occupies our heart. In his time, Jesus saw how people mocked the value of their life because of the money they possessed. It kept the lowly low. Similarly, in the present, the wealthy have lost the capacity for a meaningful life.

Jesus deeply believed in the value and dignity of human life. His actions showed how he wanted to restore people to the status wherein they could regain their dignity which society stole from them. He sought to create solidarity and save the lowly. He demanded that his disciples live the kind of heroic life in the service of God’s Kingdom. He challenged them to lose their lives, because for Jesus, losing their lives was much more than losing money. Losing their lives required surrendering their life for the service of God.

The prophets in the Old Testament supported Jesus’ view on the dangers of loving money. They condemned injustice and extortionate money-making schemes even more fervently than Jesus did. For one, Paul stressed, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:10 NRSV). The danger of loving money is very real. It can cost you your own life, not just your physical life, but also your eternal life.

In the modern world, people are not very vigilant about the dangers of wealth and falling into the trap of loving it. They are encouraged to love money, to desire for material wealth, and to live for it alone. The extreme legalism that Christians suffered in the past has been replaced by extreme liberalism, which does not set boundaries for how far they can push themselves to the point of completely turning away from Jesus.

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What does your perspective of money reveal about you?

WHEN WEALTH IS A LIMITATION

A passage in the Bible mentions Jesus inviting a young man to a more heroic type of existence, cutting loose from his wealth and living a life devoted to the Kingdom of God. Apparently, that invitation was a chance for the young man to live an abundant life, one that was not defined by material wealth. The young man might have stood before kings and crowds, and ranked with Peter, John, and Paul as a household name. However, the young man did not rise up to Jesus’ offer to him. What could have held this young ruler back from accepting Jesus’ offer of a truly good life? Jesus himself pointed out that the young man’s demeanor was caused by his great wealth (Luke 18:18-25 NRSV).

If this particular man in the story were poor, he would have had less to leave and might have even taken Jesus on cheerfully. Recalling the story of the young ruler, Jesus quipped that it was exceedingly harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom, where men live for justice, brotherliness, and optimism.

By that statement, Jesus does not mean that if one is rich, then one would not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Inferentially, Jesus is speaking about the status of one’s heart. He means that when one’s affections are set on money and material wealth, then one would have difficulty surrendering to God. On a similar note, it will be hard for you to do the work of advancing God’s Kingdom if you are more concerned about your riches than you are about Jesus. Take this simple example: A lot of people still have a hard time tithing because they cannot separate themselves from the tithe. They cannot surrender it to God, because in their hearts, the money is actually more precious to them than Jesus.

Needless to say, Jesus has extended this offer to you. Maybe God has been tugging at your heart to surrender something to Him and in exchange for this act of faith is a chance to live a heroic life. However, in the back of your mind, you are thinking about how you can pay the mortgage payments for the car and house you have come to love so much, or you are thinking about that corner office, or about those out-of-the-country vacation tours and the latest gadgets and luxuries. Then you tGoing back to the tale involving you, you decide you cannot and you reject Christ’s offer, just like the rich ruler did. You are not very rich, but you are saddened that you cannot meet Jesus because of the material wealth you are holding on to, or maybe you cannot follow Jesus because of the dreams you cannot let go of.

It is not evil to be rich or to have material wealth. What makes being rich or having material wealth bad is when it drives a person to be corrupt, hence hindering them from serving and helping others. When this happens, they become disillusioned. Eventually, they begin to disregard what is important in the Kingdom of God, not realizing that at the end of the day, what matters in light of eternity is only true foundation we can rely on in life and that all the rest is just scaffolding.

Not only does the Book of the Month Club provide a pathway to knowledge, wisdom and insight, it also sets you up to be in attendance at the Spring Session of  Prophecology 2018: Birthing House: The Latter Rain, February 23-25, 2018.

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Is wealth being a hindrance for you to serve the Lord and to advance His Kingdom?