05 Jan


By Shayne Mason Vincent — Because I am an independent, I appreciate truth on both sides of the aisle. Both major parties have something important to offer society; and they also both have extremes. A perfect example of this is my education. My schools of discipline include both social work and theology. I love them both for their deep insights into human nature. Yet both have very different solutions when it comes to “how to fix the world.”

Certainly, our society is in desperate need of “fixing.” But, whenever we attempt to discuss the issues of race, immigration, poverty, environment, governance, and taxation, the discussion becomes about party rather than principle. Worldview and political views are now assumed to be one and the same. Yet, it is entirely possible to be a Democrat who believes in fiscal responsibility, just as it is possible to be a Republican who cares about the poor.


Unfortunately, partisan media and politics have used current events to embroil our nation in a very dangerous, “cultural proxy war.” For at its core, they are in a philosophical battle for control of the narrative; and this war has been in the crock pot since the American and French Revolutions:

Two distinct lines of Enlightenment thought: first, the moderate variety following Descartes, Locke, and Christian Wolff, which sought accommodation between reform and the traditional systems of power and faith; and second, the radical enlightenment inspired by the philosophy of Spinoza, advocating democracy, individual liberty, freedom of expression, and eradication of religious authority. The moderate variety tended to be deistic, whereas the radical tendency separated the basis of morality entirely from theology. Both lines of thought were eventually opposed by a conservative Counter-Enlightenment, which sought a return to faith (Wikipedia).

As a nation, we are now likely near the end stage of this ideological war between enlightenment-based, secular-humanist values and historic constitutional Christian values where Secularism derives truth from the rationalistic and material; it values naturalism, evolution, secularism, rationalism, the sexual revolution, and post-modernism’s rejection of absolutes. Christianity derives truth from the metaphysical and biblical; it values church and state (theocracy), tradition, patriarchy, theism, and fundamentalism.

These two views have been in an open existential battle in our society for more than 200 years now. And as a firm believer that historicist-eschatology only applies to major paradigm shifts in history, I suspect that our culture war has prophetic significance related to Daniel 11:40 and Revelation 11:7; Egypt (secularism), the King of the South, and Babylon (Christianity), the King of the North, are battling for supremacy of worldview.

And here is where we must be wise. Fleeing Babylon does not mean we should run to the arms of Egypt simply because they support causes we cherish. To state this biblically, fleeing the earth and sea beast does not mean we should flee to the beast from the bottomless pit! We are followers of Jesus, not of this world; and sadly, we often seem to have a little too much of Peter and his sword in us.


So, when politicians, with all their double standards of moral equivalence, hijack legitimate issues for political expedience, citizens become enemies. We put up our dukes and stand our ground (no matter the side). I can’t tell you how many people I used to love in Christ who are now no longer on speaking terms because of politics. But in all of this partisan propaganda, Christians seem to have forgotten that the principles of Truth and Justice actually belong, not to the state, but to God!

Where do you think our modern “secular” ideals of justice came from? Rights for workers, women, children, blacks, immigrants, LGBTQ, and our social services, social security, adult and child protective services, and the five-day work week? They were originally championed by Christians! It began with what was called non-sectarian philanthropy. It was an ecumenical mission done by those who had a burden for the oppressed. This same work took place in Europe as well, under, for example, the Elizabethan Poor Laws, which were developed through the work of William Booth and his Salvation Army, as well as the abolitionist work of Christians for multiple centuries.

Their grand achievements for widows, orphans, the elderly, the working class, the slave, and the poor were slow and gradual, ultimately becoming institutionalized into secular law and government. But it was never done as an entitlement or a “right”; they fought for these causes because they loved Jesus and cared about their neighbor! And now, in all of our partisan madness, we seem to have forgotten that Jesus loved His enemies.


So, let’s stop pigeon-holing God into one particular vein of conservatism or liberalism. He is a living God, and He expresses truth in a rainbow’s palette of colors. Consider the panoply of flowers, animals, clouds, and climates He has created. The refractions of light, the various colors, the end- less varieties. Clearly then, God loves all races, He loves all nations, and He loves the earth itself, for He created it all!

Therefore, as followers of Christ, what we should be looking for is, “What is truth?” What are the biblical principles I can support in these current events that are not related to the politics of it all? Because His Word is loaded with hundreds of texts that span both sides of the aisle:

James 1:27: Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Isaiah 58:6: Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke.
Leviticus 19:33-34: When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native- born. Love them as yourself.
Revelation 11:18: He will destroy those who destroy the earth.
2 Thessalonians 3:10: For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.
2 Corinthians 9:6: But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Proverbs 10:4: Idle hands make one poor, but diligent hands bring riches.
Proverbs 21:25: A slacker’s craving will kill him because his hands refuse to work.

The Church

The church of Christ’s day wasn’t just some homogenous group of Jewish males who only had one perspective on all things. It was diverse, including people from many nations and cultures, and God loved them all: Jews, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Africans, women and men, slave and free, educated and uneducated, rich and poor, blue collar and white collar. Because loving your neighbor has nothing to do with politics. It is, rather, a fruit of the Spirit. And if hate is all we are experiencing due to our views, clearly, we are not following the Spirit of God, for hate is the fruit of the serpent.

I fear that our “cultural proxy war” isn’t going anywhere; it will likely only increase until the final events. And because we can already see the beginnings of the lamb-like beast speaking as the dragon, we need to be conscious about where we stand. We need to avoid being caught up in the mob that cried out for the nationalist zealot Barabbas to save them from bad governance (no matter if it is left or right). Nor should we exclude ourselves from the fight to protect the least of these, for those are the very ones God commands us to protect! Instead, let us be the ones who cried out for Jesus, so that our testimony will be like that of the early church, where “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need” (Acts 4:33-35).

–Shayne Mason Vincent is lead pastor, Casper Wyoming District. Email him at [email protected]

04 Jan


By Becky DeOliveira — On my first day of first grade, back in 1978, a girl came to our Seventh-day Adventist K–10 school wearing a pair of gold stud earrings. The teacher asked her to remove them— in accordance with the dress code. The six-year-old girl did not comply, for whatever reason. It is quite possible that her mother had warned her never to remove those studs. Who knows? At any rate, minutes later the new first-grade class was treated to the sight of our teacher, a woman who appeared very old to me with her 1950s-styled grey hair and brown homemade polyester pantsuit, chasing the little girl around the classroom with a broom, swatting her bottom every chance she got. The girl was fast; the chase took the pair outside at one point and I can’t remember now how it all ended. Presumably, the girl was caught and punished.

The next year we were a combined first- and second- grade classroom. There was a boy in first grade who struggled to read and was often sent into an adjoining room with either the teacher’s aide or another student, one who was caught up on his or her work. A wooden paddle went into the room along with them. If the boy made a mistake or failed to cooperate, he was paddled. I remember seeing him often with fat tears rolling down his cheeks.

My elementary school was in the suburbs of a large city on the West Coast of the United States. It was supported by three constituent churches. Two of them were predominantly white churches located in the suburbs. One was predominantly Black and located in the city center. That church had purchased a bus that carried a load of kids across the bridge to the Christian school every day. Would it surprise you much if I told you both the kids, I observed being physically hit in the first and second grades were kids who arrived every day on that very bus? Black kids?

What would you guess as the probability that yours truly would have ever been hit by a teacher—or by a student acting on the teacher’s behalf? Let’s put it at p <.001—pretty low. They would have called my parents.

I’m ashamed to say it, but at the age of six, I didn’t question the disproportionate corporal punishment doled out to the Black kids. I assumed they must be bad kids, must have done something to deserve it. Now I think about their parents, living across the bridge, walking their children to the bus stop every morning and putting them on a forty-five-minute or maybe even hour-long commute to a Christian school where they must have hoped—as all parents do—that their children would be nurtured, treated with kindness, cherished. Loved. It kills me, thinking about it.

I’ve gone on in life to experience many more situations where I am shielded from unpleasantness while others—often Black others—face it. Walking through customs at Heathrow airport, as I used to do on at least an annual basis, it was always interesting to observe the people who had been selected for special screening. At least 90% Black. And dashing through airports with a Black Canadian friend on a journey to London a few years ago reminded me yet again of my privilege. He was stopped at every security checkpoint. Every single one. He, a mild-mannered and unassuming gospel singer. We joked about it, but it wasn’t especially funny. Not really.

That Black church, the one that sent the school bus over the bridge? They stopped sending it just a few years later. There was a disagreement with the school principal regarding the discipline of some of the church’s kids. The white point of view was that the Black church was being unreason- able. Me? I’m not so sure about that. I don’t know their story. No one ever talked about it. That bus stopped crossing the bridge and maybe everyone just forgot about those kids. It would have been an uncomfortable thing to confront, there is no doubt about that. No one likes to think they are behaving unfairly or acting in a way that could properly be called racist. But sometimes people are. And rather than pretending this isn’t happening, to make ourselves feel better, maybe we should acknowledge the inequality and do something about it.

There is a car that blasts through my neighborhood painted in full “Blue Lives Matter” colors. That’s quite a commitment to a statement that seems more about refuting Black Lives Matter than it is about anything else. Yes, we know that blue lives matter. You know how we know? When one of them is extinguished, the punishment is swift, certain, and severe. I knew that my white life mattered back in elementary school. How? Because no one spanked me for a trivial reason. I know it now. Why? Because no one stops and frisks me at the airport. No one pulls me over in my car to ask what I’m doing. No one wonders why I’m jogging through my own neighborhood. As a society, we can do better. We can do better as a church too. We have to.

–Becky De Oliveira is a doctoral student in research methods at the University of Northern Colorado. Email her at: [email protected]

04 Jan


By John Skrzypaszek — The Seventh-day Adventist Church faced challenging issues during the 20th century concerning life in a progressively-changing world. Rapid developments in industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and the exponential growth of cities heightened the presence of injustice caused by “indifference to human suffering” (Testimonies to the Church, 9, p. 89). Furthermore, internal denominational disputes, engendered by theological and organizational conflicts, di- verted the Church’s attention from the primary purpose of its mission in the world. Morgan argues that in the context of general societal issues, “Ellen White guided Adventists’ responses to the nation’s social problems” (Ellen Harmon White: The American Prophet, p. 224). Consequently, her counsels drew attention to social justice as an intrinsic part of the movement’s missional activity.

This brief reflection refrains from discussing White’s understanding and response to all aspects of social justice through the selective use of quotations, but rather aims to recapture the inspirationally-nurturing and visionary depth of her inspired voice from the trenches of her lived experience.

In a letter penned to Elder O.A. Olsen in January 1905, White described her visit to Battle Creek, Michigan. First, the recollections are fascinating because they delineate her role as God’s Messenger. Second, she was asked whether the views she held years ago changed. In response, she affirmed her beliefs’ unchanged continuity, but placed them in the context of the “same service” that the Master placed on her in the early years. One wonders what she meant by the continuity of her “unchanged views” and “same service.”

White’s progressive understanding of the biblical truth matured. She encouraged the Church to immerse life experience in the power of God’s Word to “discern more clearly the compassion and love of God” revealed in “Christ and Him crucified” (Circulation of the Great Controversy), a place where one finds “mercy, tenderness, and forgiveness, blended with equity and justice” (Acts of the Apostles, p. 333) She argued that “we should not only know the truth, but we should practice the truth as it is in Jesus.” This focus remained an unaltered mandate of her entire ministry—truth in terms of its practical application in the “Lord’s service” (Letter to Olsen).

In this context, she recalled her calling’s specific nature: “I was charged not to neglect or pass by those who were being wronged. . . . . I am to reprove the oppressor and plead for justice. I am to present the necessity of maintaining jus- tice and equity in all our institutions”(Letter to Olsen)

Space does not permit a detailed analysis of White’s response to the wide range of social justice issues, both with the community of faith and in society at large, but her influence’s impact commenced at the ground level of practical responses to human needs. Soon after her marriage in 1846, God instructed her to show a particular interest in motherless and fatherless children. She understood this responsibility as part of God’s missional response to human suffering (Isaiah 58: 6-7) with a specific goal: “I have taken children from 3 to 5 years of age and have educated them and trained them for responsible positions” (Letter to Olsen).

During White’s tenure in Australia, her home, Sunnyside, in Cooranbong, became “an asylum for the poor and afflicted” (Review and Herald, 1906). Her concern for the sick and suffering “won [the] confidence of the people” (Letter to Olsen). Thomas Russell, a local businessman, summarized the impact of her influence: “Mrs. White’s presence in our village will be greatly missed. The widow and the or- phan found in her a helper. She sheltered, clothed, and fed those in need, and where gloom was cast, her presence brought sunshine.” In her life and practice, the truth in Jesus translated into practical Christian experience, a place where people felt kindness and loving care.

The Great Controversy theme (1858-1888) contributed to White’s in-depth understanding of God’s love and His purpose for life in a broken world. It highlighted the value of freedom of choice and the intrinsic value and potential in human life. The named theme extended her ministry’s im- pact beyond the boundaries of the Adventist community into the “public arena—race relations and religious liberty” (Ellen Harmon White: The American Prophet, p. 236).

During her time in Australia, she wrote extensively on is- sues relating to colored races. In 1891, she wrote, “The Lord Jesus came to our world to save men and women of all nationalities. He died just as much for the colored people as for the white race. Jesus came to shed light over the whole world” (“Our Duty to Colored People”). In 1896, she cautioned the Church: “The walls of sectarianism and caste and race will fall down when the true missionary spirit enters the hearts of men. Prejudice is melted away by the love of God” (Review & Herald). Her appeals aimed to resonate beyond the realm of political activism. More precisely, she aimed to challenge the Church with a “new initiative to reach the nation’s impoverished and oppressed black population” (Ellen Harmon White: The American Prophet, p. 236). Consequently, her messages were inspirationally motivational and missional.

The example of her unique response to the ills of social injustice emerged from her sensitive approach to the abuses and mistreatment of indigenous people in Australia. While writing extensively about equality, she never made a direct reference to the country’s racial prejudice. Nonetheless, her voice motivated the Seventh-day Adventist Church to speak out against this social evil.

After her departure to America, The Bible Echo (August 19, 1901) published an editorial expressing the Church’s protest against government abuses and mistreatment of the indigenous people: “Every opportunity should be improved to create a public sentiment against the brutal customs above described until the authorities take hold of the matter and inaugurate a vigorous reform. The blot is a foul upon the country and should be eradicated without delay.”

Indeed, her counsel challenged Seventh-day Adventists to speak out against oppression and injustice, not merely as a forum for political activism, but as an intrinsic part of the movement’s missional activity to uplift and restore human value and dignity streaming from God’s kingdom of grace.

–John Skrzypaszek, DMin, has recently retired as the director of the Ellen White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre, and is a lecturer at Avondale University College (2005-2020), Cooranbong, NSW, Australia. Polish by birth, John takes a keen interest in heritage, spirituality and identity studies. He is married to Brenda and has two sons, Raphael and Luke. Email him at: [email protected]

04 Jan


By Dany Hernandez – “SHHHHHH . . . Don’t Say Those Words.”

The Compliment

Fun Fact: My full name is Dany Hernandez Lizardo Garrido Gomez Consepcion Guzman Velazquez Garcia.

I’ve been called many things—Dan, Daniel, Horrendous, Lizard, Pastor, Vicar, Paco. I’ve been described as loud, passionate, authentic, fake, caring, mean and, in one instance, a “snake in the grass, back-stabbing, two-faced liar.” I’ll be honest. That last one is still a bit confusing to me as well as others who were present. Immediately, I had multiple individuals tell me, “Don’t take it personally. They just don’t know you.” Sure, I’ll chalk it up as ignorance on the part of the person who said those things about me, but it still stings. It still hurts. It still feels wrong.

But then, there was this one time when I was super excited because I heard some people describing me as a Social Justice Warrior. Social Justice Warrior. That sounds impressive doesn’t it? At least, I thought it did. After all, the final words of the Pledge of Allegiance are, “liberty and justice for all.” Maybe it’s just me, but I have a sense that many of us have placed our hands over our hearts at some point and have taken an oath committing ourselves to doing our part to establish a society where all are free, where all are treated with equal justice, and all are given an equal opportunity to live in peace and happiness.

So, needless to say, being called a Social Justice Warrior brought out in me a sense of pride and honor. I was living out what we, not just as Christians, but also as Americans stand for. I was living out what I thought our Founding Fathers and our church stand for.

The Insult

That is, until I realized that those three words are a bad thing. A friend pointed out to me that “Social Justice Warrior” was a derogatory term. To my surprise, after a bit of research, I found the hashtag #SWJ all over the Internet and was devastated to learn I was not being complimented, but instead, insulted—the equivalent of “a snake in the grass.”

I’m still trying to figure out how the words “social justice” became such a repulsive phrase to so many Christians, when in fact, it is the single most common theme in the Bible. This dynamic creates a difficult tension to manage. I can almost guarantee that every one of our pastors and church leaders would say that “social justice” is not only important, but it is a critical and foundational part of Christianity. However, because certain political parties and organizations that we might not align with have become vocal about “social justice,” we shy away from doing the right thing in order to protect ourselves. Let’s be honest. At times, it’s called “self- preservation”. I get it.

The Party

Mark 2:15-17: “And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

OK, we don’t know if it was a party or not. This is what we know. Jesus invites Levi, “Follow me,” and he does. As a tax collector, Levi did not hang out with church people, so we could probably assume Levi’s friends were outcasts of the religious and faith community of the time. The other thing we know is that at some point between Jesus’ invitation to follow Him, there was another invitation from Levi to come and hang out with “the sinners.”

Jesus could have declined the invitation to gather with questionable and marginalized characters for reasons of self- preservation. See what I did there? Jesus could have made certain demands of Levi regarding the food, the beverage, the music, and the guests before he accepted the invitation in order to avoid tension among the faithful. Jesus could have simply said, “No thank you.”

Not only do we see Jesus accepting the invitation as it was, but now we find him, “reclining” with sinners.

The Questions

Two things jump out at me:

  1. Reclining = In no rush
  2. Reclining = A posture of approachability

So, I pose a few of simple questions based on this observation. Is your church in no rush? Are you willing to work with a group of people for years and be present as the community grows and transitions? Are you able to take your time developing meaningful relationships by stepping out of your comfort zone and stepping into someone else’s territory as uncomfortable as that might be? Do you lead with a posture of authority or a posture of approachability? It’s interesting that the Pharisees never sat down to teach the Torah. They always stood in a posture and sign of authority. But somehow, Jesus takes a different approach. He knew these people would never attend church. He knew they would not even be allowed in church. Instead, Jesus reclines. He knew that it was more important for him to be present and approachable than it was for him to be right and authoritative.

How present and approachable are you? How present and approachable is your church? I’m not talking about people who believe, act, dress, eat and talk like you. How present and approachable are you with the kind of people Jesus reclined with?

Here’s the deal: “Social justice” or should we say, “helping the vulnerable among us” so as to not offend anyone, can only be maintained and implemented in the context of presence and approachability.

The Problem

If you are going to be fully committed to “helping the vulnerable among us,” then some people will feel left out. Take for instance Black Lives Matter (BLM). Some of you probably just stopped reading. That’s OK. But if you continue reading, hear me out.

Let me be vulnerable with you. For those of you who don’t know, we have triplets who will be turning 18 in January 2021. One of my kids has recently been challenged with more things than a teenager should be challenged with. This has required a tremendous amount of time, finances and resources on the part of our family. Many times, my wife and I have lost sleep, cried and felt guilty because of the lack of quality time we’ve been able to dedicate our other two. Does that mean we love them less? Of course not. But because of what we are going through at this point in time, it is necessary we call out the need to dedicate extra time and attention to that one child. If my teenage kids can understand this, why can’t some of us?

“But . . . but . . . do you know that BLM . . .” I do. And I’ve come to realize I don’t have to agree with everything someone stands for in order to support certain causes. I’m sure you don’t like how things ended with Dr. Kellogg, but you still eat cereal, don’t you? If we find ways to celebrate what is good instead of focusing on what is wrong, we’ll begin to find beauty and light in otherwise dark and gloomy places.

The Advice

Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer and composer of the Broadway musical Hamilton, wrote a line for the character of Aaron Burr played by Leslie Odom Jr., that should become foundational to all of us.

In the second song of the musical, Alexander Hamilton meets Aaron Burr and proceeds to go on a rant about university, family, country. Hamilton, wanting Aaron Burr to know everything he stood for within a few minutes of meeting him, ends up completely overwhelming Aaron with information. Out of nowhere, Aaron Burr interrupts Hamilton and tells him, “Let me offer you some advice. Talk less, smile more . . .”

What would it look like if we, as Jesus’ followers, took that advice? What if our churches were known for our smiles instead of our talks? What if we were more concerned about approachability than authority?

I think if we did, we would be doing the very thing that God requires of us according to Prophet Micah.

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women.

It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously (Micah 6:8).

Mercy, justice and humility—the foundations of our Chris- tian faith and the basis of “social justice.” There, I said it.

–Dany Hernandez is Lead Chaplain at Littleton Adventist Hospital, Little- ton, Colorado. Email him at: [email protected]

04 Jan


By Doug Inglish — Typically, when we see people looking for handouts, we presume they are poor. We could have an all-day-long sociological discussion on the causes, whose fault it is, or whether giving to them is appropriate, but none of that would change the underlying assumption that such people are poor. You may have heard an urban legend or two about exceptions, which even if true, would never account for the overwhelming majority who gather at intersections or in front of stores with cardboard signs.

And of course, we read news stories about “corporate welfare,” which would be at the other end of the scale—big companies with millions of dollars in assets who are seeking tax breaks, grants, or donations. In this case, we could have an economic discussion on the nature of capitalism, or a political discussion on whether the government should pick winners and losers, or a host of other issues related to whether the public, through one form or another, should support big companies who pay their top employees many times the median salary of a taxpayer.

In both situations, there are pros and cons to giving support. Fair minded, compassionate, intelligent people can disagree about handouts to street people or write-offs for corporations. But there is probably one thing we would all agree on: If a rich man, who had immediate and unfettered access to all his assets, asked you for a handout, that would be appalling.

I suppose those who just like to argue could conjure up circumstances where it would be appropriate (the diner won’t take his credit card) but notice that I said immediate and unfettered access to all assets. So, sweeping aside any bizarre scenarios, I’m talking about an embarrassingly wealthy person who could easily pay for anything outright, asking you to give him money with no goods or services rendered in exchange. I don’t think any of us would excuse that for a moment.

Why, then, does God ask you for money?

No question that He has the resources: “For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10) “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1).

Of course, He also has immediate access to His vast wealth. As the angel said to Mary, “ . . . with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). That pretty much covers access, along with a whole lot else.

Does He need your money? There is an interesting pas- sage about that in Psalm 50:12: “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it.”

That’s sort of like telling me, “If we need someone for special music, we aren’t going to call on you.” I would never be insulted over that because I have nothing to offer in terms of musical performance. It’s just not in me, and there is no shame in me coming to terms with it and admitting the obvious truth that I don’t have that talent.

Neither is there any shame in any of us admitting that if God was hungry, there is nothing that any of us could do about it. Does God get hungry? Well, that’s a whole other subject, but if He did, why should He tell us? He can do everything, and we can do nothing, so no point in complaining to the wrong people.

In the context of this passage, hunger is a stand-in for needs in general. It’s similar to the familiar line in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11). That’s the only part of the prayer that addresses our personal needs, so if we want healing, or housing, or work, or help with a geometry test, it all falls into the general category of “daily bread.” Asking for daily bread is shorthand for requesting help with our personal needs.

Therefore, when God says, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,” the broader meaning is there is no point in Him asking us for any personal need, because we could never supply it. Heaven is His home, creating and managing the universe, is His job, and everything in the physical world is His possession, so what could you do to meet any of His needs?

Nothing. At all. Ever.

So then, why does He ask for your money? Obviously, it is not to meet the needs of the One who owns it all and wouldn’t tell you if He was hungry. So, if it’s not because He needs your money, then the reason He asks must lie at the other end of the giver-receiver transaction.

He asks for your money because of your needs, not His.

It’s not merely because His cause needs support, or that you will be blessed in return (see Malachi 3:10 on both of those points), although both are true. Rather, it involves the more essential elements of your relationship with Him:

Giving builds trust
Giving recognizes His ownership
Giving declares that you are His
Giving says that you support His cause
Giving teaches you to care about the things He cares about
Giving helps you understand the Giver

Those are all relational matters. They have little to do with needs, which makes sense in a relationship where the only need we can possibly fill for God is the need He has to connect with us.

I used to live in a house with nearly an acre of lawn, and I absolutely loved mowing it. As long as I was on that lawn tractor, I had time to think about anything. I could credibly say that I was accomplishing a necessary task, while at the same time, I was not answering the phone, preparing for a meeting, or addressing an unpleasant matter with an angry person. I was mowing, and I used that time to think about whatever I wanted, not what someone else demanded. It was blissful. The last thing I needed was someone to take that from me.

But at the same time, I had a son who was just about the right age to take on some responsibilities for lawn care. So even though I did not need him in the least to help me mow, I taught him how to do it. I showed him how to maintain the trimmer, the push mower, and the tractor. I let him do each task under my supervision, then on his own. The truth is he didn’t enjoy it at all, and I missed just doing it myself, but I had something more important in mind than the length of the grass. I was teaching him to be a responsible adult, and building a relationship with him by having him work with his dad.

Then came the day that he had his own lawn. He called me up to talk about what he should look for in a mower. He respected my experience and welcomed my opinion because we have a relationship, and it matters to both of us.

God does not need your money any more than I needed Josh to help me with the lawn. But He wants to see you grow to spiritual maturity just as I saw the need for my son to develop the skills he would need in adult life. And God wants a relationship with you, just like I wanted time with my son. He loves His work of creating and maintaining the universe, and He doesn’t need your help to manage any of it. But part of running that universe is having you be a meaningful part of it.

So how does He, who owns everything and wouldn’t tell you if He was hungry, help you, who have nothing and couldn’t do anything for Him, develop into spiritual maturity? How does He grow a relationship with you in which you learn to depend on Him, understand His role in your life and your place in His work, and see the world as He sees it?

In part, He asks for your money. It’s not about His needs. It’s about yours.

Doug Inglish is RMC director of planned giving and trust services. Email him at: [email protected]

04 Jan


By Rajmund Dabrowski — Go figure out what this Scripture means: “I’m after mercy, not religion.” —Matthew 9:13

Let me take you on an experience I had in 1982. Walking back to my editorial office after lunch, my assistant said, “Brother Rajmund, you will have a visitor in a few minutes. He is a well-known journalist and I recognize his name.” She didn’t tell me the name.

Who was it, I wondered? In those days we had no iPhones and appointments were a luck of the lottery. But, sure enough, a few minutes later, he walked into my office and I recognized him from meetings at a journalist association group as both of us were members. He was a known commentator on science and society. And he was blacklisted by the state as a dissident who publicly opposed martial law.

He shared his difficult situation of being unable to be employed. A baby had arrived a few months previous to this and he had no money for milk to feed him, he explained. “As I was walking on the other side of the street,” he explained, “I looked over and saw the name of your publishing house and it hit me: That’s a religious publisher. Perhaps they can publish something I can write for them. Signs of the Times is less scrutinized by the state than the main media is. Can you help me?” he asked.

We chatted for a few minutes and I asked him to come back the next day.

It was a test of my convictions and what I had been taught since I was a small boy at home. Until then, most of our authors were either members of the church or known Christian writers.

Memory takes me to my pre-teen years and to a Bible text which was often referred to and commented on at our dining table. It was a statement made by Apostle James that “pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for the orphans and widows in their troubles” (James 1:27).

I could not understand, at that time, why Christians should single out people to be worried about. I didn’t know any orphans, and my grandma tried to explain what a widow is. “I am a widow,” she said. She explained what widow’s trouble might mean, and that an orphan could be in trouble if left alone.

In our household, we were frequently reminded that being a Christian means looking after those who need help.

“You should be known for who you are rather than what you have,” my mother often said. “We may not have a lot, but we have enough to share with others.”

I also learned what her passion was. My mother was a social activist. She was a coordinator of social action at her dental co-op, helping those struggling with their livelihood. “I know what poverty is,” she explained. To me, being a Christian means to stand for the poor and walk through the experience of someone else.” She shared her recollections from WWII, speaking about a need to stand against any kind of injustice. I learned that my generosity returns unbeknownst to me.

Another lesson I learned about was my mother’s engagement with many more people than our own church family. There was the obvious need to serve others and the recognition that every human being is a child of God.

The next day, I was ready to ask the commentator to write on a topic which would fit the profile of the magazine, and we even prepared a pre-payment for the material. For me, the message was always more important than the name of the author.

These days, I am reminded of that story whenever I hear or share a blessing repeated weekly in my church: May Jesus bless you with compassion and care for all people. May Jesus bless you with courage, that you will dare to be who you are. May Jesus bless you with openness, understanding and respect.

Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director. Email him at: [email protected]