Staking a Claim Slaving in the Mines of God’s Kingdom
By Jane Tawel
January 2, 2018
So today I am reading in the newspaper about “this land is your land, this land is my land”-America and thinking, well, that has always been a sales-job if ever I’ve heard one. From the beginning humans have wanted to stake claims for self and self alone, from the Tree to Egypt to Israel to the Colonies and nationalism in all its forms. The lens through which we see the land and the peoples who populate it depend greatly on whether we work as slaves inside the mines or as mine-owners of the slaves. The other thing that has always been true is that we want to see ourselves as the protagonist of the story and the protagonist as always a good guy or gal. I might be a slave-owner but I’m one of the good ones. I’m not as rich as that woman so I must be on the good side.
So speaking of being aware of what is going on in the world –I don’t watch television really unless you count Netflix; so I found it train-wreck fascinating the other day to watch the Rose Parade and see where our world-view has ended up. I didn’t realize that: It is not okay for a marching band to play good music, the band also has to have contributed to a worthy charity. It is not okay for people to sell cars, they also have to give random strangers dressed poorly free tickets and blankets branded with the company name. I believe they must first get a free haircut from said car company. It is not okay for people to advertise by creating a unique parade of floats with flowers, we also have to have cared for the ocean while flying our airline. And for Pete’s sake, really? It is not okay for us to add two bombers to fly by the stealth bomber to show how cool and powerful and war-ready we are – we have to also claim the war machines symbolize organ donation? You seriously believe that and want me to believe that as well? C’mon Son! If the television is any indication, we have come full circle from not wanting to be recognized for getting ahead in this world, to wanting to be absolved from any thing we might have done to get there. We shout down protestors by shouting from the streets our charitable acts. Such a different idea of charity than God’s: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Quote by Jesus, the most non-fame seeking of God’s servants as recorded in Matthew 6:3)
If we want to stake any claim to or be any part of Jesus in the land in which we are exiled then as Karl Barth said, “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.”
It is perhaps especially time that we must read the newspaper without our own choice of cultural commentary. Read it for what our leaders are doing, not saying, doing in all arenas of the powerful — the whole anti-trinity of the greedily powerful–government, religious, and societal. The Anti-Christ of 666 is exactly that – the three 6’s of man’s fallen, incomplete rule that is opposed in any way to The Christ – the God rule. (The numerology in a nut shell that is perhaps most relevant to us today is the perfect 7 of God versus the close but no cigar image of God in man as numerically symbolized in Scripture as 6.) In other words, the place I will find the anti-Christ is in my own life and the lives of others. This is not my being judgmental. This is simply reality if you step through the door of the wardrobe, or put on the ring, or tesseract out of the mire, or walk through the narrow gate, or as Joshua said long ago, “as for me and my miners (or minors hahaha), we will serve the Lord God”. The homonym here is so apt. What are we who have led the world for a while now, leaving for future miners or minors? I feel sick at heart that I have fracked my soul in exchange for more literal and figurative gold than I need, leaving behind for future generations the strip-mined dross of my greed. This of course is not just monetary greed, but the idolization of all things self, as opposed to being a slave to the image of God in me. God as server Creator. God as slavish lover. God as One who has everything He needs and loves us anyway.
The open pit-mine of my need can never be filled by taking a pickaxe to the needs of others or by strip-mining the earth. To live God’s Kingdom life, The Word advises, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” (Revelations 3:18)
This is not to say all leaders or powerful or rich people behave in this way – of course there are great examples we can all name of those who do not. However, there are far too many we are unwilling to name who are anti-Christs, because… why? What minefields do I think I avoid by digging for treasure in the mines of authorities and famous leaders – the world’s powers and principalities — while leaving the deep and endless treasure troves of God’s Kingdom life undiscovered and unproclaimed? We have become not only unwilling to suffer, but have become deplorably ignorant in our quest for things – for idols. In Romans, Paul assures us that we will be slavish miners in someone’s gold mines, but we can’t work both mines at the same time. “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”
To combat our ignorance, we should not only read the newspaper but it is also perhaps especially time that we read the Bible without commentary. Read it in giant swaths, in long passages, with no preconceived idea of what one wants to find there other than revelation and truth and a way – the Bible as not the only way – but a very good way indeed – to get into a real relationship with another Being that we call “God”. It also should be our way of getting into better relationships with other people and with our planet.
Those who want to stake a claim to living for and with and through Jesus, need to look at how He lived with the news of His time and place and world and how Jesus lived in relationship to God and God’s Holy Word. Jesus lived in the world, speaking up against unjustness and evil, coming to change sinners, not follow them; and Christ advised those who would claim to follow Him to “go out there” and make “mini-Me’s” or disciples. Jesus said in John 12:46, “I have come to be a light in the world so that whosoever believes in me shall not live in darkness.” John 9:39: And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.” Matthew 10:34, 35, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.” And one of the very last recorded conversations of The Christ was with the Governmental Ruler of Rome, Pilate. Jesus’ idea of respecting the authority of that government was to confirm His own authority through the life He had lived as a servant to The Father: John 18:37, “Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.”
If Christ is our king, then we must bear witness to His Truth. Period. Synopsis of Worldview in a nutshell. Truth. It is still “a thing” for some of us.
This is perhaps what is most tragic and mind-blowing about our calling things “Christly” or “Christian” which of course are not godly or good or like Christ at all. This newish religion of ours that believes that “because I say I’m a Christian” I am, has become a permit to, as Paul warned us against, “become slaves to sin”. As someone once said, “I love to sin. God loves to forgive. What a wonderful arrangement.” As it turns out, it is only a good arrangement if you are in denial about reality. If you believe that you are rich enough or powerful enough to dig yourself out of consequences for your behavior, you are merely worshipping a newish incarnation of The Golden Calf of God’s chosen people. And of course, as rich and powerful people that is exactly what we have been doing. But in the process, we have lost sight of the gate of God’s narrow way. As those who want to claim God’s treasure with no work on their part have always found, if you are in the throngs of those who can easily go through the wide gate, then it is rather hard to make yourself go back to squeeze through the narrow door. Because of course there is nothing “newish” about wanting to be part of something with no cost to myself. The Hebrews did it as well and didn’t find out their mistake until the Promised Land was shut to them. And as prophets and priests have always discovered too late, it is also what is tragic about thinking that because we do not speak the truth we are being kind or nice. Just like Aaron found out the hard way, while Moses was off talking with Yahweh on the mountain, we appease the crowd to our own soul’s loss. We who know the truth, have left a world adrift in a worldview that believes there is no knowable truth outside one’s own opinion. Romans warns us that this leads not to heavenly reward but our own misguided “depravity” of ignorance and lust and greed.
If I read carefully, I realize both from the newspaper and from the Bible that no one remains immune to judgment forever. There is a moral sensibleness to the universe, the Bible calls it righteousness. There is a need that cries out from the bowels of the earth that there is such a thing as good versus evil. Jesus says that if we who have been given so much – so much education, so much access to God’s truth, so much possibility of wisdom – if we do not speak the truth, the very rocks from the mines we disembowel will cry out. Our hearts should ache for those who do not heed the words of Isaiah and who therefore, “call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” If we don’t rightly judge them, no matter what religious name they claim, we are joining them in perpetuating their lies, not “forgiving and loving” them. Our problem is in discerning what headlamp we will wear as we look for treasure in whom and what will we praise and our gold must be sought in the “why” of what we deem worthy. But this is the problem of the Golden Calf all over again. It is why the Bible uses “streets of gold” as a metaphor for how meaningless gold is in God’s kingdom. The crucible of this world is success, power, riches, and fame, but the crucible of God’s world is how we treat people and how we treat God. As God says in Isaiah, “I will make people more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir”. And as the Proverbs says God’s refining fire for us is how we live for Him: “The crucible is for silver and the furnace is for gold, but people are tested by their praise. Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding them like grain with a pestle, you will not remove their folly from them.”
I must look at what I do and whom I seek to mirror. Who is on the throne of my life? Whom do I idolize? Do I praise the fool and his house of sandy beaches, or the wise man and his life built on The Rock of Christ? We must decide daily if we will resist the undertow of self-justifying evil and wrongs in ourselves and also in our leaders or if we will humbly but forthrightly walk in The Way revealed in what we claim as our Holy Revelations. If we should read our news objectively then we should read our Bibles subjectively. Because God is never objective. God is always subjective. He is after all, simply put, I AM. God is a tyrant when it comes to us. We are not given choices. We are given the choice. We should realize that no matter what we call our nation, it too wants to be our tyrant. Monarchies, Oligarchies, Communism, Capitalism, Socialism, Fascists – different names do not make for different realities. Our need to speak truth as God-followers has nothing to do with living in a “democracy” – it has to do with being truly human whatever our named regime. And being truly human means there are only two choices, only two masters, only two worlds – this kingdom, or God’s kingdom.
As I look out over my own treasure, my gold mine, my “land is my land”, how will I serve it? Will I be a slave to my riches, my things, my people, my life? Or will I be a slave to the created and true and light wielding God-image in them and me? How will I serve my family? How will I serve my drought-weary and polluted back yard? How will I serve my irritating neighbors? How will I be a slave to my bosses and students? How will I be poor to the Homeless; powerless to those I have power over; meek to those I distain? How will I lay down my life in the mines of righteousness? As to my nation and culture, Bob Dylan paraphrased St. Paul’s missive to the ancient Romans, “I’m gonna’ have to serve somebody? Will it be the devil or will it be The Lord?”
We cannot serve two masters. If we do not speak for Christ now, we cannot anticipate His speaking one day for us. Proverbs 11:4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death. We are not on individual quests to save ourselves — For God created the whole world and God so loved the whole world. In God’s upside kingdom, I only find my personal salvation when I give up living for it. Jesus said to take up a cross, not a pickaxe and follow Him. “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also. For what does it profit if I gain the world, but in the process, lose my soul?”
By this we know the love that is the gold we are all digging to find – if Christ laid down His life for us, then we too must lay down our lives for our fellow humans. I John 3:16
As I begin another year, I am going to meditate on all that the newspaper reveals as counter-claims on my soul and meditate on the Biblically inspired claims that God puts on my soul. In the spirit of a New Year Resolution: I am Resolved.
I am Resolved
by Palmer Hartsough (1896)
- I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.
I will hasten to Him,
Hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest,
I will come to Thee.
- I am resolved to go to the Savior,
Leaving my sin and strife;
He is the true One, He is the just One,
He hath the words of life.
- I am resolved to follow the Savior,
Faithful and true each day;
Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth,
He is the living Way.
- I am resolved to enter the kingdom,
Leaving the paths of sin;
Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me,
Still will I enter in.
- I am resolved, and who will go with me?
Come, friends, without delay;
Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
We’ll walk the heav’nly way.
How can I cultivate the “heav’nly way” on earth as it is in God’s heavenly realm? How can I live out with heart and mind, a life of servitude, slavery, and servanthood in my daily steps on this earth? Who ya’ gonna serve? Lie-Buster? Jesus: “For I am the Lie-Buster; For I am the Truth, the Light, and The Way.”
By a true prophet and artist in the words of JRR Tolkien:
“You cannot pass. I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the shadow! You cannot pass.”
–Gandalf to Balrog on Bridge of Khazad-dum
“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'”
In closing, by true artists and prophets, here is a video translation of our daily dilemma– with Etta James singing the prophetic words of Bob Dylan:
If you want some verses to start out the day — based on the news out of America on January 2, 2018: Following are some of the verses that relate to my newspaper’s stories this morning. Dig in.
On the decimation of protections for the earth:
Deuteronomy 22:6-7 “If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long.”
Jeremiah 2:7 And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.
Ezekiel 34:18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet?
Jeremiah 12:4 How long will the land mourn and the grass of every field wither? For the evil of those who dwell in it the beasts and the birds are swept away, because they said, “He will not see our latter end.”
1 Corinthians 4:2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.
Numbers 35:33 You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it.
Leviticus 25:23 The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.
On the decimation of protection for the elderly:
Leviticus 19:32 “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Psalm 71:9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.
Isaiah 1:17Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
On the decimation of care for the least of these:
Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
1 John 3:17-18 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Proverbs 14:31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
We must not claim to know The Christ, if we do not take seriously what He said:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, … (Matthew 25: 31-46)