Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Bible's Enigmatic 'Parable of the Talents', from Matthew 25:14

Jesus left us a puzzling story, puzzling in part because of the word talent, which in ancient times was a unit of measured weight, probably 71 pounds of precious metal.

Jesus said, "The kingdom is also like what happened when a wealthy master went away and put his three servants in charge of all he owned. The master knew what each servant could do. So he handed five talents to the first servant, two talents to the second, and one to the third. Then he left the country.  As soon as the master had gone, the servant with the five used them to earn five more. The servant who had two did the same with his and earned two more. But the servant with one dug a hole and hid his master's talent in the ground.
  Some time later the master of those servants returned. He called them in and asked what they had done with the talents he gave them.  The servant who had been given five talents brought them in with the five that he had earned. He said, "Sir, you gave me five, and I have earned five more."
  "Wonderful!" his master replied. "You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my joy."
   Next, the servant who had been given two came in and said, "Sir, you gave me two, and I have earned two more."
   "Very good!" his master replied. "You are a fine and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more."
   The servant who had been given one then came in and said, "Sir, I know that you are hard to get along with. You harvest what you don't plant and gather crops where you haven't scattered seed. I was frightened and went out and hid your money in the ground. Here is the one you gave me"
   The master of the servant told him, "You are lazy and good-for-nothing! You know that I harvest what I don't plant and gather crops where I haven't scattered seed. You could have at least put my money in the bank, so that I could have earned interest on it."
   Then the master said, "Now yours will be taken away and given to the servant with ten. Everyone who has something will be given more, and they will have more than enough. But everything will be taken from those who don't earn anything. You are worthless, and you will be thrown out into the dark where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth."

It seems cruel, doesn't it? If you can't double the talents you're given, then you're doomed to pain and death. But the faithless servant did more than fail to earn. He insulted the master and his generosity by saying, "I know that you are hard... and harvest where you do not plant..."
The master is God in this parable, and this was a gift from the Creator of the Universe. It's not acceptable to be lazy, nonchalant, or suspicious. Better it is to refuse it on the spot.

There are many things in this parable that people don't think about; or that they misunderstand.  I often wondered - when I began my search for spiritual knowledge with Bible readings -  "What about the servant who invested the money and lost it through theft or bad luck?" He isn't mentioned. The answer is that the parable refers to spiritual endeavors, not the material world of the Judean economy. God's work can't fail to prosper if we apply ourselves with mindfulness.

Another thing is the word talent. It doesn't mean the ability to dance, manage a company, play music, or produce things. A talent (Latin: talentum, from Ancient Greek τάλαντον, talanton 'scale, balance') was approximately the mass of water required to fill an amphora. The Roman talent was 71 pounds.  In gold, that would be $21,600 per pound, or $1,533,000 per talent; in today's dollars. An incredible figure. The servant with ten talents - before the master returned - would be worth $15,333,000. So the translation is a bit off in the Bibles we use traditionally. It's been changed in newer, revised versions. The correct translation should be "bags of gold" that the master left for the servants.

Also, God considers martyrs to be the ultimate expression of spiritual courage, integrity, and effectiveness. Matthew 10:39: "He who seeks his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for my sake will find it." So this means the world's definition of success is radically different from God's.

Here's the message: We cannot fail if we do God's work diligently. We may even be murdered. If that happens we have the ultimate reward granted to the most faithful servant. A somewhat troubling message!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why Protestant Christianity Is The Most Viable Pattern For Civilization

The track record is indisputable: Our modern ideas of human rights for all men and women regardless of wealth, status, sex, religion or skin color originate in Protestant Christianity. Only in Christian countries that allow Protestants have these ideas worked; and they've worked brilliantly. The Charter of the United Nations, signed by every nation in the world, ratifies these ideas. Our Founders were all sympathetic to Protestantism even if they wavered in their belief in a pro-active God.

Why do these ideas work so well? Protestants genuinely believe in the intrinsic worth of the individual, free markets, economic freedom, equality of the sexes, eliminating racism, and technological advancement. The idea that slavery should be outlawed originated with Protestants in England and America. Great Britain acted in 1806 to do it, far ahead of any other country in the world.

Too many Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims believe in submission to authority - particularly priests - and rigid dogma. Islam means 'submission'. They are steeped in the past - for the most part - seeking a lost Golden Age; and they are fatalistic; resistant to change, and suspicious of science.
But the one critical factor that distinguishes authentic Christians from all other peoples is their belief and commitment to forgiveness, particularly forgiveness of one's enemies. Probably the most perfect and successful example of this philosophy is Abe Lincoln.
Everyone agrees he was "slow to anger" and had a spine of steel. He knew that we don't really know who our enemies are much of the time. As Ben Franklin said,"Our enemies are our friends, for they show us our faults." The person who chides and insults you may be right. People who criticize us often do it out of love.
Lincoln always weighed his critics' words, and refused to respond in haste, vengefully, without great deliberation. General McClellan publicly humiliated Lincoln in front of his cabinet numerous times, but was allowed to get away with it - until the president had considered thoroughly. Then he sacked McClellan, exercising his spine of steel. McClellan then ran against Lincoln in 1864, and would have won if it weren't for a string of victories by Grant and Sherman.
Conversely, as a Congressman from Illinois, Lincoln once verbally eviscerated an opponent on the House floor and brought the man to tears.Later that night Lincoln felt so terrible about his cruelty that he vowed to make a public apology to the man the next day, and did. He asked for forgiveness.
When a nation largely conducts itself in this way, as America used to, it prospers mightily; accepting criticism, seeking harmony and cooperation, staying out of wars, and generating wealth in individuals who give of themselves. America is still the most generous nation on earth, in spite of its troubles.
If our civilization collapses, it will be because we have turned away from authentic Christian principles and embraced anti-theism, atheism, fanaticism, and suicidal 'diversity'. The worst-off nations in the world have turned away from God in just this way.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Is the Anti-Christ Real? Is He a Man or a Spirit?

"Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve"  Paul, Second Corinthians. 

Other than Jesus the most fascinating character in all of Scripture - for me - is the Anti-Christ; for several reasons. Firstly, he is the opposite of Jesus, whom people of almost all religions love for his humanity, generosity, and empathy. He will be selfish, power hungry, and cruel. But the Anti-Christ also will be loved and followed by the mass of people in the world. So powerful will be his powers to deceive that he will lead people of all nations to eternal destruction. He will be saying "Peace!" Peace!" But will bring strife and war. He is a serpent in disguise.

Secondly, when the Anti-Christ does appear, it will be a sure and certain sign that the End of Times has arrived. Which means the rebirth of the world into something resembling perfect Paradise. Is it possible that this is happening right now? I think so.

The spirit of the Anti-Christ can be seen everywhere today. Lawlessness, violence, murder, pornography, child abuse, and other crimes are out of control. Nobody doubts that anymore. But is there a handsome and charismatic leader, admired by millions all around the world, promising peace and prosperity, dominating the media and smiling confidently? I see that person every day.

Our times are coming to an end soon, and there will be a new beginning.

From the times of Daniel and Isaiah in the Old Testament - hundreds of years before Jesus - the Anti-Christ prophecy was written. You see, the Anti-Christ always precedes the Christ. Just as in the refining of gold and silver, the purifying flame drives out the dross, or impurities in the metal. Malachi 3:2 says,"But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire..."

All things must be gathered together in the end, like with like. As Lincoln said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand.... It must become all one thing, or all another."

First let's define Christ and his attributes. The word Christ means annointed by God. He is given power by God and rules with God. He came down to earth so that men and women could see the Divine Eternal Light, Lux Aeterna, and be reconciled with their Creator. We've been involved in a feud, a divorce, from the Lord, and it started a very long time ago. The original causes have been largely forgotten, which is typical with any longtime feud.

Christ gave entirely of himself, even to death, for our sake. He served faithfully all his days, healed the sick, spoke until he was exhausted, acquired no property, and didn't defend himself from horrible injustice and undeserved disgrace. He was humble and selfless above all things.

The Anti-Christ is the exact opposite. He is annointed by the prince of this world, Satan, to walk among us and deceive great masses of people. His job is to peel off the weak and faithless. He is proud and haughty above all things, loves power, dominates people, and charms them with his glittering personality. The Anti-Christ promises peace, happiness, wealth, and 'empowerment' to all, and wants you to imitate him. But his promises are lies, and all that will come of it is violence, death, strife, chaos, and destruction. This is foretold, and actually is a very good thing, required before The Second Coming.

Scripture says, "Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come [the Second Coming of Christ] until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God." -  Paul, 2 Thessalonians 2

We see these kinds of people everywhere. The Anti-Christ may not be one individual, but a spirit of our age. Awaken. Prepare to see the Lord your God.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Progressive/Socialists Have No Clue About Money Or the Real Nature of Wealth

It's tragic that we've become so disconnected from nature. Once we were farmers, and understood the rhythm of the seasons, and the ebb and flow of markets. We knew intimately the link between supply and demand; that when supply soared, prices dropped, and vice versa. With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution many Americans became factory workers, and still we understood the basic economics of free markets.

Today, though, Americans are far more disconnected from market forces. We work in offices and shuffle papers that - for the most part - have nothing to do with large-scale, real world markets. This is what caused the Soviet Union and Chairman Mao's China to disintegrate. They deluded themselves that bureaucrats in Moscow or Beijing could control and manipulate their nation's economies and people. For them, papers became very real, whether those papers were reports, orders to underlings, or the money they printed and sent out to the provinces. All those papers are dust now, and the dust has blown away.

The real wealth of nations is determined by the goods and services they produce, and what other nations are willing to pay for those products. Money is only a symbol of wealth, and usually declines in value. Which is why gold and silver - being commodities - increase in value. They are products of labor, and have intrinsic value. All religious scripture warns us about becoming disconnected from nature, and God who created its forces.
Progressive/Socialist/Democrats today think only of spending. They don't like to see people acting on their own to generate new wealth. They strangle production with idiotic regulations, and discourage wealth achievement. They're entirely clueless about the nature of wealth, and how it's created. Here's the proof: Whenever they identify a new type of poverty or grievance group they funnel a river of money to it, subsidizing it and inevitably inflating the price.

In the real world, supply and demand determine price. Increasing the supply of goods and services causes their price to decline; unless the market is being manipulated by powerful people or government regulation. We suffer from market interference, which is often deliberate and malicious.

Higher education is a perfect example. Rather than increase supply of higher education by making it easier to build new colleges, Democrat/Progressives pour money onto the problem, providing more money to "those in need". Thus, the costs of higher education have soared far beyond the rate of inflation, and another economic bubble has been created.
This is what happened with housing in this decade. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac poured money into the hands of low income people. Thus, the per-square-foot cost of entry level housing soared beyond reason, equaling the per-square-foot cost of the finest housing in many areas of the country. This was entirely unsustainable. The bubble's collapse affected lower cost housing far more than luxury housing.

It's just as terrible to be ignorant of basic economics as it is to be of reading and writing English.