Possessions in the Kingdom of God
januari 12, 2014 § Lämna en kommentar
[I am a layman, not an academic, when it comes to theology, so please check the facts for yourself].
It came to my attention two commandments of Jesus in Luke 12:33 and Luke 14:33.
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Luke 12:33, quoted in David Servant’s book Great Gospel Deception, chapter 9 Striving against Sin, listed as one command among a whole lists of commands from the Gospels and Romans: ”Sell our possessions and give to charity”, or as translated in the NASB translation: ”Sell your possessions and give to charity.”
In Bible.org’s commentary page on Luke 12, it comments on this request: ”12:33 ”Sell your possessions” This is an aorist active imperative. It is not a universal command, but deals with the priority structure of our lives …”
It’s the aorist active imperative form that makes this a specific command for the moment of utterance and not a universal command. This is spelled out in the grammar book Learn to Read New Testament Greek, by David Alan Black, on pages 185-186:
”… The aorist imperative generally denotes an urgent command without regard to its continuation or frequency, while the present imperative generally denotes a command to continue to do an action or to do it repeatedly. The difference is well illustrated in the parallel versions of a petition in the so-called Lord’s Prayer. Matthew uses an aorist imperative, whereas Luke uses a present imperative: … Here [Matt 6:11] Matthew’s aorist emphasizes the simple act: ”give [today],” whereas Luke’s [11:3] present imples duration ”keep on giving [each day]. …”
”Another important distinction between the present and the aorist imperative is the difference between genral precepts and specific commands. A general precept is a moral regulation that is broadly applicable in many situations, while a specific command is a request for action to be done in a particular situation. As a rule of thumb, general precepts in the New Testament emply the present imperative, and specific commands the aorist imperative. …”
Thus the command to ”sell your possessions and give to charity” was a command at that moment, and not neccessarily a command for all time.
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The next command, of similar kind is found in Luke 14:33, also quoted by David Servant in his above book: ”Put all our material possessions under His Control,” or as translated by NASB: ”So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
The verb ”give up” is ἀποτάσσεται in Greek, which is 3rd person present middle indicative singular. ”Present Tense with the indicative mood represents contemporaneous action, as opposed to action in the past or future.” according to the scheme in Greek Quick Reference Guide.
So neither of the commands on possessions in Luke 12 or Luke 14 are universal commands of Jesus, but were commands requested by him at the moment.
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This doesn’t mean that possessions didn’t have a place in discipleship later on. We see that the first congregation of believers in the Messiah had everything in common. They laid down there possessions at the feet of the apostles, who then distributed according to everyone’s needs; very similar to the Essens and the Qumran Community, as illuminated by the paper ”The Community of Goods among the First Christians and among the Essenes” by Justin Taylor, S.M.
There is even speculation that ”The Poor” in Qumran (a name which the Community called themselves) could actually be the same ”Poor” as mentioned in Galatians 2:10: ”They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do” (NASB) and Romans 15:26: ”For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem”, (NASB).
We see here, in the first Church, an economic struture that existed parallel to the surrounding society, where the people of the Messiah shared there goods with everyone else, and where every person able to work and bring income to the Community, did so; and where also there would be common meals. (Atleast, that is how the Essene community worked). This could be the background to 2 Th 3:10: ”For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either”. (NASB)
This is a step up from just selling your possessions and giving to charity. This is a radical change of the power structures of society.
According to an international study, most of the money given to third world aid is ineffective, due to the unjust social structures in the receiving country.
I also heard of an author or authors, of book I unfortunately don’t remember the title of, who analysed the root source of starvation catastrophies and the like: and it was not nature, but unjust social structures.
So these alternatives economic societies of the first Church was head on. While Jesus walked the earth, he said sell your possessions and give to charity. But that was at that moment. The first Church moved on to the next level and corporalized the important economic side of the Kingdom of God.
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So what does Jesus want of our possessions today? It’s hard to tell, but it is far from obvious that we should just sell all of our possessions and give to charity. In Jesus day, there was an embryo of the Community, financed by a group of rich women. Presumably, one belonged to this Community if one followed Jesus. So selling off all of one’s possessions was traded by an alternative Community, which eventually becaome another economy, an economy where one’s love of one’s brother and sister was realized in even economic terms.
That’s the silent assumption: the alternative economy. An alternative that’s not present in the modern Church. So I’m not sure how Jesus’ commands of his day could translate to today’s reality. Selling off all of one’s possessions would be of unproportional great devastation compared to the small import of the result. At the same time, all of the possessions of today’s disciple is at the Master’s disposal, well, because we were bought with a price.
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The real challenge is finding an alternative economic and social structure for believers, for the benefit of its poor stratum. That should be on our minds. Until then, we must help the poor among us as intelligently as we could, knowing that the cost of discipleship is giving up all of our possessions, since they are not really ours: That application of His Kingdomship should also be on our minds.