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Letters to the Editor #15 (Alcohol, Affluence, and More)
February 28, 2016
There were not a lot of letters to the editor this week which probably indicates that I stuck mostly to non-controversial topics, or that I stuck to full-out boring topics! That said, I did receive some interesting ones; this is a selection.
Comments on The Spiritual Disease Ravaging Our World
Thanks for the good article regarding affluence. Thank you for emphasizing generosity over frugality. The call to generosity is a call we who are blessed with much need to hear. In the spirit of Galatians 6:10, our generosity should begin with the poor who are in our own churches. And that is the problem. Most evangelical churches do not have the poor in them. This is a real conundrum to me. Jesus said that it is harder for the rich to enter the kingdom than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. And yet, when we speak of being generous to the needy we can, most of the time, only speak of people who are not in our churches. Most of the time we are referring to people who do not even live in our nation. This, I think, is another symptom of affluenza. We keep our distance from the poor. We are more than willing to show generosity but from a safe distance. We can show great compassion to needy people in far away places while speaking with great derision about the poor in the government housing next door. Why, when we speak of the needy, can we only speak of “them” and not “us”? Why, if the rich are harder to get into the kingdom, do we have more of them than the poor? Could it be that we are not trying to reach them? I hope not. But I fear it may be so. We naturally gravitate to people who are like us. And the poor are demonstrably not like most people in evangelical churches.
I really did enjoy your article. I think all I would add to it would be some practical suggestions about how believers and churches can show generosity to the needy in our own neighbourhoods, starting with intentional evangelistic outreach to them. The list could be endless of things we could do for them.
We have such a glorious Gospel. What a shame it is that so much of the work being done with the needy in our cities, is done by churches who have abandoned the biblical Gospel in many ways and while providing so much good help, neglect the best thing of all.
—Ken D, Moffat ON
Tim: I do not disagree with you. Much of what you say here rings true in the context I know: Toronto. Our churches tend to be affluent and to attract the comfortably middle class. We do little to intentionally reach into poorer areas and to attract needier people. I need to think more about the role of a social state since most of the poor in Toronto would be wealthy when measured against the poor in less developed nations and when measured against the poor of biblical times.
Comments on The Character of the Christian: Temperate
This pushes a lot of buttons for me. My birth father’s family has a history of alcoholism (although I didn’t know about it - or him - until relatively recently). I never have drunk much alcohol and only once to excess, which I have asked to be forgiven for.
The thing is, it’s pretty hard for a Christian to justify drinking. Not that I think alcohol is evil in and of itself. I don’t. But I Corinthians 8:9 says my liberty shouldn’t be a stumbling block to others. So I shouldn’t drink around people who have a sincere conviction that it’s wrong to drink; I shouldn’t drink around people for whom alcohol is a problem — knowingly OR unknowingly IMHO; and I shouldn’t drink where I could be tempted to overdo it. That doesn’t leave a lot of space for drinking alcohol in a fashion that doesn’t dishonor the Lord. Mostly at home as part of a meal, or as an ingredient when cooking for myself or my husband (who also doesn’t drink now).
I’ve run into people on both sides of the alcohol issue who are pretty vocal about their standpoints, pro and con. To those who are against, I would warn against legalism. And to those who are adamantly ‘for’: What does it say about you that you put your desire to drink, even in moderation, and in any circumstances, ahead of Scripture, ahead of compassion for those who act out of conscience? Is alcohol that important? Should it be?
—Janet A, Eastlake, OH
Tim: I find Romans 14 very helpful in understanding how we can best enjoy God’s gifts while loving God’s people. It tells us that we can enjoy God’s gifts, but that the true freedom we have in Christ is the freedom to deny ourselves those gifts for the sake of others.
Comments on Do More Better.
The Do More Better email series and blog postings helped to get me back on track and not waste valuable time I could be engaging in ministry opportunities. It is amazing how much “free time” I have to spend with my family and friends. This has helped me focus on completing my college level studies, which are all online courses. I make the list of things I need to complete for that week’s activity and go through the list knocking out tasks and communicating with the groups I’ve been involved with to get assignments tackled and out of the way before the weekend. I have more of a weekend open to play games and go on trips with my wife and leave the laptop at home. Thanks again for the opportunity to read through these postings and the book. God bless!
—Joseph W, Keyes, OK
Tim: It was kind of you to write. I have been blessed and so encouraged to receive such positive feedback from the book!
Comments on 2016 Reading Challenge February Update
How on earth do you find the time to read and blog and do all that you do with 3 young children? You work from home now right as you left your job as a full time pastor. I am about to have my first child. I work from home. I struggle with distractions. I have read/listened to your book. Could you possibly give a day-by-day / hour-by-hour breakdown of your life during the week?
—Ken R, Brooklyn, NY
Tim: Such a breakdown would only expose how boring my life really is. I read a lot because I read quickly (a skill most gain as they read more and more), because I read a lot of books for pleasure rather than retention (hence, I read them at a good clip), and because I use a lot of the little moments between other things to get through another page or two. There is really no great trick to it. Reading is one of my greatest pleasures so I’m almost always looking for the opportunity to indulge in a few more words…