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Featured Giving up everything you own

Discussion in 'Interfaith Discussion' started by Vouthon, May 5, 2018.

  1. Vouthon

    Vouthon Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
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    Jesus plainly stated:


    Luke 14:33: So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

    "Ouch!" Pretty blunt, eh? Note how he stipulates: "none of you", nobody. Nada. Hyperbole, perhaps, but it still gets the message across in bold lettering.

    Jesus' statement presupposes a dichotomy between what one has for usage but does not own (real estate, movable goods, money) and that which truly belongs to the disciple, “the true riches” (Luke 16:11), the everlasting wealth of the grace of God.

    In light of the kingdom of God, possessions become elachistos (Luke 16:10), they belong to the passing age. Later in the same gospel account, Jesus contends that worldly assets are "the belongings of another" (Luke 16:12), clearly implying that we do not properly 'own' any private property in the absolute sense, because we are really 'stewards' of goods which, in point of fact, belonged originally to God and by his will everyone who lives on earth prior to our appropriation.

    In chapter 16, Jesus explains this teaching by means of his 'Parable of the Dishonest Steward'. This involves a steward, or manager, who misappropriates and squanders his master's wealth for which reason he is threatened with redundancy. The meaning is rather stark: Jesus is telling his listeners that we are all, each one of us, 'dishonest stewards' appropriating to ourselves and squandering goods which do not properly belong to us but to God, who intends for them to be used for the benefit of all and especially the underprivileged.

    And the earliest Christian community, according to the New Testament, literally did do this:


    The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. (Acts 4:32-35)

    And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. (Acts 2:44-45)


    Can we truly call ourselves disciples of Jesus when most of us fail to come anywhere near the rigorous demands of this high ideal, especially in today's ultra-consumerist, globalized, economically competitive society?
     
    #1 Vouthon, May 5, 2018
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  2. Mock Turtle

    Mock Turtle Silent Generation - so don't expect much
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    After you. :oops:
     
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  3. Vouthon

    Vouthon Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
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    But that's the point! :D

    Apart from monks, nuns and hermits, I do not know of any lay Christians who could hold their hands up and say, "I've sold all of my personal possessions - my freehold property, my chattels - and distributed the money to the poor".

    It is an enormously - scratch that, thee most rigorous - ideal possible. And yet Jesus tells us using plain speech, in sacred scripture, that "no one" can call themselves a disciple of his unless they give up everything they own.

    The more I read the statement, particularly in the interlinear Greek, the less I feel that it can be 'spiritualized' or 'metaphorically explained' away.

    It's right there and it's glaring, placing a huge burden of responsibility upon those of us who regard ourselves to be Christians.

    We are all "unjust stewards", rather than absolute owners (as libertarians would have it):


    Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2 So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’

    Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5

    So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 7 Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’.....


    Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12

    And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.


    14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. 15 So he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God." (Luke 16:1-15)​


    This parable concerns all Christians: we are the unjust steward, the dishonest manager squandering the property of our master (God), until we undertake our grave obligation towards enabling our property to benefit the needs of others.

    It's a humbling thought.
     
    #3 Vouthon, May 5, 2018
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  4. Mock Turtle

    Mock Turtle Silent Generation - so don't expect much
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    But they didn't have a lot then - nice gourd, Brian:

     
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  5. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Shrugs. I tried.

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    Being a diciple of christ is a journey and living in christ in present moment. It means not to make possessions as ones idols. It means constant repentence and self resurrection.

    It also means growth in the life or christ; so, the disciple is learning to live and grow in christ now.

    In my opinion, what makes one a disciple:

    1. He focuses on his growth in christ rather than where he wants to be tomorrow

    2. He does not judge another persons walk and salvation in christ no matter the denomination

    3. He is in constant and life jn christ's passion

    4. He is practice and experience oriented not being the perfect expert on the bible (using the bible as an idol)

    5 he takes all the sacraments of christ

    6. He is humble with others regardless their religon or lack thereof

    7. Accepts other peoples truth without judging them in light of his own

    8. Humble oneself to seperate oneself from posessions of self and if wanted belongings.

    Jesus environment and lifestyle is different based on his enviornment and his faith in his father.

    Following him is to follow his father. If a christian doesnt know the difference and worships christ, in my opinion their devotion is centered on the wrong spot. Its a learning curve.

    The bible says to follow the father through christ not as christ. When one know and lives the difference, he is a growing diciple or christ
     
    #5 Unveiled Artist, May 5, 2018
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  6. metis

    metis aged ecumenical anthropologist

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    I took the vow of poverty when I said "I do".
     
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  7. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    I've wondered for some time now whether the admonition to give up everything doesn't tie into mysticism? Numerous mystics advocate much the same thing, some pointing out that whatever possessions we have tend to become attachments that hinder or prevent us from having mystical experiences.
     
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  8. metis

    metis aged ecumenical anthropologist

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    To the OP, what I do believe we see is pretty much hyperbole within the scriptures in order to make a point, and I believe that main point is "Get your priorities in order!". IOW, between materialism and God, the latter should be #1. Therefore, if one's main focus is materialism, then it's best to give that up entirely.

    Also, we may be seeing a Greek influence in that narrative, which tends to use dichotomy a great deal. Paul especially does this, thus literal interpretations can be somewhat misleading.

    That's long my take.
     
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  9. Vouthon

    Vouthon Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
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    That's a great point, actually.

    The parables of the pearl of great price and the hidden treasure in the synoptics are essentially about this, detaching oneself from every object of possession so that one can attain the true riches of the Kingdom of God (which, as Jesus explained, is "within" people). Worth a re-read, these short gems:

    Matthew 13:44-46

    44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

    45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.


    Note how both the merchant and the treasure-hunter renounce everything they own after discovering the hidden truth about the Kingdom of Heaven.

    In the Catholic tradition, this teaching most definitely became one of the primary linchpins of the mystical-contemplative-monastic movements within the church.

    It came to refer not merely to the actual, tangible absence of possessions (although this was, of course, an essential element of it) but to a mental attitude as well: refraining from 'possessing' or becoming inordinately attached to anything that was 'passing', changeable or ephemeral.

    St. John of the Cross (1541 - 1592), for instance, explained:


    “To reach satisfaction in all
    desire its possession in nothing
    To come to possess all
    desire the possession of nothing
    To arrive at being all
    desire to be nothing…
    For to go from all to the all
    you must deny yourself of all in all…
    In this nakedness the spirit finds
    its quietude and rest.”

    This "nakedness" of the spirit, otherwise called "nudity of being" or "self-naughting", was indeed a mystical state of emptiness in which the contemplative experienced union with God.

    Another medieval Franciscan mystic, Jacapone da Todi (1230-1306), put it well in one of his "lauds":


    Jacopone da Todi - Wikiquote


    • In losing all, the soul has risen
      To the pinnacle of the measureless;
      Because it has renounced all
      That is not divine,
      It now holds in its grasp
      The unimaginable Good
      In all its abundance,
      A loss and a gain impossible to describe.
    • On achieving their desired end
      Human powers cease to function,
      And the soul sees that what it thought was right
      Was wrong. A new exchange occurs
      At that point where all light disappears;
      A new and unsought state is needed:
      The soul has
      what it did not love,
      And is stripped of all it possessed, no matter how dear.
    • In God the spiritual faculties
      Come to their desired end,
      Lose all sense of self and self-consciousness,
      And are swept into infinity
     
    #9 Vouthon, May 5, 2018
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  10. A Vestigial Mote

    A Vestigial Mote Well-Known Member

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    I've always found this notion interesting... getting rid of all possessions. I am an atheist... a pretty vocal one I might add. And of many, many believers I have spoken with, when they learn this of me, most of their minds immediately jump to my likely being arrogant, likely materialistic, among other things. But I am probably closer to the no possessions "ideal" than most any of them. Granted, I have a family, and so I provide for them certain comforts - but that is exactly what I do - provide for them in lieu of myself, for I am one to easily recognize a "want" as opposed to a "need."

    • I buy almost nothing for myself. Even clothes I wear until they are falling apart.
    • I, personally, own not one musician's work. No CDs, not even self-created mixes, etc. No devices for playing music.
    • I've, personally, bought perhaps 3 or 4 movies in my entire life - and those because I wanted my kids to see them.
    • I do have a cell phone, which, not having a home phone, I deem somewhat necessary. However when I walked into the phone store I specifically said to the clerk: "I want the cheapest thing you have that can make calls and receive emails.", and when he strayed into a sales pitch for something more, I reminded him: "You don't seem to understand.. I want THE cheapest thing you have that meets my requirements."
    • I also use a computer for work, and many of my hobbies therefore also involve the computer. However all of those hobbies are free, and besides the computer require no possessions besides mental property.
    • My house is almost completely not "my own". My wife decorated the entire thing, because I couldn't care much less for anything within it. I have a workshop of sorts in the basement where I collect and tinker with various recovered hardware, electrical implements and body pieces for constructing odds and ends - like lamps, or other utilitarian implements - out of these recouped/recycled parts.
    • If I had to point to things I DO, verifiably "own" - hmmm... I own some weights for exercising in-between bouts of sitting on my butt all day for work. I own a few curiosities I've made because I enjoy the making of them. I own my computer. I own my clothing. As a family we have two cars... though what they are (besides functioning) means absolutely nothing to me. I maintain them to make sure they keep working... don't care if I have anything new or anything "flashier". I am a guy who drove a powder-blue Ford Tempo, that I bought outright for $2000, for nearly 12 years surrounding and during my college years - without a single complaint to this day. I own tools, as many do, several gifts I can think of - bongos, a sword, some books. Not much else, honestly.

    There are many things in my house... but I couldn't care much less whether they were here or not. Give me some seating, tables and a bed, and I'm good. I don't want for much of anything, really. Just more knowledge, and the motivation to seek it.
     
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  11. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Seems to be a Christian and biblical discussion, but since the OP put it in Interfaith, I'll give my Hindu 2 rupees worth. If I'm out of place, just tell me and I'll delete it.

    In Hinduism, (at least my version) there is a place for the poverty vow, and it pertains only to the sannyasin path (monks). It would be against dharma for the rest of us. In fact. wealth (not just material wealth but spiritual wealth, social wealth, etc.) is one of the main goals.

    However, sometimes our scriptures or our Gurus weren't really clear on just who they were speaking to, so occasionally a householder gets confused by listening to the wrong message ... one that wasn'y intended for him. This also applies to brahmacarya. What is intended for monks isn't intended for householders. Hence we have a very distinct 'two path' system: renunciate, and householder. Of course there is some overlap.
     
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  12. WalterTrull

    WalterTrull Godfella

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    Small steps. "Thy will be done in earth..." and "Give us this day..."
     
  13. David T

    David T Well-Known Member
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    I wonder how creationists treat this section. They probably become harsh metaphoricalists.

    I would say intellectual literalism and metaphoricalism serve each other very well!!! It's manifests as all "random" to me.

    based on evolutionary biology we start with random which is a testable measurable repeatable fact. And random effects gene mutation due to bias in the genetics themselves we then end up with different species the one species "I am right" and the other species "you are wrong". This is due to genetic bias that we can call literalism and metaphoricalism.
     
    #13 David T, May 5, 2018
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  14. Mock Turtle

    Mock Turtle Silent Generation - so don't expect much
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    I have had several clear-outs but it seems my house is filling up with books at present - perhaps time to invest in a digital reader. :oops:
     
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  15. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    I think the difficulty here is that taken at face value this also emulates the attitude of the resignedly poor...people who don't save money but spend or freely share whatever they have on short term wants and don't pay their bills in a way to maintain good credit etc.

    Now this might sound like buying into "the system" but the point is that no matter your practice it is ALSO the attitude behind that practice that counts and this was the point of Jesus's hyperbole...that we include both practice AND intent together in our hearts and minds.

    We might also see in this quote support for communism, simplicity, anti-materialism, non-attachment, etc.

    I recently watched the movie High and Low by director Akira Kurasawa which puts this quote from Jesus into sharp relief. Excellent film which if you don't mind subtitles I would highly recommend.
     
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  16. It Aint Necessarily So

    It Aint Necessarily So Well-Known Member
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    I don't see the wisdom there.

    It reminds me of this, also from Luke: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple."

    How many Christians do that?

    I choose to love my family and provide for them.
     
  17. Vouthon

    Vouthon Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
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    Not at all Vinayaka, you and people of other faiths or none are more than welcome to contribute to this discussion. :)

    I decided to place it in the interfaith sub-forum, precisely because I wanted to hear a range of opinions from different perspectives, even though I predominantly had in mind Jesus' injunction to renounce all possessions (being that it is of especial importance to me as a practicing Christian, naturally) and the hardness of this particular admonition for many Christians.

    Your post is much appreciated.

    In practice, the twofold division that you describe between renunciates and householders is actually what developed within Christianity as well, beginning in the early third century A.D. In fact, it became a threefold ecclesiastical class-system of moral stratification in which monks/hermits adhered to the most "strict" code, followed by clergy and then the laity who were essentially obligated to stick to the bare necessities.

    Consider, from the medieval church the ban on clerical shedding of blood or armsbearing:

    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=7zJ9DAAAQBAJ&pg=PA31&lpg=PA31&dq=innocent+civilians+the+morality+of+killing+in+war+eusebius&source=bl&ots=gNWmOiDUQf&sig=aBrrUpBqG9xe4rR1to91qjZEjR0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj37Mq9kOfZAhUhJsAKHTsFDcgQ6AEwAXoECAQQAQ#v=onepage&q=innocent%20civilians%20the%20morality%20of%20killing%20in%20war%20eusebius&f=false 1

    The ban on clerical fighting was part of a general prohibition on the clerical use of weapons which extended to hunting as well as warfare. Clerics could not shed blood, either human or animal. The ban on clerical participation in war was not simply an implication of the advice to those who served God not to be concerned with the things of the world. Rather, it was the act of killing which was thought to sully (as the ban on clerical hunting clearly shows). The ban on clerical participation is an acknowledgement that the most Christian thing to do is forgo all killing.

    The established reasoning was to be based on the idea of the two levels of Christian vocation put forward by Eusebius of Caesaria. Eusebius held that Christians of the higher level (the clergy and religious) were to aim at the highest Christian ideals; they were bound by the ‘counsels of perfection’…This differentiation between lay and clerical morality is not firmly grounded and there is certainly no biblical basis for it. It is odd to interpret Jesus’s command of non-resistance strictly for those Christians who desired to attain perfection (equated with clerics)…That something is not to be done by the most perfect Christians, because they are the most perfect Christians, is almost an acknowledgement that it ought not to be done by any Christian

    The more onerous obligations of the Christian life - such as strict non-violence under all circumstances, poverty, celibacy and the like - were restricted to a class of radical, dedicated disciples, while the majority took upon themselves somewhat less burdensome and more pragmatic demands, which could be tailored better to fit their lives in the secular world.

    Since the Protestant Reformation, however, we have witnessed the bizarre situation where many churches lacking in a monastic or eremetical movement but also not adopting the Amish way of imposing the highest ideals of Christ upon all the laity, have essentially abandoned the lifestyle commended by Jesus entirely.

    But...the problem for us Christians seems to be that Jesus, unlike with the Hindu scriptures and Gurus, did not expect his movement to become divided between different classes of believers, with some following a more "elite" or "thoroughgoing" version of his path whilst the remainder took it easier.

    He appeared to expect anyone who aspired to be his disciple to give up their possessions, which is reflected in the fact that the model pursued in the earliest stage of the church, as detailed in the NT Book of Acts, effectively mandated this "communistic" way of life (for want of a better term that doesn't reek of Marxism, since there is no state-control involved in the Christian model).
     
  18. YmirGF

    YmirGF Bodhisattva

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    I think that part of the problem with this assertion is that the world was a very different place in that era. Barter was still a very large part of economic interactions and may or may not have included an exchange of money. Add to this the bulk of the population had very little to give away and much of their day was spent looking for food and simply surviving.

    The idea being promoted was to put faith in God and that God would provide for all ones needs. He who was of little faith would not do so well. I think it was a psychological ploy to make the poor feel good about their miserable condition, giving them the idea that somehow they were better off than the fat merchant due to their unflinching faith... as they slowly died of starvation.

    Just had an epiphany. What if...

    What if Jesus really meant that people should abandon their current attitudes and ways of doing things by replacing the old ways with faith in the god within themselves? With this new approach, this fresh start, they might just find new inspirations to enact positive change, thus improving their lot in life and in the world around them due to a positive ripple effects? @Vouthon @Windwalker
     
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  19. WalterTrull

    WalterTrull Godfella

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    Well... there's no question whether or not we'll lose all our possessions at some point.
     
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  20. Vouthon

    Vouthon Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
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    I totally understand where your coming from.

    The admonition to renounce one's possessions is about looking at one's use of goods and land in a different way, from that which is conventionally the case. Jesus also referred to it in Matthew 5:3 as being "poor in spirit". The question is this: do we view property - realty, chattel, whatever - beyond what we truly need to survive as an "absolute", unconditioned personal right without any concomitant social obligations to others?

    Jesus and the traditional doctrine of the Church gives an affirmative "no". The fact that we have income, corporation and in some countries land value taxation also indicates that only the most extreme kind of libertarian capitalists today would see property in this absolute way. But even those of us who don't, and who gladly pay our taxes to be used for the public good, can still fall victim to selfish use of our personal wealth.

    One part of it, is about living without being inordinately attached to material objects. This is the "spiritual" or "mystical" dimension emphasized by the Gospel of Matthew. It's similar to the Buddhist concept of non-attachment.

    The other element, is the one stressed by Luke 6:2 and in the verse we are discussing, which has to do with an actual social issue about the hoarding of goods and resources, as reflected in the communitarian church economics reflected in Acts 2:44-45 where the early believers "had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need."

    Behind all of this lies a theological concept which regards the goods of the earth as destined for the succour humankind as a whole, rather than just for privileged individuals. See:


    voluntaryist.com - Voluntaryism and Extreme Necessity

    This theme was elaborated during the later Middle Ages when the principle of extreme necessity became a common doctrine among medieval theologians and canon lawyers.

    The principle stated that a person in extreme necessity may rightfully take the property of other people to sustain his life. This principle is the most radical formulation of the medieval belief that God had bestowed the earth upon all mankind for its sustenance. [6] This conclusion led to two co-ordinate positions:


    [T]he first held that people in extreme necessity might rightfully take what they needed to survive, and that their taking such goods had nothing of the nature of theft; and the second, held that every person has the obligation to sustain the life of other people once his own needs have been met. [7] Gratian’s DECRETUM, a famous medieval tome compiled about 1140 AD, also expounded the view that the fruits of the earth belonged to all mankind. All things are common, that is, to be shared in time of necessity with those in want. … [W]e should retain for ourselves only necessities and distribute what is left to our neighbors in need. [8]
    The decretists saw no contradiction in maintaining the right to private property, on the one hand, and, on the other, the right of the poor to sustain their lives by taking from the wealthy. They recognized the right to private property, but the right of accumulation only extended as far as satisfying one’s basic needs. The man who accumulated goods beyond what he needed to live in a decent and fitting fashion according to his status had no [absolute] right to his wealth


    Jesus often employed shocking hyperbole to get his listeners to re-arrange their priorities.

    The statement regarding "hating one's family", is obviously not intended to contradict the earlier command in the same gospel to love even our "enemies". It should be understood in the context of the ancient, patriarchal family unit: which was a mechanism of tribalistic oppression of individuals and exclusion of compassion for the rest of humanity (i.e. nepotism, only caring about one's genetic relatives), in many cases; as opposed to the cozy, nurturing societal unit we know today.

    Larry Siedentop, Emeritus Fellow of Keble College, Oxford and former Faculty Lecturer in Political Thought at the University of Oxford, explained this as follows:


    The paterfamilias was originally both the family’s magistrate and high priest, with his wife, daughters and younger sons having a radically inferior status.

    Inequality remained the hallmark of the ancient patriarchal family. “Society” was understood as an association of families rather than of individuals.

    It was the Christian movement that began to challenge this understanding. Pauline belief in the equality of souls in the eyes of God – the discovery of human freedom and its potential – created a point of view that would transform the meaning of “society”.

    This began to undercut traditional inequalities of status. It was nothing short of a moral revolution, and it laid the foundation for the social revolution that followed. The individual gradually displaced the family, tribe or caste as the basis of social organisation.

    This wasn't an ethical way to structure society. The paterfamilias model of the family had to die. I agree with Jesus.

    He was telling his disciples to unburden themselves from this kind of environment and not allow it to restrict them from living a morally and socially upstanding life, beyond narrow tribalistic communities - so that people could see all human beings as members of their family and not merely their genetic relations:


    Matthew 12:50 (NRSV)

    "50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”


    Jesus deliberately wanted to shock people, so you have responded appropriately.

    Yes, Jesus wanted to undermine the ancient, patriarchal family and replace it with a more globalist ethic - namely the one enunciated in Paul's letter to the Galatians:


    Galatians 3:28 (NRSV)

    28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.


    Is that really such a bad thing? To act like the Good Samaritan in the Parable, rather than a cliquey-narrow-minded nepotistic family unit that treats outsiders with suspicion?

    It's about moral universalism, in reality, and its the reason why Christians have the habit of calling each other "brother" and "sister" even though we aren't related by lineage or DNA (except distantly).
     
    #20 Vouthon, May 5, 2018
    Last edited: May 5, 2018
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