Out of Context: Will Willimon

This month Out of Ur is starting a new feature called "Out of Context." Each week we will post a quote from an article in the current issue of Leadership Journal that may cause you to ruminate, cogitate, or possibly regurgitate. As always, your comments and responses are encouraged.

"I love the statement by G.K. Chesterton who said that we could have a really good argument over whether or not Jesus believed in fairies. But we cannot have any debate over whether or not Jesus believed rich people were in big trouble. There's just too much evidence that he did."

-Will Willimon, bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church

Take from "Preaching Past TiVo" in the Summer 2006 issue of Leadership Journal. To see the quote IN context click on the cover of Leadership on this page.

September 21, 2006

Displaying 1–10 of 12 comments

Chris Marsden

September 25, 2006  7:51pm

Well the read in context thing didn't work for me, so I will have to comment "out of context", which is partly the point and what makes this fun. Someone in college told me that where we feel quilty is what we argue about and what we accuse others of. "theives lock their doors" and all that. I only say that, because this whole thing seemed to center around money and for me, my first thought went somewhere else. How about, instead of arguing about the money (I mean come on, Jesus said difficult, so my vast foturne of which I give 11% away won't keep me out of heaven, it will only make it difficult not impossible), let's look at the principle. Jesus didn't talk about fairies, that I am aware of (the Bible did talk about those kind of fairies, but that is kind of the point of what I am saying). We can argue all day about tinkerbell and what Jesus would have thought about her. And we can make excuses and make up arguments about other subjects (money, sex, etc...), but they are a little one sided since God has already picked his position. The quote said that rich people were in big trouble. Amazingly, all your arguments said the same thing (difficult, trouble, do you really want to argue that). Nowhere did the quote say that it was impossible for rich people to make it into heaven (maybe the incontext quote does and so I am missing something). So...did Jesus believe in fairies? I don't know. I have my opinion, but I am of the opinion that opinions are best not argued over. Did Jesus think it was going to be tough to be a Christian and a rich person? I seem to remember him saying something of that sort.

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Paul Goddard

September 25, 2006  11:57am

What wise faeries read this blog. How much richer we are for it. If our wealth is in knowledge, do we become dumb, so others will appear wise? If our wealth is in family, do we desert them, so other families feel healthier? If we are deeply in debt, are we rich or poor? If we recognize our spiritual poverty and our debt to Christ and have received his gift of eternal life and his deposit of the Spirit, are we rich or poor? Of course this is all fun nonsense. I think the call above from Geoff and Sheerahkahn for a comparative contextual study has great merit. Other factors that merit consideration in the discussion are the financial wisdom of Proverbs, the Pauline individualization of the will of God via the Holy Spirit, and Pauline statements of family responsibility.

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September 24, 2006  7:40am

. . . but isn't it less intrusive to ask questions about fairies, Santa Clause, and Adam's belly-button, than to meditate on a matter that might convict us to the core?

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September 23, 2006  12:22am

I think that if you're not willing to consider the possibility that Jesus is asking you to give away all you own to the poor, then he probably will ask you that question if you're going to follow him.

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September 22, 2006  2:28pm

But what about how Jesus felt about wealthy faeries? I think that is something that we can't ignore.

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September 22, 2006  2:11pm

This conversation reminds me of great Easy Essay from Peter Maurin of The Catholic Worker. Better or Better Off 1. The world would be better off, if people tried to become better. 2. And people would become better, if they stopped trying to be better off. 3. For when everybody tries to become better off, nobody is better off. 4. But when everybody tries to become better, everybody is better off. 5. Everybody would be rich, if nobody tried to be richer. 6. And nobody would be poor, if everybody tried to be the poorest. 7. And everybody would be what he ought to be, if everybody tried to be what he wants the other fellow to be. Be Blessed!

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September 21, 2006  10:11pm

"Did Jesus advocate dumping their wealth and giving to the poor?" Well, no, not to everyone. But we shouldn't be too quick to dismiss this possibility, nor to assume that Jesus doesn't intend great sacrifice. I think what Jesus also saw is that wealth is often more a curse than a blessing. Like Ed Norton in Fight Club, the best thing for us may in fact be losing everything we "own". Or maybe it wouldn't. Extreme asceticism can become its own prideful law. But we're all too scared of that possibility that Jesus does want us to become poor to entertain it, and we're all far too ready to believe that as long as we're not like Ebenezer Scrooge, wealth is perfectly okay.

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Anonymous Coward

September 21, 2006  2:31pm

It is a heart thing isn't it? Isn't there a point at which we have to consider the condition of the heart of a Lexus driving, Rolex wearing, multiple house owning representative of Christ in regards to his or her stance on the plight of the impoverished church. Isn't there? We don't fault the way that Bill Gates spends his money. Then again, Bill Gates doesn't represent a Christ humiliated, void of human possession and liberty by our sin and shame does he? Wealth does not come by a life abundant, but rather a life abundant could be evidenced in part by how we dispose of our wealth. - Anonymous Coward

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September 21, 2006  1:33pm

I would like to point out a couple of things that is being...assumed here, and for clarifications sake, lets define the wordage Difficult: "not easily or readily done; requiring much labor, skill, or planning to be performed successfully; hard: a difficult job." Impossible: " not possible; unable to be, exist, happen, etc." Okay, so, which word did Jesus use? He used difficult, and the reason he used difficult was because he was underscoring the rich's "poverty sucks" pov as being THE WRONG APPROACH to viewing poorer people's needs. Did Jesus advocate dumping their wealth and giving to the poor? no, he didn't, but he made it plainly clear that a selfish attitude, combined with a callous mentality about others does not make a good combination for a follower of G-d. Essentially, Jesus was addressing the rich's attitudes about people in general. I would recommend a thorough study of the social structure of 1st century Israel. It has some very enlightening information for us today.

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September 21, 2006  12:52pm

Nicely put, funny and true. The hard reality is that our jobs own us and breaking free of the wealth chase is tough to do in America. God help us.

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