The Eye of a Needle: Why We Should Be Praying for the Rich

As I write this, there is strife related to income inequality in the United States. Sometimes, this turns into disdain on the part of those in lower income brackets toward millionaires and billionaires, with phrases like “Eat the rich” populating social media. While the rich may seem to have it all—from porches, to mansions, to haute cuisine—I shall argue, contrary to standard views, it is perhaps they who need our prayers the most.

               Frequently, we take pity upon poor people and homeless people. It is people without material possessions and luxuries we often are called to pray for and minister to. Nothing in this paper goes against assisting those individuals and praying for them. However, the spiritual situation may be even more dire for the wealthy and we should, thus, keep them in our prayers.

If you are a Christian, you must want everyone to join you in the Kingdom of Heaven. We pray for mercy and compassion for those who have lost their spiritual path in life, which can easily be done. While we are taught not to take stock in things of the world because they are fleeting, it is far too easy to get caught up in professional advancement, wealth accumulation, your latest travels and material possessions. I grant that one can have all these things and nevertheless be a Christian. However, I shall show the spiritual situation is more dire for those in the top income brackets.

The spiritual situation for the wealthy was told to us by Jesus Himself in Matthew 19: 23-24. There, we find Jesus telling His disciples it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Jesus’ disciples were, of course, shocked to hear this, as we may be today. But this is not too far-fetched. When you are poor, sometimes all you have is God. When you are rich, it’s easy to have everything but God.

 If we are to take this seriously, there are many people who only have a slim chance of getting into Heaven—and we know it. While I think pity is rarely a proper response to the situation of things, love and mercy are what Jesus calls for. If we are to have those things for others—even strangers—we should pray for them and for God to have mercy on them.

It is easy to disparage the rich and view them with contempt. After all, they have the means to change the world for the better and, often, they don’t. Your suffering may be directly related to their comfort, then. Furthermore, the rich often engage in political participation that may harm many people. However, Jesus’ commandment for us is to love one another as the did. In performing this love, we ought to pray for our wealthy counterparts.

While the poor may only have God at times and may thus be spiritually rich, the monetarily wealthy may, as a matter of fact, be spiritually poor. Given that it is said that those who are given much will be expected to do much, and the fact that many millionaires and billionaires probably do not invest their resources in a Godly way, we may wonder if the rich are deserving of our prayers and mercy.

I think the answer is ‘yes’, they are deserving. If we are to show the kind of love and mercy God has shown us, which is probably undeserved, we should extend those blessings to others even if they appear unworthy.

If we are to love one another as Jesus did, we would do well to pray for the rich not to change and sway things of this world necessarily, but rather to allow the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, which is the most glorious of places. While we may continue to pray for the poor and assist them, it is my belief it’s the rich who need God’s forgiveness, guidance and mercy the most. In the end, that’s what we ought to wish for everyone.

What We Can Learn from Jesus’ Temptations

We live in a fast-paced world. In a rush to get things done, we often make hurried decisions. These quick decisions can be problematic. Often, the worst part of ourselves come out in quick responses. We make errors, we fail, we, well, “shit post.”

But stop for a minute. Frequently, it’s us who are in a rush. It’s not external pressure. Unless you are in an emergency situation or some such, there’s really no pressure to make quick decisions.

Now, let’s think about Jesus.

In Hebrews, we learn He was “tempted in every way.”

Some folks seem to think He wasn’t tempted to have the horrible reactions we have. But I think that’s skirting the truth of the Bible. It clearly says He was tempted in every way. So, He was.

I posit the following: Jesus had first-response reactions just like we have in which we err, fail and shit post. However, Jesus slowed Himself down, considered His reaction and then made the perfect decision.

Nowhere does the Bible say this, but it has to be something like that because He acted perfectly but was nevertheless tempted.

We can learn to slow down in life. If we do, our actions may more closely resemble Jesus’. And that is what we are supposed to be aiming for.

Christianity May Imply Personal, But Not Political, Conservatism.

The hardest thing for a Christian must be to relinquish control.

All my life I have seen Christians trying to enforce their ways of living on others. To my knowledge, the Bible doesn’t tell us to do that. So even if you think something like sex outside of marriage is immoral, that’s a statement from God to YOU. It’s not about you and other people in the world.

When it comes to other people in the world, we are supposed to love them the way Jesus did. That might be tough. But that’s what we are supposed to do. So, we have to be OK with the fact that there are people with other lifestyles, worldviews and religions. God loves them, too. Just as much as He loves you.

When we are called to share the Good News, it’s because the news of God’s glory really is incredibly great and we want everyone to be in on it. It’s not to admonish people, chastise people, or condemn people.

We are not called to judge people. We are called to have mercy on them.

“Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord.” A Similarity Between Christian and Chinese Philosophy

Several years ago, I came across a bit of Chinese philosophy. During that time, I found that the word Xin, which literally means ‘heart’, can be translated to mind/heart. In this way, in Chinese thought, the center of decision-making is in the chest.

At the time, I thought this was an interesting thing. In western thought, we are cephallocentric, which means we take the center of decision-making to be located in somewhere in the cranium.

Or are we?

As I have moved along in my development in Christianity, I have found my “center” is now within my chest. I read the Bible with my heart. In fact, if something appears to demand the use of my brain, I shun it.

God has opened the eyes of my heart.

This does not mean I shun knowledge and advancement. Rather, it’s that when my center of decision-making is in my chest, I feel whole, complete and better able to navigate the world.

This is a truly wonderful thing.

Many people wonder the state of health and what that means. Perhaps, whether one is traditional Chinese or Christian, health is when you locate yourself within the chest.

Overcome with Mercy

It’s been about two weeks since God found me, spoke with me and liberated me. Already, I am growing. The Episcopal Priest Matt Gunter says, ” If following Jesus isn’t making you more merciful, it might not be Jesus you are following.”

Tonight, while laying down to rest a bit, I reflected upon evildoers. Now, I’m not going to point out who exactly is an evildoer and who isn’t. That’s really not my place. But a vision something like what the Apostle Paul describes came to mind where people were living in horrible ways.

My response was to be overcome with mercy.

I found Gunter’s post on being merciful when I was trying, after being overcome with mercy, to find a philosophy paper by Dr. Rico Vitz titled “What is a Merciful Heart?” I wanted to see what he said on the matter.

For me, knowing what I know from my experience with God, He showed mercy on me because I had been suffering terribly for quite a long time. I know this because God told me He came to be because I had been suffering. I bawled when He told me this. I wept because God knew my suffering very well and relieved it.

No matter how “happy” some people claim to be and appear to be, many are suffering like I was. Even evildoers. Perhaps especially evildoers. While the first instinct may be to loathe and condemn those people, I think mercy is the proper response.

From a Biblical point of view, we are all mired in sin. It’s everywhere, really, and it makes us suffer in the end. In my personal experience, sin isn’t necessarily something one does. In my view, there’s a spiritual realm where evil does indeed exist. For me, I was chained and in bondage. God freed me.

If God could do that for me, I thought, how much could I spare for others? My suffering has been torment. Sheer and utter torment. But it was possibly not the worst thing in the world. Others may be suffering even more. Thus, I was overwhelmed with mercy for others.

When we are asked to pray for our enemies, then, it may not be as it seems on the surface. It might not be a sheepish, passive and pacifistic response. It may be to show mercy on them the way God has mercy for us.

God is a great liberator. I pray He has mercy for the entire world for He has relieved me from incredible suffering and for that I am eternally thankful.

Homosexuality and the Bible

I’m no expert on the Bible. However, I just went to someone’s defense in a Biblical way. The person is a part of the LGBT+ community and was being attacked by religious bigots. This person was being called a sinner and being told to repent.

You don’t need to be a Biblical Scholar to know that is not what Jesus would do. But half of understanding the Bible, I think, is learning what it doesn’t say. And what the Bible doesn’t say is that we are to condemn gay people. Nowhere does it say that.

In fact, what the Bible does say is that we are to take Jesus as our Lord and Savior. In doing that, we imply that we should model His behavior and that we continually need Him to act well in the world. This is a very personal commitment. While we may kindly spread the Word, we should not push Christianity on people, especially when they ask us to leave them alone. After all, it’s Jesus who says He stands at the door and knocks and that if you open the door, He will come in a dine with you.

Jesus has manners.

If we are to become like Christ, we should have manners, too.

People argue about details of the Bible and what “man laying with a man” actually means. Whatever it means, it’s a statement from God to you. It’s not about you and other people in the world.

Moreover, I think it best to consider things the Bible does say, such as knowing people by their fruits. When we are in Christ, we will have the fruits of the spirit. These fruits, which are qualities of character, are not said to be bestowed upon only white people, only men or only heterosexuals. Apparently, anyone can have these character traits and these traits are how others will know you. These traits are par excellance and are the qualities God wants you to have.

It could be said it is the fruits you bear by which you will be judged. And those fruits may be present in homosexuals. Thus, one could conceivably be a “practicing” Christian homosexual.

Before we cast any stones, we should make sure our own home is in order first. If you feel like condemning a homosexual, make sure you are without sin yourself.

On Philosophy and Psychology

I have a BA in psychology, which qualifies me for absolutely nothing. Yet, I frequently come across “intuitions” in philosophy that have become a pet peeve of mine. For example, someone may ponder:

We frequently feel x. Why is it that we feel this way?

In this ponder, the person querying is assuming me all have the same intuition and, thus, the same psychology.

We don’t.

If there’s anything I have learned from not only my personal growth and development but my interactions with people and my study of psychology, it is that we are fundamentally individuals. If I were a therapist and treated all my clients the very same, applying the same technique precisely with each person, I would be a very poor therapist. Therapy is, thus, an art, just as living is.

This isn’t just a problem for philosophy, though. There are indeed branches of psychology that see people as unified in their psyches. This is problematic.

Even assuming, when I write, that there’s some unifying group that would be reading this is a problem. That is probably, incidentally, why Soren Kierkegaard, who developed a significant amount of psychology, wrote to “that single individual.”

We are each at different stages in life. We have experienced different things. While there may be generalizations we can come up with about human psychology, there’s no overarching theory that holds true for each individual.

I happen to hold a Christian theory of human development that’s not too common. It’s not one that I learned in my university experiences. It is, instead, one I came to by living.

Be that as it may, there’s supposed challenges posed by these so-called overarching views of human psychology. One of them is situationism. In situationism, the theory is that we are more influenced by and guided by the situation rather than our character traits. While there is some empirical evidence for this, there’s also empirical evidence for tons of things in psychology, such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

I do not hold the view that Maslow was correct. I simply point this out to show the empirical evidence is not necessarily slanted toward situationism over other views in psychology. To be quite honest, I do not think there will be much unifying truth in psychology the way one would hope. Take, for example, the study done by Simone Schnall and team which found that people make more harsh moral judgments when there’s fart spray in the air. All this may show is habituation. The people surveyed may have come to associate bad smells with bad things. Most of the time, this may have been a good judgment for them.

Habituation, as we know, is a significant part of virtue ethics. Aristotle, perhaps the most frequently cited virtue ethicist, wrote “We are that we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

In the fart spray example, we can say that the people surveyed just had poor habits of mind to make harsher moral judgments when fart spray was in the air. No one assumes virtues are plentiful. If they were, they’d be the norm, not the standard of excellence.

What surveys like this can teach us, though, is to modify our habits to make them better lined up with good judgement. If there’s anything psychology like this is good for, it’s for being a reflective tool by which we can gauge ourselves and align ourselves more properly. This has been the case in other areas of psychology, like implicit bias.

Researchers had come to notice that women and people of color, eg., are judged more harshly, are discriminated against in the hiring process, and more. They then made series of tests by which you can find out if you have these biases. Moreover, they found that, if you have these biases, there’s something you can do about it to reduce them.

Most of psychology, then, is better focused on gathering information like this to scoot us up on the overall bar of excellence, moving humanity toward progress. This is contrary to the view that psychology merely provides us with hard and fast truths about ourselves.

On this view of psychology, what we are waiting for is for someone from situationism to tell us what we can do to reduce situationist behavior. Because surely it can be done.

At its best, psychology is a mirror by which we look at our current reflection. Thus, just as a mirror may assist us with combing our hair and brushing our teeth, psychology can help us develop better cognitive and moral virtues.

Could Andrew Yang Lead Us to America’s Pax Romana?

Marcus Aurelius could have done anything. He was a Roman emperor, after all. With such riches and power at hand, he could have relished in material pleasures.

But he didn’t.

Aurelius just so happens to be one of the greatest Stoic thinkers. His Meditations is one of the seminal texts on Ancient Stoicism.

Aurelius ruled during Pax Romana, the Roman Peace. During this time, though not strife-free, there was relative peace in Rome. In addition, there was an emphasis on education and economic stability. Marcus Aurelius is considered one of the Good Emperors who brought about a great period of Rome.

Fast forward to 2019.

Now we have, we hope, thriving democracy here in the United States. And soon it will be time to vote for the next president.

It’s too true that policies matter. But so, too, does character. In choosing a candidate from the current list, my vote goes to Andrew Yang.

Not only do I like his many, detailed policies, I like his character. It is, well, Stoic.

Marcus Aurelius tried every day to perfect the Stoic character, by which we shed the “passions” and reach Stoic Calm.

Recently, Politico, reporting on Andrew Yang’s surge among voters, described Yang as paradoxical. While he completely understands and discusses gloom and doom things, such as the loss of jobs due to automation, he remains upbeat. Even happy.

Contrary to Politico, I don’t think this is a paradox. I think it’s close to Stoic Calm.

The Ancient Stoics’ quest was to find happiness, peace and inner calm despite external things in the world. Christianity picked this up later on. And this inner peace and happiness, while rare, is incredibly valuable. I’d like a president who isn’t easily triggered or troubled by externals because only in the place of inner calm can we make the best decisions.

Could character be a part of a good president? I think so. And while I like many of the candidates, Andrew Yang presents as the most Stoic. Even, by extension, thus the most Christian in character.

Could Andrew Yang bring us to an American Pax Romana?

My vote is betting on it.

Did God Spare Florida?

Yes and no.

I was in communion with God as Hurricane Dorian was building and heading toward the Bahamas and Florida.

I prayed without ceasing–but rarely about the storm–during this entire time. (You can see my previous blog posts to see what I was thinking about and talking to God about.)

As the hurricane moved onward yesterday and today, I was simply and utterly awe-struck. It slowed, diminished in strength and took a more eastward path.

When I prayed, I never asked God to move and slow the storm!

But I know God did this. I am in awe of such power.

I don’t want you to get me wrong, though. I don’t think this is necessarily a full-fledged, no-questions-asked blessing.

Instead, I think false Christians (those who only come to God with their wants and do not strive to exemplify Christ) are indicted.

If you’re in the hot seat right now, there’s something you can do. Go here and check out how you can help people of the Bahamas. It’s not that God tormented them as punishment and spared Florida. It’s not that whatsoever.

If this were a test given by God, it’s time to strut your Christian stuff. Do some good in the world. Assist people of the Bahamas. Rather than showing we Floridians are select, God is probably singling us out for Christian action. We need the exercise.

To Bring About Justice, We Must First Break Every Chain

Everyone I know wants justice in the world. I’m no different. I have devoted half my life to social justice–advocating for at-risk women and children, workers of America, immigrants, and more.

Just last week, I pondered whether anything I had been a part of–rallies, protests, community organizing–even did any good. With all the people I know doing the same, one does in fact come to wonder whether these things do any good. If they did, wouldn’t the world seem more just by now?

What I’m about to say will not appeal to everyone. A lot of people are put off by Christianity. Be that as it may, I encourage you to read on.

Throughout the Bible, God is described as a liberator. In God, there is freedom. God is frequently described as breaking every chain.

Think about the clothes you are wearing. Most of the time, you don’t notice them. You have to actually attend to them in order to be aware of them.

We are born in spiritual chains that we become used to just as we are used to wearing clothes. But these chains are just as detrimental to us as physical chains.

When you are not free, you cannot do much in the world to bring about justice. You must free yourself in order help others get a leg up.

Our spiritual situation is like being held hostage by Satan. Slowly, over time, chain-like vines of Satan have grown over us, keeping us from doing great acts in the world. They prevent us from cultivating a more just world even as evil grows more prevalent.

The good news is God is not only just and good, God is a great liberator. Through God, we can know spiritual freedom and come to do just acts in the world, defeating evil.

Currently, I have a homeless friend staying in my home. Since God freed me from my chains, I have been able to take care of my friend even better. This is not unimportant. It is indeed Earth-shattering to be able to feed and clothe a single homeless person.

Many of us do not have the will–even if we have the want–to care for another person like this. Satan lulled us into bondage. But through God, the great liberator, we can each come to perhaps help a single person in need.

When you fly on an airplane, they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting anyone else. Now that my mask is on, I am able to literally save one life.

I praise God for that.