St. Jerome, Part 4

“Many build churches nowadays; their walls and pillars of glowing marble, their ceilings glittering with gold, their altars studded with jewels. Yet to the choice of Christ’s ministers no heed is paid.”

Apparently even in the late fourth century churches cared more about their facilities than they did about people.  Except now, people seem to care quite deeply about who their pastor is.   

“And let no one allege against me the wealth of the temple in Judæa, its table, its lamps, its censers, its dishes, its cups, its spoons, Nu. vii. 24, Vulg. and the rest of its golden vessels. If these were approved by the Lord it was at a time when the priests had to offer victims and when the blood of sheep was the redemption of sins. They were figures typifying things still future and were “written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come.” 1 Cor. x. 11.”

Jerome brings up the still ongoing discussion of how the Old Covenant relates to the New.  His point is valid.  Simply because things were done a certain way in ‘Old Testament times’ does not mean they necessarily should be done the same today.  Furthermore, in the context of the Torah, maintenance of the sanctuary was never at odds with care for those in need.  Contrast that with today’s programs…

“But now our Lord by His poverty has consecrated the poverty of His house. Let us, therefore, think of His cross and count riches to be but dirt. Why do we admire what Christ calls “the mammon of unrighteousness”? Luke xvi. 9. Why do we cherish and love what it is Peter’s boast not to possess?”

That is a great question.  Why do we worry about what we will eat, what we will wear, and how impressed people will be when they see the car we just bought or the sound system we just installed?  Allow me to quote the following passage from J. Steward, Biblical Holism (Cited from Hughes, Power and Poverty, 150-151): 

“Some years ago I [Ray Bakke] was in the Billy Graham Centre, Wheaton College–A real evangelical Mecca.  The discussion of the day was how can that college do urban ministry.  A very wealthy man in the meeting said, ‘Ray, when you and others talk about urban evangelism I get very excited.  When you talk about social justice, social action, social involvement I get very very nervous.  Isn’t that the social gospel?’ I could feel myself becoming a little defensive but for some reason I didn’t respond at that level. I said, ‘Clayton, where do you live?’  Well, Clayton, lives in a very nice suburb.  I asked him why he lived and there  and he told me all the good reasons: good schools, safe, clean, nice housing value.  Finally I said, ‘Clayton, if anybody believes in the social gospel it’s you.  Every reason you’ve given me for where you live is a social reason.  You’ve committed your whole life to it.  If those systems weren’t working you wouldn’t live there.’ I said, ‘You are living where those systems function…Me and my church live where those systems don’t function…We are trying hard to bring our social systems up to what you already enjoy.’  It’s hypocritical for people to say I shouldn’t be concerned about these things when they have already committed their who life and family to live where those systems exist.”

Why is it that those most vocally opposed to some feared ‘social gospel’ live with the very same social and material access we are trying to provide for others.  If it’s so wrong to work to provide clean water, safe housing, decent education, and affordable healthcare for the poor, why do you work so tirelessly to cling yours?

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