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Culture and Christianity IX

Politics, Tithing, Music, Crucifixes, Alcohol, and Gambling

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Question #1:

Hi Bob,

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2237170/A-feminist-revolution-cruelly-backfired--brutal-lesson-Britain-telling-truth-sex-gangs-race.html

Many Christians say that we are returning to the paganism of antiquity. I disagree. That is an insult to the pagans of antiquity. The Romans, as a group, were faithful, law-abiding citizens who were virtuous in thought and action. They honored tradition and respected their parents. While they did have ritual sex, they also took adultery and promiscuity seriously. They were also faithful, and took sacrifices quite seriously. They also acknowledged that God existed. If a nation were to return to what the pagans of antiquity practiced, we would decry them as religious fundamentalists and moralists. Judging by the article I sent you, we're far worse than the pagans of antiquity. We're more like Sodom and the Canaanites.

Response #1:

Things are plenty bad – but I wouldn't over romanticize the Romans. The "good old Romans" for whom even the emperor Augustus longed, only existed for a few hundred years (roughly between the mid-fourth to mid-second century B.C.), and things were not really all "skittles and beer" back then either (despite Livy's propaganda). People have always been flawed (or, in Calvinist-speak, subject to the "principle of total depravity).

Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Ecclesiastes 7:10 NIV

Yours in Jesus Christ our hope and our joy – and our eternal life.

Bob L.

Question #2:

Dear Bob,

I had a few more questions, but like I have said in the past, no immediate response is needed/required, so you can answer them whenever it feels convenient to do so, or if you don't, that's alright too.

[details omitted]

Also, I don't know if I have mentioned this in the past, but I do plan on moving to Canada in the future to be with my fiancee, or by then hopefully my wife. Another reason is, at least in the past, was because I felt compelled to get away from our government, since at the time they had been scaring me. There was a long decision-making process where me and her were trying to decide if I were to live up there in Canada, or if she were to come down here to the United States. Eventually, we decided she would live down her, at least for awhile we had picked the US, but at some point we switched back to moving to Canada (in hindsight, I think the other situation discussed above was the deal-breaker here). I said all of this because I read Romans 13 recently, and a new concern has come over me. As I mentioned, before I didn't approve of the US government policies about a lot of stuff, though granted, I also got very paranoid about the government too. I know Romans 13 tells us that all governments were put in place by God's will, so to rebel against them is to rebel against God's will, or even God himself, right? Well, even back then most of my reason for moving was to be with her, but then she decided to live down here, then the incident discussed happened, and now we've decided to live up in Canada. The reasons for this decision change are extensive, but I can sum it up into "I think Canada is a better place to raise our children."

The thing is, would moving be rebelling? Back then the US government was a reason I wanted to move, and I feel that partially may still be the case, but not nearly to the extent it was back then, but there is still a small part of me that keeps the 'bonus benefit' in mind of getting away from the US government. Again, is this rebelling? Am I doing wrong here? As of late, I've slowly and slowly been becoming more accepting of our government here, since the more and more I understand that any government -good or bad- is in place because it's part of God's plan, and more and more that part of me that wants to move because of it is shrinking, and all along the majority of the reason for wanting to move as been because of future family with my fiancee/soon-to-be wife. Am I doing wrong here?

Anyway, this email has gotten kind of long, and again, you are free to ignore any part of it/all of it if you wish to, or if you choose to answer, can whenever you wish to. Thank you, in advance, either way, for at least taking the time to read it.

Response #2:

It's always good to hear from you. As to your questions:

Some situations are difficult by their very nature and you certainly seem to find yourself in one. I'm not sure it can be "tweaked". I continue to pray for your guidance and deliverance.

I don't see anything fundamentally un-Christian about changing countries if a person is obliged to do so for whatever reason. Whether or not it is advisable is another question. That's something every person has to figure out for him/herself. No country is perfect. We Christians owe our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ, and part of that allegiance is being a good citizen of whatever political entity we belong to – of course we are not allowed to do anything contrary to God's fundamental will regardless of where we live (e.g., ""Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God" Acts 4:19 NIV). I know plenty of wonderful Canadians. I also know of instances where individuals have left Canada because they were not allowed, in their view, to indulge in free Christian speech without being criminally and civilly charged.

In all things, the Word of God is the answer, but not necessarily in the sense of giving a particular answer to a complex question of application. The more we learn about the truth in general, the more it forms a framework or "backbone" of truth in our hearts – provided we believe it – which supports us and guides us with the help of the Spirit through all difficult straits.

Keep on persevering in your pursuit of God's truth!

In Jesus Christ who is the Truth,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Dear Bob,

Thank you for your reply, and I appreciate your time; though, if it's alright, could I ask you fora bit more on the last question? I just want to make sure that, despite my situation, I'm doing the right thing, or that if I am doing the wrong thing, correct it. Should I try harder to resolve the situation here? I've so far been keeping a distance. I remember you don't like giving specific advice on situations like this, but I figure the right thing to do is do what Christ would want me to. In a situation like this though, I'm not entirely sure what they is yet, you know?

Response #3:

Even though you have shared with me quite a bit on this topic, a third party looking in usually has insufficient information to go on to give good advice (how much more so when the info is via email only).

I always try to be polite and civil to everyone (not to suggest I am perfect at this). I have no problem with treating everyone in a loving, Christian way. The real issue is one of separation. Generally speaking, we choose those with whom we will associate or not. However, it is also true that sometimes life-circumstances dictate the need to associate with people we would rather not have much to do with if things were different. For example, if we work for a business which puts us into close proximity with individuals we dislike or of whose conduct we thoroughly disapprove, it will be incumbent upon us to put aside our inclinations as far as possible for the good of the group. This doesn't mean that we compromise our own standards – far from it. It is usually possible to be "nice" to people with of whose politics, religion, morality, etc. we disapprove. Family often presents a similar problem. We don't control whom our family members marry or associate closely with. My rule of thumb is to make a point of never approving or seeming to approve of things I disapprove of, but also trying hard not to go out of my way to be judgmental where my judgment is not being sought out. I certainly would not want to destroy my relationships with those I love over things which are not in my control because the choices are not mine to make; on the other hand I have to be true to my conscience where "push comes to shove". If this sounds less than definitive, it is. However, the above are the questions I would be wrestling with in similar situations, and having found myself in "judgmental call" circumstances many times, I can tell you for certain that no one else really knows the right thing for you to do except for you – with prayer, consultation of with the truth, and the guidance of the Spirit.

I will continue to keep you and your family in prayer.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Dear Bob,

I don't watch much TV at all, but I do still have a couple of favorite shows. there is this one show I sometimes watch and I don't know if it's bad, or not allowed, or how it would be classified; it's pretty childish, actually. It's got interesting characters, and teaches some life lessons and such. I watch it because there is little on television which is actually good, since everything is so focused on the dark and the negative, you know? And like I said, I don't watch TV all of the time or anything, it's generally late at night when there's nothing to do. Should I leave it behind?

Response #4:

This is the devil's world and to stay away from absolutely everything that is in any way compromised by him and his system of untruth would require leaving the world entirely. It is very clear what is good (scripture); and it is very clear what is bad and evil (satanic rituals, pornography, criminal behavior, etc.). In between there is a wide range of activities which may or may not be bad and which may or may not be really bad – these distinctions often are dependent upon the person in question and the circumstances. For example, alcohol is neither good nor bad. But excessive use of alcohol is bad, and for some people (i.e., those with a tendency toward alcoholism) it is really bad. Sports are neither good nor bad; excessive wasting of one's time on such things can certainly be bad (if, for example, a person starts to compromise his or her job or relationships on account of some such hyper fascination with a team or a sport), and in some cases can be really bad (i.e., getting involved in a riot because your team loses . . . or wins). Moderation in all things which are unnecessary is always a good idea. Becoming legalistic about avoiding such things is not a good idea, but it is certainly prudent for all of us to recognize our particular areas of weakness (i.e., where we are apt to go "bad" or especially if there is any chance of getting into "really bad"), and give such things a very wide berth. There are plenty of things which are not sins which can nevertheless lead us into bad and even sinful behavior (or worse).

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
1st Corinthians 10:23 KJV

Generally speaking, when it comes to "giving things up" for Christ, that should be a natural development of spiritual growth. If instead such "commitments" are taken on for emotional reasons, the chances are that we will fail, and that even if we do succeed in putting something aside we may get legalistic about it – which is worse than not giving "it" up in the first place (and by "it" I mean behaviors which we may rightly see as "childish" but which are not out and out sinful in and of themselves – we should turn away from anything sinful, of course).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi Robert,

I am reading the 'Politics and Society' area of part 4 of the 'Satan's Rebellion' series. I've agreed with everything I've read so far and it has all been very helpful. I do have one question in the 'Politics and Society' area because in this you share about avoiding cultural deviations such as vegetarianism, animal rights, anti-fur, drug use of all sorts, glorification of athletes, celebrity worship, etc. I think I have a basic idea of what you mean but I am a little confused. I went to nursing school and of course I gave medication to those who were sick, and one family member has a condition which requires certain medications. You are not referring to these sorts of medication as 'drug use' correct? I was also a bit confused about the vegetarianism issue since I know a few who enjoy this way of eating even though I prefer to eat some meat, but it is not a bad thing if they prefer being vegetarians correct?

This area of what is 'worldly' and what is 'not worldly' causes so much confusion and causes so many to feel needlessly guilty I think, but I do understand your concern that we do need to use caution in these areas. In the area of fantasy, it seems that children do use their imagination quite vividly and I never scolded them for doing so, or from learning lessons from Aesop's fables etc that do use a bit of fantasy or imagination to teach some good life lessons. I guess people are convicted in this area in different ways and what may seem to bother some people's consciences, does not really bother the conscience of another. It's rather confusing, but I do agree with you that we definitely should not engage in celebrity worship, glorification of athletes etc.

Response #5:

Thanks as always for your good and honest words. I appreciate your candor and your love for our Lord and for His truth – nothing is more important in this life.

On your latest question, of course you are correct on both counts. There is a difference between acceptable and (nowadays) necessary medical therapy and the abuse of substances; there is also a difference between preferring certain types of food and making a religion out of abstinence from some. Here are some links on the former:

Don't stop taking your medication.

Christian use of medical care.

Heroic medicine.

And here is one on the other topic: "Vegetarianism verses not eating meat".

Keep fighting the good fight.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

What do you think about a believer watching the Walking Dead.

Response #6:

When it comes to the question of television and other cultural things, all art, "good and bad", is essentially mimesis, that is, an imitation of reality. If it were identical with reality, it wouldn't be art, it would be news (although there is certainly a good deal of fiction even in the news nowadays). Art appeals to us because it is close to reality but different enough that we get pleasure out of comparing the two. Since it's not truth, there is thus a fundamental "problem" with all art and all culture from the divine point of view, and believers should be aware of this. That said, avoiding everything that has any sort of cultural or artistic content would require believers to "go out of the world", and that is impossible (1Cor.5:10). One cannot even enter a church without encountering "Christian art" on the walls and windows and in the architecture, for example, and that is also essentially what hymns are too (and I've never heard a hymn where there wasn't some liberty taken with the actual truths of the Bible, no matter how "inspiring" it may be; see the link: Christian music).

When it comes to secular art, clearly, some things are worse than others. Hard core pornography is worse than "Mary Poppins", for example. But while any prudent Christian should obviously steer clear of the former, it's not as if the latter is pure (as I recall, there are all manner of magical things that happen in that Disney movie). So while some things are clear enough, trying to draw an absolute line on this issue is impossible. Some Christians have tried to do so. Older fundamentalist groups used to prohibit playing cards, dancing, and going to the movies. I note that like many cultural activities none of these things is pure, but none necessarily involves gross sin (or even any sin). We've mentioned movies. Similarly, the Tango involves more intimate contact than square-dancing, and objectively speaking high-stakes stud poker in Las Vegas is much more dangerous than a game of "Go Fish" with the grand-kids.

So where does a person the draw the line on these things? Absolute abstinence is never a bad thing in and of itself – although it's impossible to be "pure" and live in the world: if you go to the supermarket, you will hear rock music on the speaker system (for example), and you will see questionable material on the add posters on the bus that takes you there (for example), and on the tabloids at the checkout. In my view, as long as a Christian is not convicted in his or her heart that something is sinful, including watching television, then it is permissible. But there are three caveats here: 1) We have to be honest with ourselves and actually listen to the Holy Spirit. We have to recognize that just because we want to do something (like participate in the March madness betting pool at work) does not mean that our conscience is not convicting us that we really shouldn't do it. Distinguishing such judgment calls and being true to what one actually believes is a good part of what spiritual maturity is all about. 2) We have to realize that just because something is not sinful is not a reason to do it; in fact, there may be very good reasons not to do certain things that, by themselves, are not necessarily sinful. "All things are permissible; but not all things are profitable" (1Cor.6:12; 10:23). We may really want to watch that 24 hour marathon of old Gilligan's Island reruns – but is it really the best use of our time? And if doing so causes us to skip Bible study, show up for work bleary-eyed, and short-change our relationships, how would that not be sinful? 3) It is also the case that in some situations we do have to take the feelings and opinions of other Christians into account. We are not to allow ourselves to be bullied, but it is true that we should take the views of weaker Christians into consideration in such "disputable matters" if and when they are observing us. So if Christian A is over at Christian B's house, and they decide to watch TV, and if Christian B turns on "The Walking Dead" (or Mary Poppins), convinced in his/her heart that it is an innocuous thing to watch it, but then Christian A says "it's not Christian to watch stuff like that!", in such an instance it would be the honorable thing to do to change the channel – rather than the debating the point; not because B is convinced of the truth of what A says, but because B does not want to be a party to the destruction of A's conscience (Romans chapter 14).

I have addressed similar such points in the past and have posted the material. You might want to have a look at the following links:

Satanic Influence in Video Games and Television

Television and Christianity (see #5)

Graven images and Mimesis

Christianity versus Contemporary Kitsch

What does the Bible say about Humor?

Feng Shui

Culture and Christianity I

Culture and Christianity II

Culture and Christianity III

Culture and Christianity IV

Culture and Christianity V

Culture and Christianity VI

Culture and Christianity VII

Culture and Christianity VIII

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

The Bible doesn’t say that drugs were used in sorcery, it says that using drugs is engaging in sorcery. We are in no way to use drugs "socially" today, and for you to suggest that it’s a matter of one’s personal opinion is wrong.

Response #7:

I certainly do not believe that "using drugs socially is OK or a matter of personal opinion", nor do I believe that the Bible gives any such permission. Would you mind sharing with me where you think you found this at Ichthys?

These are important issues and none of us wants to be "mixed up" about them, on purpose or otherwise.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #8:

I have personal problem on how to deal with a certain sin in my life. I am very aware of what the Bible say on drunkenness, but I will have to confess that sometimes especially when am stressed I take a bottle of beer. Each time I promise the Lord that I will not try it again but a situation will arise. I don't want it to result in drunkenness or sin. Any advice?

Response #8:

When it comes to chronic behavior problems, that is something I think it fair to say that all believers struggle with at some point. Gaining victory over any such area of one's life takes self-discipline, determination, and a willingness to take full responsibility for the bad choices one makes. It also means approaching the issue in complete truth. To that end, while I would never wish to encourage a fellow believer to do something he/she feels is wrong, I feel it incumbent upon me to point out that drunkenness is a sin, but drinking itself is not. In the ancient world, it seems that all of the early believers of the Bible drank wine (containing alcohol). There are a very few notable exceptions such those who had taken a Nazarite vow for the period when they were under that vow, and also Timothy – whom Paul tells to take some wine for the benefit of health and digestion (1Tim.5:23). Of course Paul also condemns drunkenness on more than one occasion (Gal.5:21; 1Tim.3:8; Ti.2:3). One of the main differences is that at that time, since everyone drank wine with water as a sort of medicinal and purification aid (lots of bad water), people tended to be more comfortable with doing so in moderation from an early age – generally speaking (there was still drunkenness as the verses cited indicate).

Once it is accepted that excessive alcohol use is a sin (though moderate drinking is not), part of the calculus here also is for a Christian to take two other factors into consideration: 1) if a person has a tendency to drunkenness and is not really able to use alcohol in moderation but very easily falls into drunkenness, then that person would be wise to abstain from alcohol use entirely. As a beloved seminary professor once remarked when asked if drinking necessarily led to drunkenness, "It always did in my case" (until he stopped entirely); 2) it is also true that as Christians we need to be concerned about how our brothers and sisters in Christ will react to our behavior. The "law of love" explained by Paul in Romans chapter 14 indicates that if my behavior is not sinful but nevertheless causes my brother to fall into sin, then I should abstain (at least in my brother's presence). This is different, it is important to note, from allowing oneself to be bullied by self-righteous individuals who are not genuinely concerned but merely interested in dictating to others what they may or may not do. Sadly, there is much of the latter in the contemporary church-visible, often promoted as church policy, and I would not suggest yielding to such pressure.

If a person has decided to stay away from / give up any sort of behavior that is either 1) most definitely sinful, or 2) merely unhelpful in their running of the Christian race, then the means and manner of doing so will differ with the time, place, circumstance and particular characteristics of the person in question. A couple of things that are good to keep in mind, however, are 1) staying completely away from "whatever it is" and not allowing oneself any leeway of contact with the thing that is found offensive will help; 2) recognizing that this is a choice, and that success will greatly depend upon how determined we are to implement that choice. As I say, taking responsibility is the key. It is well and good to ask God for help in the process and also to solicit prayer from our brothers and sisters. Ultimately, however, when it is a question of something having to do with our own free will, God does not take that free will away. We are left here on this earth as Christians after salvation to make choices. That includes both the good choices we ought to make to seek out the truth of the Word of God, believe it, walk with Christ, and help others do the same through the ministries our Lord leads us into, but also the good choices we ought to make to pursue sanctification and lead a disciplined life of which we will feel no shame.

None of us is perfect; all of us sin and need to confess when we do; there will always be room for improvement; but it is also the case that a sanctified life is the "normal" status of the believer who has attained spiritual maturity and is walking closely with Jesus. Both of these things, by the way, are complementary, and cannot really be separated very effectively for very long. Those who set themselves to stay away from anything that looks like sin but without growing in Christ will quickly lapse into legalism wherein they may appear righteous through abstaining from obvious sins, but inside will be a different story. Those who love the Word and grow in their trust in Jesus but allow themselves to behave in un-Christian ways will find this dichotomy very uncomfortable to their consciences – especially when the Lord begins to discipline them for their waywardness. To be safe and to be effective in serving Christ in this life, all of us need to love the Word and pursue it day by day, even as we keep the walls against sinful and counterproductive behavior in good repair.

Here are some other links which speak to this issue which you may find helpful.

Are Christians forbidden from drinking alcohol?

Wine in scripture

Should Christian leaders refrain from drinking in public?

Alcohol use and the Bible

Keep fighting the good fight of faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, my friend!

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Thank you Dr.,

I want to know if Christians should observe the Lent as we do communion.

Thank in advance.

Response #9:

I don't observe Lent myself:

You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
Galatians 4:10-11 NIV

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Colossians 2:17 NIV

On the other hand, there are plenty of weak brothers and sisters out there who are hide-bound to traditional religion, and it is our burden to be tolerant – at least when we are not being bullied by them to do likewise and when no one is making a doctrinal point on the issue:

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.
Romans 14:5 NIV

The closer to Jesus we grow, the farther away we often travel from our brethren in this "crooked and perverse generation". Laodicea is in general not interested in the truth. But that just makes finding other believers like yourself who do actually put the Word of God first all that much more sweet.

Yours in Him who is the truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #10:

Should the church pay taxes?

Response #10:

Taxes are part of government which is established by God (Rom.13:1ff.); if the government requires churches to pay taxes, they should pay taxes. The bigger question is why are Christians organizing themselves into formalized entities with dedicated structures and discernible income which can be identified and taxed in this way in the first place? In my view, denominations, for example, are not biblical.

Question #11:

I would like to know are we obliged to pay tithe. Will I go to hell if I do not?

Response #11:

No, tithing was a sort of "income tax" for the nation of Israel; it is not necessary for Christians today, and nothing untoward happens to those who do not tithe. Those who claim tithes must be given, however, are flirting with divine displeasure (if not also receiving it). In terms of salvation, all believers are saved; only unbelievers go to hell (Jn.3:17-18).

Question #12:

Dear Professor Bob,

I was thinking I might be calling you inappropriately. I would appreciate if you could tell me how would I call you. Now Let's me ask you again. How is your opinion on tithe, should Christian give tithe? How do you accept about tithe in Malachi 6, and about Abraham giving it to Melchizedek? Please understand me I am not interrogating you. I would like to know the truth in the Bible and to have a deeper knowledge of faith in Jesus Christ. I really appreciate your times and being so patient to me so far. Please let me be your spiritual pupil.

Thank you so much.

God bless.

With best regard,

Response #12:

Bob is fine (or Prof. Bob or whatever you prefer).

On tithing, that was a system for the nation of Israel under the Mosaic Law. We are not Israel, and we are not under the Mosaic Law. Also, the "tenth" is not as simple as some would have it (see the links below). For one thing, this is an agricultural rate designed for an ancient economy, not a monetary rate designed for a modern one (but wherever groups "tithe" nowadays they always do so in money, not produce). In any case, there is no indication from the New Testament that believers in the Church Age are to tithe. Tithing is something churches, religious groups, and some religious leaders emphasize because they want the money. Giving money to support the work of the true Church of Jesus Christ is indeed legitimate, but there is no set "rate".

[So let] each one [give] as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
2nd Corinthians 9:7 NKJV

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first [day] of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.
1st Corinthians 16:1-2 NKJV

As these passages indicate, a person should give as he/she is moved in his/her heart by the Spirit to do so, and as he/she has the financial ability to do so. Demanding a tenth from people who are poor and destitute is a horrible and in my opinion sinful thing to do.

There is also such a thing as the gift of giving:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Romans 12:6-8

If God prospers us materially, then it is good and right to want to share our bounty with our brothers in sisters in Christ who have not been blessed in this way, especially if they are in serious material need. However, giving ten percent to an organization, almost any organization, strikes me as perhaps the worst possible way to approach this issue. Not only is the amount wrong (it will always be less than ten percent if a person is not very wealthy, and if a person is very wealthy and has been given the gift and responsibility of giving then ten percent may fall short of what the Spirit is really leading the individual to do), but there is also the problem that no organization is perfect in how it will deal with the gift given. It is always better to give directly and personally rather than indirectly and impersonally, and if the latter is needful, it is always better to give locally and on the most basic level rather to some large organization. That does not mean that we cannot or never should give to a church or a denomination or a large para-church group or charity. But it does mean that giving ten percent to such a group, while they will be happy for it, is not only not required by scripture but is also likely to place an unnecessary burden upon the giver without in fact achieving very much for Christ. After all, most churches and most charities are not really doing much for Jesus, and what they are "doing" is often done with questionable motives and in wasteful bureaucratic ways. Of course God honors what we do, but if we are giving out of the incorrect idea that we have to pony up 10%, and if we give to a graceless church where the Bible is not being taught, then we are probably wasting a lot of money without any sort of compensatory credit redounding to our heavenly account. Our first objective ought to be our own spiritual growth, next our application of the truth we learn and believe to our Christian walk, and finally the prosecution of our own ministries and exploitation of the particular spiritual gifts we have been given – that is how we will best help others. If we short ourselves in any of these because of "tithing", then we are making a bad bargain. Giving is great. All Christians should give. But not to the detriment of those dependent upon them or to the disadvantage of what they have been called to do.

As to Malachi, indeed, if we were living in ancient Israel, then the Levitical priesthood and the national temple rite would be entirely dependent upon the tax or tithes that were brought in. Sacrifices cost money. The priests and Levites could not devote full-time effort to the requirements of the Law without being supported. But none of that is the case today. Churches with full time pastors and dedicated buildings cannot survive without gifts, but these are not national entities supported by the entire population and required by God (for Israel, not for us). Everyone in Israel was required to tithe. Only Christians need be concerned about the issue of giving today, and since there is not a national religion to support, and since church membership is voluntary, there is no tithing required (as the passages from Paul above make clear). Indeed, there are so few churches worth associating with, that I would counsel any believer to be careful about formalizing such a relationship whereby they would assume a responsibility to give. And if a church were really more interested in teaching the Word of God than all the other hoopla which has traditionally come to be associated with the idea of "church", then a building might not be necessary and a pastor-teacher might be able to do the job in his spare time. Once the house church grew to the point of needing to rent space, and, more to the point, once the group decided that they wanted more than one or two lessons a week, then the first order of business would be to provide for support for the pastor to liberate some or all of his time; the second (if it ever came up) would be to think about a permanent space. But churches today tend to worship buildings, numbers, and money . . . which is why you can't find the Bible being taught in a sound and substantive way as the first, second and only priority in very many brick-and-mortar places at all.

Abraham did give a tenth to Melchizedek, but 1) this was a special offering of the spoils of a victory; there is no indication that Abraham gave a tenth every year of all he had; and 2) Melchizedek was a priest, that is, a head-of-nation patriarchal priest, an office comparable to the later Levitical priesthood, so that supporting his national and patriarchal priesthood is more analogous to what took place in Israel than it is to what we have in the Church today.

Here are some links to where this issue is discussed:

Is Tithing Net or just 'Gross'?

Tithing

Tithing and the Book of Life

Tithes and Tithing

Christian giving

Charity

Giving and Ichthys

You are certainly welcome to write me any time, my friend!

I wish you all the best in your efforts to grow spiritually and draw closer to our dear Lord Jesus.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Dear Prof. Bob,

I agreed that we are no longer under Moses Law but Jesus said he doesn't come to abolish the Moses law but to fulfill it which I understand is even though we are not required to follow it literally we have responsibility to to do it with our free will as a follower of Jesus Christ. And in my understanding OT is all about Israel people and God, it does not directly speak to us but I believe indirectly it does to us. Therefore, about tithe even though we do not have a national or state religion as it is the word of God revealed to his prophet if we dismiss and ignore it could it be not obeying God? Yes Jesus does not talk about it any thing literally but he said that he has come to fulfill all what prophesied in OT. So, do you think it is good to distinguish the words of God that is not for us and this is only for Judah or Israel? And would it be good of us believers to take the words of God only what we think is related to us?

Thanks for patiently answering all my questions all the times.

God bless.

Response #13:

I certainly agree with all you say here. In my view, the truth of the principle behind tithing is what is applicable to all believers at all times, namely the principle of giving. If we are blessed, we should give. If we are blessed with a special windfall, we should not neglect giving in its distribution. If we are being benefitted by a ministry (the way that all Israel benefitted from the temple and the Levitical priesthood), then we should most definitely do our part to support that ministry according to how the Lord has blessed us to be able to do so.

On the one hand, it would be absolutely incorrect to say that because tithing is part of the Law that Christians have no responsibility to give whatsoever since we are not under the Law – and that false notion is directly contradicted by many scriptures.

On the other hand, it is equally wrong to say that because the Law mandated tithing to the religious authority of the time that Christians have to give 10% of their monetary income to some church – there is nothing in the New Testament that comes anywhere close to suggesting this.

Indeed, as pointed out before, local churches and traditional denominations are not national religions established by God Himself, and tithing one's crops and flocks in an agricultural economy is a much different thing from giving 10% of one's yearly income in the modern era. Since tithing was a national tax (a person could be fined or theoretically executed for not doing so), the tithe set a fair upper limit for all. I don't know about Australia, but I can tell you that in this country we are not under-taxed.

If a Christian joins a church, well, it seems right and proper to me that said Christian support that church he/she has joined. Personally, as I say, I know of very few churches worthy of attending, let alone joining so as to participate even more closely with their errors. If the church in question demands 10%, in my opinion that is sign right there that there is no grace in the establishment and that they care more about money than "rightly dividing the Word of truth".

If a Christian wants to give, there are many ways and many places to do so. If a Christian wants to give 10%, well, after all, that is not a sin – unless the person makes the mistake of thinking they will get some special blessing from God for doing so (in which case the right thing of giving becomes the wrong thing of works over against grace). And if a Christian is voluminously blessed by the Lord, it may be that the right thing is to give voluminously (and that could well exceed 10%).

As our Lord remarked in noting the contribution of the widow who contributed only a small amount, she had given more since she gave out of her poverty while other gave out of their wealth. God knows what we have, what we need, what it really costs us to do what we do, and He rewards or disciplines us accordingly. Blessedly, life is (ultimately) fair because God is fair. Even though to the world's eyes the opposite may be true, not even a cup of cold water offered in the Lord's Name will fail to be eternally rewarded. Our job as Christians ought to be to serve the Lord in the correct way and to the maximum extent we can, and not get hung up on legalistic restraints. I have little doubt that most who "feel good" for giving "10%" are probably giving to the wrong amount for the wrong reasons and will get little to no benefit on the day of judgment for their legalistic actions.

If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
1st Corinthians 3:12-15 NIV

Do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Dear Prof. Bob,

Thank you very much in deed. I think you have given me a very clear explanation. It is in valuable to me for my faith development. Let me ask you again please. I understood that your point of view is that the term tithe is not to be used by Christians. If we are bless in wealth the giving is less or more than tithe. Some pastors say; there are many kinds of giving such as offering, tithe, thanks giving, seed faith, evangelism, alms giving, etc. And they always encourage Christians should give as much as they can some might be regularly, some might be depend on how they feel on what they have been provided by God, some might be helping others with what they can give collected on one Sunday or on other occasions. Your point is that there is only one kind of giving (in terms of giving money). If we are not bless in wealth then we are not required to give money. We are rather to serve in other ways that with the gift we received from God. For example let say I am not bless in wealth, the money I received from my salary is just enough for my family living, paying mortgage and other expenses. I cannot help the poor. But I have other skill that is not to help with money and if I serve others with that skill then I should be feeling sorry for not being able to give money those who in need. Not sure if you understand my English and get my point. Thank you again for having opportunity to contact with you

Thanks

Response #14:

Good to hear from you, my friend. I don't mind the term tithe. What I object to is pastors and churches laying a guilt trip on others in order to pressure them to give money. You are absolutely right: there are many types of giving, not just money. We are all one body, the Church, and giving money is only one small area in which we are to fulfill our responsibility to do our part to edify Christ's Body. First we grow, then we progress in our walk with the Lord passing the tests that come, then we help others to do so too in many ways but primarily in using the gifts we've been given, and these span every aspect of life and faith.

Honestly, asking for money is something I think churches and pastors should never ever do. If people aren't motivated to give without having their arms twisted, then they shouldn't give in any case (because their motives are then impure). This is one of the biggest symptoms of the lukewarmness I know of in our current era of Laodicea. In the church-visible today it's become all about how many come on Sunday and how much money they give. Whereas true Christianity is really all about learning the Word of truth, believing and applying that truth to our lives, and making use of the ministry opportunities Christ gives us to aid other Christians who want to grow and walk with Jesus too.

False guilt, forced contributions and the legalism and corrupt motivations that engender them have no place in the true Church of Jesus Christ. About the only good thing I can say about tithing or pressuring Christians to give money is that it is a wonderful warning: if a believer finds him/herself in a place that does either, they should get out ASAP.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I am in a dilemma and I'm uncertain as to what I should do biblically. My family member wants me to go to Las Vegas with him and I feel like just being in that city is wrong because it's called "Sin City". He said that San Francisco is worse than Vegas and besides, he said that he's going only for the food. My brother says that he's a Christian too. A few verses came to my mind such as Paul stating how we have liberty in certain things as long as it doesn't cause a brother to stumble. And conflicting verses came to my mind such as abstaining from all appearances of sin. My brother wants to know if I'm willing to go with him but I am undecided. What does the bible say in regards to these matters?

God Bless,

Response #15:

I don't think it's a problem going to a particular town (Corinth was a hot bed of paganism, cult prostitution, et al., but Paul visited there often with a good purpose). It depends what a person does wherever they are – rather than where they are. Of course, I would never encourage a person with an alcohol addiction to visit the breweries in Milwaukee or someone with a gambling addiction to go casino hopping in Las Vegas. Bottom line: if there really isn't anything one can do in a particular place that is not sinful, why go?

I just say something on the business news while eating lunch today that the entertainment and food industry has finally caught up to gambling and they are hosting a lot of conventions there now (a good Christian lady friend went to a convention there last summer). What with casinos on almost every street corner around the US nowadays, I suppose Las Vegas has ceased to be terribly unique in regard to gambling. I stopped there once traveling through a couple of decades ago to gas up and get lunch, and the place gave me the creeps.

The whole world lies in the lap of the evil one, and we believers always have to keep that in mind regardless of whether or not the place we find ourselves seems evil or "holy". There is plenty of sin and evil to go around.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hello Robert:

I have emailed you several times, but it has been a couple of years since the last one. You have ALWAYS been a huge encouragement to me and have given me wonderful Biblical advice. For that I thank you.

I have been meeting with a young lady who posed a question. I didn't have an exact answer for her about what the scriptures say. I do know that we are suppose to work hard and not get our income from "quick gain". I am not a gambler and have a conviction against it because it "in my opinion" it goes against God's word. But that is my own interpretation. Would you consider this a gray area?

Thank you,

Response #16:

Good to hear from you again. I have been keeping you and your family in prayer, and I do hope all goes well there.

As to your question, you seem to me to be analyzing it exactly right. There are plenty of things which are sinful yet are not spelled out specifically as such in the Bible; and there are plenty of other things which, while not technically sinful, are "not profitable", because 1) they are a waste of time and effort and resources; 2) they may lead us into bad behaviors and away from what we ought to be doing instead; 3) they may result in other Christians being compromised or led astray. While it is possible that some forms of low-level wagering may in certain cases not run afoul of any of the above, in my opinion, that would be the exception rather than the rule. It is a matter of personal application; I would not think to tell anyone they cannot or should not gamble in any form or at any time. But in terms of "disputable matters", gambling seems to me to be far less "disputable" on this score than many other things. Please do feel free to write me back about any of this. Here are some links:

Gambling co-workers

Should Christians play poker?

Should Christians play the lottery?

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Dr. Luginbill,

While studying in Ezekiel chapter 47, I came to verse 21 and I pondered the question-Does God direct His children to not only accept the aliens among them but to also give them an inheritance in the land? Lately, this topic of aliens has been such an issue and debate among my family members that I just wanted to hear your answer. I know you don’t agree with believers getting involved with politics, but doesn’t this scripture teach us to act and not just stand by idly.

Thank you for providing your web and encouraging studying of the scriptures.

Your friend in Christ,

Response #17:

Thanks as always for your generous words. As to your question, of course Ezekiel 47:21 will take place during the Millennium when Christ Himself will rule the world in a perfect way (and we shall rule with Him), so one would need a perfect Ruler and a perfect environment for a similar approach today (and of course we are nowhere close to either). It is true that there are a number of passages in the Old Testament dealing with non-Jews, some of which command tolerance (as you reference; e.g., Deut.23:7-8), others which indicate a continuing degree of separation, e.g.:

All the people [who were] left of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, who [were] not of the children of Israel – that is, their descendants who were left in the land after them, whom the children of Israel had not been able to destroy completely – from these Solomon raised forced labor, as it is to this day.
1st Kings 9:20-21 NKJV

Israel was a theocratic state, after all, and never a democracy, so we have to exercise care in applying parallels to our time and situation (as you rightly note). That said, I do think that an attitude of nationalistic exceptionalism which disadvantages other people as individuals simple because they are not "us" is not appropriate for anyone having anything having to do with the Church of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, no Christian who is truly walking with the Lord will be under the satanic delusion that "fixing" social problems has anything to do with following Jesus. We are individuals, and we relate to others in the world as individuals. Example: being kind to a person who is not native born, whether in material or spiritual ways (or both), is certainly legitimate; lobbying Congress for a particular policy which will affect all manner of people we have not met in all sorts of ways we cannot anticipate and calling this "good" is likely to be evil instead (and that goes for either side of the debate). Individual charity is wonderful. Collective political action is almost never legitimately Christian. And anything in-between should at the very least be treated with skepticism because when the actions pass beyond what one can personally see and check and vet and control, anything can happen (and usually does).

It is classic satanic manipulation to appeal to good intentions like genuine Christian love and to try and enlist those feelings in actions and movements which have nothing to do with Christ but everything to do with Satan's cosmos (see the link: SR 4: "Satan's World System"). When it comes to anything political, the best policy in my view is to stay away from having anything to do with it, and to bite one's tongue when such subjects come up. Naturally, we are just human, and we have emotions and opinions and will never be perfect in regard to the latter. But if we try to defend first the ground of our hearts (remembering that we are here for bigger and more important purposes than any political act could ever address, that people are saved and grow as individuals, not as groups, and that God is actually in control of all things), then we will be better able to defend the ground of our "tongue", so that even if we do forget the big picture and our heart grows hot and we speak (Ps.39:1-6), we will realize pretty quickly that we are getting out of line and will never be seriously tempted to make the really fatal mistake of committing to deep political involvement.

After all, "social gospel" is where all groups and denominations that are not interested in the truth of God's Word eventually end up, and that always ends in having everything to do with politics but little if anything to do with God. More to the point, those who with "good intentions" go down this road always end up moving away from God and in some cases fatally so. Since during the soon to come Tribulation one third of true Christians will "bite" on exactly this sort of appeal from antichrist, namely, that he is Christ and come to "fix" the world, now more than ever Christians who want to stay faithful in their walk with the Lord ought to double down on their intake and application of the truth just as they strive to keep themselves for all of the world's pollution, politics included.

Yours in Jesus Christ who is the Lord of all in every way,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Once again, thank you for setting me straight. I am prone to get all emotional when seeing or hearing about the evils done under the sun; my mind says there is something that Americans could do. Now, I understand that is not what I am here for and instead, my heart says pray for those and that God's will be done.

I am learning and studying from all the scripture in the SR4 link you sent; that is why it has taken me a while to get back to you. Passing on much information to my family to get them ready.

Your friend and a servant of Christ our Saviour,

Response #18:

Thanks so much for this kind and considerate email. You clearly have a good heart, and I rejoice that you are directing it down good paths for personal spiritual growth and for the help and blessing of others too. It is also always an encouragement to me to hear when my fellow believers in Jesus find these materials helpful to that cause.

Please do feel free to write back any time.

Your brother in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:

You wrote: When they had finished, Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn and went out into the night toward the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane (Matt.26:30; Mk.14:26).

What hymn is meant in these two passages? In a similar vein, could you please explain Ephesians 5:19: speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

I'm aware that you are skeptical about the use of music and, to be honest, so am I, also having seen how it is overemphasized in contemporary churches and how people don't distinguish the spiritual from the emotional. Nevertheless, there are some instances of music in the Bible, even if very few. I'm aware of the following: Psalms, the hymn our Lord sang with the disciples and Ephesians 5:19.

Response #19:

The hymn is unknown. And I find that blessed. Christians today place an enormous amount of importance on music and music ministry: the Bible de-emphasizes it as we see here by giving us no music, no words, and not even a reference (it merely states the fact). Singing psalms in particular is fine; glorifying music over the truth of the Word is a terrible problem in the Church today. Inevitably, hymns composed by human beings are at once 1) wrong in at least some of their doctrinal points, and 2) influential in getting people to make that "wrongness" a part of their spiritual selves.

In the Ephesians passage, "one another" should be translated "yourselves". The third person reflexive is often used for the second person in later Greek. E.g., Mark 9:50: "Have salt in yourselves (Greek en heautois)". It is fine to think about the psalms, for example, as we walk along (I try to do some of that) – and no actual music is necessary to do so. Understood in this way, it is possible to take the "singing" here as metaphorical. After all, Paul actually says "speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" – not singing (as the KJV has it correctly; Greek laleo).

Question #20:

You wrote: Inevitably, hymns composed by human beings are at once 1) wrong in at least some of their doctrinal points (...).

Why is this wrongness inevitable? Would it also apply if the lyrics quite plainly reflect what is written in the Bible?

Response #20:

Possibly because in most cases people with musical talent do not have their compositions vetted for doctrinal accuracy before "launching" them. They simply go with what they think is true or "true enough". Fine for them. I don't have to listen. My main concern is the grave damage this has done to the spirituality of the Church inasmuch as music, especially good music, tends to have an effect out of all proportion to its actual substance because of the emotion it stimulates. We should take care to stimulate our emotions with the truth, not with semi- or pseudo-truth.

Question #21:

Hello, just found this website & I have to say I am amazed at the responses I've read to these questions. This website gives me absolute clarity on many biblical questions I've had. God bless & thank you. My question is "Does God condone or approve of all forms of music that glorify him? I love Christian metal (underoath & the devil wears prada) & I've tried to find the answer but can't really get a clear answer on this. Does scripture address this is any way? A friend once told me I was 'seeking God in a weird way' & that screaming in music cannot glorify God in any way regardless of the content of the lyrics. Whether it be contemporary or the old school hymns, I enjoy all worship music. Satan is the king of deception & as the powerful musical creature he is by nature, he can fool & away many into ALL forms of music even the most soothing & calm. Would it be considered an oxymoron to consider God to favor worship in all forms of music if the music represented brings glory & worship to him?

Response #21:

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks much for your kind words.

It seems to me as if you understand all the issues involved amazingly well – very much better than the average Christian. Of course, just because we understand the issues, doesn't mean that doing the right thing is easy. When it comes to something as personal as the enjoyment of music, it is important to point out that everyone's taste is a bit different. My opinions about music generally and Christian music in particular are not so much about form as they are about function. As you correctly note, music is incredibly influential. When I was in the Marines many years ago, "boom-boxes" were all the rage and we used to call them "life support systems". That was a good joke, but it also does get to the issue that for many people music is a sort of emotional crutch. And it can also be a sort of a warping emotional influence. As Christians, we are responsible for how we think and, to a lesser a degree, how we "feel". As our spiritual growth increases, we begin to give much more attention to God's point of view than what we can see, hear or feel. Eventually, our emotions will more and more follow our divinely attuned thinking rather than the other way around (though we will always have to be ready to ignore or battle them when circumstances cause them to react inappropriately; see the link). Non-Christian music will rarely contribute to that process and in many cases works at cross-purposes to it – precisely because it is emotionally manipulative and its content at the very least is usually unhelpful. "Christian" music has, in this regard, more rather than less problems in my view. That is because music is powerful, and it imparts its power to the lyrics that accompany it (and these may possess their own poetic power too). I call this a "problem" because Christian lyrics are never 100% biblical; they may contain elements of the truth, but, not being scripture, they are not "the truth". In fact, since they are inevitably written by people who – although they may be good artists – are not possessed of any particular spiritual stature or exegetical skill, lyrics to Christian music always tend to be "off" in some critical way. The more powerful the music and the poetry of the lyrics, therefore, any questionable message contained therein is given a good deal of noxious power. People may go around humming a lyric which is sending a wrong or a bad message, even if the "wrongness" is only five or ten percent off target.

I certainly don't mean to imply that Christians shouldn't write, play, sing, listen to "spiritual music". This is all a case of "all things are permissible, but not all things are profitable". Everyone has to make their own decisions about such things (i.e., cultural practices which are neither sinful nor spiritually beneficial but which take up time, effort and energy: sports, TV, hobbies, what have you); none of us is perfect. Problems come when a person starts to think that such things are intrinsically good or, worse yet, a suitable substitute for what every Christian really needs to be doing: growing spiritually through the Word of God, utilizing the truths learned from the Bible and Bible class by believing them and living by them, and helping others do likewise through the particular ministry to which each has been called. This process of substitution of musical efforts for genuine spiritual growth is seen most tragically in the average church today, whether denominational or independent, whether small or "mega": music tends to be the reason people show up and the only thing they really get while there. That is such a reversal of the proper order of things that it deserves a certain amount of censure – even if the music is objectively "good".

Praise the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
Psalm 149:1-3 NIV

And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
Revelation 14:3 NIV

These (and many other) verses of scripture are sufficient to demonstrate that praising the Lord in song is good and legitimate, and that we will be doing so for all eternity. It is well to note, however, that in the first passage above, the praise is part of scripture and so it is inspired by the Spirit and completely "correct", whereas in the second passage the music is given to the resurrected 144,000 directly from God. So in both cases above, the lyrics are perfect and the occasions, methods, and manners are perfect. That is an impossible standard for any modern day Christian musician to meet, of course, but it should be a reminder that just because the Lord's name appears in a song does not make other music necessarily beneficial under any circumstances, and there are plenty of circumstances where even a "good song" would not be appropriate (if it were replacing Bible teaching because it is "more fun", for example).

We find ourselves on the doorstep of the Tribulation, and thus we live in a time of most intensive spiritual warfare. There will come a time for celebrating the Lord's second advent victory when He accomplishes it at His return, and of course we ought at all times to be mindful of His first advent victory on the cross (on which all depends). But ticker-tape parades are for when the war is over; at present, we are under enemy fire and we ought to be doing all we can to advance spiritual through the demonic shot and shell. Cowering in our foxholes instead is a poor substitute, no matter how loudly we sing.

Here are some pertinent links which cover some of the issues broached above (do feel free to write me back about any of the above):

Strangers in the Devil's Realm

Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?

The Battlefield Within

Our New Orientation as Born Again Believers

The Influence of Music

Christian Music

More on Christian Music

Negative Effects of Christian Music

"Worship Services"

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #22:

Dear Brother,

Thank you very much for your response & it has cleared up a lot of confusion for me. As a follow up to my original question, I wanted to quickly note that by no means do I believe that any music, especially Christian music should deviate from biblical truths & scripture or serve as the purpose of only being an emotional crutch for the listening audience. With that being said, It would seem as though God could provide spiritual truth as well as spiritual food, in such music. Is it 'The Truth'? Absolutely not. But certainly, it can aid to The truth of the word & by which I believe that might be God's divine purpose for using all forms of music. When I listened to The devil wears pradas album 'Dead Throne', which promotes God's perspective of materialism, & anti-idolatry, it changed my perspective quite a bit on realizing that I had put many things before God. The content of the lyrics did have any direct reference to scripture but was inspired by scripture & truth which led me back to the Bible. My point of this follow up is to point out that the music can play a huge role in our spiritual walk if applied correctly. If there is anything you can add as far as scripture or anything else that can shed some more light on me for this subject, please do so. I'm just out of college & I'm trying to take my biblical studies more seriously. Thank you very much & God bless

Response #22:

I certainly understand. The references in the links provided (along with what I wrote) are about all I have to say on the matter. I understand that different people have different needs, and I certainly don't mean to quibble about that. I hear people tell me all the time that they are spiritually encouraged and edified by the rituals of, for example, the Episcopal Church. Personally, I don't get it. But then it takes all kinds. As a Bible teacher, and as someone who knows first hand the power of the unadulterated truth of scripture taught in a doctrinal and systematic way, ancillary things, especially things which eat up time, effort, money and emotion, strike me as inefficient uses of the grace we have been given and the great opportunities God offers for spiritual growth through the Word of God. Something is better than nothing, I suppose. Still, when the something which is only marginally better than nothing comes to be thought of as almost the all and the everything, a very poor bargain has been struck. This problem is compounded if in the process of substituting junk food for healthy spiritual nutrition the Christian in question renders him/herself spiritually unprepared for the trials of life (an especially important concern as we approach the Tribulation with great speed now). Music was never designed by God to replace the truth of scripture; the most it can do is to support a believer who already has gained or is in the process of gaining spiritual maturity (and this assumes that the music in question really does contain something valuable and not too much misleading). But the occasional spiritual insight or emotional high that such music delivers is absolutely no substitute for doing what every Christian should be doing as "job #1": growing spiritually by learning and believing the truth of the Word through Bible reading, Bible study, and attention to Bible teaching, applying that truth believed to his/her walk with Jesus Christ, and eventually helping others do the same through whatever ministry Jesus calls that person to.

In hopes of your growth, progress and production for the Lord – that is the only way to earn the three crowns.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Dear Bob,

Awhile ago (more like years ago now, I think) I used to wear the cross a lot, and my fiancee even bought me a rosary to kind of express myself and Christ through me, but some time ago afterward I stopped wearing them because I started thinking about the passage which instructs us to not place marks on ourselves, such as tattoos and the like, you know? I know it specifically says not to do so 'in mourning for the dead', if I remember correctly, but if I remember right the passage was essentially saying not to mark your skin as such because the body is a holy temple to the Lord, right?

I was wondering if the wearing of a cross/rosary counts as such? I know we are called to be essentially 'walking billboards' in Christ and that our actions and behavior should speak for themselves, honorable to Christ, so would wearing a cross be counter-productive or defeat the purpose of those instructions?

Response #23:

I've written about these subjects before and will give you the links below if you are interested in the details. I don't see tattoos and wearing paraphernalia as the exactly same things, but you are correct in bringing out some of the similarities. In my view of such matters, I don't think a good argument can be made that the Bible directly prohibits either. However, the Bible most certainly does not recommend (let alone command) getting tattooed or wearing a cross, beads, etc. To the extent that there is anything positive in scripture about these things, it goes back to the behavioral regulations of the Mosaic Law (e.g., frontlets and tassels et al.), which, as you know, have been largely superseded after the cross. There are plenty of things which are "permissible" (i.e., not directly prohibited by scripture), which are at the same time not "profitable" (i.e., a perfect Christian walk would eschew them in pursuit of the maximum possible growth, progress and ministry to others):

Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be made subject to the authority of anything (i.e., let any behavior compromise spiritual growth).
1st Corinthians 6:12

Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me, but not everything edifies (i.e., contributes to spiritual growth).
1st Corinthians 10:23

Given that without tradition and without copying the behavior of others, no one would wear crosses or beads in the name of Christ or get tattooed as if it were a positive Christian thing to do, it would seem to me that the default stance would be to refrain from either. That is not saying that it is not within a Christian's right of spiritual freedom to do so, but if asked about the advisability I would want to know the motivation. If it is, as you say, "advertising", it would seem to me that the witness of the life and the witness of the Word speak much louder and more clearly than man-made signs and symbols either recently concocted or based upon flawed traditions. That would seem to me to be especially the case for tattoos, crosses, medals and beads, inasmuch as these mean different things to different people. That being the case, how can we know how another person will react to us wearing, say, a St. Christopher medal? Some groups and individuals, I can tell you, will see this as odd, cult-like, even perhaps idolatrous. Of course if we have a different opinion, perhaps we will not care. But if that is the case, what sort of advertising is that? On the other hand, if people see us behaving in a considerate, kind, loving, positive, and helpful way . . . if they see Jesus Christ in what we say and do, how will that not be a much more clear message – and one that cannot be misinterpreted. And if, as a result, we are asked for the basis of our good walk and the reason for our hope, we give out the gospel loud and clear, that will also be a message that does not admit of misinterpretation since the Spirit will take the truth we speak and make it absolutely clear to those who listen. Wearing a cross is easy and means next to nothing. Picking up our cross and following Christ is the hard thing to do, but that is the thing that actually counts.

There is a place for letting others know that we are Christians, and symbols, I suppose, do have their place in this respect. In my opinion, however, this is a case of less being more. So while I would not presume to say that such things have no place whatsoever in the cause of Jesus Christ, my own approach would be to use them sparingly if at all, and to try to do so in a way and in a context which will admit of as little misinterpretation as possible.

Here are those links:

Should Christians wear crucifixes?

Tattoos and Body Markings for Christians? (this will lead to other links as well)

Piercing

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

No question- just a thank you for all the research you give us and what a wonderful gift to us! I so enjoy learning from scripture. You explain so well about The Coming Tribulation and how we are to prepare ourselves, not with stockpiles and arms but with the Sword of the Spirit and the Helmet of Salvation! Thank you for providing us with Bible Links and thank you for taking your very precious time to answer e-mails,

A Believer in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Response #24:

Thank you!

Your good words are greatly appreciated.

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.
 

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