Did Paul Say To Boycott Sinful Businesses Or Engage With Them?
I have argued most recently in this series that not only did Jesus freely associate with sinners and receive material support from the regardless of sinful origins of the wealth, but His immediate disciples and the 70 did as well, both in His presence and away from His presence.
But someone arguing for financial separation from sin might still argue that this is still under Jesus, under His earthly ministry and under His direct supervision and not applicable to followers later. First, this argument is theologically problematic since Jesus argues that His followers will do ‘greater works’ than His, and He promises that His physical absence and the resulting sending of the Holy Spirit is to the advantage of His followers, who were to be imbued with power from on high. Given that, it is hard to see the church being weaker in the face of sin, more susceptible to contagious unholiness rather than what Dr. Craig Blomberg calls in the eponymous book ‘Contagious Holiness.’
Plus the Pauline epistles settle the matter. Christian in a faraway city who have never met Jesus in the flesh still have enormous freedom when it comes to commercial dealings.
But did Paul not say that Christians were to ‘come out from among them…’?
Yes, but he makes clear that his command not to associate with immoral people had nothing to do with non-believers:
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler– not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges…
I Cor. 5:9-13 NAS
It is not practically possible to separate from ‘wicked Mammon.’ And if it’s not practically possible, then it is not a moral absolute. God does not command what is impossible. God’s command not to sin is physically possible. No outside force makes us gawk at another woman or gossip. We sin because we want to, not because something outside of us compels us to. But we have a physical necessity to deal with outsiders, no matter how hard we try to separate ourselves.
Historically, this conception of holiness has led to ridiculous practices, such as those of Simon Stylites, pictured at the beginning of this article:
“Simeon entered a monastic community but was expelled because of his excessive austerities and became a hermit…popular veneration to such a degree that, to escape the importunities of the people, he began his pillar life … His first column was 2 metres (6 feet) high, later extended to about 15 metres (50 feet), and the platform is said to have been about 1 square metre (about 11 square feet). He remained atop the column for 37 years… “
Note, however, in the image above that food comes up from the sinful world in receptacles and its ultimate result comes down from the pole in (hopefully different) receptacles. Even for a man living on top of a fifty foot tall pole, unrighteous Mammon is unavoidable.
Originally published on Townhall Finance.
Jerry Bowyer is a Forbes contributor, contributing editor of AffluentInvestor.com, and Senior Fellow in Business Economics at The Center for Cultural Leadership.
Jerry has compiled an impressive record as a leading thinker in finance and economics. He worked as an auditor and a tax consultant with Arthur Anderson, as Vice President of the Beechwood Company which is the family office associated with Federated Investors, and has consulted in various privatization efforts for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He founded the influential economic think tank, the Allegheny Institute, and has lectured extensively at universities, businesses and civic groups.
Jerry has been a member of three investment committees, among which is Benchmark Financial, Pittsburgh’s largest financial services firm. Jerry had been a regular commentator on Fox Business News and Fox News. He was formerly a CNBC Contributor, has guest-hosted “The Kudlow Report”, and has written for CNBC.com, National Review Online, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as many other publications. He is the author of The Bush Boom and more recently The Free Market Capitalist’s Survival Guide, published by HarperCollins. Jerry is the President of Bowyer Research.
Jerry consulted extensively with the Bush White House on matters pertaining to the recent economic crisis. He has been quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, The International Herald Tribune and various local newspapers. He has been a contributing editor of National Review Online, The New York Sun and Townhall Magazine. Jerry has hosted daily radio and TV programs and was one of the founding members of WQED’s On-Q Friday Roundtable. He has guest-hosted the Bill Bennett radio program as well as radio programs in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.
Jerry is the former host of WorldView, a nationally syndicated Sunday-morning political talk show created on the model of Meet The Press. On WorldView, Jerry interviewed distinguished guests including the Vice President, Treasury Secretary, HUD Secretary, former Secretary of Sate Condoleezza Rice, former Presidential Advisor Carl Rove, former Attorney General Edwin Meese and publisher Steve Forbes.
Jerry has taught social ethics at Ottawa Theological Hall, public policy at Saint Vincent’s College, and guest lectured at Carnegie Mellon’s graduate Heinz School of Public Policy. In 1997 Jerry gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Robert Morris University. He was the youngest speaker in the history of the school, and the school received more requests for transcripts of Jerry’s speech than at any other time in its 120-year history.
Jerry lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Susan, and the youngest three of their seven children.
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