Bible Verse and Commentary


Alex Knapp

Alex Knapp writes about pretty much everything under the sun, including politics, art, religion, philosophy, sports, music, culture, and science.

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48 Responses

  1. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Jesus is coming to judge those that can’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      I prefer to read that as, “Jesus will be incredibly pleased and probably nut all over himself to send every one of the evil baby boomers straight to Hell; and if you’re one of the Lucky Ones, you can look down on them from Heaven and urinate on them while they roast in the fire, for all of Eternity.”
      But that’s just me.Report

  2. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Seems to me — and I’m not a Christian — that this particular verse doesn’t need a lot of deep reading.

    Jesus instructs: “Feed the hungry. Clothe the poor. Tend to the sick and the old. Treat prisoners with humanity.”

    By indictating that the righteous who failed to do these things in life will be punished by God in the afterlife for their omissions, we are to understand that feeding the hungry, etc. are moral imperatives, affirmative duties deriving from our common humanity, and thus to which there are no exceptions.

    Am I missing something? Why all the spilt ink over splitting hairs about “Treat other human beings like they are, in fact, human beings”?Report

  3. Interesting. I find many people (though I don’t claim to read a lot of straight-up theology) try to use this to support their prefered political stance (or is this what you meant by “torture into non-existence”?).

    I prefer a fairly simple reading: we should try to help people. (Okay, maybe that’s an over-simplification, and we can have debates about what it means in practice, but hopefully my point comes across.)Report

  4. Avatar jc says:

    as a Christian who also reads a fair amount of theology books, I seem to have missed the ones trying to interpret this passage out of existence. Which authors are you reading?Report

    • Avatar Alex Knapp says:

      John Calvin and those who followed in his footsteps, for one.

      All of the “born-again” adherents.

      More recently, and in an entirely different, equally heretical way: T.D. Jakes, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen.Report

      • Avatar Matt Huisman says:

        You know what’s HARD…trying to figure out what you’re getting at.  I’m more interested on the Calvin side, but it seems a bit odd to slam all these guys without even giving a hint of what they may have said/done.


      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Not sure how well you understand John Calvin or his times.   One of Calvin’s first reforms was to make the church responsive to the needs of the poor instead of enriching itself at their expense.   The poor became the responsibility of the deacons, elected for a period of one year.  The Ecclesiastical Ordinances make it clear enough: in summary:

        O vous, sur ces enfants, si chers, si precieux, Ministres du Seigneur, ayez toujours les yeux. f132 It is not with children alone that he concerns himself, it is with all the weak. He thinks of the sick. He fears that many neglect to find consolation in God by His word, and die without the doctrine which would then be to them more salutary than ever; and he requires that no one should be sick more than three days without sending for a minister. He takes thought for the poor, and will have the deacons receive and dispense ‘as well the daily alms as possessions, annuities, and pensions.’ He does not forget the sick poor, and will have ‘them cared for and their wounds dressed.’ He demands for the town hospital a paid physician and surgeon, who shall also visit the other poor.Report

  5. This is my favorite Bible passage, comprising the whole of my theology.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      You realize that’s not an original observation 🙂

      When asked by a non-Jew to relate all the Torah had to say while standing on one foot, Hillel replied, “Do not unto your neighbor what you would not have him do until you; this is the whole Law; the rest is commentary.” Report

      • Indeed not.  I am sure that similar sentiments have been expressed by the wise and good throughout history, in literature both sacred and secular.  I just like the way Jesus says it.

        And I also really like the “consider the lilies of the field” part.Report

        • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

          As a doctor, you know that losing weight requires exercise as well as diet.  (They toil not, nor do they thin.)Report

      • Avatar Derp says:

        I’m always perplexed by people who try to shave away all the more “interesting” parts of scripture for the stuff that is basically common sense. There’s nothing prophetical or revelatory about the notion that we should treat our fellow humans with dignity and respect. It becomes readily apparent you should do those things once you’re mature enough to see and understand the social outcomes of your behavior. If you cheat, lie and steal from your neighbors, you’re going to be lonely and mistrusted. If behave altruistically, you and your offspring have a better chance of survival. That some desert nomads managed to ink those phrases down doesn’t strike me as the least bit impressive, much less divinely inspired. Hell, chimps know this stuff.


      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I prefer Hillel to Jesus.

        Sure, he shoots a little lower but that makes his prescription that much more attainable by everybody.Report

  6. Avatar James B Franks says:

    Luke 6:31  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  That’s pretty much the extent of my theology these days.Report

  7. Avatar Alex Knapp says:

    I run my personal theology through this heuristic, by Karen Armstrong:

    “The one and only test of a valid religious idea, doctrinal statement, spiritual experience, or devotional practice was that it must lead directly to practical compassion. If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express this sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, or self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God’s name, it was bad theology. Compassion was the litmus test for the prophets of Israel, for the rabbis of the Talmud, for Jesus, for Paul, and for Muhammad, not to mention Confucius, Lao-tsu, the Buddha, or the sages of the Upanishads.”Report

  8. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    “Truly I tell you, whatever you did within the free market for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      Well, we all know that the King James edition of the Bible was wrongly translated. Fortunately the Heritage Foundation has recently released an edition of the Bible called “The Prosperity Gospel” which has fixed the original Greek to mean what you just posted.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Verily I say unto you, direct your sympathy for the poor into buying and selling, and the creation of functioning markets, and not into handouts, since both winners and losers in the market are rewarded according to their need. For truly the invisible hand of my father directs all good deeds to those most worthy, and while the spirit moves some to even greater riches, even so the poor attain a wealth of spirit. And that is good.Report

        • Avatar Murali says:

          The thing is stillwater, I actually kind of was nodding along and agreein with you. Then it sort of hit me that you were parodying right-wingers…Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      Yes, it would indeed be unkind to not send people to prison for refusing to buy health insurance.  Kindness is an aggregate, after all, and being a little bit kind to a lot of people balances out being really unkind to a few.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        only in america. swedish prisons are quite pleasant. perhaps you might try one sometime?Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Not that’s its relevant, but in what country do they send people to jail for not buying HC? Hint: that doesn’t happen in the US and there is no provision in PPACA for that.Report

        • Avatar Matty says:

          I’m guessing its something like

          If you don’t buy HC you get a fine

          If you don’t pay the fine you get a court summons

          If you ignore the summons eventually the police come to collect you

          If you fight to stop them taking you to court you can be arrested.

          If you are arrested for attacking a police officer the odds are you will at least spend a few hours in a holding cell and you could end up convicted and sent down.

          Miss out all the intermediate steps and it looks exactly like you can go to jail for not buying HC



  9. Avatar Kazzy says:

    “…I am endlessly fascinated by the amount of ink that’s been spilled in an effort to either torture these verses into non-existence or ignore them completely.  Especially in the past century.”

    Oh, come’on.  SOME of that lives on…  Specifically, this part: “…you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…”  There is no shortage of attention paid to all the cursed folk who will burn in hell.  They just changed the definition of who is cursed.Report

  10. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    It’s worth noting that with very few exceptions, said least do not actually live in the United States. My impression—though I could be wrong about this—is that conservative Christians are actually pretty good about giving to the third-world poor.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      This seems like a very… mathematical interpretation of “least.”Report

      • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

        Mathematical would be “And don’t forget to give to the 7-foot-tall mezzo-sopranos with Ph.Ds in Molecular Biology.  There’s hardly any of them.”Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        I guess. How else would you interpret it, if not to mean the world’s poorest? Demographics which lean strongly Democratic?Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          I think the verses actually refer to circle of influence.
          This is more of an exposition of the parable of Lazarus.
          He’s not referring to “Chase down some poor person, and ____.” It’s about acknowledging what’s in front of you, like Lazarus was in front of the rich man’s gate.
          He’s not referring to the giving of money. Money is a short-hand for expended effort. It by-passes the caring and humanity aspect.
          What Jesus is referring to is the interaction of people.
          He’s talking about living with a charitable heart; not charity as a form of thrill-seeking, or a business transaction.
          He didn’t offer to pay the Samaritan woman for the water from the well, and he didn’t panhandle so that he could make the purchase elsewhere. He didn’t ask someone on the other side of the world.
          He refers to a conduct.
          The conduct is a product of an internal state.
          That internal state is in turn the product of the salvation He came to offer.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            This is what I was thinking. “Among you” can mean a lot of things, and if we’re not so keen on avoiding what’s right in front of our face, it can mean the guy down the street who, though food insecure, homeless, and mentally ill, isn’t quite so bad off as the Sub-Saharan toddler whose distended belly belies the fact that he has barely eaten in weeks.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              protein deficiency is bad news. Really bad news.

              But it drives me crazy, when I see it on TV. Because you can save a lotta malnourished kids for the price of one that’s protein deficient.Report

        • Avatar Matty says:

          By my reading anyone who is hungry, thirsty etc. The implication of ‘the least of these’ seems to me not ‘what did you do for those who needed most help’ but ‘what did you do for those you least wanted to help’.Report

        • Avatar Snertly says:

          Or least as in least able to offer any recompense or recognition.Report

  11. Avatar Snertly says:

    That passage could be quite troubling if you’re big into the prosperity or dominion brands and given to introspection, but then most folks who are big into the prosperity or dominion brands don’t tend to be that introspective.

    Aside from that, this passage has been the foundation of many a sermon on the importance of works.Report