March 19, 2017

There’s a Catch: Promise or Admonition?

All my opinions related to Scripture carry a standard disclaimer, whether stated explicitly or not.1

Deuteronomy 15:4 But there will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess

This kind of language at first reminds me of the kind of passage that might be received as a promise by God. Perhaps during a time of financial struggle, one might look at a passage like this for encouragement. Look!” One might say, God says there will be no poor people.” I admit that I like hearing that. Imagine, no one being poor! God will supernaturally arrange our lives so that none of us will be poor. Although that does not seem to align itself with our present reality, at first hearing, it sounds good, and I wish it were now” instead of some future then”.

Now the clash: how can there be rich people unless there are poor people? What happens when no one is poor? Here in the west, we are comfortable with the idea that all of us are self made and those who work harder, more clever, should have more stuff. If I go to school and get advanced degrees, I should have a less strenuous job and be paid more than others.

Looking at this passage as a promise when we are in financial stress is different than looking at it as a general statement about the way things are supposed to be for everyone.

The adjacent passages apply a context to Deut. 15:4. God is talking about the Sabbath Year — everyone is admonished to forgive debts in the 7th year. The reason there are to be no poor is because God wants His people to be generous — not because He will supernaturally bestow wealth. Unless generosity is often the result of God’s supernatural touch on hearts.


How often are God’s blessings contingent? Not contingent upon my good works to earn His favor. Rather, contingent upon another person’s obedience? contingent on some wonderful purpose God has in mind? I am not lumping salvation or other graces together here with wealth. I am only exploring this passage in which God describes the way the culture, the society of His people, should work. People should obey God. When they obey, they treat each other better. They do not lord it over each other, they are generous in times of need. They carry one another’s burdens. They do not accumulate wealth to the detriment of others. I.e., you do not have to be poor in order for me to be rich. The result: perhaps no one is super wealthy and everyone has what is needed to live in peace without fear and worry?

If so, then the blessings of God may sometimes flow through the practical, everyday, behavior of His followers. I have further thoughts about contingencies that I’ll articulate in another article.

  1. Disclaimer: When I run across verses that cause lots of thoughts to fire off, I like to write about them in order to explore them. It’s therapeutic to think aloud. I feel that’s a good way to experience the Spirit’s encouragement. So, while it is not allowed to totally fabricate interpretations, I think it is fair to follow the trail of the delightful thoughts.

    So, these are my thoughts/opinions — not research. They are not presented, or shared, as what I believe the Bible teaches. Rather, they are the trail my heart followed.

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March 14, 2017

People Have Feelings

Many years ago, I become very interested in a new area of legal practice named Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR. It was not, strictly speaking, new. However, it was being recognized and promoted as a way to unclog our courts and reduce legal fees and emotional costs for some categories of conflict.

The often used forms of ADR included: mediation, arbitration, mock trials, and other forms of settlement negotiation.

As I mentioned, I was enamored of ADR. I was a lawyer working for a government agency who was wondering how I might someday go forward into a private practice that involved little — or preferably no — litigation. I had no experience in litigation and I really did not want to gain any. So ADR looked good to me.

The A in ADR is alternative, as in alternative to litigation.” Litigation is competitive, adversarial, the goal is for my side to win — necessitating that the opposing1 side lose. ADR recognized that many times the parties might need to continue in some sort of relationship after the resolution of the dispute. E.g., a couple with children will still need to cooperate in the rearing of those children after a divorce. ADRs approach takes this into account. After two people resolve a dispute with the help of the legal system, they will need to cooperate on some issues. If the resolution of the dispute makes subsequent cooperation more difficult, the winner” only enjoys a partial victory.

People Versus Principles

One way to preserve the minimum relationship that will be needed after the dispute is settled, is to limit the scope of the battle. Attack principles — not people! If I disagree with you, I can stay in some minimally necessary relationship with you if I only attack your principles. Under no circumstance should I attack you. That may not always preserve a working relationship, but it has a far better chance than attacking you.

Principles Means Positions

Going one step further, we see that a person’s principles can be a fundamental part of who they are. So, we need to fine tune the guidance. In a dispute, it is fair to attack the other side’s position.

You take a position on a matter of importance to both of us. I disagree with you, so I engage in an attack on your position — not you. If I lose, you will be more willing to work with me because: (a) you won; and (2) I did not say ugly things about you — only about some of your positions. Also, if I win, you will find it easier to work with me. I defeated your position — not you. You can be sad or angry about losing, but since I honored you personally, you are not completely opposed to working with me to salvage what you can of your position. You were never viewed or treated as a wrong or bad person.

Why Bring This Up

Candidate and President Trump prides himself on being a good negotiator. But, my observation is that he attacks everything involving his opponent. It’s winner take all. If he wins, he acts like you should not be offended by his words about you. He sometimes acts like he would be greatly surprised that you have hard feelings about what he said about you personally.

This last part about hard feelings is confusing to me. Sometimes the President acts like it’s not personal. Just business, the way the world acts. He will denigrate and personally insult an opponent one day and praise him the next. Hilary Clinton stopped being called a crook who should be prosecuted. After the election. On election night, she was called a good, perhaps great, public servant. The President acts like it is fine to say whatever he wants about someone in order to beat them. Afterwards, he can act as if those words were never uttered.

President Trump wants to win more than he wants to negotiate a deal. In dealmaking, everyone achieves some level of benefit. I have not read his book (and I do not intend to). These thoughts are just that: thoughts. Not a researched attempt to assert and prove a point. My simple observation is that our President prefers to beat every opponent and have his own way — rather than work hard to find synergies.

  1. Simply use of the term opposing strengthens the adversarial nature of litigation. Litigation is about winning, not resolving.

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