WILD EXPECTATIONS
The Blessings of God


Vine & Fig Tree is about the Blessings of God.

Blessing means two things:

Jesus said the meek would be "blessed" and would "inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5; Psalm 37:11; Numbers 12:3). The New Testament says that "the Gospel" is the "good news" that God has promised world-wide "blessing" (Galatians 3:8).

What does it mean to be "blessed"?

There are two heretical answers to this question. Both of these views are in conflict with the vision of Vine & Fig Tree.

The first advises us to "Name it and Claim it." As Christians we are entitled to pink Cadillacs and green golf courses. If we have faith, we will have wealth. Vine & Fig Tree is a vision of conflict with "the powers that be," a conflict which Jesus says will lead to the Cross (that is, execution). It is a vision of solidarity with the "driven out" and "afflicted"; with the crippled and the cast off (Micah 4:6-7); with "the least of these" (Matthew 25:35). It is a willingness voluntarily to endure poverty in order to reach the City of God..
The second heresy is "pietism," or "neo-platonism." It says that the material world is inferior to the "spiritual" (non-material) world. It tells us to flee beauty and embrace poverty.
But Vine & Fig Tree is also a vision of
the world-wide restoration
Material abundance unimagined by the televangelists and pink cadillac set.

A popular bumper-sticker among the Berkeley crowd advises us to "Live Simply that others may Simply Live." The idea is that my wealth is stolen from others. The idea of "simple living" sometimes gets in the way of Biblical beauty.

The Bible is really really clear: When God created the material world, He said it was "very good." Wild wealth and beauty are promises to the righteous. Abraham had them, Solomon had them, Jesus promises them. They are promises of "blessing."

Whole chapters of the Bible are dedicated to describing promises of extravagant blessings to the faithful. Here's one from Leviticus:

{26:3} If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them,
{4} then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
{5} Your threshing shall last till the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last till the time of sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.
{6} I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land.
{7} You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you.
{8} Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you.
{9} 'For I will look on you favorably and make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you.
{10} You shall eat the old harvest, and clear out the old because of the new.
{11} I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you.
{12} I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.
{13} I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves; I have broken the bands of your yoke and made you walk upright.

And more from Deuteronomy:

{28:1} "Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.
{2} "And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:
{3} "Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
{4} "Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.
{5} "Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
{6} "Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
{7} "The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.
{8} "The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
{9} "The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways.
{10} "Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you.
{11} "And the LORD will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you.
{12} "The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.
{13} "And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them.
{14} "So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

Deuteronomy 28 is a long chapter. It is also an unfamiliar chapter to most "christians," because they are infected with "neo-platonism," a pagan philosophy which holds that the material world is inferior to the world of thought and ideas. But the Bible says that the material world was created by God. Therefore whole-Bible Christians work to have a healthy respect for the creation and its bounty.

Here's how I sum up the major blessings of Deuteronomy 28:

1. "Set thee on high above all peoples of the earth."[1]
2. "Blessed in the city" (v. 3)
3. "Blessed in the fields" (v. 3)
4. "Blessed children" (v. 4)
5. "Blessed crops" (v. 4)
6. "Blessed livestock" (v. 4)
7. "Blessed graineries" (v. 5)
8. "Blessed bakeries" (v. 5)
9. Successful business (v. 6)
10. Peaceful International relations (v. 7)
11. Abundance in the barns (v. 8)
12. Success in every activity (v. 8)
13. Enemies at peace with us (v. 10)
14. Abundant goods (v. 11)
15. Abundant children (v. 11)
16. Abundant cattle (v. 11)
17. Lots to eat (v. 11)
18. "His good treasure" (v. 12)
19. Adequate rain (v. 12)
20. Business success (v. 12)
21. Debts paid (v. 12)
22. Investments (v. 12)
23. Respect (v. 13)

And of course, verses 15-68 give the opposite, and we may deduce that "none of these" curses will come upon the saved (Exodus 15:26).[2]

Since God spent so much time here and in similar places spelling out in detail many material rewards and considerations which should motivate us to become Godly, I don't think it's too heretical to dwell on them just for a while.

Consider the economic implications of all that "abundance." It means that steak is a dime a pound and pineapples are a nickel each.

God created human beings to engage in a quest for unlimited material wealth, but to pursue that quest to the glory of God, and mindful of the needs of others.

Today, TV and junk email are filled with promises of $1,000,000 salaries and burgeoning bank accounts. One does not need a lot of money (cash) if the earth has all the abundance God promises. At those prices, food would be about 2% of our income. How much income would you have to have to arrive at the place where your current food budget is 2% of your income? If we had stable families and no State, we would have inherited the Family Farm and wouldn't have to be paying rent. Wouldn't that be a "blessing?"

But as wealth is promised in God's Covenant, any culture that violates God's Covenant can expect poverty. And God's Covenant is communitarian, not just individualistic. That means that a very Godly person in a very unGodly culture might not be wealthy. In our day, a money system which the Bible describes as "abominable" complicates our understanding of wealth. It's difficult to imagine living in a state of blessedness, because our economy is so unGodly. It is also difficult to imagine becoming wealthy and blessed in the modern economy because earning and spending money almost inescapably involves committing acts which are called "abominable" by the Scriptures. Because I try to avoid using modern money, I don't anticipate great wealth in my lifetime. I still believe, however, that wealth is a legitimate Biblical goal (Genesis 13:2).

Much of what passes for "wealth" in our day is actually poverty.

Irwin Schiff paints a wonderful picture of economic decline in his delightful book, The Kingdom of Moltz. The typical 1950's family is seen in their front yard, husband and wife reclining in hammocks, neighbor kid mowing the lawn, another neighbor kid bringing groceries from the store on his bike, a big car with fins (pricetag: $1500), a nice house in good condition (price: $15,000). As the panels unfold through the '60's, '70's and '80's, the husband leaves the hammock to mow the lawn, kids no longer have after-school jobs, the wife leaves the hammock to get a second income, and the house and car get smaller as the pricetag gets larger. But because of the paper profits of a few, we are told that the economy has never been better.


In the years I spent in a Catholic Worker House of Hospitality, I noticed this schizophrenia: an anti-materialism combined with a love of community and the poor. We served abundant, home-cooked meals in our dining room. We used tablecloths, flower centerpieces, china plates and cloth napkins. The poor were not "clients," they were friends. Abraham rescued hundreds of castaways from Humanism's empires and adopted them into his household (Genesis 12:5; Psalm 68:6). And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold (Genesis 13:2).

And yet the Catholic Worker has a decided bias against wealth.

I think it would be Godly to ask the Lord to bless a business so that the "works of mercy" (Matthew 25:35) could be practiced; a House of Hospitality could be established and funded; a home could be a "community center" (as Gothard calls it). Everyone should have this goal. Correct me if I'm wrong.

I look at it this way: If I want to imitate Abraham and invite the homeless to live with me and become patriarchs themselves, what do I need? New beds, the old jalopy in the back yard fixed so people can go out for job interviews, suit (for meetings with people who are irrationally prejudiced against faded Levis), ability to help them wash their clothes, and so on. Is it also heretical to appreciate society-wide blessings which help the poor: clean air, health, etc.? And what about the promises of abundance? Are we supposed to be repulsed by them? The description of the temple and the "New Jerusalem" jewels, precious stones, unimaginable beauty. Jesus has brought us to the New Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22); shouldn't we at least have the "Hidden Art" that Edith Schaeffer wrote about?

I have to think about it this way: I'm content with the status quo. I have enough to eat. Things could be better, but they're OK. So why shouldn't they stay that way? Isn't "living simply" good enough? What could motivate me to want more than what I "need"? Why should I be attracted to abundance?

Two possibilities: Greed. Covetousness. The desire to be as God.
"NEW AGE HUMANISM!!!" some will probably say.

Or: God's Will.

Go back to Deuteronomy 28: I have enough food. Why should I be blessed with "abundant crops"? Why should I be happy when God says I'm going to prosper in "everything I put my hand to"? Why not just 50-50, enough to break even?

The answer just has to be, Because God wants abundance. Look at the New Jerusalem in Revelation. Is this "only what we need"? Is this "moderation in all things"? "Plain and sensible is best"?[3]

I get the feeling that a state of "blessing" as the Bible describes it would drive some people nuts -- they would hate it!

But my desire is to be a son of Abraham and a follower of Jesus. And so, I am preparing to be executed by the State, I am inviting the poor into my home, and I am cultivating a sense of WILD EXPECTATIONS.


NOTES

(1) When some "christians" hear that kind of talk from "New Age" hucksters, they are shocked: "This is Humanism!" they might say. We should not let anyone take God's promises from us and allow our thinking (and lives!) to be diminished.  [return to text]

(2). including crop failure, livestock shortages, infertility, slumping production, spoilation, vandalism, fungus, disease, pests, sickness, drought, hemorrhoids, eczema, mental illness, broken marriages, eminent domain, confiscation, military drafts, centralized government, debt, (and at verse 45 I quit and say) etc.  [return to text]

(3). A line from Marilla, Anne of Green Gables' adopted mom.  [return to text]



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