Conversatio Divina

Part 19 of 34

Frugality and Poverty

Dallas Willard

In 1993 Dallas began teaching an intensive two-week residential course for Fuller Theological Seminary's Doctor of Ministry program. His task was to teach about spiritual life in a systematic way so that its full connection to the work of the minister was clear. These sessions from 2012 are from Dallas's last year of teaching the course before he died. Though a bulk of the course was usually centered on the nature and practice of disciplines, the beginning of the course dealt with more theological themes like the nature of spiritual reality and the end of the course dealt with topics in spirituality like vocational issues. [Editor's Note: We know that the class was taped on other occasions and would be glad to find these recordings.]

Now, we are going over some practices that can help us and on page 63 of your notebook, we look at frugality. Each of these, I think, has a section in the book Spirit of the Disciplines and there I can spend more time for you if you wish to look at it. Let’s just, again get a concise statement of what it is—frugality. Here on 63 under the heading and we also want to talk about poverty because there is a lot of confusion about this.


Frugality is refraining from indulgence. Now, an indulgence is of course something that goes beyond need and is done just for the sake of the activity in question. You could indulge yourself in an ice cream cone if you were in a certain situation. If you were unable to buy an ice cream cone and you found yourself with the money, and you thought, “Ill just indulge myself.” That has a reference to something that is not necessary but would make you enjoy something that you don’t absolutely have to have.


Now, here, I put it in terms of appearance or sensuality or security. That is what people who have something to sell us go into and if you watch commercials of various kinds or hear them, you will see that they very largely appeal to indulgence, not to necessity and this is in history of the church, often dealt with in terms of sobriety or temperance.


Temperance has this idea of measured use of something and a kind of inner strength. For example, you temper a piece of steel to make it into a sword or something or a tool of some sort. You work it; you heat it; and you do various kinds of things to it and we speak of people losing their temper. Now, that’s an interesting phrase, don’t you think? So, if you understand that temper is strength of control and then you see someone losing their temper, that means that they have lost the strength of self-control.  “Oh, I lost my temper.” [3:23] You know, probably not. You lost something but it wasn’t your temper. You probably didn’t have temper in the first place. You didn’t have it to lose and the idea of Christian sobriety, I refer you here to Jeremy Taylor’s old book, Holy Living, which has a chapter of Christian sobriety and what does it do? It trains us to be comfortable without stimulation and gratification of desires. So, where would then our motivation come from? Well, it would come from a recognition of what is good and that’s different from just being stimulated by your desires. Now, I have constantly hammered on that difference between what is good and what is desired and that’s one of the most important things for us to learn about living the Christian life. To be free of motivation that arises simply from desire and what is tied to what is good is a major part of what we learn in frugality because frugality teaches us that we don’t have to have the things that just have to do with appearance or sensuality or security. [5:00]


Let’s look at some of these verses here because it is really a huge issue in the Scriptures so Proverbs 21: 17, “He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not become rich.” Now, that verse ties frugality to riches—wellbeing; you want to be well off? Be frugal. Frugal doesn’t mean the same as poor. It is, again, a kind of strength and it’s actually—it is the ability to refrain from things that might cost you a lot but you don’t have to have them and you can learn by practicing frugality to do without them. Proverbs 23:4, “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it (thinking about it). When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.”—so, the ability to step out of the pursuit of wealth. Proverbs 25:27, “It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory.” [6:45] It is not good to eat much honey? See, that’s indulgence. Not good for you “nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory.” Again, we are talking about indulgence.


Let’s skip to 1st Timothy. Some of the best teachings on this are from Paul and Paul had certainly learned how to live with sobriety. That was one of the sources of his strength. 1st Timothy 5:6, it is talking about taking widows into the number of those supported by the church. “She who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.” That is an interesting combination of words. “She is dead even while she lives” because she has cut herself off from the genuine values of life. Pursuing pleasure is one of the things that is often recommended to Americans because they confuse happiness and pleasure and those aren’t the same thing. I wouldn’t really encourage anyone to pursue happiness but if it is done in a sober manner, it can work out very well indeed. 1st Timothy 6:7-8, “For we have brought nothing into this world, so we cannot take anything out of it and if we have food and covering with these we shall be content.” Now, that is frugality. [8:40] But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money—not money—but the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. But flee from those things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” That’s the positive side of what we should pursue and then finally 2nd Timothy 3:4, talking about the last days, “treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” So, now frugality teaches us not to love pleasure. Does it mean that you can’t have some pleasure? No, it doesn’t mean that. It just means, “don’t live for it” and frugality enables us to move out of living for pleasure or indulgence. [10:01]


Now, we have to talk about poverty in conjunction with this to make sure that we understand that frugality and poverty are not the same thing and that poverty only in very rare circumstances could be chosen as a discipline. I think it could be in certain circumstances and if one is especially guided with reference to it. But, poverty is not a virtue and it is a very rare discipline. Poverty may be well used. It can be. It would depend upon how it was received and Paul sitting in jail is using poverty for a good purpose. It is very important to understand that Jesus was not poor. There is an image of Jesus as being poor, living under a bridge and eating out of garbage cans. Well, He didn’t do that. He was well provided for and had money—enough to have a treasurer—in fact, an embezzler and of course that requires money. He was well provided for and when he emphasized that the Son of Man had neither where to lay His head, He was not saying that He had to sleep under the bridge and by the way, sleeping under the bridge in that climate, in that culture and in that time, was not all that bad. A lot of people slept outside. So, we need to drive that home and we have to talk about poverty a little later length in just a moment but we need to “fix it” that He was not poor, but He was frugal. For example, when He turned the fish and the loaves into a banquet, He had the disciples pick up the leftovers and there were a lot of them and you might say, “Well, you know, if He could just turn stuff into food, why should He want the leftovers?” I think it’s an important lesson that we care for things that are good and that are useful and that’s a part of what our life is as followers of Christ. We care for things that are good and we don’t just throw them away. See? That’s a mark of sobriety or frugality is that we take care of things and we don’t waste them and you might wonder, “Well, why is that?” Well, because they are good. Food is good, right?  A person who is living in this world with the respect for creation and for God cares for what is good and tries to preserve it and use it.


Now, I give you a quotation here from Augustine that I like a lot, “Those who have the strength to lead simple lives should consider themselves the richest people for it is better to be able to make do with a little than to have plenty.” [13:58] I state beneath that how well off a person is should be measured by the number and importance of their unsatisfied desires; not by how much they possess. Right? So, how well off are you? Well, that’s measured by the kind and number of unsatisfied desires you have so one way that you become better off is to limit or diminish your desires. Now, if you have a view of the consumer as the person who is well off, then you will not accept that. We live in a society today that certainly does not accept that but as I say here, one of the reasons why I like to go to the Mall (and I don’t like to do that very much) is that within a few minutes, I can see several 100,000 things I neither need nor want and the other reason I like to go to the Mall is to watch children. I enjoy that.


OK, so now, top of 64, “Remember do not be stingy, shabby, small or mean.” In the past, it has been a problem for children of ministers especially who often were not paid enough but paid what they should have been paid that wind up being stingy and it is hard on children.  We need to practice generosity along with frugality and we can do that. In fact, one of the benefits of frugality is that it makes generosity possible and it allows us to have money and resources to be generous and you need to be generous with our children: not indulgent but generous. We need to teach them the difference. I say here, Jesus had enough money to employ a full time embezzler as His treasurer—and He did. [17:02]


Now, we need to say a few things about poverty and this is mainly taken from the book The Spirit of the Disciplines and we want to try to notice some mistakes that are made with this by very distinguished people and we have some notes on this in your notebook where having money is presented as a primary spiritual problem which some very bright people have thought could not be solved without getting rid of your money and the most notable case there is John Wesley. So, now, let’s think about possessions and money today and in fact, I included this chapter in The Spirit of the Disciplines precisely because I encountered so many people who had a guilty conscience because they had money, wealth and so now we need to just think about it.  Just think about money and what it means—the sessions. So, now, one of the things that we first need to do in thinking about money is to understand what money is. Money is essentially a dimension of Kingdom and stewardship is a major part of what we want to think about when we think about frugality and responsibility for money. [19:14] The illusion that poverty is a preferable condition is one of the most dangerous illusions for human beings and it has driven a great deal of political and social distress in the last century or so. When the attack on—I almost hesitate to say the word because there is such a tangle of issues here but the attack on possession that is buried in capitalism is one of the things—the illusions that is still present in our culture and we are now in a discussion about the redistribution of wealth and what that could possibly mean. So much harm has been done in past years—decades, centuries—by the misuse of wealth that we need to think seriously about what it is and how it works. So, if you have money or perhaps in our day, credit, then you are able to get people to do thins without hitting them over the head. If you go to the Carl Jrs. or something like that and you have some money, you can get a person to hand you a cheeseburger. Right? So, that would be a part of what is in the range of our effective will. If you don’t have money, then you have to have some other way of getting food. So, you have to understand that money is basically kingdom stuff. It has to do with the range of your effective will and of course, I don’t have time to go into great lengths about this but the whole issue of living together in community and having your wants supplied by the other members of your community, that’s a big deal because we cannot live without what is called the division of labor and business is a part of God’s arrangement for how we live together. The basic function of business is to enable us to love and care for one another in a way that we also are loved and cared for. So, we have to distinguish using things from possessing things and the real issue is use and not possession and using money and possessing it and trusting it are all different things. We are supposed to use it. It’s okay to possess it and it is not okay to trust it. So, you have to make those distinctions to get things in a proper light. What possession does is to give us a substantial say over how money or possessions are used. Right? If you are renting a house, you have limited say over what is done with the house; some, but it is limited. If you get all this straight, then you realize that you don’t have to trust riches but you have to trust something and the advice of Scripture is always well, you trust God and you use possessions for the benefit of others and for the Glory of God. [23:51] Now, in the way the world is set up, there is much injustice around what happens, what people do with their money and rich people are often very wicked and foolish in how they use money but the cure of that is not just to get rid of money. If you get rid of money, it will go in someone else’s hands and perhaps they will use it worse than you do. It is a good thing that riches and power would be in the hands of good people: not in the hands of wicked people. In preaching the Gospel and living out the teachings of Jesus in our world, we want to remember that as much as we control, if we use it for the Glory of God, that’s better and the aim of the Christian should be to control the wealth of the world in so far as it comes legitimately—to control that for the Glory of God—the blessings of people. [25:13]


Now, see if you don’t understand that, you will follow the lead of many people in the academic world who think that riches are inherently wicked. I quote in The Spirit of the Disciplines on page 196 Allister McIntyre, a very distinguished scholar and a fine man in many respects. He is still better since he has converted to Christianity and he says, “The New Testament quite clearly sees the rich as destined for the pains of hell.” Right? Well, after all, doesn’t it say, “Cursed are the rich?” Now, we have talked about that already so I am not going to go back to that but I do hope you now understand what those passages are doing. Another thing that has caused trouble is the story of the rich, young ruler and Jesus’ interaction with him—what is that?—Mark 9 and Luke 17 or something. The rich, young ruler comes to Jesus, as you know and says, “What must I do to inherit eternal life or receive it?” And Jesus gives him some advice on that point. It’s not the same as He did to the lawyer who was testing Him but it’s related because in both cases they turn to the law but Jesus gives the rich, young ruler basically the Ten Commandments and the rich, young ruler says, “I’ve done all of these from what you’ve said (?)” and Jesus looks at him lovingly. I’m sure he thought that’s pretty good and this is a good guy here but then he observed that there is one further issue and that was that his possessions had him. And so he gives him instructions to sell his goods, give to the poor and follow Jesus. Now, often that is blown into a general requirement. Very few people do anything like that; they just feel guilty about not doing it but what I want to say to you is that that is not a general instruction. If you look at the passage, I think you will realize that once again, Jesus is here dealing with an individual but He is contradicting the assumption that if you were rich, that meant you were already on God’s side and that the rich were most welcome or easiest to enter the Kingdom of God. It doesn’t say that and you can look at that passage and see what it says. It doesn’t say it’s easier for poor people to be saved than rich people. It makes an observation that has bearing on an individual now because this guy had a problem and he was hung up on his wealth and of course, he was trusting his wealth. That’s why he couldn’t see his way clear to get rid of it. He was trusting it, and he’s claiming to be obeying God but he is not because God is not in favor of trusting wealth. He wants you to trust Him. So, now there is a bit of unraveling that needs to be done there but basically, He is simply also correcting an impression that if you are wealthy, you are already on God’s side and Jesus does not accept that because now, here we go back to the talk about the inversion that we have already talked about. It might be okay for you to have money. It might be okay if you do not have money. That’s not the issue in the Kingdom of God. [29:53]


Now John Wesley preached a sermon entitled, The Inethicasey of Christianity and here is what he says, “I’m distressed. I know not what to do.” He suggests, “that true scriptural Christianity has a tendency in the process of time to undermine and destroy itself. It begets diligence and frugality.” So, Wesley’s thinking about all of the people most of whom were poor that he ministered to and he watched them over a period of years and he had seen them overcome their bad habits and they work hard and they are frugal. He says,”….which makes one rich. Riches in turn naturally begat pride.” Watch that statement. “It begets pride, love of the world and every temper that is destructive of Christianity.” We need to stop and say now, “Is that actually true? Do riches naturally do that?” So, you won’t have to hold your breath, I say, “It absolutely does not.” “But for all of his religious genius, Wesley could not understand the possibility of a Christian teaching and discipline that would produce people capable of holding possessions and power without being corrupted by it. Let’s admit; there is a problem but there are people who actually succeed in doing that and so, his advice, “I can see only one possible way. Find out another who can. Do all you can. Do you gain all you can?” That was his advice. “Save all you can.” That was his advice. “Then you must, in the nature of things, grow rich.” OK. “Then if you desire to escape the damnation of hell, give all you can; otherwise, you have no more hope of your salvation than that of Judas Iscariot.” [32:46] Well, NO! The call is to assume the responsibility for the right use and guidance of possessions through ownership and that is far more of a discipline of the spirit than poverty itself. “Our possessions vastly extend the range over which God rules through our faith.” Can I say that again? “Our possessions vastly extend the range over which God rules through our faith, thus they make possible activities in God’s power that are impossible without them.”


So, now, frugality would be a natural part of being rich—a natural part. A rich person who is dominated by their appetites and desires for indulgence and we see that of course much of the time, they are in danger and if they come to trust their riches, they are in serious danger. But, that is not the only option and it’s extremely important for us to understand that the problems of humanity cannot be dealt with by charity and though I am sorry to tread on the boundaries of political issues, they can’t be handled by handouts. The responsibility of the individual for their wellbeing is fundamental and sometimes charity is warranted and sometimes a handout is warranted but the need is for people to be responsible before God. See, that’s a main problem with the whole idea of the re-distribution of wealth. If you were to take this group of wonderful people who are in this room and give them $5,000 a piece, what do you think would happen to that? Well, this is an exceptional group here but if you go out on the street and just pull people off the sidewalk and give them $5,000, where do you think that money will wind up? [Comments] Before long, a very small percentage of those people if you had them in a community would be in possession of the money. So, see wealth is not a matter of money and re-distributing money is not the same as re-distributing wealth. Wealth is the capacity to deal well with the issues of life and you cannot achieve that for people by giving them the same amount of money. It’s really important to understand that the deep issues here are spiritual. Poverty is a terrible thing when it’s real. It’s a terrible thing when it’s real. [Say that again—wealth is the capacity of deal well with the issues of life.] Giving people money may or may not secure that depending on their character. There is an old fashioned virtue called thrift—a thrifty person is one who knows how to handle money and possessions in such a way that they are able to manage their lives with what they have. This is a really difficult problem and it is not helped by thinking that people are better off for being poor and yet, people almost universally in the church do feel that they are more in favor with God if they are poor—that they are better spiritually if they are poor. Looking at the world generally in terms of business and the life that people are forced to live, in their world, you just simply have to say that poverty helps almost no one except people who already have money.  So, if you want to bless people, the thing is, you need to look at the realities of this and you find that the people who are vowing poverty normally have tremendous goods at their service and that is normally because some people who were rich, gave.  It’s really important to re-think this and get over the idea that poverty is a discipline or a preferred condition. It really is not and so there is a lot more that needs to be said about that but all you need to do is to take the blinkers off and look at the realities of wealth and poverty and see how it works in life. [39:31]


There is a plaque on one side of Westminster Abbey that I love and I have included that on page 207 of The Spirit of the Disciplines. A Mrs. Catherine Bouvier and here is what it says: “It pleased God to bless her with a considerable state with which a liberal hand guided by wisdom and piety she employed to His glory and the good of her neighbors. Her domestic expenses were managed with the decency and dignity suitable for her fortune but with a frugality that made her income abound to all proper objects of charity and to the relief of those in need. The encouragement of the industrious and the instruction of the ignorant, she distributed not only with cheerfulness but with joy, which upon occasion of raising or refreshing the spirit of the afflicted. She could not refrain from breaking forth into tears flowing from a heart thoroughly effected with compassion and benevolence.” [40:46] In the contemporary context, that’s enough to make wise people despise her but that’s simply the way it works.


Now, for our purposes here and what we are going to come to again later on, we want to raise the question of “What is the role of discipleship in relationship to poverty?—and just a few words about that. Discipleship is training in Kingdom living. That’s a way of describing it. Discipleship is training in Kingdom living. Now, that’s living; that’s not going to church and the main place of discipleship is in our employments which of course could be church but for most people, it isn’t. If you omit your occupation from discipleship, you have omitted most of your life. We have to get over the idea that discipleship is doing a few religious things. It’s learning how to live our lives in the Kingdom of God. Now, as people learn to live their lives in the Kingdom of God, then their businesses and occupations of various kinds come in line with God’s will and that will mean that the various businesses and occupations in life are increasingly drawn into conformity with the will of God. That would mean, among other things, that things like cheating people out of money as is unfortunately a huge practice that we see most strikingly when you go to someplace like Enron that is the tough people at the top were telling the people who had invested their life savings in Enron not to sell and they were busily selling as fast as they could their own stocks and then they ruined the lives of multitudes of people. Now, what I want to say to you to simply it all is if the Christians that were involved in the running of that organization had simply done what they know to be right, that would not have happened.  I mean, it would have been a bad situation, no doubt about that but you wouldn’t have seen the kind of ruin that came out of the multitudes. If the Christians in the county and law and finance and education and so on—if they would simply have the developed character that comes from discipleship to Christ, then a major part of the evils that come upon humanity would not happen. It simply wouldn’t happen and that goes all the way up to international relations but the terrible teaching that they get doesn’t prepare them to act and so they are victims and they victimize others and there is no where that that is more so than in relationship to money. [44:43] Who controls the money? Now, in a barter system, you don’t have to worry about that. If you’ve got pigs and you can find someone who wants pigs, then you could maybe buy a car with pigs but money is a very dangerous sort of thing and people in positions of responsibility can ruin you without you knowing anything about it by manipulating money. That’s a part of what we need to be aware of and as ministers and teachers, we need to speak out about this and we need to speak to the people who are in control of such matters and we really need to recognize that the role of the disciple is to move into areas of influence and I put back here a book that’s kind of odd but really deeply thoughtful. It’s the Old Testament template, Recovering God’s Principles for Discipling All Nations, and what she does here, and there are others who are talking along this same line, is to identify the main areas of influence and to exhort Christians to move into those areas and control them for the glory of God. Now I’ve been told it’s a little too strong; that’s a scary word to use, but to direct them. She says, that “the Bible teaches us about the various domains of society and the principles that are to guide us in our involvement in these areas” and they are areas like finance and education, government, the arts, and our purposes she says here, “our purpose here of learning to read and study the Bible in order to see God’s principles in each domain.” So, I leave that here in case you wish to look at it but I can state the principle very simply which I’ve already said a couple times. I need to say it again—“The church is for discipleship. Discipleship is for the world.” [47:20] Why is it for the world? Because that’s God’s Kingdom. So, when you and I have an occupation in a domain of significance in our culture, then we need to be thinking in terms of how we can, in that position, influence people and policies in a direction that is in accord with the will of God and of course that our use of money in influencing the use of money in our society is a primary part of that and charity will never make up for it. Because charity is not the primary way that God holds people responsible. Now, frugality is a part of all of that but poverty will not help. The poorest way to help poor people is to be poor. You can’t think of a worse way to help poor people if you don’t have money, you can’t give to charity. If you can’t give to charity, charity will not work and if you farm it out to the government, then they will have to get the money from somewhere and the interactions that are required for people in community are not well conducted by government. Well, if there were enough Christians in the government, not disciples, it could be but I am sure I don’t need to tell you that that is not now the case. A lot of good people in the government and I am thankful for them and respect them but they are not capable of determining policy. [49:20]


OK, I am going to stop there and see if you have any discussion about frugality or poverty.


Q: How specific would you want to be on the issue of indulging?


I would tell them don’t live to indulge your things. I would be very specific about that. Now would that mean, “Okay, do I drive a Honda or do I drive an Infinity, right? Then I would have to say, “Well, what difference would it make to your life?” See, if the only difference is you get to feel more superior as you drive down the freeway, I wouldn’t do it but you see, you cannot give precise prescriptions on something like that because it has to come from the judgment of the individual but you can ask them questions and they should be able to answer it. Maybe they can’t ask the questions unless you help them. So, you might say, “Well, what does driving an Infinity do for you?” Then help them work that through. Now, then you can teach about sensuality and that will be very helpful to people in just thinking about how wonderful you feel when you are breezing down the freeway in your Infinity and then you can ask them about, “Well, how about a BMW or maybe go on up to whatever is in the $250,000 range or something of that sort. You work with people. Get them to thinking.  I wouldn’t, in this area and in most others; I wouldn’t try to give them a specific rule. That is going to blow up in your face and it happens over and over and people start feeling righteous about their rule and so I would not be specific about—I would certainly be specific about the questions I ask them and the discussions and when I am up in the pulpit, I would help them think about it. Right? Now, currently, you have almost no teaching so people are left at the mercy of their credit cards and you say, “Well, why is it you can’t give more than your 2% to your church?” “Well, it’s because I am in debt.” “What are you in debt for? Why can’t you help your neighbor who is out of work by just simply giving him some money.” “I don’t have any money. I owe it all to the bank.” Why do owe it all t the bank? Because you bought a bunch of silly things. So, that’s the way you teach on these things so we need in so many ways, you cannot plow around the pulpit. What the pulpit is saying will in the end determine how this works and that goes back to the Gospel that is preached. So, that’s what I would say. [52:55]


Q: How do you tell people to manage their money while they are at a food bank getting free food?


If someone is hungry, you should try to give them some food. Now, if you try to think about how that’s handled in our society today, you will see that that’s not the normal way that people approach it. So, if someone has a need, you try to give them money and sometimes that’s appropriate but the extension of that is you get the government to do it. So, now we want people who are receiving charity to have a future that isn’t charity. So, if we are going to have a program that dispenses charity, which I believe we should. We have that at our church and it’s a good thing. But, do we help people change their lives in such a way that they won’t need charity? That’s a little more touchy, you see and in our present climate, we are apt to think that would be meddling. [54:09] Now, we need to go back and re-work that and think about that so—there is a need for charity; no question about that and we should do what we could to meet that need consistent with the other things we might do to help people. So does the effort to help people get in the way when we are doing charity or does charity get in the way of helping people?  Before God, the mandate on humanity is responsibility. That’s for everyone. Does our use of charity undercut responsibility? I understand, of course, that you can rationalize a lot of stuff here to lift the burden of charity but you look at the “long run” to determine whether or not that is happening.


So, what’s the most useful thing you can do to a person on charity? Well, give them something to eat but show them the way into the Kingdom of God and that means, teach them the right things to do and how they would come to be in a position—so, making disciples is what Wesley was talking about. You get people converted and they become hard working and get thrifty and all of that and he goes on to say, that will undermine their Christianity and I am hoping that you see what I was saying when I said, “He’s making a mistake here. This brilliant man, lead of God and all of that, did not get it right” because he thought that character could not stand up against well being. There is a great danger and you have a reading in your notebook from—oh, what’s the man who wrote The Jesus I Never Knew? Yancey and you have him repeating that same thing. Yeah, have you got the page on that?  [It’s 78.] Yes, that’s it. That’s it. That’s it. Right. So, “forgetting God, why decadence drives out discipline.” No, he doesn’t have the answer to why decadence drives out discipline. Decadence drives out discipline because discipline is not made sense of in life. See? And Keith was reading from that little article. Well, decadence does not drive out discipline if you’ve got someone with a vision that enforces the discipline. If you don’t have that, anything will drive out discipline—laziness will drive out discipline and so on. So, this piece by Phillip is really worth looking at and thinking about but it has again the wrong solution in so far as it has any solution at all. So, I hope you will—I don’t think I’ll take time for this in class because tempest is fleeting—and but please do look at it and you will see this repeated over and over and over again. [57:59] What it basically says is that you cannot extend discipleship into life and count on it to turn out people who have the character to do what’s right. There is a principle that I enunciate occasionally that “in religion nothing fails like success.” And his cases here of the Benedictines and the Jesuits and the Franciscans, see, all of that happened precisely because the way they had learned to practice their religion was one which was frugal, productive, blessed of God no doubt and people who had no idea what that’s about look at it and say, “Hey, I want a piece of that.” I’ll become a Franciscan. Well, become a Franciscan like Frances did and there won’t be a problem. Am I making any sense about this to you because I just feel so strongly about it and how it ties into the issue of ministry and spirituality? But I think that a church that is not into extensive work on character formation is really limited in how much good they can do people. They still need to feed hungry people. Right? Hungry people in front of you—feed him and don’t lather around with all sorts of issues and rationalizations. There is no rationalization. If you have got something, feed him.  But then you have to lead people into the general context. How do you have a church that can feed people because that’s where people have to begin to understand that it’s not like manna. It doesn’t fall out of the sky or congeal on the grass. So that’s where the longer run issues come in. [1:00:02]


I think those are the really serious ones and of course, hunger is serious but it’s not the issue. How do people get hungry? How do they wind up living in these circumstances? Often they are tragic; often they are things that are not in the control of the people in question. Well, who is in control of it? Who is responsible? Is it no one? See, those are the larger range questions and of course, the people who provide the food for the hungry are going to be people who have money.  So, how do we work on that end of it and I don’t think you can do that by going directly to that issue. That’s where you have to back up and say, “Well, what kind of people make up our community?” And, if they have money, where did they get and what are they doing with it? So, I think that’s where we have to go. [1:01:03]


Do look at the Yancey piece and we’ll perhaps be coming back to that but I hope you see the main point here about poverty and frugality and if people in our churches simply practice frugality out of the development of character, they would be much better off and they would be able to do much greater good and a lot of that good would come in the form of owning and operating businesses and other things that employ people and care for people and look after the good of the community.


Ok, let’s take a little break and come back soon.


Part 18 of 34


Dallas Willard
June 11, 2012
Part 22 of 34


Dallas Willard
June 12, 2012
Part 28 of 34


Dallas Willard
June 13, 2012