Supply side Jesus

Written By: - Date published: 8:31 am, December 16th, 2015 - 74 comments
Categories: religion - Tags:

You’ll get the drift of what I mean by Supply-Side Jesus from this link.

Jesus, rather than being some commie big-state redistributor, was incredibly serious and canny about money, spending, and tax:

In Matthew 17 we learn:

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked: “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

“Yes he does”, he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes – from their own sons or from others?”

“From others”, Peter answered.

“Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them as my tax and yours.”

Quite a trick, for such a small liability.

Reader, you’ll probably already know  bit where Jesus turns over a coin when asked whether to pay tax, and he says “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s”, the Pharisees replied.

Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

In both, Jesus shows a pretty clear understanding of both tax exemptions, tax liability,  charitable status, and the separation of state and church.

Paul makes tax liabilities even clearer in his letter to the Romans in Chapter 13.

Jesus was no Socialist. Sounds more like he was from Act.

Then there’s Matthew chapter 25.

The summary is: a Rich dude was going on a long journey. Gave one of the staff $5k, who went out and traded hard and made bucketloads.

Gave another $2k, and they doubled it.

Gave another $1k, who essentially stuck it in the bank.

Master finally comes back. Praises hugely the servant who traded hard. Praises well the one who doubled their amount as a “Good and faithful servant”.

Gets to the guy who did nothing with it, and lays into him:

For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Plenty of theology to unpack, but honestly Jesus is beginning to sound like a Young Nat.

Interesting to consider, while we’re shopping for all those Christ-Mas presents.

Next week, the Liberation Theology version.

74 comments on “Supply side Jesus ”

  1. vto 1

    ha ha, love it.

    silly fairies in the sky religions.

    • tinfoilhat 1.1

      From what we know of the historical Jesus of Nazareth he hardly comes across as silly.

      • vto 1.1.1

        sure, and neither did those that proclaimed the sun was a god.

        neither did Ghandi come across as silly, nor the dalai lama, nor the pope ….

        but it is silly

        totally silly

        • Ad

          Maybe God, Santa, Vogel and Marx all had big white beards for a reason.

          Maybe the Pope should grow one, all Russian Patriarch style.

    • seeker 1.2

      The half shekel (four drachma) tax was paid annually by every Jewish male to support the temple. (The Oxford Annotated Bible circa 1967 very old from my school days).

  2. acrophobic 2

    ‘Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”‘

    John 18:36

    • vto 2.1

      that’s convenient

      • acrophobic 2.1.1

        It’s also consistent.

        • vto

          with what pray tell

          • Paul

            acrophobic uses the hit and run technique so often used by the rwnj trolls here. You won’t get an answer.

            His use of that quote is uses as he wants us to accept our miserable lot here while he and his corporate mates make off with the loot and destroy the planet here.

          • acrophobic

            With the rest of Jesus’ life. There’s a recent book been published on the life of Jesus called “Jesus Mean and Wild”. It breaks many of the cultural myths we have of this meek and mild guy wandering around Palestine 2,000 years ago. Its worth a read.

            • Tracey

              Does it identify the census document recording Joeseph, Mary and Jesus existence? Those Romans sure kept good records.

            • mac1

              I hope that “Jesus Mean and Wild” does not draw on the story of Jesus driving out the moneychangers from the temple. This is often used as a story to justify the use of violence.

              It does not explain how one man could chase away some no doubt mean and tough men with their even more so inclined minders; that is without exploring what righteous anger is and what effect moral strength has when confronting wrongdoing and wrongdoers.

              Nothing to do with being mean and wild.

              Interpretations of Jesus’ teaching often give a lot away about the beliefs of the interpreter. Following Hilary Benn’s misuse of the Good Samaritan parable, I was bemused to read that a modern moneylender used this parable to condone wealth and financial success because the Good Samaritan had the ready cash to help the waylaid wayfarer.

              No doubt a version from the “God has blessed me with wealth so I must be a good man” school.

    • Richard Christie 2.2

      ‘Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. … my kingdom is from another place.”‘

      So did Darth Vader

      • Ad 2.2.1

        Well, that and “Luke, I am Your Father”
        After which Darth had to do further psychoanalysis, with Julia Kristeva.

    • Ad 2.3

      Just you wait for the next version, before going all Matter V Spirit on us.

  3. Rosemary McDonald 3

    For the life of me I can’t figure out why someone would be posting about a guy called Jesus at this time of year.

  4. BM 4

    I never understood how intelligent educated people could believe in gods?

    Because I’m struggling to grasp how anyone could base their life around some jewish chap, born over 2000 years ago who apparently had super powers and was sent to earth by his god father to be slaughtered in a attempt to demonstrate that we’re all very sinful and naughty.

    Seriously, how bizarre is that?

    Or is religion more about the friendship and socializing than the believing in gods and miracles stuff.

    • Ad 4.1

      What are the sources of your beliefs?

    • RedLogix 4.2

      Silly is what you get when you read it literally.

    • emergency mike 4.3

      “I never understood how intelligent educated people…”

      You’ve answered your own question.

      • Once was Tim 4.3.1


        The challenge in trying to understand

        What’s the answer to life and the universe again? Was it 42? Was that with or without GST?

    • tracey 4.5

      You believe John Key is a good leader and forgive him all lies and deceptions. You believe climate change doesn’t exist until the wate ris lapping under your door. You elieve the veneer that key is selling you. “Silly” is in the eye of the beholder.

      • ropata 4.5.1

        Yes that is what pisses me off about Colin Craig’s version of Christianity: while not exactly heresy it is profoundly ignorant and not in accord with the message of Jesus. A large percentage of voters agree with CC’s views and feel that National or other RWNJs are the more “moral” option. 😡

        I was considering writing a guest post on why Christians should vote Left and how right wing neolib austerity is unbiblical and wrong (but hopefully Ad will do this soon)…

        The current Pope is outspoken about inequality and injustice, and the churches have been complaining about the plight of poor to MANY successive governments, yet their ignorant parishioners keep voting for more.

        I am glad that American style gun-toting science-denying trump-voting big-box consumerist christianity is a minority in NZ

        • acrophobic

          Hi Ropata…thank you for your thoughtful posts. I’m not sure I agree being a Christian necessarily leads to a left leaning political association. The excesses of the left have resulted in spiritual and economic deprivation of hundreds of millions of people in the past 200 years alone. The call of Jesus to help the needy and protect the vulnerable is at the very heart of a compassionate capitalism that I believe works. Keep up the good work.

          • Ad

            That’s half the point of doing these two posts together; Christianity is ideologically slippery. So we may as well take the time to figure out what of it can still nurture an impulse for being and doing good. Fully agree that helping people is not the preserve of the left.

  5. NZJester 5

    The problem with what is in the bible is it was rewritten so many times by hand by men with their own ideology deliberately or through jaded eyes misinterpreting translations of bible passages as it was translated from one language to another. The christian church early on came under the control of the very misogynistic Romans and the ideology of the Christin church changed to that of a more misogynistic roman ideology.
    Did they rewrite the roman involvement in the death of Jesus shifting the blame from themselves to the Jewish people? Did they put in the bits about the offering to the church to encourage more people to donate to the church? There are more questions than real answers when it comes to how reliable the history of Jesus is as written in the bible.

    • ropata 5.1

      There are certainly a lot of Euro-centric traditions surrounding the interpretation of the Bible and the way that some teachings are emphasised over others. But it wasn’t always thus:

      Before Saint Benedict formed his first monastery, Nestorian (churches) existed at Nishapur and Tus in Khurasan, in NE Persia, and at Rai. Before England had its first Archbishop of Canterbury, Nestorians already had (church districts) at Merv and Herat, in the modern nations of Turmenistan and Afghanistan, and churches were operating in Sri Lanka and Malabar. Before Poland was Christian, the Nestorian sees of Bukhara, Samarkand, and Patna all achieve metropolitan status.

      Sooo…who were the real heretics? The Western church (Roman, Orthodox) condemned the Eastern church (Nestorian, Jacobite)…but who’s to say? These churches in the East were thriving while the European ones were embroiled in bitter wars, barbaric exorcisms, and witch burning. What would have happened if the hegemony of Europe hadn’t been established? Might we have been far more pluralistic, had a greater appreciation of paradox, and taken seriously the role of faithfulness to the *practice* of Christ?

      • Ad 5.1.1

        As I was growing up I used to think that the return to the source or origin of a movement would be where it was truest. Gore Vidal did an excellent novel on point, showing the decay and deformity of originary charism.

        And the attraction of counter-factual histories – like Nestorianism – is that they provide a projection to the imagination; a kind of dulled utopian wishing.

        But then Judy Dench repeats this great set of lines from Tennyson, which can be applied to any movement past its prime:

        “We are not now that strength which in old days

        Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

        One equal temper of heroic hearts,

        Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

        To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

        There are ways through melancholy that I think are more productive than the counter-factuals and the still-born utopias.

        Namely; to remember those ideals you fought for,
        to have fought for them win or lose,
        and to continue with new battles worth fighting;
        that is more useful and more uplifting than to remember only what might have been.

        • ropata

          Great point, and nice quote. I’m continuing the good fight … despite utter failure and despair, God has poured out grace and mercy and his Spirit is active in the world to this day (even in the ephemeral lives of humans like me)

  6. Bill 6

    Thanks for the late morning smile Ad.

  7. Stuart Munro 7

    It is interesting how great oral texts become the foundations of religions – Ramayana, Kalevala, Odyssey/Aeniad, and Torah/Bible/Koran. But belief is neither particularly mysterious or foolish, though it can be designated irrational. By far the greater part of human mental processing is subconscious – the rational conscious part is (a bit like contemporary governments) epiphenomenal on the whole. A healthy habit uses the rational as a check on the rapid but sometimes erroneous impressions of the subconscious and vice versa.

    That rationality might need such checks is a job for John Ralston Saul

    Religion in wise hands is a tool for living better lives, responding to whole consciousness assessments of various phenomena. But, like economics, it is often not in wise hands, but diverted by kleptocrats to enrich or empower themselves.

    A contemporary tragedy is that an ignoramus like Richard Dawkins is many people’s standard for judging religion. Dawkins never studied theology and his views are as singularly uninformed as his Huxleyite revisions of sociobiology.

    • emergency mike 7.1

      Well said Stuart.

    • Ad 7.2

      What those fools like Dawkins cannot get to is the grand intersection and origin of religious movements and political movements, which is this:

      To be inspired and willed daily to improve the world, and to do so in concert with everyone.

      From that common human impulse comes this screen we get to project ideals onto, and then generate whole machineries of organization to give effect to them.

      If Dawkins or anyone like him understood, as Marx did, that “The point of the world is not merely to interpret the world. The point is to change it”, they would have understood some of the permanent and growing attraction of religion as a core human impulse.

    • Rodel 7.3

      Stuart I have always enjoyed your posts. I can’t believe your latest nonsensical babble especially the attack on Dawkins who probably knows more about theocratic philosophy than you will ever know.

  8. The Fairy Godmother 8

    Having done a bit of theological training this year I’ll share a bit of what I learnt. First of all there are four approved gospels which made it into the bible. They all have different persectives and contexts. Matthew which you quoted from is belived to be from a more stable Jewish community and his concerns seemed to be about spiritual wellbeing rather than social justice. In contrast Mark and Luke are very concerned with social justice. Basically if you don’t feed the hungry clothe the naked and visit people in prison you are dedtined for hell. Everyone will be tempted to pull out a few verses to prove their point – a trait of the fundamentalists who are so rabidly homophobic and anti abortion but unfortunately just like with any other book you really have to read each book of the bible in its entirety and as it is an ancient text study its context before you have any hope of understanding what it might mean both in the past and for us today. I would say Jesus was more likely to have been a mana supporter than an act one. He and his followers in the early church were very socialist.

  9. Colonial Viper 9

    Thanks Ad.

  10. Anno1701 10

    Mark 10:25

    It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

  11. vto 11

    David Kirk 12:01

    You only receive in life what you can take

    (ex-AB captain. Yes I know, unbelievable. But an insight to right wing thoughts.)

    • Ad 11.1

      Michael Jones, commenting on tackling, said: “It is better to give than to receive.”
      Merry Christmas!

  12. joe90 12

    The problem with bibly –

    The centuries passed. Much in this manner:

    First century: Christ and the apostles are alive. People who knew Christ and the apostles are alive.
    Second century: People who knew people who knew Christ and the apostles are alive.

    Third century: People who knew people who knew people who knew Christ and the apostles are alive.
    Fourth century: It’s anyone’s game.

    • Ad 12.1

      That’s simply a problem with any movement,
      let alone a religion,
      let alone Christianity.
      It’s far more surprising how much of the good stuff in it has survived and can still be found.

    • weka 12.2

      Kinda sounds like the Labour Party 😉

  13. red-blooded 13

    Hey, there may have been some good people with some strong values who believed, 2000 years ago, on the basis of what was then understood about the world and the universe around it, that they were receiving the word of an entity they believed in and that only a belief in this entity and in the messages they believed they were being sent could give meaning to life (and, somehow, conquer death). OK, I can accept that. Why these beliefs should still be seen as valid and should be somehow beyond criticism in our more scientific age is much harder to understand.

    I was heartened to hear on Radio NZ this morning that our government has approved The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster in its application to perform Pastafarian marriages (presumably by a Pasta). Why these guys believe that the glorious FSM wants them to dress like pirates is harder to grasp, but no harder than plenty of other religious doctrines…

    • ropata 13.1

      Faith gave us jihad, crusade, and inquisition. Science gave us mustard gas, involuntary sterilization, and nuclear weapons. Faith gave us international charities that feed starving children. Science gave us clean water. Gregor Mendel was a Christian monk. Muhammed ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi was a devout Muslim. Oppenheimer did not think of the Bhagavad Gita by accident.
      Don’t characterize people involved in a community, or claiming adherence to a certain way of thinking or doing things, as stupid, or evil, or blind. Don’t characterize a way of doing or thinking as universally good or evil- it blinds you to the evil or good that exists in it. If you think these men advanced science *despite* having faith, then you are interpreting the evidence to suit your assumptions. Accept reality; for these men, faith and science were not demiurgic oppositional forces, but simply two ways. We shouldn’t dismiss faith as “magical thinking” that can’t exist in the same mind as critical observation.

    • Ad 13.2

      “Why these beliefs should still be seen as valid and should be somehow beyond criticism in our more scientific age is much harder to understand.”

      Let’s do a little exercise then and subtract the Christian movement away from New Zealand right now. What would happen?

      – Four less public holidays, from the 9 we have currently – and with it a third of the retail sales for the entire year, and over half of the holiday industry

      – No Salvation Army, so a huge swathe of social welfare collapses

      – No Community of Refuge Trust, or Presbyterian Social Services, or etc etc, so huge numbers of people are put on the streets, and the mental health problems spill onto the streets really fast

      – No Tear Fund, or CORSO, or World Vision, or indeed most of the large aid agencies, so most of the entire NGO aid agency effort dies.

      – Half the film industry dies, because the whole framework of demons, angels, Star Wars, vampires et al disappears

      – Half of the submissions to Parliament on bills vanish

      – a great weekly communitarian force of fellowship, cultural identity, working-bees, shared meals, and good will simply dies

      etc. Christianity today has no small impact.

      • red-blooded 13.2.1

        So, there’d be no good people or charitable organisations without religion? Bullshit.

        I (& many others) have given years of service to groups like Trade Aid and CORSO (which had no religious affiliations when I was an activist), acting on humanist values without any religious leanings. And don’t forget the huge harms done by religion and religious groups. I’m never going to forget the hate campaign run by the Salvation Army at the time of homosexual law reform, for example. A few years ago it was the “enough is enough” brigade. And what about the tithes imposed on the poor to support church hierarchies? The oppression of women in many Christian and non-Christian churches? The idea that only the select few who believe in whichever version of religion is seen as the “right” one are chosen by “God” and are “saved”? (How judgemental is that?)

        I’m not denying that some religious groups do good things; of course they do. So do plenty of others. Some religious groups do bad things. (And yes, so do others.) You can’t cherry pick a few examples and say that they prove that religion is a force for good. Religion confines and distorts people’s thinking and values, and as far as I’m concerned that, in itself, is s bad thing. That’s not the same as saying that all religious people are bad people or that all religious teachings are bad.

        • Ad

          Nope, didn’t say that there’d be no aid agencies.
          Only that you’d notice the absence.

          If you want to do a full Cost Benefit about Christianity, knock yourself out.

          Helpfully, I never said religion doesn’t to bad things.
          Evaluating that would be a whole different set of posts.

          • red-blooded

            “Nope, didn’t say that there’d be no aid agencies.”

            … Well, you did Mention specific groups like CORSO, and said there’d be
            “no” groups like them.

            “Helpfully, I never said religion doesn’t to bad things.”

            And you did mention groups like the Sallies, saying “and a huge swathe of social welfare collapses”. Maybe (here’s a radical thought) we could stop farming out social welfare to private agencies? This work doesn’t have to “collapse” – it would be great if people didn’t have to work for (or feel obligated to) religious groups when it’s actually a core government service that they’re providing, or accessing.

            • Ad

              The aid agencies I mentioned were the ones with Christian foundations, which was the point.

              As for ‘maybe it would be nice not to have the Sallies’, well, maybe.
              Here’s an even more radical thought; there’s some things that they do better than the state. Remember: the state has only been the primary distributor of social welfare for a couple of centuries. The state is hardly in a position to give advice on optimum social welfare performance, even in NZ.

              That’s not an argument for welfare privatization. Only that statists giving advice on social welfare to Christians is like a sapling giving advice to an Ent.

  14. Ant 14

    Stripped of all the hype and anthropomorphic projection the Nazarene’s teachings draw attention to a ‘light’ within us and the need to mobilize it through acts of cooperative living. This would require willingness to let go of the tight little world of ‘self’, to transcend the mundane and to enter into a field of consciousness hitherto only sensed at rare moments of exhilaration or extreme emotion.

    That this was a process he underlined in the numerous parables of seeds germinating, growing and developing. For those who have tried it (not exclusively via Christianity by any means ) comes the realisation that the mysterious Essence urging the inner search is both benign and common to all of us; thus ‘to love your neighbour as yourself’ is not the road to spiritual growth but the outcome of it.

  15. Kevin 15

    Why is there existence?

    On the grand scale.

  16. tracey 16

    Blessed are the Cheesemakers

  17. red-blooded 17

    …and their thinking is curdled.

  18. mikesh 18

    What about the parable of the labourers in the vineyard?

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