November 30, 2004

Thank you for your invitation

Looks to me as if I have already introduced myself to some of you before, but by way of formal introduction on this invitation (thank you Mr kwakersaur), let me just say that I am a Christ-centered Friend. My meeting is in Downers Grove IL and we are a great mixture of all kinds of Quakers from all tracks.

I am a fairly conservative person in my personal life, and am decidedly not a socialist. In point of fact I think I am here by our host's invitation to explain my view on that score.

Let me simply begin by framing a question:

New members as well as new meetings for worship always prosper best when they have the input of "seasoned" Friends to help in small ways of guidance and care.

To my mind, what better and more "seasoned" a Friend could there be than William Penn?

Relative to his view of "property" and the like, he wrote in his book "No Cross, No Crown"
"The lawful self which we are to deny is that conveniency, ease, enjoyment, and plenty, which in themselves are so far from evil, that they are the bounty and blessings of God to us, as husband, wife, child, house, land, reputation, liberty, and life itself; these are God's favors which we may enjoy with lawful pleasure and justly improve as our honest interest. But when God requires them, at what time soever the lender calls for them as is pleased to try our affections by our parting with them; I say, when they are brought in competition with Him, they must not be preferred, they must be denied."

For me the operative phrases are "...which in themselves are so far from evil." And "...these are God's favors which we may enjoy with lawful pleasure and justly improve as our honest interest" (Please note PROPERTY is listed). And finally "when they are brought in competition with Him... they must be denied."

This sums up perfectly my feelings as well. So I guess I'll be on Penn's side (insert non-aggressive smiley).

8 Comments:

At 6:13 AM, Blogger david said...

Welcome Friend!

And I hope you will help keep my socialism honest and spirit-fed (insert non-aggressive smiley). I'm sure you will find other space to contribute besides economics. Most of our confab has actually been about prayer.

To clarify my socialist stance. I hold the Christian scriptures to hold forth a socialist position on economics but a voluntary one -- a socialist church not a socialist state.

I do not find such a position in the Hebrew scriptures. And as you point out the early Friends took pains to distance themselves from levellers and other economic/political radicals.

And welcome again.

 
At 1:16 PM, Blogger crystal said...

Hi and welcome to the group :-).

I'm not sure I understand Penn correctly. Does he mean that financial abundance is a "reward" from God for being a good person? Does he mean that it is a good thing to pursue wealth? If so (and maybe I'm just misinterpreting), this would seem contrary to the message of the gospels where worldly sucess isn't a measure of worth and where one is encouraged to pursue otherworldly rewards.

 
At 5:41 PM, Blogger RW Spryszak said...

Hi Crystal.

As a Christian I believe that there will be a day of "final justice" wherein we will be judged. But I'm not sure I can find anywhere the idea that God grants success because of "good behavior" on a day to day basis.

I think, however, there are "blessings" - else why is there in our language even the concept of a "blessing"? And I find two routes from this point; the first is that I am the perfect example of the opposite of the idea that 'financial abundance is a "reward" from God for being a good person'. If this were how it works I would now be face down on the floor and penniless for all the scorn I heaped God's way in my life. The second track is if we are "blessed" by comfort or success or abundance we should recognize it as a "blessing" amd not justification for how we act and inter-act. I can imagine a very wealthy, comfortable crook somewhere - and I would say that on a day-to-day basis God wasn't rewarding him for being a crook. But as a Christian I would have to think that this fellow will someday get his rewards.And I feel there is a distinction that needs to be made Re: your comment about saying it is a "good thing to pursue wealth". If you made billions and turned it into shelters for homeless people in a hundred countries all over the world, was your pursuing of wealth "bad" just because it was the "pursuit of wealth" - or would the pursuit of wealth be "bad" if you took your wealth and built homes for yourself in a hundred places and nothing more?

Please also note that Penn goes on to say that there is a test that one can make to see just where you believe your "treasure" is. Abraham was called on to take that test once.

"But when God requires them, at what time soever the lender calls for them as is pleased to try our affections by our parting with them; I say, when they are brought in competition with Him, they must not be preferred, they must be denied."

 
At 8:16 PM, Blogger crystal said...

Thanks, Spryszak - that's clearer. I look forward to learning more about Quaker thought :-)

 
At 9:17 PM, Blogger RW Spryszak said...

Sorry... sometimes I might sound a little too "instructive." I'm trying to watch that.

 
At 9:37 PM, Blogger Meredith said...

I, too, extend my welcome to you, R.W. It will be fun to have you here for some rousing dialogue!(Insert another non-agressive smiley!)

I think Penn was simply saying to enjoy the gifts that you have, but do not cling to them. Material things - wealth - are temporary and extra, and can be parted with, especially "when they are brought in competition with Him, they must not be preferred, they must be denied." I adhere to this: Live simply, and appreciate the natural abundance provided. I need nothing more.

Meredith

 
At 3:33 PM, Blogger Marjorie said...

Hi RW,

 
At 3:39 PM, Blogger Marjorie said...

Hello RW,
My fingers were flying and some button got hit that shouldn't have...I actually do have a comment! I really enjoyed that excerpt from Penn because it eases my mind in many ways. I have always enjoyed material comfort and abundance and have often felt guilty for it. Penn seems to be saying that so long as your life is ordered with God at the head, then feel free to enjoy what you have. I would imagine that in having God at the head, one would be sharing their wealth in some way with others.

Wealth is certainly not a reward for a good life -- wealth itself is neutral (unless its ill-got, I suppose). I have seen others who have wealth for whom the wealth seems to be an obstacle to them spiritually. It is quite easy to fall into the trap of enjoying what you have and then obsessing on keeping it and getting more. The wealth then twists the mind and the spirit and it takes some doing to get untwisted. Our culture doesn't help.

 

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