Month: August 2016

Means of Compromises

Reading Dietrich Von Hildebrand’s memoirs about WII reminds me of what Solomon declared – there is nothing new under the sun.

Early in Hitler’s reign in Germany, Von Hildebrand met the Provincial of the German Dominicans in Paris. They had this exchange:

Provincial: “But we have no reason at all to reject Hitler when he stresses the idea of authority and the value of the nation. Above all, he keeps speaking about God.”

Von Hildebrand: “Hitler is so stupid that he does not even know what the word, ‘God,’ means; when he uses the word, in no way does it mean that he is professing the true God.”

Provincial: “We Catholics have to put ourselves in the front ranks of National Socialism and in this way give everything a Catholic turn.”

Von Hildebrand: “National Socialism and Christianity are absolutely incompatible, and besides it is a terrible illusion to think that Catholics would be able to influence this movement by means of compromises.”

(Dietrich Von Hildebrand, My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich, p. 71)

Von Hildebrand reflected thus in his memoirs:

I was beside myself. These two unfortunate friars showed me the entire tragedy of the situation of Catholics in Germany, the terrible temptation of being drawn into compromises, and I saw more than ever before how right it was that I had left Germany. In the attitude of the two friars, I saw so clearly the danger of compromise by German Catholics.

Von Hildebrand reflected much on “the means of compromises” and those that sought to persuade and control Hilter by supporting him. In all of his reflections (so far), none has been positive.

 

Insulting God

When we think of insulting God, it’s easy to imagine someone like the French philosopher Voltaire, with hands raised in the air, uttering his famous words against Jesus

“Curse the wretch. In 20 years, Christianity will be no more. My single hand will destroy the edifice it took 12 apostles to rear.”

That’s one way to insult God. Attack Him directly. Be clear in your blasphemy. Don’t mince words. Go with the full hatred and rebellion in your heart. No subtly needed. Voltaire was not the first to do this of course (even on the cross we read of mockings casted towards Jesus), nor will he be the last.

There is another way however in which God is insulted. One that is not so in-your-face. Not so evident. Solomon speaks it in the proverbs:

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” (Proverbs 14:31)

That word “oppress” is elsewhere translated as defraud, burden, extort, crush, and abuse. When those things happen to the poor, God is insulted as if Voltaire was playing on repeat. Why is God insulted when the poor are oppressed? Well, the proverbs says God is the maker of the poor. That is, He has created them, and thus they bear His image. Despite their poverty, despite their lack, despite their perceived difference because they do-not-have, they bear the image of their Maker. And because of this, oppressing the poor implies that God’s image means nothing in comparison to riches and material. It implies that God’s worth, endued in a person, is judged wanting against the image of money and possessions.

That’s insulting to God.

How we treat the poor is not just a matter of kindness towards humanity. It’s a matter of reverence towards our Maker. There’s no way around that. Our attitude, our inner secret thoughts of those that are destitute, and perhaps most challenging, our intentionality towards their care – says something about how we truly value our God.

WARNINGS

We get a sense of this when Paul tells the church in Corinth that some of them have been judged and died because they’ve participated in communion in an “unworthy manner.” What was that? Well, the rich were using the Lords table to shame the poor. That’s insulting to God, and apparently the just response to that was sickness and death to the oppressors (1 Corinthians 11).

John Calvin had this to say about the issue:

“If the poor souls that have bestowed their labor and travail and spent their sweat and blood for you be not paid their wages as they ought to be  .  .  . if they ask vengeance against you at God’s hand, who shall be your spokesman or advocate to rid you out of his hands?”

A little later, Abraham Kuyper had this to say:

“when the rich and the poor oppose each other  .  .  . both the Christ, and also just as much His apostles after Him as the prophets before Him, invariably took sides against those who were powerful and living in luxury, and for the suffering and oppressed.”uch His apostles after Him as the prophets before Him, invariably took sides against those who were powerful and living in luxury, and for the suffering and oppressed.”

These are not condemnations against being rich, only warnings against ignoring the poor.

ONGOING OPPORTUNITIES

On last reflection on this topic. Jesus said something that ought to stick out in all of this. He said “the poor you will always have.” (Matt 26:11). Know what that means? That means every day, we have an opportunity to affirm – in our words, our attitudes, our spending, our intentions, our care, yes, even our voting – to affirm and proclaim the worth of our Maker. This, instead of insulting Him.