On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus comes to the oasis town of Jericho, a thriving city known for its year-round fruits and vegetables. He has about another 20 miles to go, a full day’s walk. Zacchaeus lives in this crossroads town near what is now Israel’s eastern border, a few miles from the Jordan River. He’s in charge of collecting taxes throughout the region, including trolls for produce and other goods shuttled in or out of the city.
Two maxims underlie the Bible’s principles of financial responsibility; the earth and its resources belong to God (Lev 25:23; Job 41:11; Pss 24:1; 89:11; Hag 2:8), and they have been entrusted to people to use wisely (Gen 1:29-30; 9:1-4). The overall message of the Bible regarding finances is one of personal thrift combined with generosity toward others. The Bible places a high value on saving money to provide for oneself and others in times of need (Gen 41:1-57; Prov 6:6-8; 21:20; Eccles 11:2; Luke 12:16-21; 1 Cor 16:2). Because God blessed those
Because most people in the ancient world constantly lived on the edge of starvation, obesity was neither an option nor, for most, something to be avoided. Only the rich could afford the luxury of being fat, and for this reason fatness became a mark of status and wealth.
Not in itself Wealth can be the source of great blessing when used properly. But money is indeed the world’s preeminent symbol of success and, as such, a constant threat to the soul’s primary loyalty. As evidence of this, we no longer question these “givens” about modern life.
Jacob entered the world grasping-literally. The secondborn of twin boys, Jacob started his life journey by grasping his brother Esau’s heel. The symbolism is difficult to ignore. Jacob wanted what was his-and then some.
If everything good in your life were suddenly taken away, what would you do? That question lies at the heart of Job’s story in the Old Testament book bearing his name.
Job was a righteous man-someone so above reproach that God held him up to Satan as a model servant. Satan was unimpressed. “Of course Job is faithful to you,” he countered. “He has wealth, family, and excellent health. Take away those things and let’s see how faithful he is.”
From an early age we are taught to respect the belongings of others even if our size and strength make it possible to take them by force. In order to understand the actions of the people of the ancient Near East, we need to make a major adjustment in this thinking. Within the cultural construct of this world, the expectation was that those who were victorious in battle had the right to seize the personal property of those defeated and even enslave the owners of that property. This practice of plundering is mentioned repeatedly in the literature of the ancient world peatedly in the literature of the ancient world and illustrated in the art of the empires that rose to power during the Old Testament era.
Cattle were primarily a measure or symbol of wealth in biblical times. They were both familiar and significant, good characteristics for symbolic use. Among his livestock, the wealthy Job had a thousand oxen (Job 1:3). Cattle not only provided meat, milk, leather, and other by-products, they were the main animal workforce in ancient agricultural societies. Oxen (castrated bulls) pulled plows as well as wagons. Continue reading SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (BULL/CALF)→
Old Testament rules of holiness had a vital either/or quality about them, unlike more tolerant religious rules of the present day. These older rules paint a portrait of a holy and just God, one whose will cannot be dismissed and whose word cannot be ignored. On one occasion that illustrates the stringency of these rules, a bystander tried to save the ark of the covenant from a fall, but in so doing violated the rule of holiness and lost his life (2 Samuel 6:6-7). Continue reading WHY WOULD PEOPLE DIE IF THEY GOT TOO CLOSE TO GOD?→