Thoughts on Greed by Peter Walpot

Peter Walpot was a second generation leader so the Anabaptist movement. He wrote in 1577. He believed that Christians could not own personal possession, but that Christians must live in community with each other and share all their possessions. He worked his way through the entire Bible and pointed out every scripture that he believed spoke to this belief. He found around 140 of them. 

He also spoke of other topics related to possessions, such as greed. The following quote is from his “True Yieldedness and the Christian Community of Goods” as found in Early Anabaptist Spirituality: Selected Writings. 

Walpot writes:

Greed is a serious and evil sickness which blinds a person’s eyes and stops up his ears. Nothing is more wretched and vexing to such a one than to hear about community and yieldedness. The disease of greed withers the hand so that it is useless in helping others. The greedy lose their reason and do not know what or why they are here on this earth. Greed allows neither the self, the conscience, nor the soul to know salvation. For the most corrupt kind of metal commands them and rules them. All the while they think they are commanding and ruling over others. Therefore, there is nothing more senseless and more adverse than to serve and cling to money and greed. Their joy is to be tangled up in bondage, and they are happy and jubilant to see themselves be pressed under by a greedy dog. They give that dog all the more to gorge on so that it becomes even stronger and in this way make for themselves countless roads into hell. For greed is like putting more wood on the fire to make it greater. The more a person brings to it, the more it rises up. The greedy do not care what they already have. They put it behind them and snap after more in front of them. And finally they come to the same fate as Aesop’s dog.

That is why we should ponder this and flee from it with highest diligence. We should search out the antidote for this disease with which we may kill this terrible beast and pull all greed out by the roots. This pestilent disease has spoiled the earth. This sin has mixed things all up so that while one dies of hunger, another bursts from being too full. One must go around naked while another piles clothes upon clothes, only to be eaten by moths. That is why there are so many vagrants and beggars on all the streets, knocking on doors and crying for alms. This affliction of Belial has filled the streets with blood and the towns with weeping and wailing. It has taken us away from the most holy service of Christ and eats away our hearts from the word and seed of God. Even when we do something good, greed comes along and spoils it, the longer the more wicked. Greed is such a hateful affliction before God that if “anyone calls himself a brother, but is greedy, have nothing to do with him and do not even eat with him,” said Paul (1 Corinthians 5). Greed is counted as one of the cursed, deadly afflictions that separates a person from the kingdom of God. It has spoiled the glorious image of God in humans, who made us of honorable standing, so that we could look up toward the heavens. Greed strikes human beings down to the earth so that they cannot get up, but rather like a sow are drawn toward the mud by the devil, choosing to live like worms. This craving made Judas into a betrayer, ruined Ananias and his wife and covered Gehazi, who could have been a disciple and prophet, with leprosy. Indeed, it is a general plague in the world, which allows no one to be satisfied with what he has. All eyes and hearts are set on nothing other than greed, caring for nothing else than how much money they can get. And they never even think about how they may justly invest it. They dress their mules and horses with gold and let Christ and his own go unclothed.

Advertisements

Annelein of Freiberg: Song #36:

In the Anabaptist hymnal, Song #36 was written by Annelein of Freiberg. Not much is know of Annelein. We do know that like many of her fellow Anabaptists she died as a martyr. It is believed that was only seventeen years old when was arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and executed. The year was 1529. On that year Annelein was drowned and then burned.

This beautiful hymn stands as a testimony to her conviction and as an upward call to all of us who live by faith today. 

1.

Eternal Father in Heaven

I call to you from deep within 

Do not let me turn from you

Hold me in your eternal truth

Until I reach my end

2.

O God, keep my heart and mouth

Watch over me, Lord, always

Do not let me part from you

Whether in anguish, fear or need

Keep me pure in joy

3.

My eternal Lord and father

I am your poor, unworthy child

Teach me and make me know

So that I can observe your ways

That is my truest desire

4.

To walk in your strength in death

Through tribulation, martyrdom, fear and need

Keep me in your strength

That I may never again be separated

From your love, O God

5.

There are many who travel this path

On which stands the cup of suffering

And also much false doctrine

With which they try to turn us away

From Christ our Lord

6.

I lift up my soul to you, Lord

I hope in you in times of danger

Let me not become a disgrace

So that my enemies have the victory

Over me on this earth

7.

They have me here locked up

I wait, O God, from my heart

With great desire

If you would only stir

And save your ones in prison

8.

O God Father, for your kingdom

Makes us like the five wise virgins

Who were alert

In waiting for the bridegroom to come

With his chosen band

9.

Eternal king of heaven

Give us eternal food and drink

Feed us with your truth

Which never spoils

For it is of spiritual nature

10.

If you hold back your food from us

Then all is lost and for nothing

We can accomplish nothing without you

We hope in you through your grace

That we have not been mistaken

11.

I do not doubt the power of God

Truthful is his judgment

He will forsake no one

Who is firm in faith

And remains in truth

12.

Be comforted, you Christians

And always be joyous through Jesus Christ

He gives us love and faith

God comforts through his holy word

And we must trust in it

13.

I bid God and his church

That he be today my guardian

For his name’s sake

My Father, let it be so

Through Jesus Christ, Amen
*Found in The Classics Of Western Spirituality: The Early Anabaptists. 

“A Short Meditation on the Lord’s Prayer” (1526) By Balthasar Hubmaier

This is a short devotional piece written by Balthasar Hubmaier who was an AnaBaptist leader in Moravia in 1528 where he lead a group of congregation with over 12,000 members. Like many of the early Anabaptists Hubmaier was arrested, tortured, and executed for his faith. 

“A Short Meditation on the Lord’s Prayer” (1526)Balthasar Hubmaier

Our Father. Gracious Father, I am not worthy to be called a child of yours or that I should be able to call you my Father. I have not always done your will. I have often done the will of the Father of Lies. Forgive me, merciful Father, and make me a child of yours in the faith.

Who Art In Heaven. Father of goodness, look upon us, we who live in this miserable state of woe. We know that children cannot find a better condition than to be with their loving father, who feeds them, gives them drink, clothes them, protects them and shields them from all needs. Gracious Father, take us, your miserable children, to be with you in heaven.

Holy Is Your Name. Merciful Father, we know that we are guilty of continually dishonoring your name with our words and actions. The suffering of Christ, which for us is medicament for eternal life, we make into an eternal reproach by our cursing and rebuking. Forgive us, Father, and give us grace so that your name will never come from our mouths unprofitably. Help us to cease all blasphemy and swearing so that your holy name will eternally be glorified, enhanced and praised.

Your Kingdom Come. Gracious Father, we know that we are captives to sin, the devil, hell and eternal death. But Father, we cry out and call to you as our loving Father to come quickly with your kingdom of grace, peace, joy and eternal salvation. Come to our aid, gracious Father, for without you we are totally miserable, afflicted and lost.

Your Will Be Done On Earth As In Heaven. Good Father, we confess publicly that your fatherly will does not suit us earthly people. Our will is completely and totally hostile to your divine will. We ask you to send your Holy Spirit to work in us authentic faith, steadfast hope and ardent love, so that our will is conformed to your divine will in all things.

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread. Compassionate Father, we live not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from your holy mouth. Therefore, we humbly pray that you will feed us with the bread of your holy word. This is the bread of heaven, and whoever eats it will be eternally filled. Make it a living presence in our souls. Make it grow and bring forth fruits of eternal life. Give us diligent Christian workers who will spread this bread among us in pure, clear and untarnished manner so that your Fatherly will, which is known only from your word, will be fulfilled.

Forgive Us Our Debts As We Forgive Our Debtors. Kind Father, we know that we are guilty of having sinned in words, deeds and evil thoughts. We do not even know the number, portion or extent of our sins. Father, forgive us and give us power to better our way of living, even as we forgive those who have caused our suffering. Father, forgive them too, for they do not know what they are doing. Enlighten all those who misunderstand your holy word, who abuse and persecute us, so that they might come to the true way that leads to eternal life.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation. Heavenly Father! Look on the fear, barrenness, misery, persecution and hardship which we must endure here on earth, and ponder also our human weakness. For this reason, sweet Father, we ask of you, through your Fatherly love, that you do not forsake us in our anguish and suffering, that we not be defeated nor fall away from your holy word. Do not allow us to be tempted beyond that which we can endure. We are weak and frail, while our enemies are strong, powerful and heartless. You know these things, merciful Father.

Deliver Us From Evil. Deliver us from evil, from sin, from the devil, from our own lust, which is our greatest enemy. Deliver us from all that keeps us far from you. Moreover, give us all that brings us closer to you. For dominion, power and glory are yours forever in eternity.

Eternal Father, as we have prayed to you here, bring it to fulfillment according to your Fatherly good will. These things we pray through your mercy and through your gracious promises which you have given to us consistently through Moses, the prophets and the apostles. But we pray this especially, pleading with you, through your most beloved son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He has surely promised us, and proved it through his bitter death, that whatever we pray for in your name you will give us. Father, we place our bodies, lives, honor, possessions, soul and spirit into your hands. All that we have received from you we offer back to you, for you give and your take away. Praise be to your name. Amen and amen.

From The Classics of Western Spirituality. The Early Anabaptists. 

He Who Examines the Heart. (Prayer).

img_3482

Romans 8:27. He Who Searches the Heart also knows the mindset of the Spirit that he intercedes for the saints according to God’s will.

God is He Who Searches the Heart. Another word for “search” is “examine.” God is He Who Examines the Heart. What a beautiful title for God. Loving parents wants to know what’s inside the heart of their children. Especially when a child is having a tough time. God is that type of loving parent. He longs to know what is in our hearts.

The word for “search” is ἐραυνάω, eraunao. It can also be translated as “examine” or “investigate.” It carries with it a tone of intense or thorough examination. N. T. Wright notes,

“The word ‘searcher’ comes from a root which suggests someone lighting a torch and going slowly round a large, dark room full of all sorts of things, looking for something in particular. Or perhaps he is searching in the dark, by listening. What is he wanting to find, and what happens when he finds it?”[1]

God wants to know our hearts, so he has given us the Holy Spirit who goes to the Father for us at times when we don’t have the vocabulary.

God doesn’t want us to pray with flashy words or perfect phrases. He doesn’t want our prayers to be long-winded and verbose. Mostly, what he wants from us in prayer is our hearts. That’s it. He wants “us.” He wants “us” warts and all. So, when we pray, let’s surrender our hearts to God in prayer. And when we don’t have the words, that’s okay. The Holy Spirit partners with us in prayer to go to the Father with groans and signs that we can’t put into words. William Barclay adds this sentiment, “In the last analysis, the perfect prayer is simply: ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. Not my will, but yours be done.’”[2] Amen to that!

[1] Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: Romans Part 1: Chapters 1-8 (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 154.

[2] William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, 3rd ed. fully rev. & updated, The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 132.

Martyrdom. Part 2.

church-history

As I noted yesterday, the early church father Tertullian stated, “The blood of the martyrs watered the seed of the church.”While writing of early disciples of Jesus, he also wrote, “kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice is the proof that we are innocent. Therefore God suffers (allows) that we thus suffer. The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.”

One of the most persecuted people in the history of the church were the Anabaptist. They came on the scene shortly after the Protestant Reformation began in 1517. They were distinct from the other Protestant groups because did not believe in or practice infant baptism. Thus, they practiced baptism of adult by immersion in water. This also distinguished them from the Catholic church. So, they were pursued and persecuted by both the Catholic church and Protestant churches. They were often executed by drowning.

The Anabaptist were also pacifist (except for some extreme radical groups). So, when they were captured they would not fight their oppressors. One famous incident is told of an anabaptist who is fled a soldier who was trying to arrest him. The anabaptist ran across a frozen lake in order to escape the soldier. The soldier followed the anabaptist onto the ice. Due to the soldier’s equipment, he was heavy, and his weight cracked the ice. The soldier fell into the icy water. The anabaptist had a clear path to freedom. Instead of running away, he turned back to save the drowning the soldier. The soldier arrested the anabaptist and took him into town. The anabaptist was put on trial for heresy, convicted, and executed.

Yesterday, I asked how we would fair if we had to stand up to persecution. Well some of our brothers and sisters around the world do face persecution. Here is a note from Francis. He leads one of the churches in India. Francis writes:

“On a personal note, persecution where I and my wife were dragged by some Hindu forces (RSS) to a police station (for converting 2 boys from a family – my wife was pregnant and yet beaten by a belt – no harm fortunately) has only helped us to be strong as a married couple for God and helped unite the church. Another time, five of the disciples in Bangalore were beaten and put in jail for 3-4 days (many false charges leveled against them and hurried to a judge’s house in the middle of the night and placed in central jail), just for giving an invite card and evangelizing. About a 100-150 disciples were around the court premises 2 days later and showed amazing support to them – it helped unite the church. In fact, it was the answer to one of these disciples’ prayer to be courageous in evangelism.”

I appreciate our brothers and sisters around the world who face persecution from opponents of the cross. What would you do in such circumstances? It difficult to know. But if we waver in our commitment when life is easy, do we really think we would pass the test if things got difficult. Let’s live each day to the fullest for Jesus.

Martyrdom in the Early Church

church-history

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.

William Shakespeare“Julius Caesar”, Act 2 scene 2

Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs watered the seed of the early church.” The persecution of the early church, instead of stopping the growth of the church, fanned the flame of evangelism and growth.

I was reading yesterday about how the most fierce persecution of “Christians” came under the reign of Mary Queen of Scotts. Foxes “Book of Martyrs” was published after her reign and about three-quarters of the book covers the period of Mary. This term “Bloody Mary” comes from her reign of terror.

Much of the persecution in the early was localized to various sections of Rome. Although many view the persecution as generalized across the whole of the Roman Empire, that’s not the case. At times Christians were free to practice their religion as they wished. It all depended on the emperor at the time. One of the most cruel emperors was Marcus Aurelius. This is interesting because he was a poet and a philosopher. I remember reading his Meditations when I was a teenager and being very impressed with his beautiful words. I didn’t realize at the time that he had given the order to murder thousands of disciples. (If you have seen the movie “Gladiator,” Aurelius is the emperor at the beginning of the movie who dies.)

However, neither Aurelius nor any emperor after him was able to stop Christianity. I believe this is because Christians had the example of Jesus before them. Jesus died and rose. Early Christians understood that if they died for the cause of Christ, then he would bring them back to life.

 

I often think of how I would have fared in the days of persecution. I remember walking through the Coliseum in Rome. It’s debated, but most believe that this was one of the places in Rome where our brothers and sisters were fed to the lions. I asked myself as I was standing in the Coliseum, “What would you have done if you had been captured?”  I don’t know for sure. I think a good test is this: How much am I willing to die to self each and every day for Jesus? If I’m not willing to die to self today, it’s unlikely that I would have been willing to face death by the cross or mutilation by the lions.

I believe church history should not only inform us about the past, but it should educate and inspire us for today. So, as we live out this day, let’s remember our brothers and sisters from the early church who were willing to die for the cause. Let’s allow their conviction and commitment to inspire us to RISE UP and live for God today and everyday.

“Invictus by William Ernest Henley

“Invictus” 
william-ernest-henley
Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.