BREAD AND RELIGION
The Apostle Paul believed that “God would supply all our needs because of Christ’s glorious riches” (Phil. 4:19). The devil had the idea to have God turn stones into bread and the Son of God refused to become involved in making bread for man (Mt. 4:3-4). God commanded the world into being, why not command a few stones to turn into bread (Gen. 1)? God made a man out of the earth and he could make children out of stones, why refuse to make a little bread (Gen. 2:7; Lk. 3:8)?
Religion is the most misapplied word and concept in the world. It does not mean what most people think it means, like Buddhism, Christianity or Islam. Webster tells us that religion means to bind or tie together people to represent their point of view on endless things. Any ism with a dream, a goal or a faith in persons, objects or sciences becomes a religion. The person that believes in a being other than human is just as religious as the one who believes in chance or accidents. The Bible does not use the word religion but worship or holiness, godliness or piety to express a relationship between the Creator and those that believe in Him. For instance, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst” (Mt. 18:20). It is only in translations that the word “religion” or “religious” has been employed or the need to define a body of doctrine or teaching. It is similar to the word “Trinity” that has been used to form a unity between “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19).
The New Testament has a few references where translators used the words “religion or religious.” The first reference is in Acts 17:22. The Greek text uses “deisidaimonesteros” the King James uses “superstitious” and our modern versions use “religious.” The actual meaning is that the Athenians were “God-fearing” people. The gods were greatly feared and it is not likely that Paul would have dared to call their belief superstitious or religious. The second reference is in Acts 26:5 where Paul describes his behavior and belief as a Pharisee with the word “threskeias” and it means “honoring God.” In I Timothy 2:10, the Greek word is “theosebeian” and it means “God fearing.” The King James Version has “godliness“, the Revised Standard Version has “religion” and the “International Version has ”worship”. I Timothy 3:16 uses “eusebeias” to depict Jesus’ holiness, piety and sanctification. The King James and the International Versions use “godliness” and the Revised Version use “religion”. II Timothy 3:5 uses “eusebeias” to address people that disrespect godly living. Again, there is no agreement among translators on a substitute word but there is no doubt about what a God fearing life must do or what a true religion is all about. We have two references that open the window to what God expects of us: First Timothy 5:3-4 and James 1:26-27.
The reference in First Timothy 5:3-4 states, “Give proper recognition to widows who are really in need. Especially if they have children and grandchildren, have them first of all learn to practice their religion by caring for their own family and that way pay back to their parents and grandparent for the care they received, for that is what is pleasing to God.” The Greek for practical faith or religion is “eusebein” and in English or German it means fearing God. The RSV and the ISV use “religion” and the KJV uses “piety.” Paul was linking the behavior and duty of widows to the Law of Moses. The Israelites under Moses had a convincing fear of God for carrying out his sentence on those that disobeyed the Law. For instance, Children that disobeyed their parents and dishonored them were executed (Ex. 21:17). A person that did not provide for his family was not accepted into their community and treated like a godless tramp (I Tim. 5:8). Love did not mean one was cozy with God but fearful or scared to death of what He will do if one does not carry out what He has ordered. Love had to do with what God commanded, with what is best for the neighbor and what brings contentment to a person for having done what God wants. We do not please God with one little deed but with everything we do that honors God, my neighbor and myself. If I do not put bread on the table for my family and that includes my parents, then I do not possess Biblical love or possess the fear of God. A religion or a faith that circumvents the need to fear God or his Laws is not going to feed anyone. Jesus reinstated that fear and that love (Mt. 10:28; Jn. 15:13).
James was on the same wavelength with Paul regarding widows and orphans and two additional things related to how needs are met (Ja. 1:26-27). “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (Ja. 1:26-27). The Greek text has ”threskos” (religious) and “threskeia” (religion used twice). The basic meaning is “fearing God” and it is lacking in the lifestyle of these Christians. With their behavior and speech, they deny what they profess to be. With their tongue they promise to feed and cloth the needy, but greed for riches keeps them from using their resources to provide bread for the destitute. Religion to James meant “faith in action.” It was not that one was a believer that made his faith acceptable to God and man, but a doer that proves his faith is real when he/she extends a helping hand, and not because they are ordered to do so, but that they are willing to do so on their own. Instead of the word “religion or religious,” translators used the words “faith” and “deeds” (Ja. 2:14-26).
Religion in a purer sense represents a way of life in takes care of his brother. It is a relationship of people that join in a common cause deemed best for them.
The Christian faith or religion is “deeds” oriented. The dogmas and principles Jesus represented were not to sit on but to motivate his followers to practice their faith in the world. Confessions and professions are good for the soul but they do not feed anybody. Jesus felt uneasy when people called him Lord and did not do the will of God (Mt. 7:21-23). The will of God in practice is love in action illustrated in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37) and the lack of love in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31). Jesus identified with people that helped the needy and did not blow their trumpets (Mt. 6:1-4; Mt. 25:31-46). He was very displeased when a Rich Young Man came to him and called him “Good Teacher” and wanted to know what he had to do to get into the eternal kingdom; but when he was told that he had to feed the poor, he went away sad. He could not part with his worldly goods (Mk. 10:17-23). The Young Man demonstrated that one can not serve both, God and mammon (Mt. 6:24).
True religion has a heart for the hungry and thirsty people, but not to endless feeding of those that practice poverty. A religion that feeds people instead of teaching them how to feed themselves, feeds itself out of existence. Such a religion is operating against the very laws placed within nature. Everything within creation recreates to feed itself. For that reason, everything is perishable on earth and must die in order to be reborn. Death is as necessary to life as oxygen. Even while we are alive and go to sleep we experience seconds when our heart appears to stop or take brief rests. The very brief intervals between the strokes are indicating pauses the heart needs to recharge. That is why rest is of the utmost importance to the body for all living beings, including the earth. Plants, shrubs and vegetation need seasons when nothing grows but everything dies and rests. There is no resurgence or a resurrection unless the seed dies in the soil and gives life to new plants that produces bread (I Cor. 15:35-38).