In his letters to the Corinthians, Paul makes it clear that he expects to be rewarded for his work. And not just by God after he dies. He thinks his followers owe him a material reward for his spiritual work, just like any other worker would get. And he says that isn’t just his opinion. God’s law (at least the way Paul interprets it) commands that people pay others for their work, including preachers.
But then he claims that he’s not preaching for profit, that there’s nothing wrong with not paying a preacher, and that he’s not trying to convince anyone to give him anything. So why was he just telling people they owed him, then? Even though he thinks he has a right to be supported by his followers, he now says he would rather die than use that right, because he’s proud not to be a burden to the people he’s preaching to.
Then he says he doesn’t even deserve a reward, because he can’t help preaching. So why was he just saying he did deserve it? For Paul, preaching the gospel for free is its own reward, and other than that, he doesn’t want any reward.
Continue reading Did Paul think he should get a reward for his work?
On the mountain, or wherever
Moses climbed up Mount Sinai to meet God, who told him that his people needed to keep his covenant. Moses went back down and told the Israelites, and they said they would keep it. So Moses went back up the mountain and told God what they said. Then God said he was going to come and talk to Moses. Then Moses told God what the people had said, again.
God told Moses how the people should prepare for God to talk to Moses, and how Moses should keep the people away from the holy mountain while God was there. Then Moses went down and told the people what God had said. He also told them not to have sex during the visit from God, which God had not said anything about.
Moses stood at the foot of the mountain with the people and talked with God. Then Moses went up to the top of the mountain so God could talk to him. God told Moses to go and warn the people not to get too close to the mountain. Moses reminded the all-knowing God that they had already put limits around the mountain to keep people away, because God had told them to.
Then God told Moses to go down and get his brother Aaron. So he went down and told the people to stay away from the mountain, again. While Moses was down there with the people, God told them the Ten Commandments. But God was too scary, so the Israelites told Moses not to let God speak to them directly. So Moses went back up the mountain, and God gave him some more laws for Israel, so they would have more opportunities to sin. God thought that would help save people’s lives, but somehow it didn’t work.
Then God told Moses to come up the mountain with Aaron and some others. So Moses went down the mountain and told the people about all those laws. The people said they would obey them. Moses wrote down the laws, and then he came up the mountain with Aaron and some others. Then God told Moses to come up the mountain so he could give him the law. So Moses went up the mountain with his assistant, Joshua, leaving Aaron with the people. A week later, God started talking to Moses and giving him more instructions.
Continue reading The Story of the Golden Calf—
Moses Receives the Commandments
How God got Joseph into Egypt
Jacob made a fancy robe for his favorite son, Joseph. This made Joseph’s brothers jealous. Then Joseph started having dreams about his family bowing down to him. This made his brothers hate him. So Joseph’s brothers stole his robe and dipped it in goat blood, so their father would think Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. They sold Joseph to some merchants, who took him away to Egypt and sold him as a slave to Potiphar, the captain of the guard.
Inmate interprets increasingly insane imaginings
Potiphar’s wife kept trying to get Joseph to sleep with her, but he refused. Then she accused him of trying to rape her, so Potiphar put him in prison. Two other prisoners, who had been Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker, got Joseph to interpret their dreams for them. Pharaoh’s cupbearer had dreamed about bearing Pharaoh’s cup, which Joseph said meant he would become Pharaoh’s cupbearer again. And it was so. Pharaoh’s baker had dreamed about birds eating Pharaoh’s bread out of a basket on the baker’s head, which Joseph said meant the baker would be executed. And it was so.
Later, Pharaoh had a dream about seven skinny cows eating seven fat cows, and a dream about seven thin heads of grain eating seven full heads of grain. None of his magicians and wise men could tell him what his dreams meant, so his cupbearer suggested asking Joseph. Joseph said both dreams meant that there would be seven years of abundance, and then seven years of famine. Pharaoh was so impressed by this claim that he put Joseph in charge of all of Egypt, without even bothering to wait and see if Joseph’s prediction was accurate.
Do not worry about tomorrow
During the seven years of abundance, Joseph took away all the grain that was grown in Egypt and stored it up, so the people could starve sooner rather than later. Then during the seven years of famine, he sold grain to everyone who needed it in Egypt and Canaan. Joseph gave the Egyptians food (that he had stolen from them) in exchange for all their money, all their livestock, all their land, and their slave labor. He also made them give a fifth of the food they were able to grow to Pharaoh, so that they could have food.
Continue reading The Story of Joseph and his Brothers—
The Interpreter of Dreams
The Bible describes and encourages a lot more evil behavior than you would expect from a “good book”. Not all of it is like that, of course. But even when the Bible discusses and promotes good behavior, the reasons it gives for behaving that way are usually all wrong.
There’s a Bible verse that addresses the issue of doing things for the wrong reasons. Paul thinks that as long as you’re doing the right thing, it doesn’t really matter why you’re doing it. Well, I disagree. Reasons are important. Your reasons for doing things influence which things you choose to do. If you’re not doing things for the right reasons, you’re probably not going to consistently do the right things.
What would be a good reason for, say, showing hospitality? Why should you provide people with lodging and food? In the past, one good reason was that it took a long time to travel, and there weren’t a lot of commercial hotels around. So the only way travelers could get shelter at night was to rely on strangers to offer them a place to stay.
The Bible’s justification for promoting hospitality, on the other hand, doesn’t even have anything to do with helping people! Instead, the Bible says you should let people stay in your home because your guests might actually be angels. That’s a dumb reason, isn’t it? How is it in any way better to provide for angels, who don’t need your help, than to provide for humans, who do?
Continue reading Good deeds for bad reasons
Ten generations after Noah, God promised a man named Abraham that he would have countless descendants through Isaac, the son of Abraham and his sister Sarah. But before Isaac could grow up and have children, the all-good God ordered Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. So Abraham lied to his servants and his son about what he was planning to do, so they wouldn’t interfere. Then he tied up his son, put him on an altar, and picked up a knife…
Continue reading The Story of Abraham’s Sacrifice—
Isaac and his Murderous Psycho Father
It is written: Workers deserve their wages. Payment for work is not an optional gift; it’s an obligation. After all, the whole point of working is to be able to reap the benefits. If even people who don’t work have a right to be fed, how much more those who do? God does not approve when people make other people work for nothing. You must pay your workers without delay, or God will take away everything you have.
Continue reading Do workers deserve payment?
Adam and Eve’s first two sons were Cain, who grew plants, and Abel, who raised animals. They offered some of their plants and animals to God, but God only liked Abel’s meat, and didn’t like Cain’s fruits. Cain got very angry, and the all-knowing God couldn’t figure out why.
Continue reading The Story of Cain and Abel—
The Picky Eater