政治、經濟、出埃及 (2)

上次談到出埃及之前的經濟背景,今次談出埃及的結果。將結果和開始對比,我們就可以看出摩西(當然是出於耶和華神的智慧)贏得多麼的漂亮,相比法老是輸得有多慘。

我們日常說:「摩西帶領以色列人出埃及。」,其實並非百份百準確。且看出:12:37-38。

37 以色列人從蘭塞起行,往疏割去,除了婦人孩子,步行的男人約有六十萬。 38 又有許多閒雜人,並有羊群牛群,和他們一同上去。

跟隨摩西出埃及的,除了以色列民之外,還有「許多閒雜人」。還記得法老一開始就是害怕以色列人會「聯合我們的仇敵攻擊我們,離開這地去了。」(1:10) 才會苦苦的對待以色列人,如今以色列人沒有主動的聯合法老的仇敵,反倒是原本是埃及盟友的「閒雜人」,看見法老一敗塗地,看風駛𢃇,隨著以色列人離去了。

要知道當時社會多有遊牧民族,像埃及一般的洋洋大國,定有許多外族人在那裡寄居。他們在法老政權中並沒有既得利益,看風駛𢃇實屬正常。同樣的當以色列強大起來,成為獨立國家以後,她也一樣要學習處理這些「外國勢力」。

所以不要以為以色列是一個「純種」的民族。要知道外邦人在以色列國中的角色,可以看聖經的例子。記得大衛王犯罪,搶了麾下大將烏利亞的妻子拔示巴,這烏利亞是赫人 (Hittite),同時拔示巴也可能是外邦人。可見外邦人居朝中高位也是可能的。

換一個正面和平民的例子,路得是摩押人,更是不祥的寡婦,她在猶大地也可找到幸福。路得是耶穌的祖先,可見上帝也不看重純正的血脈。

回到出埃及記,摩西自己在埃及王宫中長大,又流落到了米甸,他妻子也是米甸祭司的女兒。他的國際視野可以說是傲視同儕。相比法老王,只知道鐵腕壓制,難怪他對以色列人和其他民族的人心存猜忌。他對外國人的猜忌最後更成了自我實現的預言 (self fulfilling prophecy)。他害怕發生的叛逆,結果因為他的猜忌而真的發生了。

我們現在活在一個全球化的世界。每個國家都必需具備國際視野,也要懂得怎樣維繫國內不同種族、文化和背景的人。要知道寄居的外國人隨時可以選擇離開,甚至是倒戈相向,因為他們並沒有道德義務(moral obligation) 向本國政府效忠。

那麼為政者怎樣可以維繫各色人種呢?答案是:要有鮮明的「核心價值」。外地人如果明瞭本地的核心價值,就可以在社會中找到定位,融入本地社會,為社會作貢獻。相反如果核心價值受到侵蝕,外地人自然便會有離異之心。即或是本地人,看見核心價值被破壞,也會心存異志,可況是可以隨時離開的外人呢?

回到出埃及記,他們的核心價值是什麼呢?且看12:48-49:

48 若有外人寄居在你們中間,願向耶和華守逾越節,他所有的男子務要受割禮,然後才容他前來遵守,他也就像本地人一樣。但未受割禮的,都不可吃這羊羔。 49 本地人和寄居在你們中間的外人同歸一例。

很明顯的,他們的核心價值是對耶和華神的敬拜。願意敬拜耶和華的,無論是本地人或是外人,只要守割禮,願向耶和華守逾越節,就必會一視同仁,作為外邦人也可以享受神對以色列的祝福。相比於只有「核心權力」而沒有「核心價值」的法老,難怪「許多閒雜人」會樂意的跟著他們出埃及去了。

以上的話,不單是為政者需要明白,教會也要好好的反省。健康成長,以基督為核心的教會,很自然是會吸引各式人等。正如在芥菜種的比喻中的芥菜種長起來成了樹,天上的飛鳥就會來宿在它的枝上。(太13:32) 相反如果貴教會是純正的「清一色」,沒有不一樣的人,沒有相對的意見,那你們的核心價值還是建立在主耶穌的福音上嗎?

政治、經濟、出埃及 (1)

先考大家一個聖經問題:在摩西帶領以色列人出埃及以前,以色列人在埃及是做什麼工作?

有些基督徒會答:「他們是在做奴隸。」

「奴隸是他們的社會地位,不是他們的工作。」

比較熟悉聖經的基督徒會答:「他們在造磚。」

「哪他們造磚建什麼?」

小朋友可能會回答:「造金字塔!」

金字塔不錯是埃及最出名的建築物。但在以色列人在埃及的時候,金字塔已經建成了近一千年。他們不是在建金字塔。

答案在出1:11 -「他們為法老建造兩座積貨城,就是比東蘭塞。」

要明白什麼是「積貨城」就要回到創世記約瑟的故事。記得約瑟為法老解夢,七年豐年、七年饑荒。創世記47章記載了在七年饑荒之中約瑟為法老收購了所有人民的牲畜、農地,以至埃及全民都成了法老的奴隸。雖然時移世易,另一政權掌管了朝政(出1:8),但囤積居奇的經濟政策並沒有改變。直到四百年後,囤積糧食然後高價賣出的政策仍然在實行。

埃及有尼羅河的滋潤,土地肥沃,自古以來都以糧食出口致富。但從經文看來,出埃及時候的埃及國,財富和權力都高度集中。一般的埃及人民和其他在埃及寄居的民族其實沒有從國家的富強中得到多大的益處。這樣的「深層次矛盾」其實法老王也知道,所以法老才這樣的害怕以色列人會「聯合我們的仇敵攻擊我們,離開這地去了。」(1:10)

當一個社會,大部份人在努力工作,但經濟成果只有少數人享用,社會自然充滿矛盾。尤其是如果官商囤積的是糧食,或是其他生活必需品(例如:房地產或石油),這樣引發的社會矛盾會更大。聖經中對有關生活必需品的商業活動有特別的教訓:

出 22:26 「你即或拿鄰舍的衣服做當頭,必在日落以先歸還他。」

申命記 23:19 「你借給你弟兄的,或是錢財或是糧食,無論什麼可生利的物,都不可取利。」

利 25:23 「地不可永賣,因為地是我的」

作為現代的基督徒,生活在資本主義的社會,我們不僅要明白現代商業的運作,我們也應當明白商業活動背後的社會影響。尤其是官商一體的亞洲經濟模式,我們要特別的明白經濟發展和民生的改善是兩碼子的事。基督徒以及教會對如果對聖經的教訓有承擔的話,我們就必需在扶貧、改善民生、和社會公義上做合時代的鹽和光。

政治、經濟、出埃及 (引言)

原載於 fifteenminutesoverlunch.com, June 10, 2013,以美國教會為背景。有見於近日時局,特別將之翻譯(翻炒)。希望教會可以反省。

https://fifteenminutesoverlunch.com/2013/06/10/what-is-god-doing-in-china/

上帝正在中國做什麼?

「上帝正在中國做什麼?」這-條問題可以有很多不同的答案。以下列舉幾個典型的回答:

答案1:

「上帝在中國有奇妙的作為!我們教會去年差派了一隊短宣隊到中國。我們不能公開的傳福音,所以我們藉著教英語去服侍他們。雖然如此,我們的短宣隊有機會個別地分享個人的信仰,結果有16人信主。讚美主!」

答案2:

「上帝在中國有奇妙的作為!基督教是那裡增長最快的宗教。有些報道說中國有7千萬基督徒,有些報道甚至說中國基督徒數目有1億3千萬!」

以上兩個都是好答案,反對了教會中不同的觀點。但容許我介紹我的好友李業基傳道的觀點:

答案3:

「如果你想知道上帝在中國做什麼,你可以翻閱出埃及記。現代中國很像古埃及。兩者都是當代最大的經濟體。99%的人民努力工作,但享受不了他們努力的成果。他們的出產都是輸出外國,讓1%的人變得富強。為了持續經濟發展,政府不斷建設龐大的基建工程,從而雇用大量奴工。如果你想知道神在中國做什麼,你要讀讀祂當年在埃及的作為。祂永不改變。祂以前所作的事,今天也會再現。」

你認為神只看顧基督徒?抑或祂看顧一切眾生,特別是窮苦人?

你認為神只關心宗教活動?抑或祂也關心經濟、政治、國際事務、和社會公義?

你以為神已經改變?祂對現今世代的要求和以往不一樣?

你的「神」夠這世界大嗎?

Investing in the right direction

Roughly speaking, there are three groups of people in every society – the rich, the poor, and the middle class. When society is changing, the rich don’t want to change, the poor are incapable of change. Therefore the middle class are those who are feeling changes and effecting changes.

Back to our story of the shrewd manager. The three classes are all represented – we have the rich master, the poor debtors who owe the master significant amount of produce, and the shrewd manager in the middle. Now the manager in the middle faces change in his career, what are his options?

He can look up. He can beg his master not to fire him. Or he can go work for another master. He can also take his money and stash it somewhere safe and live on its dividend. These are all things that “regular” middle class do. They invest in upward mobility (e.g. a good college degree), or they invest in a basket of nested eggs.

The shrewd manager acted differently. He knew it was useless to plead his case in front of his master. And he know that the option for his future is limited. (v.3) So he made the best investment – invest by looking DOWN the social ladder. Using his master’s resources, he built relationships with people below him socially.

This strategy worked for the shrewd manager, it works today too. In our corporate world, you can try to please your boss all you want. The moment you become unprofitable, you will be unceremoniously ejected from the organization. Many who climbed up the social ladder realize that the world of the upperclass knows only profit.

Not so down the other side of the social ladder. People in need know how to be thankful. If you help those in need, they will return the favor when the time comes.

Jesus’ commentary on the shrewd manager was very straightforward – so straightforward that it borders being unbelievable. “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” People before money. It is very simple – but those who love money, like the Pharisees, will sneer at this simple principle.

God’s investment plan is simple: Invest in friendship by helping those in need.

When change is forced upon you.

It is happening more frequently to more people:

(All of the followings are real people I know, name changed)

  • John was a software engineer was laid off after more than two decades of service, when he was looking for a new job, he realized that his skills are hopelessly outdated.
  • Mary worked extremely long hours in the financial industry. When her turned 40 and she realized her body cannot handle the long hours anymore. She was promptly replaced by someone younger, cheaper, and more energetic.
  • Edward managed a small investment fund. He found it more and more difficult to make an honest living because most of his competitors had connections with clients with questionable sources of income while he in his good conscience refused to take in such clients. Eventually he quit.
  • Helen was a mid-level manager in a pharmaceutical company. After her company was acquired by its competitor, she was offered either to relocate overseas or take the package. She took the package.

Career changes happen to almost everyone. It is now a rarity to find someone who works for the same company for his or her entire career. Often we not only change jobs, we change our entire careers. I have worked with more than a few engineers who suddenly decided that they want to be real estate agents. I have friends who are fed up with Wall Street and gave up their lucrative careers in the financial industry in search of “something more meaningful”.

For those of us who are “fortunate” enough to keep our jobs, we are not immune to changes. Changes is being forced upon us daily. I work in the newspaper industry, we know we have to adapt to the digital world or be eliminated. 

In the parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16:1-14), our main character faces a career change that is forced upon him. He is going to lose his job. Like many of us, he is at a turning point in his career. His old career of being a manager is going to end soon. What he is going to do to cope with this change should be an inspiration to all of us struggling to find a new direction in our careers.

What is more amazing is his boss’ reaction to the manager’s shrewdness. Read the parable and be amazing. More discussion to come… 

A surprising parable

Most Christians and many non-Christians who are exposed to the bible will be familiar with the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It is one of the all time favorites. The parable impresses us with the love of the Father who longed for the return of his lost son. It is a story of forgiveness and restoration. The story also presents a contrast between the two sons – the young son who lost everything and came to his senses and repented and the elder brother who was self-righteous, unforgiving, and bitter. 

Those who are diligent in studying the bible will also tell you that the parable of the prodigal son is actually the crowning jewel of a triplet of parables recorded in Luke chapter 15. The three parables are the parable of the lost sheep, where the shepherd left behind 99 sheep to search for the one lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, where a woman who had ten coins search diligently for the one that was missing, and then the parable of the prodigal son. All three stories highlight our Lord’s heart for the lost and how sinners repenting will lead to rejoicing in heaven.

Ok! Here come the surprise quiz: What parable comes AFTER the parable of the prodigal son? Do you know the answer without looking it up in the bible or online?

Jesus told four parables to the assembled Pharisees that day. The fourth one is quite unique and very surprising. The chapter division in Luke does not help us here: the first three are put in chapter 15 and somehow the fourth one ended up in chapter 16. 

Go look up what is the fourth parable. I am sure you will be surprised too. My next post will be discussing how applicable this surprising parable is to our 21st century situation.

 

 

Who said life is a Marathon

Who said life is a Marathon

最近看見一個日本的招募廣告,很有意思,也反映了我寫的田鼠的故事。難得日本這一個講究大一統的民族也有這樣的醒覺。中國人,我們何時才學會走自已的路?

Recently, I came across a Japanese commercial for an recruiting event. It was in Japanese with Chinese subtitle. Here is the subtitle translated into English:

We are running. We are running today. We all run.

The clock cannot stop. Time keep on matching forward.

This is a marathon with no turning back.

We compete with every opponents while racing down this highway of time.

We want to run faster than others. We believe there is a bright future. We believe there is a finish line.

Life is a marathon….

Is that true? Is that life?

NO!

Life is not a marathon.

Who made up this race? Who put up the finish line?

Where should we run to? What direction should we go?

I make my own way! My own way?

Can it be? I don’t know.

The world which we have never seen is so immense. It is much bigger than our imagination.

That is right!

Get off the well trotted path.

We may be perplexed. We may be hurt. But we will run till the end.

What if we fail? What if we go in circle?

We don’t have to compete with anyone.

There is more than one way. There is more than one finish line.

There are as many possibility as there are runners. Each of us is wonderful.

Who said life is a marathon?