Worth Reading - 1/21

1. It's that time of year again when the latest statistics about how rich the rich are and how poor the poor are. The intent of these statistics is to try to encourage forceful economic redistribution. Joe Carter at the Acton Institute explains why this statistic doesn't really help us understand wealth and poverty.

The problems with using this type of metric is that the comparisons are based on net worth (assets minus liabilities). Everyone who owns even a modest home and car and is not in debt would be in the top 10 percent. But it doesn’t really even take that much money to be in the top 50 percent.

In fact, if you aggregate all the people who have a negative net worth into one category and call them the “bottom half” then you come up with some peculiar conclusions. As Felix Salmon says, “My niece, who just got her first 50 cents in pocket money, has more money than the poorest 2 billion people in the world combined.”

But that “bottom half” (over 2 billion people) would include people like Eike Batista. Although he was the world’s eighth-richest person in March 2012, he now has a negative net worth of hundreds of millions of dollars. That puts him in the same category as people who live on less than a dollar a day. Is Salmon’s niece (or your own child) “richer” than Batista? Not in way we usually think of wealth: as the ability (or potential ability) to consume goods and services.

2. Scott Sauls recently published a piece on his blog the frames the discussion of the place of wealth in a better context. This is worth a read for those trying to figure out why Scripture doesn't condemn money totally.

Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. (1 Timothy 6:8-10)

No one can serve two masters…you cannot serve God and money. (Mark 10:21)

Jesus told the rich young ruler, who was enamored with his wealth, that he would not be able to enter life until he sold everything and gave it to the poor.

Why would Jesus tell the rich ruler give everything to the poor, but not demand the same of Abraham or Job? It was because the rich ruler didn’t really have money. Money had him. The man who thought he couldn’t live without his money, in truth, wouldn’t be able to live with it.

Scripture never says that having wealth is wrong, but craving and serving wealth is the problem. It never says that money is a root of all kinds of evils, but that the love of money is the real issue.

3. An article from NPR that evaluates the concept of "free" college. Surprisingly, they are willing to note that state funding of higher education isn't really free. This is a relatively balanced piece that puts the arguments of the left and right in a fair light. Worth reading, since the idea of free education keeps getting thrown about.

“Free” is a word with a powerful appeal. And in the past year or so it has been tossed around a lot, followed by another word: “college.”

Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton spent a lot of time talking about free tuition. And this week, the promise has been taken up by one of the largest public university systems in the country: New York state’s.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a proposal that would offer free tuition at state-run colleges for students from families earning less than $125,000 a year. Called the Excelsior Scholarship, his plan — which needs approval by the Legislature — would grant full rides to qualifying students as long as they attend one of the state’s public two- or four-year colleges.

4. Some people like to argue that they are truly rational and enlightened because they believe everything scientifically. However, what if these people who believe Science provides the ultimate Truth are wrong about the nature of Science? That is the argument of this article:

Look, science is really important. And yet, who among us can easily provide a clear definition of the word “science” that matches the way people employ the term in everyday life?

So let me explain what science actually is. Science is the process through which we derive reliable predictive rules through controlled experimentation. That’s the science that gives us airplanes and flu vaccines and the Internet. But what almost everyone means when he or she says “science” is something different.

5. Trevin Wax encourages his readers to dive into the Bible and learn to swim.

We shouldn’t approach the Bible like it’s a sunken ship, where we dive deep for an artifact or treasure we can bring back to our own world. Instead, we should see our era like the sunken ship and the Bible as the ocean that surrounds us. Christians must learn how to swim in the Bible.

No one should say this is easy. It’s true that the Bible can feel to the newcomer as if it were a foreign land. The tourist may feel disoriented when visiting another country, where the language is different, where the signs are a mystery, and where the customs are unusual.

But the best way to learn a language or adapt to another culture is full immersion into its rituals, routines, and language. That’s why we need full immersion into the world of the Scripture: its message must be celebrated and proclaimed in communities of faith, its stories must be told as our own, and its characters must feel as close as family.