Monday, July 5, 2010

303: Hate Your Father and Mother

Luke 14-16
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple." - Luke 14:16

Chapter 14 starts with Jesus again making a point about doing good on the sabbath (this is the third time in Luke). We get it, we're allowed to do good things on the sabbath. Jesus then immediately transitions into a parable about always taking the least important place at the table (whatever that is). The idea is that you can only move up if you take the least important place.

We then have a twisted version of the parable of the wedding banquet (from Matthew). This time it's a "great banquet" as opposed to a wedding banquet. The servants the banquet host sends out to bring in the invited guests are not killed (as in Matthew), but just given excuses by the invitees as to why they can't come. Like in Matthew's story, the host sends out the servants again to invite the poor instead of the original invitees. The host makes sure that the banquet is full so that none of the original invitees can get in. They didn't want to come in the first place. Why would they have changed their minds?

Jesus then gives us a few requirements to be one of his disciples. We must hate our father and mother, our wife and children, our brother and sisters, and finally we must hate ourselves. Otherwise we cannot be a disciple of Jesus. Isn't this going to make the "respect your father and mother" commandment considerably harder? It's difficult to respect someone when you have to hate them. Worst of all is hating yourself. Why does Jesus want a bunch of self-hating disciples?

All of chapter 15 is three parables that say the same thing. It's the "lost sheep" parable from Matthew. The parable basically says that God celebrates more for one converted non-believer than he does for all of his followers. The last of these parables is about a father who splits his estate between his two sons.

One of the sons runs wild and spends all the money. The other son stays and works for his father. When the wild son returns his father greets him merrily and slaughters a fattened calf as celebration. The other son is obviously pissed. I can understand forgiving the wild son, but this is taking it a bit far. Shouldn't you make sure the son has changed his ways before you start throwing celebrations?

The first part of the last chapter of the day is about a rich man's manager who is about to be fired. So that he has a place to stay after he is fired, the manager goes through the rich man's list of clients and starts lowering their debts. Instead of being angry, the rich man commends his manager (why?). Jesus tells us to use money like this to gain friends in this life so that, when we run out of money, we will gain eternal life. We should steal our boss's money to gain eternal life? Is that really what Jesus is saying here?

Right after this story, in a section called "additional teachings", Jesus reiterates that it's easier for heaven and earth to pass away than it is for a single stroke of the pen to be removed from the law. Didn't he just change a sabbath law earlier today?

The final story of the day is about a rich man and a poor man that lives outside his house. They both die from unknown causes. The rich man is sent to hell, and the poor man is sent to live by Abraham's side in heaven. The rich man calls up to Abraham from hell and asks him for mercy. Abraham says that he received all his good things in life, while the poor man didn't receive good in life, so he has it in death. I have to feel shitty now so I can feel good when I'm dead? How does this make sense? How is this moral? What bad thing did the rich man do that makes him deserve hell? His only crime mentioned in the bible is the fact that he had money.

Once the rich man is denied, he asks Abraham to send the poor man to warn his father about this eternal hellfire. Abraham again says no, and tells the rich man to trust the prophets. The rich man says that if they see someone rise from the dead they will believe. Abraham says that not even a man rising from the dead will convince the Israelites (what does this say about Jesus?). Maybe not, but if a few dead people came and hung out with me for awhile I'd be considerably more inclined to believe in the afterlife (that is, right after I visited the psychologist).

Why does everyone in the bible seem perfectly content with condemning people to eternal hellfire for pretty much nothing?

Christopher Hitchens has recently announced that he will be undergoing treatment for throat cancer. Francis Phillips (a Catholic) has some interesting theories:
It would be impertinent for me to feign great sorrow at this news, as I only know Hitchens from hearsay, reputation and his writings. Nonetheless, if my own doctor had broken similar news to me I would have been shocked, so he has my sympathy; prayers as well – a more practical remedy.
Right, nothing is more practical than a good ole' talking to yourself. This delusion is how children die when their parents pray instead of giving them medical treatment.
I just wish he could stick to his brief of being the scourge of injustice and pomposity rather than thinking he has to do Attila’s job too. Mother Teresa and Pope Benedict are the kind of soft targets who will always turn the other cheek at Hitchens’s critical jibes.
First of all, I'm sure Mother Teresa doesn't mind Hitchens's jibes, considering she's dead. Second, I wouldn't consider the Pope a "soft target". Maybe if the Pope did a little less turning the other cheek to child molesters he wouldn't be such a target.
Some years ago, I happened to mention to a saintly Irish priest (his one small vanity was to think he looked like the actor Robert Mitchum) that the scientist Francis Crick – of Crick & Watson, the well-known firm of DNA supplies – had just died. “He didn’t believe in God,” I added. “He does now,” replied my Irish friend.

Perhaps visiting his doctor will be a wake-up call for Hitchens?
A wake up call for what? The God he doesn't believe in gave him cancer, so now he's going to believe? Or maybe he's suddenly going to buy Pascal's wager? I think the only way we're going to get a death bed conversion out of Hitchens is if the cancer moves to his brain.


  1. You've pretty much nailed most of the points I was going to make on these chapters, so today's comment will be relatively short.

    Luke 14

    Luke 14:1. The Pharisees are still inviting Jesus to their house for a meal, after all the times he's insulted them? They must either find him very amusing, or they believe in turning the other cheek. (Jesus is being carefully watched by whom?)

    Luke 14:2. How did that man with dropsy get into the Pharisee's house while they were eating? It seems that he wasn't eating with them.

    Luke 14:2-4. The synagogue ruler's objection from chapter 12 holds here: Unless this was a medical emergency, it could've waited until the next day. OTOH, real Pharisees (as to opposed to the caricatures in the Gospels) had no objections to rescuing people on the Sabbath.

    Luke 14:5-6. According to the Talmud and other Jewish sources, proper procedure when an animal fell into a well on a sabbath was to feed it but leave it in the well overnight. Either Jesus or Luke didn't know actual Jewish practices. Also, the original version said "donkey," not "son." (Even Pharisees would rescue a child who fell into a well on a Sabbath.)

    Luke 14:12. Do not invite you family or friends to lunch or dinner! How come we never hear Xians advocating this?

    Luke 14:13-14. I question the moral goodness of someone who helps the poor so that he can go to heaven. Why is it bad to do something in hope of getting a reward on earth, but good to do somethings in hope of getting a reward in the afterlife?

  2. Had to laugh at that news ending. :D



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