Divergent

Michael Metzger

According to Stanford Business School, a divergent opinion can lead to better decisions. Scripture agrees, urging us to heed the divergent voice, especially during advent.

The Stanford Graduate School of Business November issue of “Insights” featured: “Do You Have a Contrarian on Your Team?” The article cited research indicating divergent opinions can lead to more creative and better decisions. Effective teams include at least one member with high emotional intelligence willing to play the devil’s advocate, presenting divergent and possibly disturbing views.

We see the divergent voice in scripture as well, particularly in advent. “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming” or “visit.” During this season, Christians remember the first advent in Bethlehem in preparation for the second yet to come. Preparing includes assessing spiritual health and making corrections. This is aided by heeding prophets playing the devil’s advocate. They offer divergent opinions.

This sounds good until we remember the two dissenting voices in the first advent—Malachi and John the Baptist. In Malachi 3, God (through the prophet Malachi) said preparedness includes generosity, presenting “offerings in righteousness.” The Jews assumed they were generous. Wrong. God said they were robbing him. The remedy was giving “the whole tithe.” Did the Jews heed this disturbing voice? Nope.

In Luke 3 we read of John the Baptist calling the Jews “to prepare the way for the Lord and to make straight paths for him.” This image is drawn from Eastern kings who often boasted of the roads they built in trackless deserts. It’s a picture of powerful cultures. The Old Testament describes cultures as worn paths. The Jews understood that readiness included making flourishing cultures for the flourishing of all. Were they doing this? Nope. They had instead become insular. Did they heed John’s dissent? Nope.

Fast forward to Advent 2015. Does our advent season prepare Christians for the second advent of Christ? Let’s start with giving.

Our stewardship ought to fall somewhere between generous and sacrificial. Generosity is somewhere north of ten percent of income. Sacrificing is what banker Henry Thornton of the Clapham Sect did, giving away as much as six-sevenths of his income till he married, and after that at least a third of it.1 Believers today on average give much less, between two to three percent of income. But they assume they’re generous. Does this indicate advent isn’t preparing Christians for the second advent of Christ?

Or consider the Cultural Mandate (Gen. 2:15). This is the “foundational command” for the church, to make flourishing cultures.2 John the Baptist alludes to it in calling for straight paths, or flourishing cultures. Is advent preparing Christians for the second advent of Christ by reminding them to make cultures? Doesn’t seem to. In fact, churches seem to misunderstand what is meant by culture. They treat cultures as what we “engage,” attack, or shun. Wrong. Cultures constitute the air we breathe. We don’t “engage” air or attack it. Shun oxygen and you die. Divergent voices point this out.

In the book and film series, divergents are viewed as a threat because they display attributes of multiple factions. They see what others don’t. Prophets are divergents. But they’re not threats. They help make advent a season of preparation for Christ’s second coming. When heeded, Christians make better decisions and become better prepared.

Follow me on Twitter: @Metzger_Mike

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1 Ernest Marshall Howse, Saints in Politics (London: George Allen Unwin, Ltd., 1952), p. 134.
2 Dr. A. M. Wolters, “The Foundational Command: Subdue the Earth,” (Paper given at the Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto, 1973), p. 8.

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4 thoughts on “Divergent”

  1. Mike,

    I like what is stated in Malachi 3:10. ” Bring the whole Tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test me now in this”, says the Lord of Hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.

    We tend to get stuck in our ownership of things for a lot of reasons that may inhibit us from bringing the whole tithe into the storehouse.

    Measuring income today is not as straightforward as it once was. But our heart knows what is going on in this regard and each one must carefully examine the heart to see what it is for them to obey God’s command here.

    Generosity and Sacrificial seem to be relative terms. But from what I know, the term ” Tithe : is not.

    As a group, 2-3 % doesn’t look to measure up to Malachi’s command.

  2. I think part of the problem here (re: “giving”) may lie in the disconnect we’re seeing with what we’re giving and who we’re “giving” it to. . . . When our social ‘work’ became much more the province of governmental structures, feeding and clothing (and housing) the poor, the widowed and the orphaned started to be done more through governmental taxes – which for must of us constitute a whole lot more than 10% of our income – than through the auspices of the church.

    “Nonprofits” are often rather “profitable” to those who work in them – and raise money for them – and many of those nonprofits dedicate just a fraction of the money they raise to the ‘good works’ they were organized to do.

    Stop to think what the giving to a “church” these days tends to support.

    Perhaps we need to reconsider just what it is we are “tithing” and where we ought to take it and to whom entrust it. . . . ?

    Nobody said the tithe is restricted to money. In fact, initially I believe the tithe was tied to natural production (earth and livestock) per Lev. 27. In fact, Leviticus 27:31 appears to discuss the question of monetizing the ‘tithe’ when it says “Whoever would redeem any of their tithe must add a fifth of the value to it.”

    If we consider that the tithe (the “one-tenth”) is of the natural gifts God gives us every year in nature – which we are to gather and set aside for those in want and/or for times of hardship – we get a rather different picture than the financial transactions we have equated ‘tithing’ with.

  3. . . . and yes, per Numbers 18, the tithe also supported the Levites, who did not have their own land but instead were given the Lord’s portion as their “inheritance”:

    “Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD’s offering.” (Numbers 18:26)

    How do we translate that into the current “culture”?

  4. “In the book and film series”?

    Tithing and giving and culture – great topic. Love to see more thoughts on this from you Mike, you’re always asking good questions on these things.

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