Monday 12 September 2022


Here are the links to the first five blogposts in this Quaker series:

1 -

2 -

3 -

4 -

5 -

In my second blogpost in this series, I explored the teachings of the charismatic carpenter-turned-preacher, Jesus of Nazareth, as written down in the gospel of Mark a generation after Jesus' death. I concluded that these were the words of a man who sensed that there was now a yawning gap between how people should be living out their lives and the reality he saw in front of him. The world had become too caught up in rituals defined by a hypocritical priestly caste who did not practice what they preached. And there was too much focus on the acquisition of wealth. 

Jesus did not just teach about the dangers of money. Actions followed. When Jesus and his disciples travelled to Jerusalem for Passover, he visited the Temple and found the courtyard filled with livestock, merchants, and the tables of money-changers who converted Greek and Roman money into Jewish and Tyrian shekels. Jerusalem was packed with perhaps several hundred thousand pilgrims. Jesus was filled with righteous indignation. How best to describe what happened? He lost his temper? He made a scourge of small cords and cleared the courtyard, scattering the changers' money and overthrowing the tables, saying: 

'You have made my house a den of thieves.' (Matthew 21:12-13)

The Cleansing of the Temple - Lombard School, 18th century

In the accounts of Mark and Luke, Jesus accused the Temple authorities of thieving and names poor widows as their victims. Dove sellers were selling doves for sacrificial purposes to those, particularly women, who could not afford grander sacrifices. According to Mark (11:16), Jesus then put an embargo on carrying merchandise through the Temple, thus disrupting all commerce. Such actions were a direct

challenge to the authority of his own Jewish elders. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all agree that this cleansing of the Temple was the trigger for Jesus' death by the end of the week that followed. 

In those few minutes, the man from Galilee in effect signed his own death warrant.     

It is worth reflecting on why Jesus was prepared to act as he did. What on earth possessed him?  

Paul, the Greek-speaking Jew who turned from persecuting those early followers of the man crucified only a few years before to being the leading Christian evangelical, offers one vital explanation in his axiom: 

'For the love of money is the root of all evil' (1 Timothy 6:10) 

It was a view that his contemporary Luke also shared:

Goodness and greed do not mix

Paul and Luke understood, as Jesus did, that there was something rotten in the affairs of the world - and that it went back deep into times past, and was true everywhere. Humankind was suffering from a collapse of the values that once bound people together. In response, the early Christians now identified themselves as a counter-culture in which communitarian values were embraced. Here are the words of Luke, as recorded in Acts (4:32-35): 

'The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common. The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power, and they were all given great respect. None of their members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from them, to present it to the apostles; it was then distributed to any members who might be in need.'  

We are back within a value system that, in part, is very familiar to hunter-gatherers - and in this brave new world, the teachings of Jesus about money are taken fully to heart. 

Couldn't be clearer, could it?

In these six blogposts, I have tried to tell a story about my faith journey through these last eight months of 2022. I hope you have found it thought-provoking and that you value the scientific insights I have been able to share with you, thanks to the brilliant work of Rutger Bregman. I also hope that you are left, like me, asking questions, acknowledging uncertainty - but determined to act well, and for the common good, in your lifetime.  

Let me close by giving you four of the Advices and Queries  - 27, 28, 29, and 30 - from the Quaker handbook. They speak to me powerfully; I hope they may do so for you, too. I believe the Spirit lives in all of us. 

  • 27. Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak. When decisions have to be made, are you ready to join with others in seeking clearness, asking for God's guidance and offering counsel to one another?   
  • 28. Every stage of our lives offers fresh opportunities. Responding to divine guidance, try to discern the right time to undertake or relinquish responsibilities without undue pride or guilt. Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness.
  • 29. Approach old age with courage and hope. As far as possible, make arrangements for your care in good time, so that an undue burden does not fall on others. Although old age may bring increasing disability and loneliness, it can also bring serenity, detachment and wisdom. Pray that in your final years you may be enabled to find new ways of receiving and reflecting God's love.
  • 30. Are you able to contemplate your death and the death of those closest to you? Accepting the fact of death, we are freed to live more fully. In bereavement, give yourself time to grieve. When others mourn, let your love embrace them. 

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