But there was one moment that I found perplexing. At verse 27, the Bible reads that Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar this:
“Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”
At this point, the pastor read out loud only this part: “Renounce your sins by doing what is right,” and then he stopped. He came out from behind the pulpit and explained that (and I paraphrase here), “we, at this church, believe that you are not saved by what you do. One of the largest churches in the world has made the gospel a matter of doing certain things to be right with God, and we find that the Bible tells us that we are made right with God only by having faith in Jesus Christ.”
Then the rest of the preacher’s message interpreted the Nebuchadnezzar story as a man who needed to become humble and renounce his pride by accepting God as Lord instead of relying on his own “majesty” as King. Nebuchadnezzar needed to repent from his pride.
Now, I do think that Nebuchadnezzar’s sin was one of arrogance and pride, but that is not all—it was an arrogance and pride rooted in his power and prosperity. And I found that the sermon did not stress the actually meaning of this text: Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar, “Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed.” That is what the text says!
Is this a case where our theology trumps the “literal interpretation” of the text? It seems to me that the purpose of this text being in our Bibles is to teach us that power and wealth corrupts—and that if we are to humbly acknowledge Yahweh as Lord, then we MUST (no ifs, ands, or buts) do what is right—and that is to “be kind to the oppressed.”
A follower of God (i.e. a Christian) cannot claim to be so if he or she is rich and powerful and is also willingly part of a system that is wicked in the oppression of people. King Nebuchadnezzar is re-granted his prosperity only when he renounced his pride and decided to change his systems of making the rich richer and the powerful more powerful.
technorati: spiritual formation , social action