I discovered a jewel of wisdom while going through some old graduate school papers for another project. The article “When Was the Last Time?” by Mike Cope (I was unable to find any source attribution on my photocopy, though it was obviously published in a Christian magazine). The article is simply a collection of thirteen questions each with the intention of provoking our thought in relationship to power, wealth, and abundance in a North American Christian context.
I have included seven of the questions posed by Cope:
- When was the last time a Christian college named a blue collar worker with a modest income to its Board of Trustees because he or she was a devoted follower of Jesus with much wisdom to offer?
- When was the last time special visits where made by the minister and elders to an unemployed family, encouraging them to “place membership” at their congregation?
- When was the last time one of our institutes of higher learning named a building for someone who was never able to give $100 but modeled the life of costly discipleship?
- When was the last time the shepherds of a church confronted someone over a covetous, materialistic lifestyle?
- When was the last time a brother or sister was disfellowshipped for being greedy? (1 Corinthians 5:11)
- When was the last time a Christian “made it big” without it affecting the size of their house or the model of their car?
- When was the last time a Christian family “downscaled,” not because they couldn’t make their higher payments any more but because those high payments stretched them to the point of being unable to contribute to the church or to help people in need?
Socrates would obviously be proud of this article. Socrates made it a habit of reacting against the elite thinkers of his age. His reactive tool was in the form of questions. He thought the art of wisdom was found in questions, not answers.
These questions are powerful for at least three reasons:
- Frames or reframes the issue. The directness and honesty of these questions forces each of us to evaluate ourselves, our motives, and our Christian values.
- Allows space to leave open questions open. It would be impossible to completely answer or address all of these questions because there are specific issues that may or may not impact how one would respond. The question form forces us to ask – does that describe me?
- Convicting. If none of these produce a ‘hmmmm’ moment, you are probably an alien from another planet (not that I am saying aliens exists – another post for another time!). If someone is going to challenge you and get up in your face, it might as well be in the passive form of a question.
photo by r-z.
Anyone want to take a stab at answering any of these questions?