Solar Eclipse

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One would need to be living in a cave not to have heard about the solar eclipse of next Monday, Aug. 21. Its arrival is being covered by media of all kinds, including newspapers, regular and special TV news reports, radio commentators, and all manner of social media.

Simply stated, a total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, causing the sun to be fully obscured by the moon. In a partial solar eclipse only part of the sun is obscured. Google “solar eclipse” for more information than you really want to know.

Wikipedia says: “An eclipse is a natural phenomenon. However, in some ancient and modern cultures, solar eclipses were attributed to supernatural causes or regarded as bad omens. A total solar eclipse can be frightening to people who are unaware of its astronomical explanation, as the sun seems to disappear during the day and the sky darkens in a matter of minutes.”

Because looking directly at the sun can lead to permanent eye damage or even blindness, special eye protection or indirect viewing techniques are to be used when viewing a solar eclipse. Although some say it’s technically safe to view only the total phase of a total solar eclipse with the unaided eye and without protection, doing so is a dangerous and discouraged practice.

In the past, eclipses have been interpreted as omens. One example is the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who wrote that the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus predicted an eclipse that occurred during a battle between the Medes and the Lydians dated, arguably, around 585 BC. When the eclipse occurred, both sides put down their weapons and declared peace. Even after centuries of study by ancient and modern authorities, details still remain uncertain.

Interestingly, Holy Scripture contains references to unusual behavior of the sun, including these:

  • After hearing Isaiah’s prophesy that he would die, King Hezekiah prayed for his life. The Lord replied through Isaiah that Hezekiah’s life would be extended 15 years. As a sign, the Lord caused the sun’s shadow on a stairway to go back ten steps. (Isaiah 38:1-8)
  • In the midst of a battle between Israel and their Amorite enemies, daylight was waning. That prompted Joshua’s command for the sun to stand still. “So the sun stood still, and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies.” (Joshua 10:13)

For me, the solar eclipse is quite simply a reminder of the majesty of God, who on the fourth day of creation made the two celestial bodies involved in a solar eclipse. To separate the day from the night and “to be signs and seasons and for days and years…God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also…and God saw that it was good.” (Gen. 1:14-18)

Thousands of years later, it still is good, even when one of the celestial bodies hides the other.

Assisting the Poor and Needy

Poverty

We often hear stories about programs for assisting the poor and needy. Some of those stories show the success of such plans. Others show how the system fails and is even abused.

An internet search for “solving the welfare problem in America” produces lots of information on this topic. Here’s one: http://solutions.heritage.org/entitlements/welfare/

When President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty, he said that it was intended to strike “at the causes, not just the consequences of poverty.” He added, “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.”

Five decades and $24 trillion later, the welfare system has failed the poor. Poverty rates remain stagnant, and self-sufficiency languishes.

Today the federal government operates roughly 80 means-tested welfare programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to poor and lower-income Americans. Total federal, state, and local government spending on these programs now reaches over $1 trillion annually.

The cost of welfare is unsustainable, and pouring dollars into an ever-increasing number of welfare programs has failed to improve rates of self-sufficiency. It is time to get welfare spending under control and to reform welfare to encourage self-reliance and human thriving in the context of community.

In addition, in one of my computer files I found these statements on this topic, written by an unknown author from an obviously conservative perspective:

  1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
  2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
  3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
  4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
  5. When half the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

These statements may seem a bit harsh and surely do not tell the whole story of human need and how it can be met. Yet governmental, religious, and other public or private agencies need to assist the poor responsibly to avoid harming both givers and receivers.

The Bible says: “There will always be some in the land who are poor…Share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.” (Deut. 15:11 – NLT)

The Bible also says: “If any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10 – KJV)

If a poor person is truly unable to work, we who have been abundantly blessed have a duty to assist. If a poor person is truly able to work, to rely on external assistance is hard to justify.

Preachers and Professional Athletes

Salary

For years I’ve marveled at the stunning salaries of some professional athletes. A Google search produced a list (https://www.forbes.com/athletes/list/#tab:overall) of the ten highest paid. From bottom to top, their annual salary and endorsement income range from a paltry $46 million for an English auto racer to a much more respectable $93 million for a Portuguese soccer player.

To say the least, those numbers are far from salaries of professional church workers, both preachers and teachers. In a former life of oversight of congregations in Texas, I always encouraged church leaders to be generous in the area of compensation, particularly when calling a new pastor and reviewing their current pastor. A laborer is worthy of his hire.

In that regard it’s an understatement to say the preaching profession is not known for commanding outlandish salaries. I’m happy to say that has improved somewhat in recent years. By the way, the only overpaid pastors I ever knew were those simply not doing their job!

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I stumbled upon an internet announcement last week that a North Carolina pastor had signed a contract to become one of the pastors of a well-known church in Houston. The contract was reportedly $110 million over six years.

According to my math, that would be approximately $18.3 million per year or about $1.5 million per month. My dear Terry’s comment is that that pastor’s wife would most likely not have to worry any more about clipping coupons!

Upon further investigation I found a video from the pastor himself, declaring the announcement untrue, bogus, a falsehood. He says he’ll be remaining at his church in North Carolina and not moving to the church in Houston. Don’t you wonder who started that rumor? I surely do!

Here are my four perspectives on this topic:

  1. Don’t always believe everything you read on the internet, even if it looks legitimate.
  2. There is a point at which compensation becomes way out of proportion to a person’s intrinsic value. That truism is not restricted to professional athletics.
  3. Everyone who follows his or her vocational calling is worthy of reasonable, fair, even generous compensation, in proportion to his or her value to his or her employer.
  4. To whom much is given, of him or her much is required! Luke 12:48

God bless your day!