Preliminary Thoughts on Envy and the Jews

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As many of you know, I am currently engaged in preaching through the book of Romans. After an Advent hiatus, I will resume my place in chapter 11, and so I am coming up on the Pauline doctrine of the conversion of the Jews. The driving engine of that conversion — jealousy — has been too long neglected, and the world has covered that neglect in layers of protective gear. They don’t want anybody to get at it, because they don’t want to have the world blessed in the way Paul says it will be blessed.

I will have to say more about this later, but I should just mention some of those protective layers in passing. The engine that drives this process as Paul describes it is jealousy and emulation, and in these, our politically-correct days, we have declared war on all notions of ethnic disparity, superiority, and so forth. We have declared his idea to be either impossible, like a perpetual motion machine, or pernicious, like a hate machine.

But the Bible says what the Bible does, and I am preaching through Romans, so here goes.

“But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you” (Rom. 10:19).

“I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy” (Rom. 11:11).

“If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them” (Rom 11:14).

Okay, nothing too controversial so far. But there is no way to defuse the envy bomb without running the risk of having it blow up in your face, and so again, here goes.

Jews comprise less than one percent of the world’s population, and yet make up about twenty-five percent of the world’s capitalists and entrepreneurs. If you look at international awards for intellectual achievement (like the Nobel, before they started giving that one away), or chess competitions, or patents, or musicianship, and so on, disproportionate achievement is the name of the game. The cultural superiority of the Jews is striking, stark, and obvious.

And so here are the preliminary thoughts.

First, Paul knew his kinsmen. This is a group of people on whom this tactic would work.

Second, using the tactic does not consist of whining Gentiles accusing the Jews of cheating. For Gentiles to give way to the little man syndrome is not going to provoke anybody to anything, except me to exasperation possibly.

Third, this means that cultural achievement and blessing, far from being a distraction from the gospel, is a necessary adjunct to the gospel. “Here, think these thoughts about Jesus in your head” is not the kind of thing that will make the Jews think long and hard about the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy.

And fourth, anti-Semitism therefore, while sometimes clothed in gospel talk, is the ungospel, the anti-gospel. It does whatever it can to impede the fulfillment of the Great Commission, including the fulfillment of that commission to the Jews. The Puritans knew that the conversion of the Jews was the linchpin to the successful evangelization of the world, and they prayed and labored to that end.

And so should we — but we have to deal with some gunk in our hearts first.

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