Messianic Temptations – A Dialogue w/ Lee Camp

From Joe James:

Lee –

Can you help me make sense of John Yoder’s interpretation of the Temptation Narrative of Jesus in the desert?

I thought I had this clear in my mind, and was explaining it in our book club. However, a wise old Baptist preacher stopped me and said, “What’s wrong with being a welfare king? Sounds like something you and me both would advocate!” I wasn’t sure how to respond myself, nor was I sure what Yoder would say! As a Yoder student, how do you respond?

Peace –

Joe James

Hi Joe,

Jesus responded, “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” The problem with both capitalism and socialism is the reduction of political realities to mere economic exchange, without a true or full account of the whole of human life. To be merely a welfare king–to be simply a conduit of the doling out of bread–is to shortchange the fullness that is the Kingdom of God. There is obviously a place for “welfare,” in the sense of giving to those who have need; but the way of the church is the way in which such giving is not separated from a desire for the whole goodness of an individual human being; i.e., we give bread when needed, and without strings, but we are also present to give more (in the sense of a call to change and repentance and renewal, etc.) as it is needed and desired.

Or so it seems to me…

Peace, LC


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Joe. I like how he defines the way of the church: we give to those in need, but we don’t stop there. I think this is a major problem with many church ministries that are focused on giving to the needy. While we ought to give without strings, I think such giving must be in the context of relationship. If no relationship exists, it must be sought out by the Christians who are a part of such an “exchange.” We must live out the fact that we care more for the spiritual well-being of the needy people than for their material well-being, while still not forsaking their material well-being. It’s a challenging calling for sure…



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