Daily Riches: First-Century Faith Today (Diana Butler Bass and Rodney Stark)

“As much as contemporary believers might find similarities between our time and that of Christianity in ancient Rome, the two are not the same. The ancient Mediterranean world that Rome once ruled was a vast, culturally diverse set of societies, unrelated by languages, economics, religions, and histories, all forced into political unity by a brutal military. Vast numbers of people who inhabited the Roman Empire resented or hated Roman rule and experienced few, if any, benefits from its social and economic structures. The empire was not in any modern way even vaguely democratic or inclusive; instead, it was a rigidly hierarchical and status-based world of haves and have-nots, of masters and slaves. Unlike a Hollywood sword-and-sandal film, the ancient world was not a pleasant place absent conveniences such as sewer systems and running water. As sociologist Rodney Stark describes, ‘Greco-Roman cities were small, extremely crowded, filthy beyond imagining, disorderly, filled with strangers, and afflicted with frequent catastrophes—fires, plagues, conquests, and earthquakes.’ Unlike Western urban life today, where even the poor have access to marginally acceptable services, ‘life in antiquity abounded in anxiety and misery’ for nearly everyone.” Diane Butler Bass

Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.” 2 Corinthians 11:25-27

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your faith deep enough and strong enough that it would sustain you in a world like the one described?
  • Is the gospel you trust in and share with others sufficient for such a world? Would it make sense? Would it be heard as good news?
  • Imagine yourself living in that world. What would it mean to live like Jesus there?

Abba, thank you for the cushy life I enjoy. Show me what you expect of me in my privileged time and place.

For More: A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story by Diana Butler Bass

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. If you liked this, please share it! I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

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