Is Jesus a Sociologist?

painting-1023419_640
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Perhaps this question is inappropriate because Sociology as a social science discipline was only established in the late 19th century and Jesus was already preaching in Galilee some 2,000 years ago. Besides, Jesus as our Lord and founder of Christianity had no formal training in sociology and is never considered by many as a social scientist during His time.

But Jesus, believed by many Christians as both man and divine, must have known the human heart and behavior better than any scientist who can theorize people’s actions.

christ-1618197_640

He may not have known sociology during His time but His words and preaching were full of sociological insights. Theologians and sociologists may have overlooked that there are many passages in the Gospel attributed to Jesus that are full of sociological theories and insights.

Body of Christ

Source: haikudeck.com

The New Testament too in the letters of St. Paul, especially Romans 12:5,1 Corinthians 12:12–27, Ephesians 3:6 and 5:23, Colossians 1:18 and Colossians 1:24 describing the Church as the Body of Christ, is also very sociological! Describing the early Church as one system or a human body with different interdependent parts obviously illustrates the sociological theory of functionalism. Functionalism as established by the French founder of modern sociology, Emile Durkheim, views society as one system like a human body, with different interdependent functions.

Here are 2 similarities between Jesus’s perspectives and sociology as illustrated by some biblical passages below:

1. Jesus’ Teaching on Understanding People’s actions: Judge not just the external acts but the motive behind them is similar to Max Weber’s concept of “Verstehen” (interpretive understanding).

Jesus

Soruce: www.vineyardmsa.org

The following words of Jesus against hypocrisy and rash judgment highlight the importance of understanding people’s motives behind their actions and not just their external acts. In hypocrisy, the public can only see the people’s appearance or what Max Weber calls as “stereotypes”. The scribes and Pharisees appear very religious and pious in front of the Jews or worshipers, but their motives are not religious–these leaders would only want to appear religious in order that the Israelites would praise and respect them.

Max Weber

Source: www.slideplayer.com

The German sociologist Max Weber uses the concept “verstehen” (interpretive understanding) or understanding social action from the actor’s point of view in studying the true meaning of human behavior. In this case, the sociologist must put himself into the shoes of the person performing the external act or stereotype and understand his/her motive. Applying “verstehen” implies research, interviewing, triangulation, and knowing the true meaning of the external action as well as the intention of the individual performing it, thus making the behavioral assessment holistic.

In this case, Jesus saw a discrepancy between what the Pharisees and Scribes showed publicly in their stereotypes, i.e., appearing very religious in the temple, and the motives behind their piety. Before Weber recommended “verstehen” to sociologists in studying behavior, Jesus was already applying it during His lifetime:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity” (Matthew 23:27).

“In the same way, you appear to be righteous on the outside, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 23:28).

 2. Jesus Teaching against discrimination and marginalization of  the poor in Jewish society resembles the conflict theory in Sociology. 

Karl marx

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

The conflict sociologists who are inspired by Karl Marx’s dialectical materialism view the oppression of the poor or working class by the elite or rich capitalists as a byproduct of an economic system wherein the means of production of goods are owned and controlled by the private sector or rich capitalists and motivated by profit. Conflict theorists see the unequal distribution of goods as the root cause of economic injustice in society.

jesus and social justice

Source: www.findinggraceatthecenter.com

But before Karl Marx and conflict sociologists saw the unequal distribution of goods in society as the root cause of society’s conflict, Jesus already condemned any form of economic and social discrimination of the weak and inequality during His time. The economic control of the rich and religious elite led by the Pharisees and Scribes of the Jewish society is viewed by Jesus as causing a great injustice and the marginalization of the poor, the sick, and the afflicted: “But if anyone has the world’s good and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in you” (1 John 3:17-18)?

social justice and the gospel

Jesus’ pronouncement on the Last Judgment clearly illustrates His awareness of economic conflict and condemnation of social inequality that marginalizes the poor who imitate Him:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25: 34-36).

Conclusion

Is Jesus a sociologist? Well, formally Jesus may not be a sociologist and social scientist since He did not receive any formal sociological training. Moreover, the primary focus of His teaching is spiritual and religious. But obviously His words and perspectives are full of sociological insights! Theologians and Bible scholars may not have given much attention to the sociological underpinnings of Jesus’ teachings. But to those who have been academically trained in both Sociology and Theology, it is fairly obvious that Jesus is a “sociologist”, that his perspective of reality is holistic, and, thus, using the “sociological imagination.” Of course Jesus is more than just a sociologist. For many Christians, Jesus is the Christ who is both true man and true God. As divine, He knows human behavior more what professional sociologists understand about human agency!

Photo Credit (except those with attribution): Pixabay.com

Thank you for reading this post. Sign up with our newsletter or follow this blog via email for more updates.

Is Jesus a Sociologist?

painting-1023419_640
Web Hosting

Perhaps this question is inappropriate because Sociology as a social science discipline was only established in the late 19th century and Jesus was already preaching in Galilee some 2,000 years ago. Besides, Jesus as our Lord and founder of Christianity had no formal training in sociology and is never considered by many as a social scientist during His time.

But Jesus, believed by many Christians as both man and divine, must have known the human heart and behavior better than any scientist who can theorize people’s actions.

christ-1618197_640

He may not have known sociology during His time but His words and preaching were full of sociological insights. Theologians and sociologists may have overlooked that there are many passages in the Gospel attributed to Jesus that are full of sociological theories and insights.

Body of Christ

Source: haikudeck.com

The New Testament too in the letters of St. Paul, especially Romans 12:5,1 Corinthians 12:12–27, Ephesians 3:6 and 5:23, Colossians 1:18 and Colossians 1:24 describing the Church as the Body of Christ, is also very sociological! Describing the early Church as one system or a human body with different interdependent parts obviously illustrates the sociological theory of functionalism. Functionalism as established by the French founder of modern sociology, Emile Durkheim, views society as one system like a human body, with different interdependent functions.

Here are 2 similarities between Jesus’s perspectives and sociology as illustrated by some biblical passages below:

1. Jesus’ Teaching on Understanding People’s actions: Judge not just the external acts but the motive behind them is similar to Max Weber’s concept of “Verstehen” (interpretive understanding).

Jesus

Soruce: www.vineyardmsa.org

The following words of Jesus against hypocrisy and rash judgment highlight the importance of understanding people’s motives behind their actions and not just their external acts. In hypocrisy, the public can only see the people’s appearance or what Max Weber calls as “stereotypes”. The scribes and Pharisees appear very religious and pious in front of the Jews or worshipers, but their motives are not religious–these leaders would only want to appear religious in order that the Israelites would praise and respect them.

Max Weber

Source: www.slideplayer.com

The German sociologist Max Weber uses the concept “verstehen” (interpretive understanding) or understanding social action from the actor’s point of view in studying the true meaning of human behavior. In this case, the sociologist must put himself into the shoes of the person performing the external act or stereotype and understand his/her motive. Applying “verstehen” implies research, interviewing, triangulation, and knowing the true meaning of the external action as well as the intention of the individual performing it, thus making the behavioral assessment holistic.

In this case, Jesus saw a discrepancy between what the Pharisees and Scribes showed publicly in their stereotypes, i.e., appearing very religious in the temple, and the motives behind their piety. Before Weber recommended “verstehen” to sociologists in studying behavior, Jesus was already applying it during His lifetime:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity” (Matthew 23:27).

“In the same way, you appear to be righteous on the outside, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 23:28).

 2. Jesus Teaching against discrimination and marginalization of  the poor in Jewish society resembles the conflict theory in Sociology. 

Karl marx

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

The conflict sociologists who are inspired by Karl Marx’s dialectical materialism view the oppression of the poor or working class by the elite or rich capitalists as a byproduct of an economic system wherein the means of production of goods are owned and controlled by the private sector or rich capitalists and motivated by profit. Conflict theorists see the unequal distribution of goods as the root cause of economic injustice in society.

jesus and social justice

Source: www.findinggraceatthecenter.com

But before Karl Marx and conflict sociologists saw the unequal distribution of goods in society as the root cause of society’s conflict, Jesus already condemned any form of economic and social discrimination of the weak and inequality during His time. The economic control of the rich and religious elite led by the Pharisees and Scribes of the Jewish society is viewed by Jesus as causing a great injustice and the marginalization of the poor, the sick, and the afflicted: “But if anyone has the world’s good and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in you” (1 John 3:17-18)?

social justice and the gospel

Jesus’ pronouncement on the Last Judgment clearly illustrates His awareness of economic conflict and condemnation of social inequality that marginalizes the poor who imitate Him:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25: 34-36).

Conclusion

Is Jesus a sociologist? Well, formally Jesus may not be a sociologist and social scientist since He did not receive any formal sociological training. Moreover, the primary focus of His teaching is spiritual and religious. But obviously His words and perspectives are full of sociological insights! Theologians and Bible scholars may not have given much attention to the sociological underpinnings of Jesus’ teachings. But to those who have been academically trained in both Sociology and Theology, it is fairly obvious that Jesus is a “sociologist”, that his perspective of reality is holistic, and, thus, using the “sociological imagination.” Of course Jesus is more than just a sociologist. For many Christians, Jesus is the Christ who is both true man and true God. As divine, He knows human behavior more what professional sociologists understand about human agency!

Photo Credit (except those with attribution): Pixabay.com

Thank you for reading this post. Sign up with our newsletter or follow this blog via email for more updates.

Is Material Happiness Lasting?

pexels-photo-761854.jpeg

It has been said that happiness is a state of mind and a relative term. Our views on happiness are determined by our mental frames which are reflections of our own cultural orientation as members of a particular community. For Christians, happiness is not only limited to material happiness. The Christian concept of happiness goes beyond the material world and satisfaction of our sensual needs. In fact, the Church’s teaching on the 7 deadly or cardinal sins includes gluttony. The word “gluttony” comes from the Latin word gula which is derived from gluttire which means “to gulp down or swallow”. Gluttony is the inordinate, over-indulgence, and over-consumption of food, drink, or material things that provide much pleasure to the body.

pexels-photo-376464.jpeg

The Church does not discourage people to enjoy consumer goods that provide pleasure and material happiness to people. But consumption must be done in moderation. As embodied beings, we are entitled to the enjoyment of God’s creation and human goods and services. But we must avoid inordinate attachment, i.e., our life is not tied up with material goods, we don’t crave for things that are unnecessary in life and detrimental to our spiritual life with God.

pexels-photo-415380.jpeg

In Church teaching, happiness is, above, spiritual in nature. True happiness is spiritual joy of being in the state of grace and of knowing that one is following God’s will. The happiness of parents of seeing their children praying or doing their duties in school is spiritual joy that last in their memories even after death. The consolation we experience when we pray to God is spiritual joy that can propel us to be with the divine in the afterlife. In other words, spiritual happiness is lasting, while material happiness is fleeting.

 

The Limits of Material Joy

 

Material happiness has limits. We may have achieved our personal goals. We may have acquired much wealth and fame, but the end of the day we still remain mortal and moving towards our own death. The great Steve Jobs may have reached the pinnacle of success in business and innovation for co-founding the tech giant Apple. But when he was stricken with cancer and was dying, he acknowledged what that lingers in people’s memory are not achievements, pleasures, and material success in life, but the loving memories of the things we care about that make our loved ones and other people happy. In other words, he is referring to our spiritual joys which are indeed lasting!

pexels-photo-723031.jpeg

Material happiness is like eating our favorite cuisine. After we have savored it and satisfied our craving, the sense of pleasure immediately vanishes. And it is only a matter of minutes that we crave again for another type to continue the pleasure of eating. Some Roman gluttons were said to intentional vomit the food they just ate in order to feel hungry again and to continue to feel the pleasure of tasting their sumptuous meal.

pexels-photo-358070.jpeg

The fleeting moment of material satisfaction can also be illustrated in buying a new luxury car. After using it a couple of days or would probably after a week, the excitement and pleasure of driving our dream car would immediately subside. And the desire of acquiring a new car which is better than the previous model would probably surface in our dreams.  We enter into an endless cycle of craving and pleasure to satisfy our insatiable material desires. This also the case of people who find happiness in sex, drugs, and other forms of material pleasure. The material happiness is indeed very temporary.

family.jpg

Contrast this material pleasure with spiritual joy and happiness of helping and loving our loved one and people who are in need. Our loving memories of the good we do to others do not just fade away in our consciousness but can linger even up to our last breath. That’s why people capture memorable moments in selfies, groupies, posts, videos, digital photos and pictures to remind them of their treasured happy memories. This is not say that we should disregard our material desires and suppressed them altogether, but we have to be conscious of their limits and not be imprisoned by our inordinate attachment to material pleasures, thereby losing sight of our spiritual journey in life.

pexels-photo-356842.jpeg

Seeing life from the point of view of death has been recommended by great saints and thinkers. St. Ignatius of Loyola, for instance, recommended a meditation on death to make us more humble and see the limitations of our being or what the great philosopher Martin Heidegger calls a human person as a “being-towards-death”, and to feel our vulnerability on the face of death and remove the last vintages of pride within us.

 

Again, Steve Jobs is one of the most innovative and charismatic leader in the American business world and has been idolized by millions of his fans worldwide for his technological innovation and vision and for co-founding Apple and its innovative products. And yet, he has acknowledged the limits of success and accumulation of wealth. In the face of death, everything fades except our loving memories of people.  In our dying bed we recall these memories and thank our God for giving us the spiritual grace of genuinely loving other people, especially our family and friends or whoever that touched our life deeply.

pexels-photo.jpeg Praise God for reading this post. If you feel that this post can help others, press click share! I pray that God will always guide you in your daily activities. God bless! Photo credit: Pexels.com free photos

 

Continue reading “Is Material Happiness Lasting?”

The Limits of Material Happiness

pexels-photo-761854.jpeg

It has been said that happiness is a state of mind and a relative term. Our views on happiness are determined by our mental frames which are reflections of our own cultural orientation as members of a particular community. For Christians, happiness is not only limited to material happiness. The Christian concept of happiness goes beyond the material world and satisfaction of our sensual needs. In fact, the Church's teaching on the 7 deadly or cardinal sins includes gluttony. The word "gluttony" comes from the Latin word gula which is derived from gluttire which means "to gulp down or swallow". Gluttony is the inordinate, over-indulgence, and over-consumption of food, drink, or material things that provide much pleasure to the body.

pexels-photo-376464.jpeg

The Church does not discourage people to enjoy consumer goods that provide pleasure and material happiness to people. But consumption must be done in moderation. As embodied beings, we are entitled to the enjoyment of God's creation and human goods and services. But we must avoid inordinate attachment, i.e., our life is not tied up with material goods, we don't crave for things that are unnecessary in life and detrimental to our spiritual life with God.

pexels-photo-415380.jpeg

In Church teaching, happiness is, above, spiritual in nature. True happiness is spiritual joy of being in the state of grace and of knowing that one is following God's will. The happiness of parents of seeing their children praying or doing their duties in school is spiritual joy that last in their memories even after death. The consolation we experience when we pray to God is spiritual joy that can propel us to be with the divine in the afterlife. In other words, spiritual happiness is lasting, while material happiness is fleeting.

The Limits of Material Joy

Material happiness has limits. We may have achieved our personal goals. We may have acquired much wealth and fame, but the end of the day we still remain mortal and moving towards our own death. The great Steve Jobs may have reached the pinnacle of success in business and innovation for co-founding the tech giant Apple. But when he was stricken with cancer and was dying, he acknowledged what that lingers in people’s memory are not achievements, pleasures, and material success in life, but the loving memories of the things we care about that make our loved ones and other people happy. In other words, he is referring to our spiritual joys which are indeed lasting!

pexels-photo-723031.jpeg

Material happiness is like eating our favorite cuisine. After we have savored it and satisfied our craving, the sense of pleasure immediately vanishes. And it is only a matter of minutes that we crave again for another type to continue the pleasure of eating. Some Roman gluttons were said to intentional vomit the food they just ate in order to feel hungry again and to continue to feel the pleasure of tasting their sumptuous meal.

pexels-photo-358070.jpeg

The fleeting moment of material satisfaction can also be illustrated in buying a new luxury car. After using it a couple of days or would probably after a week, the excitement and pleasure of driving our dream car would immediately subside. And the desire of acquiring a new car which is better than the previous model would probably surface in our dreams.  We enter into an endless cycle of craving and pleasure to satisfy our insatiable material desires. This also the case of people who find happiness in sex, drugs, and other forms of material pleasure. The material happiness is indeed very temporary.

family.jpg

Contrast this material pleasure with spiritual joy and happiness of helping and loving our loved one and people who are in need. Our loving memories of the good we do to others do not just fade away in our consciousness but can linger even up to our last breath. That’s why people capture memorable moments in selfies, groupies, posts, videos, digital photos and pictures to remind them of their treasured happy memories. This is not say that we should disregard our material desires and suppressed them altogether, but we have to be conscious of their limits and not be imprisoned by our inordinate attachment to material pleasures, thereby losing sight of our spiritual journey in life.

pexels-photo-356842.jpeg

Seeing life from the point of view of death has been recommended by great saints and thinkers. St. Ignatius of Loyola, for instance, recommended a meditation on death to make us more humble and see the limitations of our being or what the great philosopher Martin Heidegger calls a human person as a “being-towards-death”, and to feel our vulnerability on the face of death and remove the last vintages of pride within us.

Again, Steve Jobs is one of the most innovative and charismatic leader in the American business world and has been idolized by millions of his fans worldwide for his technological innovation and vision and for co-founding Apple and its innovative products. And yet, he has acknowledged the limits of success and accumulation of wealth. In the face of death, everything fades except our loving memories of people.  In our dying bed we recall these memories and thank our God for giving us the spiritual grace of genuinely loving other people, especially our family and friends or whoever that touched our life deeply.

pexels-photo.jpeg

Praise God for reading this post. If you feel that this post can help others, press click share! I pray that God will always guide you in your daily activities. God bless!

Photo credit: Pexels.com free photos

Continue reading "The Limits of Material Happiness"