The Publican continued . . .

A couple of days ago, I recounted the story of the calling of Matthew the disciple. Except, at the time, he was not a disciple, but rather one of the most despised members of the nation of Israel. In fact, he held one of the most despised occupations in all of the Roman Empire.

Matthew was a tax collector otherwise known as a “publican”. On Wednesday, I explained that publicans were not just the first century equivalent of our present-day, friendly IRS agents. But rather publicans were crony capitalists of the worst kind, using the power of the government to take money right out of the pockets of citizens, making no pretense of offering a product or service.

Lessons from Luke: the Publican

Did you know that the disciple called Matthew, also known as Levi, was a tax collector before Christ called on him to be a follower?

Today’s post is another in our Lessons from Luke series. Luke tells of Christ’s first encounter with Matthew here:

After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.”

The New Year, resolutions and all that

Welcome to January 2011 and the year where all your dreams will come true!

Okay, not quite, but I think we often over-hype the new year when the the reality is that January 1st is nothing more than a number, a date, a day that is really no different than December 31st. The day is typically cold, the sun comes up, the sun goes down and January 2nd is upon us.

A Ken doll and contentment

My oldest daughter recently turned eight years old and our church has started to have activities for young people her age. Elise loves to attend and enjoys the games and listen to the Bible teaching.

When I picked her up last Friday,  I asked, “So, what did you learn about tonight?”. Her answer: “We talked about contentment and how Paul and Silas were content, even though they were locked in prison for teaching about Jesus.” (You can read the story in Acts 16:22-30.)

Family stages of Christmas gift giving, Part II

On Monday, I wrote about the sociology of the first few stages of Christmas gift giving.

These stages are not meant to be exhaustive, there are all kinds of idiosyncratic changes that many of us could make based on differing Christmas traditions, blended families, differing socio-economic status and a host of other factors. Also, many of us might experience several of these stages at the same time when dealing with different branches of the family tree.

Here is the second half of the list:

Family stages of Christmas gift giving, Part I

I follow a few personal finance bloggers via Twitter, one of whom is Money Crashers. Last weekend Money Crashers hosted an #MCchat where the discussion revolved around Christmas, especially the family gift-giving aspect of the holiday.

The social media exchange piqued quite a few thoughts about gift giving. I thought I would put on my sociologist hat and share some of those thoughts. I think that most families go through similar stages of gift giving at Christmas. Each stage of life presents new challenges for the tradition and even different possibilities for offense and hurt . . .

What is the most amount of money that you would spend on a surprise Christmas gift for your spouse?

“Let’s be honest, no one ever wished for a smaller holiday gift.” Wait, what?!

Ways to save on electrical costs

When we were kids, my dad used to threaten to charge us a nickel or a dime if a light was left on in a room and if he could figure out who was the last one in that particular area. I’m not sure that he actually ever collected too many of the fines, but it proved to be a useful tool in reminding us of the importance of saving electricity.

5 ways to save on heating costs

We are always on the lookout for ways to save a few extra dollars and heating costs are a good place to start, especially in the fall and winter.

When it comes to heating, some of us use natural gas, others heating oil, there are homes powered with the sun and a few folks are lucky enough to heat with geothermal energy.

Do you always give your kids what they want?

On a couple of occasions over the past year, I have mentioned or referred to anecdotes that we saw while reading through the Little House on the Prairie series with my kids. We are almost to the end of the stories and while a little simplistic and possibly over-romanticized, the books are a great way to develop a love of reading in young children. I have also been struck by the contrast between the 1800′s agrarian family life and modern lifestyles, especially in the United States. Children from that time period rarely went on vacation, typically received new clothes once a year and had extremely limited entertainment options.

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