Dan Popp
Does Jesus hate the rich?
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By Dan Popp
October 9, 2009

Kids really do "say the darnedest things." And Leftists, being perpetual children, come up with some corkers. They're never funnier than when they're trying to talk about the Bible. Their "favorite New Testament book" is Job. They think "Jesus was a community organizer" (though apparently not a very good one). Their social policy is founded on the words of that great Old Testament prophet, Cain. Yeah, when a liberal starts waxing eloquent about Christianity, don't sip any liquids. It's as if they're trying to parrot a language they don't understand like the time JFK tried to speak German and proclaimed himself to be a jelly donut.

But it's less amusing when far-Left loons like Michael Moore begin reminding us of Jesus' harsh words for the rich. Jesus really did have harsh words for the rich. And since biblical illiteracy is even more rampant than literal illiteracy, that might pass as a profound, or at least a truthful, comment. Once the premise is accepted Jesus hates the rich the socialist wolf can begin to cloak himself in the wooly mantle of Christianity.

Surely the most elementary mistake when reading the Bible is to pull a sentence or a passage out of context. The context includes not only the scriptures before and after the verse in question, but all the Bible, as well as the historical and cultural context shared by the original speaker and his audience.

So what was the context of Jesus' remarks about the rich?

Do you remember that God's good friend Abraham was wealthy? "Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold," Genesis 13:2 informs us. Job was the richest man in the land. Isaac, Jacob/Israel, Joseph, David, Solomon all loaded. Those whom God loved in the Old Testament, He often favored with a level of wealth that would have put Bill Gates in a coma. Solomon was so rich that his entire kingdom was awash in gold. Yes, how about that? "Trickle-down economics" in the Bible. Silver was so plentiful that it was no longer a precious metal.

That's rich.

That was the backdrop for Jesus' radical words. Unlike the popular paradigm today, affluence was not assumed to be proof of greed and capitalist oppression; if anything, it was connected to God's favor. The biological sons of Abraham had observed correctly that those whom God loved, He blessed with stuff. But they had leapt to the faulty conclusion that those blessed with stuff were necessarily the people God loved.

Now read this familiar passage again, please:

    And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And when the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" And looking upon them Jesus said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:23-26 NASB

Notice the astonishment of the Twelve. If not even a rich man, a man obviously blessed by God, can coast into heaven, what chance does a regular schlub like me have? Jesus responded that a rich man could not be saved by human effort, only by divine intervention.

Do we think salvation works some other way for poor people?

If we were to do a comprehensive study on Christ's relationship with the rich, rather than just scanning the Happy Verse of the Day, we would find more than the account of the rich young man who had deluded himself into thinking he had kept all the commandments. We would read about Zaccheus a different rich man who received a different prescription from the Lord. We would hear the wailing of the damned miser in the story of "The rich man and Lazarus;" and we would sob beside the comfortable Joseph of Arimathea as he expended his resources to care for the body of the Crucified.

If riches are no indication of God's favor, then neither are they evidence of His disfavor.

In no way do I want to soften the sting of Jesus' words to all of us when He warns that our possessions may end up possessing us. And make no mistake: by historical standards, and by current world standards, everyone reading this article is "rich." We must deal with these red letters as if they were addressed to us but not as if they came from within our culture, or with no context.

Whatever Jesus meant by His sober warnings to the rich, He never authorized the poor to commit robbery, via government or in person. He did not repeal the 8th and 10th Commandments. When He warned the wealthy, He was not endorsing government giveaways that disintegrate families and turn God's image-bearers into broken wards of the state.

Efforts to paint Christ as a disciple of Marx may be comical sometimes, but I don't think Jesus is laughing.

© Dan Popp

 

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