Thursday, January 26, 2006

Jesus and Wealth

People use the Bible in unusual ways. This is especially the case when attempting to justify some personal habit, practice or decision.

Recently, I read a review of a new book, a biography written about an important American minister. The author of the review pointed out that the minister had recently purchased a new home costing several million dollars.

When queried about his obvious wealth and material success, the minister said that since Jesus was very wealthy, he had no problem with wealth himself.

Jesus wealthy?

I have to tell you, that was a new one on me.

The minister went on to say that the robe Jesus wore on the way to his execution was the clothing of a rich man, so valuable that those who guarded him entered into a game of chance to see who would take the robe now that Jesus no longer needed it.

The implication here is that Jesus owned the costly robe.

Hmmm.

Matthew 27:28 reports that Jesus' captors stripped him and put the robe on him, along with a twisted crown made of thorns, before mocking him as a king. The reading in John 19:1-3 concurs.

Then, there are those pesky words of Jesus himself when he told his followers that, unlike the birds of the air and the foxes of the field, he had nowhere to lay his head, no place to call his own home.

I better not get started on what he said about poverty, the poor and economics!

Let's just leave it here: Jesus was a pauper.

Let's be clear about that.

I don't know about you, but I have less trouble with the big house than I do with twisting the image of Jesus like this.

13 comments:

Jason Coriell said...

The whole notion of a "Health and Wealth Gospel" has always baffled me. However, when I turn the spotlight on myself, I see much of the same rationalization, its just the financial figures are smaller. I am prayful that God will continue to transform me to a worldview that is reflective of His heart and priorities.

Kevin J. Bowman said...

AMEN!!!! - That manipulation is terrifying...

Larry James said...

Jason, I agree. We all struggle with the materialism of our culture and we all tend to rationalize our choices.

The thing that startled me about what I read was how Jesus was treated in the analysis. That, it seems to me, is the worst rationalization of all. Sadly, it is not all that uncommon in any number of areas of life as we know it today when set over against the life of Jesus.

Daniel Gray said...

Yikes... Can't imagine getting Jesus' life THAT wrong, especially for a preacher. I thought it was a clear part of his life and how he lived that he had nothing.
Anyway, that is the hardest part... of actually internalizing it and examining my own life. As I finish my education, though I'm a social work major, I still keep planning on my future, thinking about how life will end for me and if I can retire comfortably and live nicely. I think that is one of the concepts we've latched on to in this so-called "American'dream" that is so hard to push back out of focus. It's one of the things I know I should let go, but I'm not really convicted of doing that yet.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it we "all" want to let Christ show in us but do we truly want to give anything up in the process?

Jeremy Gregg said...

Anonymous,

You should check out this post:

http://larryjamesurbandaily.blogspot.com/2005/10/jesus-unlikeable.html

Yod said...

I agree that Jesus was far above materialism! My wonder is at what level does poverty become virtue. Is poverty a virtue? The rich man/ eye of a needle parable seems to indicate that money and spiritual abundance are imcompatible however I question that idea. Being a CDM guy in a program directly related to employment (read: economics) forces me to examine where the balance point is. Is a preacher of adundance misleading his charges?

Larry James said...

Thanks for the post, tech head! I don't think poverty is necessarily a virtue. Nor is wealth. I think the point here has to do with one's center as a person and one's mission in life. To see wealth as a kind of mark of election or to hold on to it in the face of pressing human need. . .there is the problem. Even more problematic is to justify one's lifestyle and life choices and economic systems and philosophy by an appeal to the "wealth of Jesus." It is clear that the direction of his life was down and to divest.

Charles Senteio said...

Thanks for keeping us all straight Larry. I recently visited a church in Oak Cliff and as I was driving into the parking lot I noticed a Bentley parked under an awning. My first thought, from the lens of a life-long car guy, was "that looks like a Bentley". Then I thought, "what the heck is it doing here???" As I got closer I saw the parking space label, "Paster yyyy". As I read your post, and write my comments, I wonder what kind of manipulation is going on at other 'churches' around the country/world. I chose to skip the offering, they hadn't offered me enough to deserve anything. Besides, I live pretty far from there and I had to get gas.

Joel Quile said...

Larry,

Follow me here:

Jesus was in ministry.

Therefore Jesus was poor.

That settles it.

Joel

TGWP said...

Joel,

I think your logic is just as one extreme as the other argument is the other. It also assumes a condition (ie preachers = poor.)
Why did they necessarily go together?

ghkj said...
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Larry James said...

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