Matthew 19:20-22 – The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
1 Timothy 5:18 – They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share
We are in the heat of election season. People are making their points and counter points. It would even appear that politics at this time of year are the religion of most people. Through watching these seasons and watching people’s reactions and behaviors towards politics I have noticed two common reactions of the Church. The first thing I have noticed is a total withdrawal from politics. I have major issues with Christians who disengage from culture and politics; which is a topic for another day.
The second thing is a politicizing of Jesus. What I mean by that is that we make Christ in our political image instead of Jesus making us in His image. Therefore, like we saw in part one of this series, a liberal will make Jesus a liberal or as we will see this week a conservative will make Jesus a conservative. Jesus was neither a conservative nor a liberal, but the very nature and character of God shows up in balanced values of both parties.
In the times of Jesus many people thought that being rich meant you had God’s favor and, as laughable as that is, many people today hold the exact same position. Jesus actually has as harsh words for those espousing capitalism over the priorities of the Kingdom as the Bible does for those espousing socialism.
In the gospels we are told that Jesus confronts a young rich man. Really, what Jesus does is expose the condition of his heart and he is told to sell everything he has and follow Jesus. Many people in our country follow their wealth, attainment of wealth, and social position with little or no regard to the poor.
Wealth isn’t a position or just something that was earned, but it is a great privilege and responsibility. The Bible speaks to the wealthy (an overwhelming majority of the OT) telling them that part of their responsibility is the assistance of the poor and there are very harsh rebukes when wealth becomes an idol.
Later in the New Testament, Paul tells Timothy to instruct the wealthy among his congregation that they are to be rich in good works by being generous and ready to share.
I say all of this to bring us back to the forming of God in our political interests. Those who tend to be conservatives or capitalist will talk about “their money”, how hard they have worked, being a self made person, and some even hoard their wealth. However, the truth of the matter is, it is God’s money placed in their stewardship and God expects them to use that wealth in such a way to help the poor and the needy. In the book of James we are told that, “true religion is taking care of widows and orphans.”
Imagine with me for a minute that we would all leave our liberal or conservative values at home. That we wouldn’t think of ourselves as a socialist or a capitalist. Now begin to think about an issue not from the perspective of what is best for you, or what your opinion is, but what the Scriptures say. What would life look like? Imagine the issue of the national debt, not from a socialist or capitalist view, but a Biblical view. What would that national debt look like?
My point is this: We should think of ourselves less and less from a political viewpoint, but more from the Bible’s perspective. Ultimately, when we look at things from the viewpoint of the Scriptures we see a holistic view of life, wealth, and the care for the disadvantaged.
Image: Jesus casting out the money changers at the temple; www.oceansbridge.com/oil-paintings/product/60723/castingoutthemoneychangers; Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834–1890)