Thursday, October 3, 2013

Was Jesus Rich? Managing Unrighteous Mammon (Luke 16)

I lectured on Luke 16 today. For NT 1, we cover the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles over 14 weeks which gives me about 2 weeks per book. For the first week on Luke, it was a survey and we focused on the first 5 chapters. But today I launched into Luke's theology of wealth and poverty. I had already finished preparing for my lectures two days ago and yesterday during Community lunch, a student commented how he listened to a number of Youtube sermons on "Jesus was rich" and that it was God's will for all Christians to be rich. When I watched the 3 youtubes, each lasting about 15 minutes, I was shocked and saddened how Scriptures especially in Luke's Gospel were twisted. There were several claims made by this well-known pastor:

1) Jesus was rich
2) Jesus owned homes (note the plural)
3) Jesus had a treasurer and that proved that he was rich
4) Judas Iscariot carried money boxes (plural again to the preacher) and that proved Jesus had a lot of money to give away and helped the poor

In fact, all four theses above are false and unfounded if we read the Gospels carefully. First, Jesus was born into a poor family. They could offer only a pair of pigeons (provision for the poor instead of a lamb for better-off families). Jesus was called a carpenter or son of a carpenter (tekton) which is a trade (craftsman) of someone who works with wood or stone. It is not proven that as a carpenter Jesus was rich. In fact the reverse is likely to be true. Although Jesus was not destitute he would be classified with the 90% of the population that are generally poor with little savings and resources which means they needed to work everyday.

Second, although it is mentioned Jesus moved to Capernaum from Nazareth (Matt 4), it cannot be proven that Jesus owned the house he lived in. Even if he owned it, the house would not be something lavish but like the 95% of the people, a simple dwelling with little furnishing.

Third, the fact of Jesus had a treasurer does not mean that Jesus was rich. Jesus and his 12 disciples and larger group of disciples were itinerants and according to Luke 8, ordinary people including some prominent women contributed to Jesus' ministry. Thus, monies collected were put into the money box and it was probably like petty cash perhaps enough to tide them over from week to week and certainly not the kind of huge sums the preacher claimed that Judas had embezzled to buy properties (again not proven in Scriptures).

Jesus said, "Blessed are you poor for yours is the kingdom of God...but woe to you who are rich for you already have your comforts in this life..." (Luke 6:20ff). It was exactly the reverse as the preacher said. Friends, read Jesus' words carefully in Luke and other Gospels. Prosperity gospel is a false gospel, a lie of the devil, pandering to the lusts of the flesh and the eyes for those who lay up treasures on earth are not rich toward God.

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