taking the words of Jesus seriously

Several years ago, the Bible story of John sending his disciples to ask if Jesus was the one…. caught my eye in a new way.

Luke 7:22b – Jesus tells John’s disciples, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”

What I noticed for the first time is that while the blind, lame, those with leprosy, the deaf and even the dead have their condition corrected; the poor did not.  It seemed logical at the time that the poor should have received money.  I mean, when I’m struggling financially, money comes in handy.  I have prayed for money before.  Over the years, I have thought about it a lot, and pondered other Biblical texts and here is my conclusion….

The New Testament clearly states that wealth is a problem.  It really starts with Mary’s Magnificat.

Luke 1:53 – He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”

Jesus talks about the problem of wealth often. In the Sermon on the Mount, the most concise section of Jesus’ teachings.  There is a large section in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus addresses the accumulation of wealth.

Matthew 6:19-21- “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

It goes on to say that we are not even to worry about where our food or clothing will come from.  God will provide them to us.  This is quite challenging; it does not seem greedy or wrong to store up a little treasure on earth to purchase food or clothing.

In the story of the young rich ruler…

Matthew 19:21 – Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

I have heard people say that this was a requirement for just this one person.  However, if we read a little further…

Matthew 19:23-24 – Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you; it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

The parable of the rich fool is not as harsh as other places, but Jesus still warns about greed.  The rich fool, who had come upon some “good fortune” but decided to keep it for himself instead of sharing it…

Luke 12:20 – “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

This provides a clue, which gets expanded on in the much harsher parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  The rich man lived in luxury every day, while Lazarus was a poor beggar who longed to eat at the rich man’s table.

Luke 16:25 – “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.

This is incredibly harsh, but I think it makes sense if we look back at the Old Testament…

The law of Moses sets out how the Israelites are to live in relationship with God, with one another and with foreigners.  There were provisions for the poor, those with resources were required to lend to the poor interest free, they were to leave some grain and fruit in the field for the poor and foreigners and they were required to forgive debt every six years.

It is clear that those with plenty were required to do what they can to pull the poor out of poverty. It would lead to them being blessed. If we believe that; the solution to poverty has been found, they just refuse to do it.  We refuse to do it as well……

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 – If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore, I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

It would seem that is why Jesus was so upset with the rich.  God had a plan to remove poverty and the people were unwilling to follow it. In the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus identifies with those in need and how to treat the least of these is how we treat Jesus.  When we ignore the needs of the least of these, it is Jesus that we are ignoring.

Matthew 25:45 – “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

God does provide; we live in a world of abundance, there should be no poor, if only we followed Jesus.  The problem with being rich is that there are still poor.  From a Christian standpoint, the rich have a responsibility to share with the poor.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus; God provided for both, but the rich man chose to live in luxury instead sharing God’s abundance.

There is one last thing before getting back to Jesus not giving money to the poor.  God created resources, there is plenty of food, clothing and shelter to provide for everyone’s needs.  Money was not created by God; it was created by people.  Government created money to make the exchange of goods and services easier.  It can be used to help the distribution of God’s resources, or it can be used to hoard God’s resources.  God has already provided for the poor, but it is up to us to distribute God’s resources.  In the Sermon on the Mount, God does not give you treasures on earth so you can get your own resources.  God provides the resources. We have the resources. Again, it is up to us to distribute to those in need.

In the Exodus story, God provides the Israelites food via manna from heaven.  Part of the miracle of the story that gets overlooked is that each got what they needed.  No more, no less.  It was not that some of the Israelites didn’t try; some saved some the next day, but it got maggots. When we pray the Lord’s prayer, we ask God to “give us this day our daily bread.”  Every time we say this prayer we declare that we will not hoard God’s resources….

Lastly, I think the reason we have the poor is a heart issue.

We need to live in community where we are all responsible for each other’s well-being.  It contrasts the individualism of today where each seeks their advancement without responsibility for the ones that struggle.

In the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus tells us that those that care for the least of these will inherit God’s kingdom but those that do not care for the least of these will be cursed to eternal fire.

We need hearts after Jesus, where our success is tied to the success of everyone.

Where the least of these receive their share of God’s blessing.

About The Author


I am 55 years old, born and raised in northern Virginia. I was raised Baptist, but now am a member of Braddock Street United Methodist Church in Winchester Va. I have attended various Methodist and Baptist Churches and currently attend a weekly Bible study at First Baptist of Winchester in addition to activities at Braddock Street UMC.

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