taking the words of Jesus seriously

In the last few weeks we have witnessed for the first time in our history the down grading of America’s credit rating. Because of partisan feuding, and an effort by Republicans to undermine President Obama’s credibility, there was very nearly a meltdown of the American economy, and in fact we have experienced a serious deterioration of our financial stability.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t care who is President or which party has power. I simply want public officials to act on behalf of the public. But what is happening in these recent days has not been in the public interest, but party interest.  And it is time for the public to say, “Enough is enough.”

And this is not just a political concern; it is also a faith concern.

As our economy continues to decline, as financial benefits shift from the poor and middle class to the wealthy, it is those who Jesus was most concerned about that suffer the most. His constant message was for people of faith to care for “these least of these.”

And I am not necessarily promoting government programs or welfare or food stamps—though these are about the only resources the poor can call on for assistance in our culture. I am also thinking about the ability of the middle class to support charitable causes. In the years since the terror attack in 2001 charitable contributions have plummeted.

In recent years, with the decline of the stock market and middle class wages not able to keep pace with the growth of wealthy in our economy, resources for charities have steadily declined.

I am curious—if tax cuts for the rich are supposed to be an incentive to create jobs—where are the jobs?

Jesus had a vision of community in which no one was left behind. He seemed to believe that God has provided enough resources for everyone to have enough. I know there are those we will call that socialism, but the New Testament calls it the “Kingdom of God.”

Thy will be done on earth, as it is heaven.

But what happens when political powers construct arrangements in which those with privilege and power get more than they need while those without power and privilege can’t even get health insurance? The Bible has a word for these sorts of power arrangements as well—injustice.

The days and years ahead for us Americans offer a unique challenge. What will we do with our incredible wealth and power? What will we do with our political and economic superiority in the world? How will we use our place of advantage and influence, not only with our citizens but with the billions who live on the margins around the world?

Will we use our power and wealth to advance ourselves? Or will we use our power to be what we claimed to be at the founding our republic—a light unto the world?

This much is clear: Our current political and economic course in not only in conflict with the teaching of Jesus—something conscientious Christians should be concerned about—but also in conflict with the highest ideals that were the founding thoughts of our democracy.

Jesus knew about these conflicts. What happens if we gain the whole world but lose our soul?

James L. Evans serves as pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama. He can be reached at [email protected].

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