Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. [Colossians 3:5]*
One of the popular misapplications of Scripture with an attendant misrepresentation of Christ and His teachings, is the idea that somehow Jesus loved poor people more than He loved wealthy people and that Jesus condemned the accumulation of wealth.
Those who make such utterly ignorant statements demonstrate, by their mendacity, that they have not read the Gospels in their entirety, nor have they read the rest of the New Testament with any real comprehension or depth. If they had—they would not dare to utter such nonsense.
One of the more recent examples of this low-level of comprehension which I have encountered was a meme which appeared on Facebook with the caption to the effect that if Jesus was here bodily today, Fox News and the Republican party would seek to have him executed as a Palestinian terrorist with socialist [Marxist] teachings.
The caption on this photo displays its ignorance of Scripture in several respects. In the first place, Jesus identified Himself as being in the ethnic line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [Matthew 1:1-2; Luke 3:34]. He did not identify Himself with the descendants of Ammon, Moab, Ishmael, or Esau [from whom are descended the modern-day Arabs]. Were any such person to make such a claim, he would be proclaiming a false Christ, an anti-Christ, if you will — and Jesus Himself warned His followers not to heed such people [Matthew 24:5, 24-26].
Secondly, nothing about the teachings of Christ can rightly be associated with terrorism –especially not that associated with Islamists. No followers of Christ have ever hijacked a jetliner and flown it into a skyscraper. No followers of Christ have ever strapped detonators and packets of C-4 or dynamite to their bodies, gone into a crowd of unsuspecting people, and detonated those explosives in the belief that such will grant them immediate access into paradise with an opportunity to indulge in eternal sexual hedonism.
Jesus stated that His kingdom was not one of this world. [John 18:36] He did nothing to encourage or incite violence against those who chose to reject Him. In fact, when He was arrested, He rebuked Simon Peter for using a sword to wound the High Priest’s servant. [Matthew 26:51-54; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:50-51; John 18:10-11]
As a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Jesus was an observant Jew. In fact, of everyone who ever lived, He is the only person who has lived His life in complete fidelity to the Mosaic Law — both in intent and action. Not only that, but He said that anyone who taught or encouraged others to live lives in disobedience to God, were to be considered as accursed [Matthew 5:17-20].
It must also be noted that Jesus Christ is more than a mere man. He is also God Incarnate, the very image of God in human flesh [John 14:9; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3]. To suggest that He would identify Himself with an ethnic group and culture which denies the Incarnation, as the Islamists and “Palestinians” do, is not merely logically inconsistent, it is blasphemy.
It must be kept in mind that Jesus would not have recognized Mohammed as a prophet. Jesus declared that for men to be acceptable to God the Father, they must honor and worship Jesus Christ with the same honor and worship as they would show the Father. [John 5:23] Conversely, anyone who dishonors Jesus by claiming that He is not the Son of God, is someone who is rejected by God. [1 John 2:23]. Since one of the key beliefs of Islam is that Jesus Christ is NOT the Son of God, for Christ to suggest any kinship with the beliefs of Islam would be for Him to deny Himself.
Finally, it should be noted that the economic principles espoused by Christ, especially as commanded through Moses, while protecting the poor, are not like contemporary welfare programs, which amount to government appropriating money from the productive by use of threats of imprisonment [a form of extortion] to reward indolence, immorality, drunkenness and other forms of idolatry. Under the Mosaic law, those who wished to avail themselves of charity, had to glean in the fields following the harvest [Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 24:19-22], or they had to present themselves to one of the cities assigned to the Levites [Deuteronomy 14:28-29]. Individuals who went beyond that were only expected to give assistance to the needy as a LOAN — with the expectation of being repaid in full [but not with interest] — not as a gift [Deuteronomy 15:7-11]. But such loans were to be given only for proven NEEDS [food, shelter, and clothing] — not to subsidize luxuries such as satellite dishes, HDTVs, broadband internet service, or smartphones with unlimited voice, text, and data plans.
But these principles apply to the Old Testament people of Israel and are nowhere imposed on Gentile believers in Christ [Acts 15:18-29]. If one looks to the New Testament to seek instruction on dealings with the poor, we find such aid very restricted. Christians are NOT required to provide financial assistance to every person they may encounter — at least not on an ongoing, open-ended basis. In Matthew 26:8-10, Jesus dismisses the idea that such an ongoing, open-ended form of charity is necessary for His followers to fund.
The only form of charity imposed on followers of Christ towards unbelievers is patterned in Luke 10:30-37. It is situational — based on extreme emergency from circumstances outside of the control of the beneficiary [not because of poor vocational, educational, or lifestyle choices]. It is temporary [not continual and ongoing]. It is voluntary and based on the proximity of the donor to the beneficiary — not a general obligation to be imposed on an entire congregation — because a donor near in proximity would be presumed to have actually vetted the beneficiary to determine the genuineness of the need. For a more thorough development of the exegesis of this text, see my previous blog: https://davestheology.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/untwisting-scripture-1-matthew-2531-46/
Basically, those who claim Jesus was a socialist are imposing their own politics on Him and trying to sanctify their support for what amounts to government-imposed theft of private property. Jesus and the Apostles had no such view. Jesus, in His parable on the talents, implicitly condones and encourages the precepts of venture capitalism. In this parable, the servants who take use their master’s money to obtain a profit, are deemed worthy of reward and given a share of the profits, while the servant who does nothing except to hoard the portion he was entrusted with, is condemned and cast away from the master.
In Acts 5, we are instructed from the incident where Ananias and Sapphira are struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit. They were under no compulsion to sell their property and donate their proceeds to the church. According to Acts 5:4, it was their property to retain or sell as they pleased. After they sold it, the proceeds were theirs to do with as they willed. Their sin was NOT in selling the property and keeping some of the proceeds for their own pleasure. Their sin was in giving only part of the money to the church while claiming they were giving the entire proceeds of the transaction. In other words, the property, whether the land or the proceeds from the sale of the land—was theirs, not anyone else’.
Nor do we find any place in Scripture where Jesus or the apostles condemned people for having wealth. Jesus and the apostles had friends among the wealthy: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Barnabas possessed wealth, as did Lydia [Acts 16:14] and Philemon. What is condemned in Scripture is the worship of wealth or the acquisition of wealth by means which are illegal/immoral. Of course the liberationistas and their theological cronies would claim that all acquisition of wealth is immoral, if not illegal. But look at entrepreneurism: if I offer someone a product or service and the production of that product or service does not involve violation of either Scripture or human law, and someone is agreeable to pay a specified sum for that product or service, and I have made no misrepresentations concerning the product or service, who is harmed? According to the terms, they have received fair value in the exchange of my product or service for their money. Now if there is sufficient demand for my product or service that I accumulate wealth, again, no one has been harmed, no Scripture has been violated and no law has been broken.
Now someone may trot out James 5:1-5 as proof that the accumulation of wealth is condemned in Scripture. But a careful reading of the context shows that James is no more condemning the possession of wealth anymore than he is teaching one must work to earn salvation in James 2:14-26. What is being condemned here is the misuse of wealth as a weapon for harming people.
In the final analysis, those who try to create a Jesus who was a Palestinian Arab instead of Jewish, who was a proto-socialist and for whom the only unforgivable sin is the acquisition of wealth, create for themselves a graven image born of an idolatrous human mind—not at all reflecting the true teachings of Scripture.
* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.