“The Jesus of Scripture never showed partiality to the poor as over agains the rich. The Jesus of Scripture came into the world to redeem rich and poor. A brief survey of the Gospel record teaches us this important lesson–a lesson that we so desperately need to learn if we are to be faithful witnesses to the saving grace of God in Christ to all in in a day in which the rich are vilified by the poor.”
Many people have a conception of Jesus that is–to put it as bluntly as possible–substantively deficient. Many envision Jesus as the prototypical religious leader who only cared for the outcast, the socially marginalized, the sick and the poor. A Marxist, revolutionary Jesus is the inevitable production of such a truncated conception. The Scriptures undoubtedly set forth Christ as one who preeminently exhibited deep and pervasive care for the poor and needy. Jesus attested to His own Messianic ministry by pointing to His compassionate miracles of healing for the needy (e.g. Isaiah 35:5 in Matt. 11:5). Additionally, Jesus teaches us that, if we are to be His disciples, we are to “invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind” when we throw a feast, lest we fall into the snare of showing partiality and unjust preference to the rich who can repay us. But the Jesus of Scripture never showed partiality to the poor as over agains the rich. The Jesus of Scripture came into the world to redeem rich and poor. A brief survey of the Gospel record teaches us this important lesson–a lesson that we so desperately need to learn if we are to be faithful witnesses to the saving grace of God in Christ to all in in a day in which the rich are vilified by the poor.
In making this observation, I do not, in any way whatsoever, wish to downplay the incredibly serious dangers that accompany the accumulation of wealth. One cannot read the New Testament without being confronted with the many pervasive warnings that Christ and the Apostles raise with regard to greed. For instance, Jesus exposed the Pharisees for what they were in heart–“lovers of money.” The entire Pharisaic enterprise–and their subsequent opposition to Christ–was inseparably attached to their love of money (Luke 16:14). Additionally, Jesus gave the severest warnings about greed when He told the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:1-13) and the parable about the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21). The Apostle Paul raised the warning about the dangers of loving money when he wrote: “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:10). So many evils flow from the love of money. In fostering greed in our hearts, we put ourselves in danger of straying from the faith. James highlights some of the evils that flow from the love of money in his short but searching letter. Nearly half of the book of James is an indictment against the rich who were hearers of the word but not doers of it, who oppressed the poor, who showed partiality to other wealthy members in the church and who ultimately heaped up condemnation for themselves (James 1:10-11; 2:5-6; 5:1-2).
However, we must resist the temptation to allow the pendulum to swing in the other direction. We must resist the temptation to show partiality to the poor on account of the fact that there are many spiritual dangers that surround the rich. It is actually quite easy to convince ourselves that we are to write off the rich in favor of caring for the poor. In an age of sentimental humanitarianism, many would convince us that we are to fix all of our attention on the poor and that we are to leave the rich alone.
The redeeming love of Christ is not limited to or hindered by one’s socio-economic standing. This is good news for the poor. It is equally good news for the rich. There are echoes of this principle embedded in the Old Covenant Law of God. When the Lord gave instructions concerning the redemption price in the law, He insisted that “The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves” (Ex. 30:15). This ordinance was clearly typical in nature, pointing beyond it’s own context to the spiritual realm of the ransom price that Christ would pay by shedding His blood for His people. The cost of redemption was the same for the rich and the poor. There is, after all, only one cost of redemption–the precious blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18-19). Additional principles of justice highlight this same indiscriminate concern for the rich and the poor. In Exodus 23:3, we read, “You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute.” Then in Exodus 23:6, the Lord says, “You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute.” It would be unjust to show preferential treatment to the poor in a dispute just as it would be to pervert justice for the poor in showing preference to the rich. God doesn’t judge based on socio-economic principles. He judges with righteous judgment.