By Blogger Chuck Redfern
Do those protesting against greedy Wall Street barons know they’ve got a friend in Jesus? Sample the following texts from the Good Book:
Luke 6:20: Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
Luke 6:24: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, 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.”
Jesus’ teaching is reflected in James 1:10:
But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.
These passages and more stand on the shoulders of Old Testament teaching in which God befriends the poor. No one knows if Jesus, James, and the prophets would have joined the “Occupy America” campaign, but I doubt they’d smile at current statistics: According to Joseph Stiglitz, the wealthiest one percent received 8.9 percent of all pre-tax income in 1976. That leaped to 21 percent by 2008. The top five percent saw their real income increase by 72 percent while income for the lowest fifth dropped 7.4 percent. And then there are tax rates, which stood at 91 percent for the highest earners in 1960. They’re now at 35 percent – and many tycoons still clamor for more decreases. I doubt our modern brokers would even pose the rich young ruler’s question to Jesus. They’d probably send in their lobbyists with lists of demands accompanied by complaints of “class warfare.” Maybe they’d brand his followers a “mob.”
The Bible shows us that the campaign against greedy wealth is thousands of years old. The protestors could cull its pages between marches – or maybe they can listen to it over their IPhones (yeah, there’s an app for that). It will give the rallies a larger context and a deeper well.
Chuck Redfern is Interim Pastor at First Baptist Church in Meriden.