Economics According to Jesus

26 Jul
from Google Images

from Google Images

I had often wondered about Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-23.[1] Jesus told him that, if he wished to be perfect (mature in his faith), he needed to sell all he had and give it to the poor, and then he could come and follow Jesus. If every believer did what Jesus said here, Christianity would be understood as a religion of the poor and foolish. While there is nothing wrong about being called foolish for doing as Jesus says we should do, and there is certainly nothing sinful about being poor, still I have to wonder, if Jesus really wanted everyone to sell all his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, in order to be one of his mature disciples. Where is the wisdom in Jesus’ words in this scripture?

I believe the answer to this question lies in 2Corinthians 8:9 and the context of Matthew 19:16-23 and its sister scriptures in the Synoptics. For our sakes, Jesus became poor and his poverty has made us rich (2Corinthians 8:9). This implies that Jesus had been rich, and in becoming man he gave up his great wealth (cp. Philippians 2:6-7), but how did this act make us rich? I submit that the answer to this question concerns the idea that no one knew God prior to Jesus public ministry (Matthew 11:27; John 1:18; 14:7). It took Jesus to show us the perfect image of God in his own life (Hebrews 1:3). Through this act, Jesus draws all men to himself (John 12:32), for God loves us and gives himself for us (John 3:16) that we might have life (Romans 6:23) and that abundantly (John 10:10). Therein are we made rich—rich in our knowledge of God’s nature, and rich in life, eternal life.

In 2Corinthians 8:9 Paul was writing about the offering he hoped to take to Jerusalem’s poor from all the gentile churches, which had arisen through his preaching the Gospel, and this included the church at Corinth. In 2Corinthians 8:1-5 he described how the poorer churches in Macedonia had given generously out of their poverty—not out of a feeling of guilt, but out of a willing heart. The offering from the gentile churches was not commanded, but Paul encouraged the offering to prove the love of the gentiles for the Jewish nation (verse-8). The giving was not supposed to ease the ill fortune of others, while creating want in the giver (verse-13), but it was to be an acknowledgment of equality – supplying the need of Jerusalem’s poverty in this world’s goods, because they had sacrificed all their lives to preserve the scriptures (Romans 3:1-2), which abounded to supply the gentiles’ need for the word of God (2Corinthians 8:14 and Romans 15:26-27).

Returning to Matthew 19, we find that the rich young man (Matthew 19:20) was a ruler (Luke 18:18) and quite possibly a priest. That is, he was probably a member of the Sanhedrin, a ruler of the Jews. This being so, it would make him a Levite and was distinguished from the Pharisees (John 7:48; 12:42). This young man was supposed to be teaching his brethren, for that was what the Levites and priests were called to do. They ministered in the Temple and were responsible for the education of their brethren. Originally, they had no inheritance in the land (Numbers 18:23-24), but this young man had great possessions. How he accumulated such great wealth is not said, but in God’s economy what land was sold in Israel was to be returned to the family of the original owner in the year of Jubilee. The young man was supposed to have given back what he owned, becoming poor in land and busy himself doing the Lord’s work at the Temple and teaching his brethren. It seems he had not been doing this. So, Jesus told him to do what he was commanded to do in the Law, and come and follow Jesus.

Therefore, while Paul shows us that we need to be generous with our worldly goods, Jesus wasn’t telling everyone to sell everything they had in order to give it all to the poor. He was telling this man what he should have already done. It was the possessions that he refused to give up that was keeping him from maturing in his faith. As a Levite (and probably a priest) he was called by God to be poor in the possessions of this world in order to spread the word of God among his brethren. God would be his great inheritance (Numbers 18:20), and so it is to be for anyone who is called to preach the word of God. Both the preachers of the Gospel and the believers have a great responsibility toward one another—so that he who gathers much has nothing left over, in that he who gathers little has his needs met (2Corinthians 8:15; cp. Exodus 16:18).


[1] As I said HERE, this current theme about the person of Jesus is based upon the book: The Jesus Style by Gayle Erwin. They are my thoughts about his book. He may or may not agree with the impression his book has made upon me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Gayle wrote and recommend his book to anyone who is looking for a good read about Jesus.

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Posted by on July 26, 2015 in Jesus


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