Blog Template Theology of the Body: Serving the Rich

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Serving the Rich

Our contributor Mark Wiebe recently had some great things to say on Christians and personal wealth at his own blog.

My wife and I have been talking a lot about wealth lately. We talked about the frightening questions of the gospel with regard to wealth and poverty and justice. One response that we hear a lot is "rich people need Jesus too," and along the same lines, "Jesus loves the rich too." Absolutely. This is critical. We must not despise the rich; economics are complicated, and there are myriad factors that we must take into account in trying to answer questions of Christian life and wealth. What really struck us today though were these two statements about "loving" the rich, and that the wealthy "need Jesus too." What do we mean when we say these things? What precisely does it mean to love the rich, and fill their need for Christ?

One passage that really stands out here is from Mark chapter 10, which we typically butcher just a bit. In Mark 10, the rich young ruler approaches Jesus and tells him that he has fulfilled the commands, and asks what else he needs to do. Then it says that Jesus "looked at him and loved him." The rest of the sentence says that Jesus then told him to sell all he had and give the money to the poor." Typically, the first part of the passage is isolated from the rest of it. Jesus' "love" for the man is separated from his command that the guy give away his possessions. “Jesus *loved* the man.” Pause… AND, “separate and apart” from that, he told him to deal with justice and poverty. We’re missing the point here: the command WAS the articulation of Jesus’ love for the man.

Similarly, the language in the prophets about the failure of the rich to deal with widows and orphans IS God’s expression of himself and his love to those wealthier members of society (e.g., see Isa. 1, and Isa. 58). Which means that to love the rich is precisely to take their (our) faces and point them toward issues of justice and poverty. One of the most central ways to fill wealthy people’s “need for Christ” is precisely to tell them to look at the poor. Love and justice are never separate. To love the rich is to help them to participate, alongside people from all socio-economic levels, in a process of confronting the boundaries and problems that are created by a society obsessed with money.

And honestly, I myself have perpetuated these boundaries more than I have confronted them, let alone led others in the confrontation.

Most High, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart, and give me right faith, certain hope, and perfect charity, wisdom and understanding, Lord, that I may carry out your holy and true command. Through Christ our Lord, Amen. (Francis of Assisi)