Yesterday, I preached a sermon on spiritual fulfilment. In that sermon, I talked about how the only way we can truly be fulfilled is by trusting Christ. No amount of money, clothes or gadgets will be able to fill the spiritual hole that exists in every human soul or act as a substitute for Jesus. As I said my final “Amen” at the end of the sermon and walked down from the pulpit and back to my stall, I felt God reminding me of this passage:
Mark 10:17-27 (NRSV)
17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 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.” 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Do you see Jesus’ words in Mark 10:23 as a judgement, or as a call to ministry?
Yes, we must minister to the poor, yes God does have unmeasurable compassion towards those who go without. Yes, Jesus did minister to those who were on the margins, to those who were naked and hungry. Yes, Jesus is very concerned about injustice. YES, we must be concerned about fighting for those who are suffering the injustices of society because they are living in poverty.
Yet it is clear to my mind that Jesus was equally concerned about the rich. It is one of those sermon cliches that “Jesus talked more about money than he did about heaven and hell combined”. What does that say about Jesus’ concern for the rich? What would have happened to Zacchaeus if he had not had that famous encounter with Christ?
I understand that for the majority of us Christians, our concern for the poor has only good intentions behind it. But in focussing on a single category of people is to not see the wood for the trees. It’s time for us to properly realign with the whole of Jesus’ teaching. Speaking as someone who has worked with the poor, who is a trustee of a charity that works with the poor, I completely get why there is so much emphasis on working with those who need to see a breakthrough of the Kingdom of God in their lives… but don’t the rich need that too?
[bctt tweet=”‘The Kingdom’ is people committed to Christ. Wealth and poverty have nothing to do with it.”]