I had a bit of difficulty deciding what to write this week. In my own personal life, I’ve listened to two different discussions on retirement in light of Christianity. Externally, all metaphorical hell seems to be breaking loose, what with the coronavirus, the oil trade wars, the stock market plunge, and the coordinated backstabbing within the Democratic Party. I don’t believe that I have enough information to comment on those things for the moment. I’ll wait a month, then, and focus on something I’ve been considering for a while.
The Hebrews of ancient times were given a set of laws. These laws were extensive and governed not only basic crimes but also religious governance, rituals, domestic and foreign policies, and what it means to be Jewish. Hundreds of rules were set in place, the first and most prominent being the world-renowned Ten Commandments. Simple things, such as theft, murder, and adultery were prohibited under this law. There were embellishments to the simpler crimes shortly after the Ten Commandments in Exodus 21, 22, and the like. The villainy of actions such as murder and deceit, however, were much less concentrated with the judges and the prophets, with more recollections on the events of murder and theft than discussion of why those actions were wrong.
Rather, the biblical judges and prophets focused on other sins, which were at best briefly touched on in the Pentateuch. Sins such as cheating a worker out of his wages were brought to the forefront (see James 5:4, Isaiah 58:3). When Jesus came down, he expanded the law aforementioned to include lust, and brotherly anger, and taking oaths, and divorce in general, and dozens of other wrongs. The apostles James and Paul decried the preferential treatment of the rich, and on it goes.
Modern opinion seems to rely upon the additional laws by Jesus and the prophets but ignore the old. Is theft against the rich better than theft against the poor? Modern opinion might agree, and perhaps side with the thief. Bonnie and Clyde is a recent example, but there are plenty in the twenty-first century, such as Antifa and Mallorie Jessica Udischas’s comics. These people use the wealth of their targets to justify their actions. The rich are by their very nature sinful, and the holier-than-thou are the true sinners.
Jesus never intended to repeal the law. The audience to which he preached knew well and good the laws God had given them. Just as it is unlawful across most cultures to steal, lie, and murder, they too understood the basic sins. Jesus and His prophets only gave them additional laws to follow, to clarify that, even if they kept the whole written law, they could still stumble in God’s eyes. Hebrew overreliance on divine right assumed that the rich were favored by God and so naturally must have been righteous, like Abraham or Job. The poor and unethical were cast down as irredeemable. Jesus flipped that social stigma on its head (Luke 18), making the castaways God’s chosen people. In fact, no one could come to the Father except through the Son.
The sentiment is clear: pride, even in one’s own accomplishments, even in one’s own patronage of others, is spiritual poison. It applies equally to the demonization of the poor and unorthodox as it does to the vilification of the rich and righteous. It is only through the work of Christ that we could hope to reach Heaven. As a result, even if large swaths of social justice advocates weren’t hypocrites (i.e., champagne socialists), the poor in spirit and the humble are more appealing to God than the arrogant revolutionaries. A brash, poor atheist will likely not enter the kingdom of God before a Presbyterian billionaire, not because of the billionaire’s success, but for one reason alone: Christ. This is why Christians give so much to charity, and help the poor in such effective ways. Their sincerity is more easily converted into action than redistributionist philosophy.
It is no exact science. Just as one cannot view the heart from the outside, I cannot determine who will or will not see God someday. I certainly cannot claim my interpretation as God’s definitive truth. That said, what I have said here reflects my life experiences, with many personal examples behind them. Perhaps Jesus would reflip the social stigma of modern times. Regardless of His stance, I choose to follow Him. Rich or poor, orthodox or casual, it is the only path to salvation.