Jesus, Today’s Church, and ‘Inequality’


plThat Jesus commanded His disciples—of which I am one—to love “the poor” is beyond dispute. Equally beyond dispute, however, is that, regardless of what growing legions of left-leaning clerics would have us believe, Jesus never—never ever—addressed the issue of “inequality.”

The head of my church and the most visible religious leader on the world stage today, Pope Francis, is as guilty a culprit as is anyone on this score. The Pope made headlines on more than a few occasions since his tenure began when His Holiness condemned “inequality” generally, and the traditional American economic system in particular, with a bluntness that would have made Barack Hussein Obama blush.

Ours is “an economy of exclusion and inequality,” Pope Francis insisted. Our system of “inequality” both results from and encourages “laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.” Thus, “masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”

Worse, the Pope informs us, our “capitalist” system with its “inequality” violates the divine injunction against “killing,” for “such an economy kills” (emphasis added).

Pope Francis may be the most well known Christian leader to conflate Jesus’ teachings on the proper treatment of the poor with the issue of income and wealth “inequalities.” But he speaks for countless lesser known representatives of Christianity.

Take Norma Cook Everist, a professor of church and ministry. In an article that she penned for The Lutheran, Everist insists that things haven’t changed a lick since Martin Luther said that “the poor” are routinely “defrauded” by “the rich.”

“Inequality,” Everist remarks, divides the world into “makers” and “takers” while fostering the godless fiction that some people, and even “some children,” are “worth more” than others, and that some, “the poor,” are of “‘of no worth’[.]”

The project of reducing the Gospel to an activist’s manual on addressing “inequality” is fraught with difficulties.

First, as already noted, it is simply dishonest: there is no basis, Biblical or otherwise, for equating an obligation to care for the poor with an obligation to endorse political policies ostensibly aimed at reducing “inequalities” in income and wealth. Decent minded people of all faiths and no faith have long recognized the need to care for those in poverty, and Christians specifically have always been acutely aware of this as a moral imperative.

But it hasn’t been until the emergence of large, centralized governments, immensely affluent, industrialized societies, and the dominance of secular, egalitarian ideologies—i.e. phenomena that don’t appear until relatively late in Christian history—that anyone, much less any Christian cleric, has thought to identify compassion for the poor with the amelioration of “inequalities.”

Second, even the tireless emphasis that pastors place upon Jesus’ relationship with “the poor” is less than fully honest, for it is grounded in a selective reading of the New Testament.

“The poor” is as ambiguous as it is emotionally-charged a term. Most of the people among whom Jesus spent His time were certainly not rich by the standards of their day, and some of them did indeed live in grinding poverty. While it’s true that there was no “middle class,” it’s equally true that just because the tax collectors, farmers, fishermen, carpenters and so forth with whom He appears to have fraternized were not rich, neither were they all impoverished.

That today’s clerics fail to make these discriminations between those to whom Jesus ministered by referring to them all as “the poor” reflects their awareness of the emotional and moral appeal of this moniker. After all, “the poor” are, well, poor: only the heartless could fail to feel for them. And “the poor” also lends those so designated moral authority, for being the victims of their circumstances, “the poor” are always blameless.

Third, this exclusive stress on Jesus’ fondness for “the poor,” whether by accident or design, conveys the impression that He was exclusively fond of “the poor,” a respecter of persons by virtue of their socio-economic condition—exactly what the Bible insists God is not.

This notion, in turn, further underscores a sense of moral superiority among “the poor” by fueling it with the fiction that their poverty is a saving grace. “The poor,” in other words, can too easily think that it is they, not “the rich,” that count for more in God’s eyes.

Some observers, like the 19th century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, thought that this, in fact, was the whole purpose behind Christianity. In referring to it as a “slave morality,” Nietzsche’s point is that it serves, and was always meant to serve, the psychological and emotional interests of the poor masses, namely their interest in exacting a sort of imaginary vengeance against the wealthy by demonizing them while insisting upon their own “blessedness.”

Admittedly, Nietzsche was an enemy of Christianity. But he became an enemy after having been raised Christian by his Lutheran minister father. In any event, one needn’t accept Nietzsche’s reading of Christianity—I do not—in order to see that those Christian leaders who use their pulpits to blast “inequality” lend it considerable plausibility.

Finally, Jesus excoriated “the rich,” yes; but He was no less hard on “the poor,” including and particularly His closest followers. Conversely, sometimes Jesus lavished praise upon “the rich.”

For 2,000 years, whether rightly or wrongly, Christendom’s worst villain has been, not the rich and famous Herod, Pilate, or Nero, but Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ closest disciples and a “poor” man who relinquished what possessions he may have had in order to follow Him. Moreover, Jesus regularly castigated his “poor” disciples for their lack of faith, and, sometimes, compared them unfavorably with wealthy Gentiles, like the Roman Centurion whose servant Jesus healed.

Moreover, it is worth noting that besides Himself, the greatest example of Christian charity that Jesus extolled is that of the Good Samaritan, a rich man who deployed some of his ample resources to help a stranger in need.

We also shouldn’t forget that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were rich members of the priestly class with whom Jesus must’ve been particularly close, for not only did they attempt to prevail upon their fellow Pharisees to refrain from turning Jesus over to the Romans. Following Jesus’ crucifixion, both prepared His body for burial in the tomb that Joseph secured for Him.

All of this can be found easily enough in the four canonical Gospels which are read in Christian churches throughout the world every Sunday. That these points are neglected by so many ministers is due, I submit, to their obsession with combating, not poverty, but “inequalities” in income and wealth—a topic, this Christian has been at pains to show, having nothing to do with either the whole of the Bible or The New Testament.

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  • teq

    The leftards have invented their own Christian denomination which I call “Church of Christ, Social Worker.” They claim Jesus was a radical activist who came to empower the poor and organize the community to promote equality. In other words Jesus was a biblical version of Saul Alinsky!

    They’re not big on charity because they don’t like to spend their own money. But when it comes to spending other people’s money — they’re so generous!!!

    • PATRIOT.WW48

      teq, you are so correct.

    • DB1954

      Yes, but the “social gospel” is well over a hundred years old now. It seems, however, to have lately infected the Roman Catholics, but originally it was the slightly heretical, semi-official doctrine of American protestants, in particular, the Methodists. I call it “Soup-kitchen Christianity.”

  • Corkie

    Nowhere in the new testament did Jesus command that taking care of the poor consists of using other people’s money, i.e. tax collectors. I have long maintained that being forced to pay isn’t charity, and only your personal money freely given is the charity Jesus spoke of. He also didn’t feed the 5,000 by taking fish out of the mouths of others..

    • PATRIOT.WW48

      Corkie, well put, THX

      • ratonis

        That’s an interesting take on that story. Jesus, in feeding the multitudes, engaged in wealth creation!

    • claydean1

      Well, too, Jesus only offered to feed them one time–not for the rest of their lives.

  • Critical Christian

    What a breath of fresh air this article is, thanks. Wish that more Christians turn a critical eye on their churches with regard to whether their teachings have a scriptural base or not. Church leaders have become windsocks turning which ever way the winds of progress, liberal thought and amorality are blowing.
    “And as for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says to his
    people: I will judge between one animal of the flock and another,
    separating the sheep from the goats..”.
    Perhaps time people were given the Bible to read rather than the catechism of the catholic church or excerpts thereof.

    • PATRIOT.WW48

      Critical Christian, excellent thoughts, well written

  • Damaris Tighe

    Unlike the left’s take on Jesus, he didn’t say (to paraphrase) blessed are the poor & weak irrespective of behaviour (parable of the talents). Unlike some of the televangelists’ take on Jesus, he also didn’t say that wealth is a sign of virtue (he told the rich young man that keeping the law wasn’t enough & to enter the kingdom he should sell all he had).

    • mama bear

      THIS whole article is so right..yet too it is fact G-d never said : Don’t be rich. the rich man He said to sell all he had was because G-d knew his heart. there are many rich who do give with love and care and that is a good thing. and the L-rd also said the poor would always be with us..Shalom

      • Damaris Tighe

        Indeed Jesus didn’t say ‘don’t be rich’. My point was that he said it wasn’t enough.

  • Tradecraft46

    Jesus lived in a extractive subsistence economy, and now we don’t. Such still exist like Argentina for instance.

  • Jonathan Sidaway

    Only by inequality can you have justice, hence the injustice of the Soviet system for example (though of course the party officials were more equal than others.) No recognition of people’s different starting points, their different abilities, demotes the able and leaves the less able with nothing to strive for; thus equality is doubly unjust. I do not think that Christianity was ever designed as a way of running society over and above the duties of love/charity; such lessons as the left/liberals have drawn from it are just wrong.

  • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ Jason P

    Jack, Jesus left no political philosophy. “My kingdom is not of this earth.” Thus both left and right are free to imagine any role they like for governments. We learn more from Paul in Romans 13. Nevertheless, the NT is about salvation in the next life.

    Our nation’s founding was heavily influenced by the Calvinist belief in the virtue of industry. It was a constant theme in Ben Franklin’s moral writings. Wealth was a sign of virtue.

    Franklin once wrote that Catholic countries were poor because they had too much charity and welfare. Compare the USA with Latin America or Northern Europe with Southern Europe, today. I suggest the denomination makes a greater difference than merely being Christian.

    • TMRYAx2

      No. Franklin argued that the more that was done for the poor
      at the expense of others, the less the poor would do for themselves, thus
      requiring more from the providers which leaves them with less as well – resulting in greater poverty for all.

      Wealth in a Free-Market IS a sign of virtue – as it can only be
      achieved by providing for the needs and wants of others.

      Capitalism takes Man’s natural sin of greed and forces it into productive works of charity.

      • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ Jason P

        I’m not sure we disagree. Here is the passage of Franklin that I mentioned:

        … I have heard it remarked that the Poor in Protestant Countries on the Continent of Europe, are generally more industrious than those of Popish Countries, may not the more numerous foundations in the latter for the relief of the poor have some effect towards rendering them less provident. To relieve the misfortunes of our fellow creatures is concurring with the Deity, ’tis Godlike, but if we provide encouragements for Laziness, and supports for Folly, may it not be found fighting against the order of God and Nature, which perhaps has appointed Want and Misery as the proper Punishments for, and Cautions against as well as necessary consequences of Idleness and Extravagancy. Letter to Peter Collinson, Benjamin Franklin, May 9, 1753

  • Lanna

    Jesus message is that its clear its the job of the church, to feed the hungry and show their love for the Lord. The demonstration of love is accomplished only from person to person, not from a corporation to a person or a government to an association, or by any other means of delivery. Peter the head of the church means Rock…on this Rock I will build my church. For the government to give to the poor as they are doing, they must first collect what is to be given away. Levying illegitimate taxes is stealing, especially through Obama care. Charitable giving is a personal interaction between the giver and receiver. The government should not be involved in the issue of chariable giving…it disconnects the giver and the receiver…..Notice how the left benefits from capitalism and then condemns it for others who have a right to prosper….We can see how the left misuses and twists the scriptures to fit their agenda…

    • 1Indioviejo1

      No. Jesus put the duty on the individual. It is our individual job to do the best we can with what we have.

    • PATRIOT.WW48

      Lanna, well written, excellent thoughts, THX

  • Doc

    In churches that I’ve preached in the governing board would break down the money’s collected in this way His thites gifts and offerings all voluntary gifts and offers came from the individuals that he’s were met. To me being forced to give is like being charged for the seat your sitting in. It’s wrong . The Lord loves a happy cheerful giver in the Greek it’s hilariously. Your not going to be happy when your forced to do anything. There was a woman who appeared to give nothing the first of the month she paid her tithes gave gifts for mission Etc. Which brings me to another scripture when you do or give your Alms let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing. It’s between you and The Lord and no one else. That’s your trust with God not anyone else. To tell you how much to give and what to give it for breaks the trust between you and The Lord. If your new to the faith and asked what is a thith how do I figure out what mine is ? Or I can’t make that do the best you can. The only way a a Christian can receive is by giving cheerfully

  • Richard O. Mann

    So very true. Jesus was not a community organizer. Jesus came to save the lost, not to save this world. You will always have the poor with you, He once said. But, He was on the earth for a very short time. The center of Christianity is Jesus. Who he is, what He did, and what is next to come. Nations come and go. People are born, live, and die. But the gospel of salvation of the soul by faith through Christ Jesus, is eternal. Sadly, many denominations have gotten off track. They are trying to save this world, and not proclaiming the gospel. Maybe it is because they are really of this world, and not of Christ?

  • Jeff Ludwig

    This article is right on target. If you are interested, my article on the Protestant version of “equality” thinking can be read at http://americanthinker.com/2013/11/how_generous_can_justice_afford_to_be.html

  • joe

    I had to repost this because Facebook said my comments needed to be approved by them. Too weird. – - The Book of Ruth and the story of Boaz seems to go missing from among these panderers of the gospel of Marx. It is a study in property rights and the strength of character of Boaz. Had obama been king back then instead of our pathetic king today, Boaz would have been stripped of his field and all other possessions. There would be no “gleaning” because those self-righteous poor folks would have occupied Boaz’s field and chanted about their right to have their way with the beasts of burden. There would have been no planting from these budding nihilists. In the end, there would be on Psalms, because there would be no David, because Ruth and Boaz were David’s great grandparents. Property rights and human worth go hand in hand. Even Jesus said “don’t I have a right to do what I want with my money.”

    • mtman2

      Unbelievable generosity was given through the Mosaic Law, with hope and help for all but -enemies that attack His people or their God.

  • krinks

    It is true that God did not permit parasites to sit around and do nothing, living off of the fruits of someone else’s labor. What is also important to note that God forbade the making of a profit from his fellow chosen people as well as banned them from charging interest on a loan.

    Note that when he came across those that were called Money Changers, he beat them with a whip. The only time the Lord acted violently. These people were simply buying and selling for a profit and for this the Lord beat them.

    • http://www.spacecoastconservative.com/ SpaceCoastConservative.com

      Sorry, but I beg to differ.

      First, with your assumption that the “Money Changers” were fellow “chosen people”. There is no evidence that the money changers were all Jews.

      Second, the Lord drove out the moneychangers from the temple because it was His Father’s house, not a place of business but a house of worship. What you’re alleging is that it’s the equivalent of people taking Girl Scout cookies to church and selling them, thus profiting off of their fellow church attendees. Not so. The moneychangers were selling things to give as offerings to GOD and thus profaning the offering as well as the House of GOD. It was as big an offense to make a profit off of the offering as the location they were making their profit.

      Third, The Lord never says NOT to make a profit — whether you’re in the 1% or not. In fact, there are several verses that speak to GOD’s desire to bless us financially and to prosper us. If that’s what GOD wants for us, who are we to deny it? Would that not be going against GOD’s will?

      Fourth, If you do not buy and sell at a profit, even in the time of Christ, you don’t stay in business: period. Christ’s step-father was a carpenter. I’m sure Joseph didn’t do his carpentry for free. Was Jesus against profit? No. It fed him and his earthly family for the thirty years He lived with his parents in their home, and after He was crucified.

      So what you’re rattling on about, makes no sense whatsoever.

    • DB1954

      Jesus drove them from the Temple, not for profiting from commerce, but for carrying on commerce in or before the Temple.

      • krinks

        You don’t see a single reference to them doing a good thing in a bad place. Matter of fact Jesus called the, thieves for making a profit off of their brethren, a thing the Law of Moses forbade.

    • mtman2

      Nah, a true capital C -Conservative wants to do away with the Fed(Globalist-parasites), and let the free market be dynamic whic brings the prosperity all can participate in. It is the Far-Left Dems that took over the socialist-lite party(w/rinos) that are the party of big Crony-crapitalism and Big+public unions, w/huge wasteful, fraudulent Bureaus run by un-elected lifetime Bureaucrats. Both parties loathe and fear us yet WE are the only group -standing on as Founded w/ Docs.

  • 1Indioviejo1

    I agree with your POV. Pope Francis is an Argentinian immersed in the ‘Liberation Theology’ of the Marxist Church. Don’t worry, the Church will survive this ideologue. We have had worse ones before, and it is a satanic manifestation of earthly intrusion in Gods Realm. Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi and he came from the tradition which gave the world ‘Tikkum Olam’ or repair the world. Catholics fund more Hospitals and minister to the poor as much as Jews do. Maybe more because of the demographic balance, yet people need to understand that Jesus place an individual duty on charity. He never spoke about taking other people’s money or property by force to redistribute it.

    • Erudite Mavin

      Francis is an Italian from Argentina and yes, pushing liberation and social gospel agenda.
      Right out of Dorothy Day.
      I miss Benedict.

    • DB1954

      I’m not sure that I’d characterize Francis as “immersed” in liberation theology. That would depend on the meaning of “immersed,” obviously. Nevertheless, with each passing day, it becomes clearer and clearer that his theological views are unorthodox if not, yes, heretical.

  • http://www.spacecoastconservative.com/ SpaceCoastConservative.com

    Amen and AMEN!

    Also note that it states in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 that it states that if a man does not work neither shall he eat (para.). There are those among us who are poor because of things they cannot control (injuries, etc) then there are the poor among us who use the system to benefit themselves and milk it for all they can get while the rest of us work to make sure they have the latest iPhone, iPad, iPod, digital televisions, etc. It’s ridiculous to think that Jesus Christ was telling us that the “milk the system” poor should be allowed to continue on the taxpayer teat for as long as they wish and that it’s okay with Him.

    Jesus could have just as easily excoriated the poor man who refuses to work as being incapable of getting into the kingdom of GOD as it was for the rich man (Mark 10:25). If it was about any other “equality” than the equality of GOD’s love for all of us, then Jesus would have said so. GOD loves us equally and Christ died for all of us equally, but to think that Jesus would condone the “equality” crud being pushed by some today is a distortion of the teachings in the Bible.

    Considering how the Left hates the Bible, GOD and everything to do with religion, why would anyone listen to anything the Left says concerning the Bible anyways? Is that not the height of hypocrisy?

    • PATRIOT.WW48

      Amen

    • mtman2

      “If you don’t work you don’t eat”.
      And pretty much everyone can be of some use for the furtherance and betterment of self, family +/or community. Usefulness gives pride in oneself with contribution to ones fellow man.

  • Erudite Mavin

    The liberal comments from the mag. “The Lutheran” is from the ELCA Synod.
    and their magazine.
    Not the views of the true Lutherans, the LCMS

  • Vic

    “And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24″Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

    and from the Sermon on the Mount:

    19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy,and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    • mtman2

      21) -IS- the answer as to what is what.

  • Vic

    24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

    and

    “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[n]?

    • mtman2

      “I abound in plenty and in want”.

  • DB1954

    As I understood it, the peace of God, the peace which comes to those who pick of their cross to follow Jesus is an inner peace. The peace which comes to the disciples is NOT the absence of war. It’s now clear to me that this Pope is missing the mark. He seems to have embraced the crassest of secular notions about the meaning of discipleship.

  • Jacobsstew

    Socialism is man’s creation and certainly not of God. In fact, God’s just the opposite. Jesus gave us a parable to illustrate the doctrine of His Kingdom. There were 3 servants. Each received talents: one 5, the 2nd 2, and the 3rd 1. The one that received 5 doubled it to 10; the 2nd doubled his to 4 and the 3rd made nothing. The Lord commended the 1st 2 and rebuked the last one. But the master did an amazing thing. He took the 1 talent from the 3rd person and gave it to the 1st who already had 10!! The master made the rich even richer. It’s completely opposite to the social gospel. Jesus didn’t say that the master took some talents from the one who had 10 and distributed amongst the other 2 to make them all more equal. No! In fact Jesus said “lay up your treasures in heaven…..”. So those who work hard will lay up more treasures, the ones that work less will have less treasures and those who do nothing will lay up nothing. Also Paul tells us that our works will be tried by fire. If they’re of gold they will not burn but if they are hay and stubble they will all be burnt up and the person will have nothing left save what was given to him — eternal life. The Kingdom of Heaven is more like a market economy. If I produce goods that people like then I can sell more of my goods and make a bigger profit. So In God’s Kingdom, if I work hard to do and to obey more of my Saviours will then the more He will reward me with His treasures ….. completely opposite to the social gospel. So one can choose to have plenty or nothing in Heaven. By nothing I mean rewards for our service to Christ for we are all made rich by HIs Righteousness

  • Mike Landry

    II Corinthians 9:7 says we should give not grudgingly or because we have to, but out of a willing heart. Gunpoint charity — government imposed “giving” — is far removed.

  • Tom Foster

    It is typical of atheist liberals to be the first ones to bring up Jesus whenever it suits them!

  • Brian Mason

    I’m sorry, but anyone that puts another fallible human between himself and God has only complicated the whole matter. The pope is no different than you or I. He puts on his pants (when he wears them) one leg at a time. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the the only intercessors between man and God!

  • johnnywood

    JESUS never condemned the wealthy for having wealth but HE did condemn some of them for their judgmental attitudes and false piety.