Saturday, November 1, 2008

Is the Bible Socialist? Luke-Acts (part 5)

When I first made some notes regarding Jesus' economic redistribution program, I never thought I would continue to post on it. And, after four posts, I STILL have not discussed the story of the rich young ruler, which is perhaps the place where most people would start. It shows just how much material there is, just how radical this redistribution policy is...and, in fact, to a large degree how consistent:

And a ruler said to him, "Good Teacher, waht shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'" And he said, "All these I have observed from youth." And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich. Jesus looking at him said, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through teh eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:18-25)

Once again, Jesus, as he consistently says, tells the rich young ruler to sell everything he owns and give the proceeds to the poor. This is the prerequisite for him to have treasure in heaven--the very thing we spoke about in an earlier post regarding Luke 16:1-13 (I think it was part 3) in which one extricates oneself from the monetary system of borrowing and lending altogether in order to have treasure (and friends) in heaven. This also highly resembles the story of the rich man and Lazarus (part 4). The reason the rich man ended up in Hades was that he was rich in this life. What his brothers needed to repent of was their wealth...not merely failing to give scraps from their table--that was my interpretation at least. That interpretation, in fact, falls into place quite well with these verses. The rich man may be a good guy . He may follow all the commandments well. He may do everything else well. BUT he has no place in the kingdom of God unless he sells everything he owns and redistributes it to the poor. Perhaps this is harder for him to do than for Jesus' immediate disciples, who were commanded to do the same, because they were poorer. But Jesus demands this redistribution of everyone for the kingdom of God. Perhaps that is the kingdom of heaven: when everyone sells everything they own (doing away with private property) and redistributes it to the poor so that none are without need. It is a hard sell...that's why the kingdom of God as a whole has never broken out into the world and remains only within individuals.

Oh, and once again, perhaps an ironic theological comment that undermines later Christian message. I am curious about how post-Nicene Christians dealt with Jesus saying he was not Good and that only God is Good, which, of course, suggests Jesus is not God from Jesus' own perspective! In Christological parlance, a very low Christology. This line also, incidently, reminds me of the purported origins of the term "philosopher" with Pythagoras. The story goes that someone referred to Pythagoras as "sophos" (or "wise") and he said that none is "wise" except God alone, but he was merely a "philosophos" (a lover of wisdom / lover of the wise).

1 comment:

Great Welsh Luxury said...

Great words. Super research