Throughout Luke’s Gospel, one of Jesus’ main teachings is about wealth and poverty, and he expresses this in various ways, with the most common being in parables and meetings with the rich.
Firstly, one of Jesus’ attitudes is that he warns the wealthy that their attitude to life prevents them from knowing their need for God, so that they should not think that they have everything they need. An example of this would be in the Parable of the Rich fool, in which the rich man thinks he has everything and will relax, however God reprimands him saying “…with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). Jesus is saying that the rich might think they have everything, but in fact, they are lacking something much richer than their possessions; and that is God. Morris says that Jesus came to bring people to God, instead of property to people because at the time most of the rich focused on their possessions instead.
Another example would be the Rich man and Lazarus, in which the rich man has everything such as food, while Lazarus was poor and had nothing; and the rich went to Hell while Lazarus went to Heaven. What the morale of this tale is that even though the rich might have everything, they have no idea how much they will need God, so in the afterlife God will reward the poor. What Caird suggests is that from the tale the rich man at the end begs Abraham for Lazarus to go tell his brothers to not do what he has done, but Caird says that this is because he has failed at his opportunities, so he does not want the same to happen to the rest of his family.
Another attitude of Jesus is that wealth is not a bad thing, but it should always be used in the right way though. A key example of this would be the parable of the Great dinner in which the rich denied the invitation of the dinner, so all of the poor and outcasts were invited instead. What makes this parable link in with this attitude is that the host has spent a large amount of money on food, so instead of wasting it he gives it to those who would need it more.
Also another example would be of the tax collector Zacchaeus, in which after the crowd moaned about him, he declared that he would give away some of his possessions. What is important to note is that he does not say he would give all of them, but rather half of his possessions to the poor. Jesus then praises him for doing this as it is out of his own accord rather than being told to do it according to Tannehill, so this relates to Jesus’ attitudes.
Another attitude was that Jesus warned that wealth would make individuals self-righteous, with a key example being the parable of the Rich fool, in which the man is confident with what he has done, as Tannehill says that he has no concern for anyone else apart from himself, as he is preparing for his own future instead, as he simply thinking of the pleasures rather than thinking of God.
In addition another example would be of the Hypocrisy of the Pharisees; the Pharisees at the time considered their wealth to be the most important thing, even if they said they were devoted to God, they put their money above him, so Jesus responds to them by saying “…for what is prized for human beings is an abomination is the sight of God.” According to Tannehill, he suggests that the wealth makes the Pharisees uncaring about God, as they see their wealth almost as an idol in a sense, which God also considered as an abomination.
Another attitude of Jesus’ is that he warned that wealth was a way of preventing people from entering God’s kingdom, and to achieve salvation the rich had to give up all the possessions. The best example to show this is the Rich Man and Lazarus, as there is a clear example of role reversal here, as instead of the rich man going to heaven, he is instead sent to Hell, because according to Caird, he failed to use his opportunities of giving Lazarus some of his wealth, so this meant he didn’t achieve salvation with God.
Another example would be in Luke 12:30, as Jesus tells his followers, as well to the rich, that God knows that everyone needs him, so in order to be grant entry into his kingdom you have to sell all that you own and give to those who need it more than you do. What is an interesting note is that Morris points out that Jesus tells everyone not to worry about their possessions, as worrying is a great inhibitor of life if you do so.
An interesting teaching Jesus expresses is that the poor will receive spiritual blessings from God, and the best example of this is from Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain, from The Woes part. Inside this passage, it says in verse 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received you consolation.” What Jesus means by this is that the poor will be blessed whilst the rich shall be condemned; as according to Caird he says that the poor are blessed because they have had nothing to worry about.
Finally, another teaching from Jesus is that God has a special interest in the oppressed and the helpless, which are essentially the poor. Once again the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the plain express this teaching as in verse 22-23 it says that “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you. And defame you…. for surely your reward is great in heaven.” What Jesus means by this is that God does not care for the rich at all, but rather focuses on the poor, as according to Caird they are an emptiness that God can fill.
To what extent do these teachings depart from Judaism? (9)
At the time, Jesus teachings would have been controversial because people thought that wealth was in fact a reward from god for the sinless life they had left; so for Jesus to turn up and say that it was in fact evil and seen as an abomination in God’s eyes. This would of caused some outrage, so Jesus claims on the sermon of the plain would have been very challenging. This is because Jesus said “But woe to you laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” Jesus is stating that they will not be rewarded, but rather punished, in the afterlife, contrasting with the beliefs that had resonated in their society for generations.
In addition, according the year of the Jubilee it said that good new would be brought to the rich and they would be entitled to heaven. However Jesus states that unless they give up their wealth, then they would never be granted entry into heaven, so this would be going against what a lot of Jews thought at the time; what should also be noted is that they would of found this hard to accept anyway
In addition, many people would of thought that Jesus was being blasphemous because he was claiming to be speaking on God’s behalf by saying that the God wanted them to give up all their wealth, and this was considered blasphemy that would of caused more chaos.
An interesting point that could be raised is that Jesus was also challenging that faith of the wealth as well, because even they called themselves pious, they always seemed to place their wealth above God no matter what, so this would of caused outrage as the Saducee for example would not believe this at all.
However you can also see that Jesus does in fact follow Judaism carefully as well, as when Jesus says in his reading “…the year of the Lord’s favour”; it is actually saying that in Isaiah’s context, he is referring to the Jubilee year. According to Tannehill, under Mosaic Law, property is to revert to its original owners and servants were to be released, this meant that he was sticking to the Old Testament teachings, which were valued highly off in Jesus days.
Also Jesus came to Earth to help spread the word of God to everyone, which included the rich, so he was the messiah that was spoken about by Isaiah, so this would of fitted in with old testament teachings.
An interesting point is that in today’s society, many modern Christians didn’t disagree with what Jesus said, but they thought that instead nothing was wrong with acquiring money and wealth, as in today’s society, people who do become wealthy are often admired by others.