I don’t know about you, but I struggle with Jesus sometimes. I mean, mate, Jesus, did you really mean what you said? Like when you said to the Rich Young Ruler that he had to sell all he had and give it to the poor, or that for the rich to enter the Kingdom, it would take a miracle to overcome the impossible? Did you mean it that when Zacchaeus decided to give back to everyone he’d stolen from more than what he owed them, that salvation had come to his house? Did you mean what you said when you declared we should seek first your Kingdom and not worry about what we will eat or drink or wear? Did you mean what you said when you explained what we don’t do for the least we have not done to you?
Sometimes I just want to say “Don’t you know, money makes the world go round? And it sounds to me like you’re kind of not that stoked on your followers keeping lots of it.”
And then there are passages like Luke 6:17-26.
These are known as the blessings and woes. Being part of the Gospel of Jesus, they are “Good News for the poor”, as Jesus said his good news would be (Luke 4:18-19). But…as a relatively well off, white male, in the western nation of New Zealand, these blessings and woes are not quite good news if my goal is to remain a relatively wealthy, white male, in New Zealand. They are hard to stomach.
“Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God,” Jesus says (v20). “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort,” (v24).
News reports over the past year have shed fresh light on poverty in New Zealand. 140,000 people are homeless in our nation. That includes people sleeping on the street, to people with no fixed abode, to families sleeping in cars in our parks.
It’s becoming more and more common knowledge that living an average NZ lifestyle make us rich on a global scale.
So here I am.
Sitting with my Bible.
I believe that Jesus meant what he said. But that leaves me in an awkward position. Because I am rich. For me to understand the gravity of the change that Jesus wants to work in me to transform me out the empire of this world into a citizen in the Kingdom of God, that will require a miracle. Because I have “already received my comfort.”
I am thankful that what for me is impossible is entirely possible for God. But I can’t ignore the fact that to be born again into the “life that truly is life” – eternal life in the Kingdom of God – is a slow and grueling process of becoming that will literally be a fight for me because of the position that I hold (1 Timothy 6). Don’t get me wrong, I know I have been born again into new life and I am a new creation, but as a new creation it will take a lifetime to unlearn the patterns of this world and grow as a disciple of a homeless rabbi king on a journey downward, while proclaiming the Good News that the Kingdom of God belongs to the poor.
We cannot serve both God and Mammon. They are entirely different gods. But I have loved money for so long now, and been a servant of mammon for so long, that it will have to take a miracle of ongoing grace and generosity from the Spirit of God to transform me into someone who truly catches a hold of the vision of Jesus. There will be enough for everyone, but it will require that people such as me learn to give everything up, redistribute, and become rich in good deeds.
Money is not the enemy, I’m learning. But it needs to be re imagined and re-thought by the people of God’s Kingdom. It is not ours for ourselves, and accumulating it is no longer our goal. Generosity, simplicity, contentment, satisfaction, joy, liberation, freedom, these are some of the things towards which Christ leads us, and in the process, money and the love of it can be left behind for what truly matters: love, relationship, full bellies, warm bodies, and eternal life in the Kingdom of God – may it come on earth as in heaven.
And my I – may we – continue to learn to resist the empire of mammon, on the road that leads to life.
I don’t know about you. But as young adult, I’m learning to handle money in a way I never have had to before. I am earning more now than I ever have. And I will probably be able to say the same in 10 years’ time too. So it is ripe time for me, for us, to understand what God calls us to in Jesus as stewards of wealth. If you have similar questions, or you struggle like me. If you are a young adult learning what it is to follow Jesus to freedom. If you are a young adult in the upside-down Kingdom, or are beginning to explore what that might mean, feel free to join my friends and me on the 28th of February at the Humble villager at 7PM and we can continue the conversation then. Kia kaha.
Jeremy Harris is the Young Adult’s Facilitator of the Diocese of Auckland. He also works part time as Youth and Young Adults Pastor at Northwest Anglican. He is a recovering sinner captivated by the God who came to earth in Jesus. He is married to Katie and together they have a succulent that recently died.