Was Jesus a Liberal?

A theme that I have noticed lately over the Internet and Facebook, etc is the idea that Jesus was a liberal, that is to say that the compassion for the poor that Jesus taught is best fulfilled by some sort of big government system of wealth distribution. I is more than a little inappropriate to try to classify the teachings of a first century  Jew in terms of contemporary politics and still less so to claim the mantle of the Son of God for any political program.  It is also more than a little interesting that people who formerly had little use for any religion, particularly Christianity, are suddenly teaching us the precepts of our own religion.

This passage in Matthew explains what to do to help others.

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.”

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[e] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. (Matt 19:16-30)

Now please note what Jesus did not ask the young man to do. Jesus did not tell the young men to go to Pilate or Herod and demand that they take money from the rich to give to the poor. Jesus told the young man to sell his own possessions.

Here are some more passages.

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)

I wish many present day tax collectors felt as Zacchaeus did.

Here,Paul gives instruction to the Christians of Corinth.

Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me. (1Co 16:1-4)

There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given. (2 Co 9:1-5)

Again, Zacchaeus and the Corinthians are asked to give their own money to the poor,not money taken by force from someone else. The apostles and many in the early Church seem to have lived a communal life.

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. (Acts 4:32-5:11)

The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was not in holding back some of the money they received for their property but in lying to the apostles and trying to get more credit than they deserved. Peter acknowledged that they could do whatever they like with their own money. The communal life of the apostles was entirely voluntary. They did not demand that the Roman government force people to live in communes.

The problem seems to be that our progressives blur the distinction between private acts of charity and government policies. Helping the poor and unfortunate is a praiseworthy act. Charity with other peoples’ money at little cost to oneself is less praiseworthy. Robbing the rich to give to the poor is still stealing. A political platform based on arousing feelings of envy is covetousness. Remember,”Thou shalt not steal”, and “Thou shalt not covet”.

If you want to help the poor, then go out and help the poor. Don’t use the excuse of wanting to be compassionate to justify taking the property and freedoms of others.

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2 Responses to “Was Jesus a Liberal?”

  1. Duck Amuck | David's Commonplace Book Says:

    […] Again, it is interesting that people who have had, up till now, no use for any religion, least of all Christianity, are now lecturing Christians about the precepts of our own faith, against clear statements in scripture. For the activist bullies, it is no longer enough to simply tolerate the homosexual even though you may disapprove of the act. You must become a cheerleader for the lifestyle, or else. And, if your religion teaches against it, you had best drop the religion in favor of what the world teaches. I doubt if Mr. Robertson is much disturbed by this controversy. If he is, he can take solace in the notion that the people who hate him and what he represents hate the One who is much greater. […]

  2. Who Was Jesus? | THE SCARECROW Says:

    […] Was Jesus a Liberal? (davidscommonplacebook.wordpress.com) […]

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