Another day, another idiotic college professor misunderstanding the Bible entirely (either willingly or unwillingly, not sure which is worse). Jesus Christ never condemned the rich. He warned them that their love of money could destroy them, but He never condemned the fact they were wealthy to begin with. But we'll get to that momentarily.
Now, this article is a little bit weird because, unlike pretty much every other time, I do not know exactly what the professor argues. Let me explain.
DePaul University political science Professor David Lay Williams held a lecture this month. However, it does not look as though the event was filmed or otherwise documented. All I could find about it is DePaul’s Events list detailing the Mess Hall lecture with a relatively brief description.
So unlike in other articles, I can’t directly challenge the arguments that the professor makes because I don’t have access to those arguments. All I have is the description of the event. However, the description does offer some things for me to explain.
So instead of creating a counterargument to someone’s argument, I will try my best at defending the concept of being wealthy and amassing wealth, why Jesus warned (not condemned, don't get them confused) the rich of His time and why He wouldn't condemn every rich person of today’s world.
Let’s begin by looking at the lecture’s description:
“’Inequality is the root of all social evil,’ Pope Francis has warned. A look at his sources suggests he could hardly argue otherwise. So contends DePaul Political Science Professor David Lay Williams, who investigates the predatory lending practices and extremes of economic inequality in Jesus’ Roman Palestine in a chapter of his forthcoming book on the development of economic inequality in Western political thought. Reimagining some of Jesus’ parables and examining passages from the Gospels and the Book of James, Williams discovered a Jesus intent on reducing the corrosive effects of wealth, greed, and inequality and condemning those with great fortunes as unworthy inhabitants for the kingdom of God. Williams contrasts him with Paul’s attitude toward pious Christians with wealth.”
Right off the bat, I can see I would have a hard time of being convinced by anything the professor says (which I can’t access, as I’ve said). Quoting Pope Francis to make a Christian argument is like quoting Bill Clinton to make an argument against raping women. It just doesn’t work. Beyond the fact that the current Il Papa is a staunch believer in climate change and that mankind has something to do with it, the current reports about his willingness to aid pedophilic priests and his overall comments saying that those who are calling out this perverted evil are of the devil himself all tell me he’s as far from a Christian as one can get while calling himself one.
I had always had an issue with the Pope calling himself the head of the Catholic Church, since only Jesus should be considered the head of the Church, but this particular Pope has to be one of the worst of all time.
When the Dalai Lama is more adamant about Europe belonging to Europeans instead of Muslims than the HEAD OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, there is a problem. So to base an entire lecture (as far as I know) off of a quote from Pope LuciFrancis, that is going to raise some flags on my end.
Now, regarding other things such as “investigating predatory lending practices”, I won’t argue much there. For as long as humanity has had some form of currency, given our evil nature, humanity has sought to cheat and steal off of someone else.
The very first deal we know of is God’s deal with Adam and Eve. Now, it’s not exactly an official deal signed with a document, but it was a deal that had God allowing Adam and Eve enjoying the Garden of Eden in exchange for not eating out of the forbidden tree. And I think we all know what happened.
Later on in the Old Testament, time and time again, whenever a deal between two people was made, there were certain rules such as having people there as witnesses to oversee the making of the deal, like when Boaz bought Elimelech’s belongings and redeemed Ruth in Ruth chapter 4. Or when Abraham made a deal with Ephron the Hittite to buy the land where he would bury Sarah in Genesis chapter 23.
So there were legitimate deals that were held and there were deals where someone would finesse another person, hence why the Old Testament, which is the Word of God, insisted in having rules and traditions to ensure a deal was kept between two parties.
Now, the lecture description mentions what the Gospels and the Book of James say about the rich. And it makes sense, with verses such as Luke 18:25: “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” or James 5:1-6: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.”
Or even Luke 12:33: “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.”
But here’s the thing: at the time of Christ, when He would warn the rich, the rich were either those who worked in the government, those who were friends with people in the government, or land-owners with farms and such. The way the first two got rich was by taxing others. If you get rich off of taxing others, chances are good that you are stealing from them.
Now, one can make the case that taxation is theft and the IRS should be abolished along with taxes. I won’t necessarily make that argument myself as it doesn’t really belong in this article and I personally do not entirely agree with it, but that’s for another time.
The point is that Jesus warned the rich because they're very likely to rely on themselves for everything, including salvation. That's why He said it's more difficult for them to enter the Kingdom of God - He never said it was impossible. Just more difficult given the wealthy's self-reliance.
The rich, as I stated earlier, can also include land-owners, not just taxmen. As the aforementioned James 5:1-6 passage says “the wages of the laborers… which you kept back by fraud… you have condemned and murdered the righteous person…” I don’t know exactly who James is talking to here. The letter he wrote was addressed to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion, or the Diaspora, which is the dispersion of the Jews throughout events in the entire Bible. That is my best explanation of the Dispersion not being a theologian myself.
But James clearly is writing letters to twelve tribes and no one in particular. But he writes this with the accusation of the rich people defrauding their servants and “condemning and murdering the righteous person”. I do not know exactly who the “righteous person” is in this context. What I understand is that people who convert to Christianity are deemed righteous thereafter, even while remaining sinners (though they are righteous not out of their own work but by God's grace).
However, that’s not the most important part in this context. James is mentioning, or at least accusing, that the rich he’s referring to have been dishonest with the wages that belong to their laborers. It’s performing such an evil act that is the focal point of this passage. Not the fact that they're rich.
There are other passages in the Bible that speak against the rich and the amassing of wealth, but not because being rich or amassing wealth is in itself a bad thing, but because a love of money, which is sinful, can often stem from it.
1 Timothy 6:10 says: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
You see, it’s not being rich in itself that is bad or evil. It’s the love of money that CAN come from it (but does not have to). For example, Abraham was a pretty rich guy. He was able to buy multiple plots of land and many farm animals like sheep, oxen, etc. Yet, God never condemned his wealth. He never urged Abraham to give up his Earthly possessions.
Why? Because Abraham was faithful to the Lord, though he would stumble such as when he slept with and impregnated Hagar. But Abraham stayed faithful to the Lord, trusted in Him and followed His commandments as best as he could.
So I have to ask: would Jesus condemn the rich of today? Depends on which ones. I will not name any Democrats, as that is obvious why He would condemn them, the least of the reasons which is that they are rich. But people like, say, Bill Gates? I don’t know. Gates didn’t steal anyone’s money. He earned it himself. As far as I know, he didn’t mistreat anyone while he was head of Microsoft. Now, he does have other issues with regard to his entrance into heaven, given that he is an atheist, but I am absolutely sure being rich, with the way he became rich, is something Jesus would not condemn. His Atheism, if he dies without converting, will condemn him. But not his wealth.
Again, Christ never condemns people because of their money - in fact, it's God who blesses us with money and possessions. He condemns unbelievers only - those who love money more than Jesus. It’s the love of money that gets people into trouble. It’s their crooked behavior that gets them into trouble. It’s not the actual money count that gets people into trouble.
So while Christ did indeed warn the rich, as shown throughout the Bible, His issue is not the actual wealth of someone, but rather how they get it, what they do with it and in whom those people trust: their money or the Lord.
The first commandment reads: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” The love of money, the worship of money, is basically idolatry. And it being the first commandment, we can see that it’s a pretty important one to God.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”
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