What are the social responsibilities of wealthy Christians? Must they prove their loyalty to the Lord by selling their possessions and giving to the poor? Are there simple, universal answers to these questions, or are these questions that must be answered personally and individually?
Some of these issues were raised decades ago in Ronald Sider’s classic work Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, originally published in 1978. With many of us in the West having so much and many in other countries having so little, what would Jesus ask of us?
David Chilton took exception to Sider’s approach, writing, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators: A Biblical Response to Ronald J. Sider in 1981. In Chilton’s view, Sider’s view violated the productive principles of biblical economics.
Now, in our day, “Red Letter Christian” leader Shane Claiborne has asked whether Jesus is King of Kanye West’s bank account. He writes, “The same Jesus who said we need to be ‘born again’ also commanded his disciples to ‘sell everything and give it to the poor.’ This is the one who said it is easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
Is Clairborne right?
First, Jesus requires all of us to surrender everything to Him if we want to be His disciples. As He said to the large crowds that followed Him, “. . . those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (Luke 14:33).
In context, He didn’t simply mean every possession. He meant everything — our wills, our desires, our relationships, everything.
That is discipleship 101. Being born again means that Jesus is Lord of our entire lives.
Second, Jesus called one particular rich young ruler to sell his possessions and give to the poor. But that was not because his wealth was sinful in itself. Rather, it was to expose his covetous heart. In order to really follow Jesus, this man would need to break the power of materialism and greed. He was not willing. (See Mark 10:17-31.)
On the other hand, when Zacchaeus the tax collector encountered Jesus, he immediately repented, pledging to give half his money to the poor. And, if he had defrauded anyone, he would pay him back fourfold. (See Luke 19:1-10.)
And note that Jesus rejoiced in this act, recognizing the reality of Zacchaeus’s conversion. He did not say, “That’s not good enough! You need to give away all your wealth!”
Each heart and each case is different. (For Jesus’ words to His twelve disciples, see Luke 12:32-34.)
Third, the Bible consistently warns against putting our trust in earthly riches. As Proverbs states, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” (Proverbs 23:4-5; see also Matthew 6:19-26.)
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Brown