God and the Rich

          It seems to me that the mainstream biblical interpretation of both fundamentalist and liberal varieties generally either ignore or deliberately misinterpret the Bible on the issue of wealth. In general the tendency is for interpreters is to minimalize and to ignore the fact that Jesus, James, the prophets and the Torah  in general does not seem to like or favour the rich, and their riches. On the contrary the vast part of the Bible seems to be partisan to the poor and to those described as “oppressed.” I can cite a multiple number of scriptures to prove this. But a couple will do. Jesus said “blessed are the poor for they will inherit the kingdom of God.”  He also said “woe until the rich.” Note. these are paraphrased. If one wants some Old Testament examples I can refer them to Psalms 9-10 and Psalms 72.
      
The partisonship of the God of the bible for the poor and in opposition to the rich I think is fairly clear. The  issue is why is this the case? Those who attempt to explain the fact that the rich do not seem to enjoy favour in the Bible  generally respond by attempting to spiritualize and psychologize these traditions. Thus for norminative Christian Fundamentalism which has as its dominant concern an other worldly concern of salvation from hell and
and the award of  heaven, the issue becomes one of attitude. The status of being rich is not problematic because there is anything objectively problematic about riches in itself. The problem is only that the  wealthy often love their riches more than God. They then go on the explain how the rich young ruler and company obviously put their riches first.
 
       But the problem is that the Bible does not say anything that suggests that the rich young ruler and other rich persons necessarily put their riches  before God any more than do the poor or  any other people put what they have before God. Yes the Bible certainly states that trust should be in God and not riches or any other things. Most human beings are not totally faithful and put some things before God. And the rich however are no more guilty in this than others. Therefore attempts to psychologize the biblical hostility to the rich and to wealth does not work. 
      
     I would instead  argue that the answer the question is at least found in how  the Bible generally discribes  the poor. On this issue the Bible is clear.  With the exception of the book of Proverbs the Bible
tends to describe the poor as oppressed, suffering and in fact the victims of injustice. And God is generally seen as the liberator who brings justice to the poor. Again I can cite a multiple of examples to support this contention.
The question now arises – who are the wicked who oppresses
the poor?  Are they just common thieves and robbers in other words criminals? It is perhaps possible to interpret some of the references to the wicked in the Bible this way. But I think that in general  the rich, powerful and wicked are all placed by the Bible in pretty much in the same camp. After all again why does Jesus say “woe to the rich in pretty much the same breath as he says “blessed are the poor.”  Why did Mary say (Luke 1.52-53) that he “fills the hungry with good things but the rich he sends away empty.”
I will have more about this issue in future posts.
Glenn
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