Class warfare


One of the unrelenting themes of this and every political season is a kind of class war between rich and poor. The rich are always accused of not paying their fair share, of getting rich at the expense of the poor, and so on.

What does faith teach us about this?

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the story of a rich young ruler who comes to Jesus and asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus first asks if he has kept all the commandments. “Of course, since I was a boy,” comes the answer. Then Jesus said, “Do one more thing. Sell everything and follow me.” The young man went away sad because he had great wealth. Famously, Jesus told his disciples, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich many to enter the kingdom of God.”

Here’s why I bring it up during the election season. It’s the disciples’ reaction: they’re astonished. But they don’t say, “Great! He’s been exploiting the poor. He’s getting what he deserved.” Just the opposite. They can’t believe that the rich young ruler would be excluded. If he’s excluded, what hope is there for anyone else?

Jesus isn’t into class warfare.

The rich young ruler claims to have followed the commandments. Jesus doesn’t dispute it and neither do the disciples. He seems to be a man of character who got his wealth without exploiting anyone.

Apparently money doesn’t make you a “bad person.”

But what money can do is keep you from seeing your spiritual condition. The rich young ruler needed to make Jesus Christ the center of his life.

Money has the power to make us blind to that need, no matter how much, or how little, of it we have.


Several years ago the church where I was serving had a beloved member who had just moved into a retirement residence. He was a veteran of World War II and had lived a long, vibrant life, but this likely was his last move. As we talked, I looked around his small room. His only possession, aside from a few clothes, was a shadow box of his military medals.

And one of the medals was missing.

That was the first time I had that kind of experience, but it wasn’t the last. As we get older, it gets harder and harder to keep track of our stuff. We downsize, and then downsize again, and again.

Actor Denzel Washington, speaking last year to the graduating class at Dillard University, said, “You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.”

Denzel Washington, the son of a minister, is a committed Christian who has considered becoming a preacher. He told the Dillard graduates to thank God every day.

“Put your slippers under your bed so you have to get down on your knees to find them. While you’re [on your knees], say thank you. Thank you for grace, thank you for mercy, thank you for understanding, thank you for wisdom, thank you for parents, thank you for love, thank you for kindness, thank you for humility, thank you for peace, thank you for prosperity. Say thank you in advance for what is already yours.”

The reason to give thanks every day is that a life lived in gratitude is by far the best way to live. Eventually we’re going to part with everything we’ve ever owned. Yet the source of the gifts remains.

And He promised never to part with us.