For most folks, “Gentle Jesus” is the image we carry of the Messiah. The whip-wielding, table-turning, angry Jesus who cleanses the temple seems to be an aberration. When Jesus finds that the noise of livestock and clatter of coins is louder than the prayers; when he sees that the name of God is being used for personal gain, he gets angry, righteously angry. We do the same kind of things today. So, what does “cleansing the temple” mean for us?
Congressman Stephen Fincher is preaching, and he should stop. He cites two verses from scripture to defend the notion that aid to the poor in our country should be slashed. His comments about how the Bible tells us we should cut aid to the poor is irresponsible and just rotten use of scripture. His use is not just one opinion among many, but blasphemy. Now, I know that is a strong word, but it applies here.
Ted Peters, brilliant Lutheran theologian writes: Blasphemy “involves using the name of God directly or indirectly in order to hide evil behind a veil of righteousness. It is hypocrisy.” (Sin:Radical Evil in Soul and Society, Eerdman’s, 1994, p 217) Congressman, this is blasphemy. God’s call to care for the poor is a central biblical teaching from beginning to end. Read the whole thing, not just twistable verses. His remarks are also blasphemy because they add to the public characterization of Christians as hateful and lacking compassion, and so it leads people astray. Here is the article:
Fincher cites Matthew 26:11, which says “For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” as a reason to leave people poor, and make them poorer. The context of course is that Jesus is on his way to death and as a woman anoints his feet with oil as an act of honor and compassion, the disciples complain that the money for the oil should have gone to the poor. Jesus does not say “Ignore the poor. Pedicures for everyone!” Jesus, in all of the gospel, stands with the poor – and in fact is poor himself. C’mon Congressman. Reading just a few of the 200+ references to the poor in scripture will uncover God’s love for those who are poor and God’s anger with those who make them so. The Congressman also cites 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” How about we include at least the following verse: “For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work.” The problem was that some members of the Thessalonian church seem to have been withholding what they could pay, what they could do, what they could share with others and only received. It was hurting the Church. That is far different than what the Congressman is saying. Read the other letters of the New Testament and you will, again, find great concern about and responsibility for the poor among us.
Let me suggest just a few Biblical passages to expand the Congressman’s reading list:
Amos 5:11-12 11 Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins– you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate.
Luke 4:18-19 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 6:20-26 20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
Matthew 25:41-45 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
Luke 16:19-25 19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.
OK. I’m done for today. Rant concluded. – Pastor Tim