Wealth in the Old Testament is seen as a blessing. Abraham, David, Solomon etc were all extremely rich. But Jesus seems to be rebuking the rich, did something change?
Jesus’s words sound harsh until you understand the Law mentioned in Leviticus. Understanding the law makes Jesus’s harsh rebuke, comforting.
“If a person commits a trespass, and sins unintentionally in regard to the holy things of the Lord, then he shall bring to the Lord as his trespass offering a ram without blemish from the flocks, with your valuation in shekels of silver according to the shekel of the sanctuary, as a trespass offering. And he shall make restitution for the harm that he has done in regard to the holy thing and shall add one-fifth to it and give it to the priest. So the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him.
~ Leviticus 5:15-16
Under the law, if you commit intentional sin or otherwise you have to offer a trespass offering (death of ram) plus give back or restore all the damage plus one-fifth extra in regard to the Holy things of the Lord.
The rich or people with money could do this with ease. But what about the poor?
This is why the Bible talks about one of the primary reason Jesus came was to bring good news to the poor because under the law it was very difficult for the poor to bring in trespass offerings.
he Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
~ Luke 4:18
Under the law, it is difficult for the poor to atone for their sins
This also makes people with means or money to sin again and again because they could just bring trespass offering and be forgiven.
This is why Jesus said a camel can go through a needle but it’s difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. And this is why Jesus came to die on the cross, both for the poor and the rich.
And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
~ Matthew 19:24
Everything must be inside the context, Jesus did not come to condemn the rich. He condemns those who were rich, uses their wealth to be “right” with God or use their wealth to be forgiven of their sins.
It’s also interesting to note that Jesus rebuked only the Pharisees or religious folks who were rich. There were other rich people but Jesus did not rebuke them.
Today, it is the opposite while the religious people get rich regular people are made to feel ashamed of the wealth that God gave them in the first place.
This has got many Christians who are wealthy into the defensive because religion has bullied them with understanding, not in the context in which Jesus said those words.
They get defensive by saying “we use our wealth to help the poor”
Don’t be ashamed of your wealth that God gave you as a gift. You don’t help the poor because people around bully you into feeling bad about your wealth. You should help the poor because you have a heart for them and see their sufferings.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
~ 1 Timothy 6:10
Everyone needs to earn money, there is no escaping from it. Which causes the love of money? Working hard by your efforts to earn wealth or relying on God in giving you the wisdom to create wealth?