Friday, September 05, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (19) Continuous Jubilee

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus read from Is 61:1-2 and said this prophecy had been fulfilled by him. This was a big call.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn.
The prophecy ended with a proclamation of the year of the Lord’s favour. This was a reference to the year of Jubilee in which the debt of the poor was cancelled and land that had been lost was returned to the owner (Lev 25:8-55).

Jesus was not promising a one year in AD 32. He was promising that the blessing of the Jubilee was being permanently fulfilled. His ministry would bring a permanent, continuous Jubilee. This Jubilee will becomes continuous as the Kingdom grows rapidly. As multitudes receive the gospel, a great flood of giving will create a massive shift in wealth.

I am going to finish this article where I probably should have started, with Jesus’ sermon on the plain. This is Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount that Christians are familiar with. I presume that Jesus preached this message many times with different emphases according to the audience (Luke 4:43). Luke’s version of the blessings and woes is less well known, presumably because it is tougher to apply. It is important because it repeats Jesus’ promise of the continuous Jubilee.

Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied (Luke 6:20-21).
The poor will receive the Kingdom of God. This is not just a spiritual blessing. The hungry will be satisfied. People who are rich and well fed now are in a risky position. Their comfort will be gone and they will become hungry. These big changse will be the consequence of the continuous Jubilee.

In his sermon, Jesus did not explain how it would happen, but we can see it happening in the book of Acts. In chapter 4, Barnabas was a rich man. By Acts 14, he was often going hungry (see 2 Cor 11:27). When Barnabas was suffering on his missionary trips with Paul, it would have been nice to have had his wealth, so they could book into a 4-star hotel for a few nights of rest. It would have been nice to have a well-stocked credit card, so he could pay for a ride instead of having to walk everywhere. Barnabas was hungry, because he had given his unrighteous wealth away, but the Kingdom of God belonged to him.

While Barnabas was hungry and tired, the poor people in Jerusalem were being fed Acts 6:1-7; Acts 11:27-29). This continuous jubilee was the fulfilment of the sermon on the plain.

In Jesus time, the only way to become rich was through collusion with political power, but this produced unrighteous wealth. When rich people heard the gospel, they would have to give their unrighteous wealth away. If they rejected the gospel, they would come under judgment and lose it anyway (this happened for many in AD 70). Either way they would lose their wealth.

If the rich people of Galilee and Judea chose to follow Jesus, they would give their unrighteous wealth to help the poor. This flood of giving brings the blessings and curses of Jesus into reality. The same is true today. If the church took Jesus teaching on unrighteous wealth seriously, there would be a huge flood of giving that would look just like the sermon on the flat place. The wealth distribution would be flattened dramatically. Unfortunately, we prefer to spiritualise Jesus teaching on unrighteous wealth and the poor continue to be poor and hungry and the rich tend to be satisfied.

This is the last post in this series. The full set of posts can be read on Kingdom Watcher at Unrighteous Wealth.

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