Unveiling the truth: Jesus’ view on the widening wealth gap in the modern age
One of the remnants of the COVID-19 pandemic is the notion of a ‘new normal’ we find ourselves in. While many aspects of life may have returned to a pre-pandemic state, the issue of global wealth inequality has changed for the worse. Oxfam, in their 2022 report ‘Inequality Kills’, outlines that during the pandemic, “the world’s 10 richest men have doubled their fortunes, while the incomes of 99% of humanity are worse off, because of COVID-19.” They report that over 160 million people are projected to have been pushed into poverty while a new billionaire has been created every 26 hours since the pandemic began. These alarming statistics confront the Church with the harsh reality of the deeply unequal distribution of global wealth and beg the question: What does it look like to live faithfully and prayerfully in a world in which such vast inequalities exist?
Jesus was not one to shy away from teachings around money. As such, contemporary Christians are confronted with Jesus’ words when he states, “No one can serve two masters…You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt 6:24). Jesus warns of the dangers of idolising wealth as such behaviour is not conducive to a life lived in-step with God and leads instead to being “choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and [will] produce no mature fruit” (Luke 8:14). Jesus is unequivocal in his position on the topic – that followers of Jesus cannot reach spiritual maturity, cannot even live a fruitful life in service to the Lord, while serving the god of money.
It is clear that Jesus’ concern is not with the financial resource itself, but with the heart posture of greed and selfishness that money can breed within us. Therefore, in the life of a Christian, a focus on the pursuit of wealth is not congruent with apprenticeship to Jesus. And yet this desire for ‘more’ has become our society’s whole way of living which fuels self-interest, greed and thus a growing divide in wealth inequality between those that climb the ladder of ‘success’ and those trapped in cyclical poverty.
Jesus is unmistakable when he says, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). I can’t speak for you, but for me, conviction leaps off the page and sits heavy on my heart as I read such a passage. What is my treasure? What am I holding close-handedly? In preparing the hearts of the people before the coming of the Messiah, John the Baptist declares that “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same” (Luke 3:11). This is the image of generosity in the Kingdom of God. It is doing away with the desires of the flesh and embracing a consistent dying to self in order to live in the fullness, abundance and provision of the Kingdom. The humanness within us thinks ‘two shirts aren’t even many shirts! What if I need another?’ We might be even bypass the words of Jesus under the guise that it would be wise to have a back-up shirt. But we must ask ourselves, in our own lives, are we guilty of using ‘wisdom’ as a front for selfishness? Perhaps our understanding of wisdom has been perverted by a worldly narrative of fear, greed, and self-reliance. True wisdom, found in the words of scripture, calls us to grow in the likeness of Christ, and requires ‘dying to ourselves’ in order to repent and act in obedience through radical generosity. This true generosity doesn’t simply come from our excess but from our sacrificial and transformed hearts abiding in the provision of our Lord.
So, as we find ourselves in a post-COVID world with rising rates of poverty and wealthy inequality, we, the Church, are called to action. We are challenged with the question: How is the Holy Spirit calling you and calling me to respond in obedience and in generosity today? While challenging, we can be assured of God’s goodness and faithfulness to us in the learning and the growing for ‘We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28).