In my previous post I showed that Jesus himself appears to have taught that his disciples (not just one or two of them) had to give up *everything* in order to be his followers. Most likely this insistence on voluntary poverty was related to his message that the Kingdom of God was to arrive soon, so people needed to devote themselves entirely to it and to spread the message before it was too late.
It is difficult to imagine that the Christian mission would have become massively successful if an entrance requirement was the complete divestment of property and a life of itinerate beggary. It is no surprise that after Jesus’ death (most of) his followers modified his discourse on wealth: what mattered was not voluntary abject poverty but generosity. That view came to be endorsed in later Gospel traditions – sayings placed on Jesus’ lips by story tellers and Gospel writers– and became the standard view among Christians down till today.
Already in Luke’s Gospel we find Jesus’ encounter with the fabulously wealthy Zacchaeus whom Jesus praises (unlike the rich man of Mark)–he gave half his money to the poor (Luke 19:1-10). By doing so he has earned entrance into the kingdom, even though he remained extremely rich. So too in later New Testament writings such as 1 Timothy: those who “want” to be rich are warned; but there are no condemnations for those who are already rich or orders for them to divest. Instead they are instructed to have the right relationship to their wealth, not to devote their entire lives to it, and to give some of it away generously (1 Tim. 6:9-10, 17-19). By now the radical injunctions of Jesus have fallen away: a bit of charity will bring eternal treasure.
Among the clear virtues of this alternative position are that it Want to read more? Join the blog! It costs very little, provides a whole lot, and every dime goes to charity! Click here for membership options