Wednesday, November 07, 2007

St. Luke: Elephant Tackler

Preparing for this week is as overwhelming as last week. Jesus was a social and economic revolutionary. Reducing his radical economic message to thirty minutes is daunting. I am half tempted to pull an Andy Kaufman and simply read the entire book of Luke this weekend and sit down. I'll do stuff like that when I am really old and people think I'm senile. Until then I have some measure of sanity to project.

My first thought was to read Matthew 6, the middle chapter of the sermon on the mount. It's all in there - sharing, giving, warnings against pride and religiosity, warnings against scarcity thinking (worry), commands to forive debts, asking for daily bread, loving enemimes, God is Father, Kingdom has come, Revolution has begun! One chapter - all in there.

Then there is Luke. If you read Luke 6, Matthew 6 comes off as a soft sell. Luke is even more extreme. None of this "poor in Spirit" stuff, just "blessed are the poor because they have the Kingdom." No "hunger and thirst for justice," just straight up, "blessed are the hungry because thier meal ticket has come to earth." Half the "beatitudes" are replaced with woes. "Woe to the rich, they already got all they need." "Woe to the full-bellied gluttons...they are gonna starve in hell." "Woe to the happy, they're about to get sad." Things like "forgive your debts" are replaced with (my paraphrase), "find somebody who needs money and give them a loan...then forgive the debt." Crazy. Goofy. Jesus would fail Econ 101 in every community college in America.

Luke just reeks of economic language. It's in every chapter and usually quite blatent. Only Luke remembers Zaccheus. He gives us our "rich young ruler" and tells us point blank that the problem with the Pharisees is that they love money. (Just one verse after he tells us Jesus went around telling people to choose a god - Yhwh or money. It's one or the other. You can't marry Yhwh and whore out to money.

Luke saves the story of Jesus cleansiing the temple for the end of his telling. (John leads off with it.) Luke's showing us that it is Jesus' economic convictions...his stubborn belief in Isaiah 61 and Jubilee, that lead to his death. He goes from the Messiah and Savior of Isaiah 61 to become the (anti) hero of Isaiah 53. Turns out Messiah was the Suffering Servant all along.

So...I think this blog has only made matters worse for me. It has only added to my thoughts. I had better bury myself back into the text and pray that I crawl out with enough in my hands to convince others to take a look for themselves.

If you haven't yet, click below and join the elephant revolution. Everybody's doing it....


Adam and Anne said...

I am impressed that a church is taking on this subject so directly. If we spent as much time teaching radical stewardship as we do poo-pooing drinking and sex, good Lord, what a revolution! But, no one wants to be told how to steward their finances.

What if Christians entered into the marketplace in order to create wealth instead of profit, to capture resources from the world economy in order to turn them over to the Lord to be sanctified and used for His glory? I for one tremble at the thought.

I am curious to see if your efforts to communicate on this topic motivate people to change the way they live.

The Hubbard Family said...

Luke writes to Greeks; Matthew writes to Jews. I think that is the key difference. Luke doesn't have to deal with a bunch of religious baggage in his aduience, so he can just say it like it is.

The difficulty with all of Jesus' teachings in the gospels is that we can't live up to them. They lead us to utter dependance on God's love to help us in our utter inadequacy. Still, I applaud any effort to teach it for what it really is. I think we all should strive to live up to it. It will only help us experience the Kingdom in a more complete way. But we should also know we'll be safe with God when we fail, because even if we improve, we will fail to live up to these radical standards. That's not a cop out position or an excuse not to try -- that's just reality.