Article of Faith: Woe to the Rich, By Femi Aribisala

Femi Aribisala, Ph.D
Femi Aribisala

The kingdom of God that Jesus proclaims is only for the poor and the needy.

Which is better: to be rich or to be poor?  Jesus’ answer is without ambiguity; according to the dynamics of the kingdom of God, it is better to be poor.  Jesus says: “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:24).  When you bring these ominous words of Jesus to the remembrance of Christians, they attack you as if they were the words of Satan.

It is one of those paradoxes of Christianity that Christians are among those who hate the words of Jesus the most.  Anticipating this, Jesus warns: “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38).

Jesus is unrelenting in his attacks on the rich.  In his most damning proclamation, he says: “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).   When Peter heard this, he became completely demoralized.  He complained to Jesus: “See, we have left all and followed you. Therefore what shall we have?” (Matthew 19:27).  However, Jesus had little to offer him in this life but the cross.  The main prize is eternal life in the age to come.

This message that the rich will not enter the kingdom of God is rarely preached in churches.  The usual practice is to give it a non-biblical sugar-coating so as not to offend the rich and those who aspire to be rich.  Some will tell you it means everybody must enter the kingdom by the grace of God.  But Jesus does not talk about everybody; he singles out the rich.  According to him, rich men who are not prepared to give away their wealth on earth cannot inherit the kingdom of God and lay hold on eternal life.  Jesus says: “If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:11).

Kingdom for the poor

Christians need to be told the truth: the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaims is only for the poor and the needy.  Therefore, he says specifically: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20).  James reiterates this: “God (has) chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to those who love Him.” (James 2:5).  This implies in plain commonsense: God has not chosen the rich.

Indeed, the gospel itself is essentially for the poor.  In declaring his ministry, Jesus said: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.” (Luke 4:18).  What about the rich?  John says they are appointed to wrath. (Revelations 6:15-17).  James says they will be humiliated. (James 1:10-11).  Mary says: “The rich he has sent away empty.” (Luke 1:53).  Jesus says: “Many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Matthew 19:30).

Since the rich are the first in this world and the poor the last; that means the rich will become last and the poor first.  That is kingdom dynamics.  “Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low.” (Luke 3:5).

God despises the rich

No matter how hard you search, you will not find any good news for the rich in the bible.  Instead, Amos says: “Woe to those lounging in luxury at Jerusalem and Samaria.” (Amos 6:1).  Neither will you find any biblical instance of anybody coming into wealth as a result of righteous living.  The general assumption is that wealth is ill-gotten by the rich.

Argumentative Christians will tell you Abraham was “very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.” (Genesis 13:2).  However, he came into wealth fraudulently by selling his wife into a king’s harem.  When God rescued her, Abraham did not give the king his refund.  Jacob also came into wealth by conning his uncle out of his sheep.  We are not told how Job came into his great wealth, but the counsel of God ensured that he lost everything so that, in the end, all that he had would come from God.

The rich are responsible for most of the problems in this world.  We get rich at the expense of the poor.  We buy cheap and sell dear. We lend money and make borrowers repay with interest.  We employ the poor to do the work but we get a bigger share of the returns.  All this is contrary to the ways of God.  As a result, in James, the terms ‘rich’ and ‘brother’ are mutually exclusive.  He asks the rich to weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon us. (James 5:1).  What is our offence?  We heap up treasure.  We live on earth in pleasure and luxury.  We withhold the wages of our workers. (James 5:2-5).

The rich will be barred from heaven because Jesus says: “I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink.” (Matthew 25:42).  How can true disciples of Jesus be unconcerned about the anguish of the poor?  The rich man in Jesus’ parable fed his dogs while poor Lazarus went hungry.  Rich people spend a considerable amount of money on our fancies and foibles instead of supplying the needs of the poor.  According to Jesus, we have a case to answer before God.

The hard truth

Jesus did not tell the rich young ruler that salvation is by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8).  He did not say eternal life is a gift of God. (Romans 6:23).  On the contrary, he told him it would cost him his riches.  When he heard this, the rich young ruler lost all interest in eternal life and walked away.  Jesus’ approach would be unacceptable in most churches of today.  Frankly, when was the last time you heard of a church turning away a rich man, how much more one who expresses nominal interest in eternal life?  This explains why many churches today are apostate.  In their money-mindedness, they disregard the true message of Christ.

When Zacchaeus understood message, he said to Jesus: “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” (Luke 19:8).  Then Jesus said to him: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.” (Luke 19:9).  Zacchaeus acknowledged the injunction of Jesus that most so-called Christians ignore today: “Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:33-34).

But it was not only Zacchaeus who understood and obeyed this; so did the other early disciples of Jesus: “All who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” (Acts 2:44-45).

Femi Aribisala is the fellowship coordinator of Healing Wings. Healing Wings is a pentecostal Christian fellowship which meets on Tuesday and Thursdays. He blogs at Femi Aribisala .

 

  • Gemini

    Says the man who lives in Victoria Island. Hahahaha! Nigerians are too hypocritical

  • Bravo

    The revelation of this only dawned after his bank account weighs 8 digits. If the gospel of Christ is for the poor, then the rich are alrdy saved. Otherwise the gosple is biased, even b4 the rich had the chance to hear it.

  • Lanre

    Haba! Me I want to be rich o. In this life and the hereafter :). Egbon Femi. But why now? I am not talking of the rich of Abacha. I am referring to the rich of Bill Gates. The rich of Larry Ellison; of Richard Branson. Through innovation; seizing on opportunities. Shebi, they pay their taxes? Ehn ehn now, that is sufficient for the Kingdom of God. Abi. Give unto ceasar’s. Egbon Femi. Please o. Don’t quell my thirst to be the first dollar billionaire in my family. :)

  • http://twitter.com/hardeydolamu AdeDolamu

    Such an incredulous article to be honest! Following the warped logic of interpreting Luke 6:24, then Jesus had a woe for everyone who is “full now” – for they shall be hungry; “laugh now” – for they shall mourn and weep etc., meanwhile the real issues were addressed in the subsequent verses under such moral themes as Loving your Enemies, Passing Judgement on Others, the principle of a Tree & its Seed and the wisdom of Building one’s House on the Rock.

    A doctrine that already condemns the rich to damnation even b4 they get a chance to hear the gospel being preached is not only false, it is borderline heretical. To claim Abraham’s wealth was ill-gotten is to show a lack of understanding of the word of God. Jesus said a man cannot serve God and Mammon – thus elevating mammon (the spirit that controls money) to deity-status. That’s the real issue: Who do U serve? As a rich man, who is your Lord? Who gives the direction for how you spend your wealth? Is it God or Mammon?? As a rich man, do U have money or does your money have you??

  • Napoleon

    Haba, Christ’s condemnation was targetted at those rich men who have allowed their riches to dry their feelings for fellow earth wanderers; he never condemned riches at all.Remember that Christ was a regular guest of the wealthy during his earth life.

  • Datti

    In this instance of Jesus sermon on the ‘plain’ as opposed to the sermon on the ‘mount’, Jesus was not speaking of material riches but spiritual riches. Those who are poor in the spirit are those who are contrite and know they cannot save themselves. The rich men in this sermon are those who rely on their own righteousness to enter the kingdom. Please check the parable of the Perfect Master in Luke 18:9-14.

  • MOJ

    Sir, I don’t agree wit u that Jacob got his wealth by duping his uncle. When the bible clear states that his wages was shortchanged severally by the same uncle u saying he duped. And the revealed that, despite all that God blessed him more n more. What abt Issac that was instructed by God to sow in the land wen there was famine n he reaped a hundredfold n pple envied him bcoz of the wealth God gave 2him.
    I think u need 2 also study d book of Job properly because God did not take d initial wealth from him just to give him his (God) own heavenly wealth.
    Give unto ceazar wat blongs to him, our lord Jesus Christ was talking abt paying taxes.

  • Blessing

    How will you propagate the gospel of christ effectively without u having more dn ur own needs.
    God himself Blessed Abraham and God said in him shall all the families on earth be blessed. (Gen12:3, Gal 3:14). I choose to walk in this Blessing.
    Jesus said He came to give us abundant life, He didnt preach against riches but that the rich shouldnt allow the material things to take there gaze away frm God. Jesus told the richman to go and give out his possessns and he felt bad bcos he exaltd material things above God, it should not be so..seek first the kingdom of God and all other things shall be added unto you.
    Best to be both cos God didn’t create us to live a beggarly life but He gave us all things to enjoy..