It never ceases to amaze me how the character of Jesus was such a revolutionary figure and so very different from how many perceive him. If we just focus on what is being said in the Mark and elswhere about money, wealth and the striving for such, there are some very interesting ideas to ponder. Jesus’s philosophy on all things financial was simple and extreme.
“Mark 10:21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
10:22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
10:23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
10:24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. “
There is no subtlety here. Jesus is saying that if you are rich you are not going to heaven, unless of course, you give away all your money to the poor. It is not enough to just be charitable; you must give away every penny. Jesus was no capitalist. His philosophy is not friendly to the modern day concept of the free market.
Jesus was anti wealth, it is very clear in the text. If we think about this in terms of the modern world one must conclude that this belief system would not be receptive to the thinking behind conservative economics. Some would retort that Jesus would not support more liberal economic policies either. I would however be willing bet that he would champion a lot of economic initiatives espoused by progressives and liberals. Would anyone wonder if he would support providing home heating aid for the poor, or would he support more tax breaks for the wealthy?
I have heard an argument, in regard to this philosophy, contending that the message here is that people should do what they can to help others, and that giving a reasonable amount to charity is sufficient. It seems to me however, that such a moderate course is not compatible with what is being expounded in the above.
Though I am a progressive, I personally believe and agree with the more balanced approach. I do think that regulated capitalism is beneficial for most people in the long run. I also believe that striving for prosperity, in moderation, can be good thing, especially if its goal is to help ones family or society. I think that the belief system concerning wealth, laid out in Mark and the other Gospels, while a noble sentiments, is almost impossible for most to live by, and it would be undesirable if everyone tried.
I also believe that the Jesus portrayed in the Bible is a fictional character. If I were inclined to imagine that he really was the Son of God, I suppose I would start giving away every penny that I had.