[ the actual title of this page:]
http://www.LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/challenge.html

 

 

W A N T E D  :

Preachers who will dare
to preach what Jesus preached,
at the risk of suffering as Jesus
predicted that they would !

Jesus

      How many clergy in America today are in a position where they cannot or will not preach the most important parts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,  because their very livelihood and their church buildings are entirely dependent on the whims of today's equivalent of "the Rich Young Man", who – if anyone dared put them to the test – would reject Jesus' demand that they give up their wealth in order to follow him?
        This web page shows what Christian preachers would be preaching, if they were being the true spokesmen for Jesus that they claim to be.

Here is the way Jesus summed up the whole purpose of his life :


  "The Spirit of the Lord
is upon me;
he has appointed me to
preach Good News to the poor;
he has sent me to
heal the brokenhearted and to
announce that the blind shall see,
that captives shall be released
and the downtrodden shall
be freed (i.e. liberated)
from their oppressors."

{Luke 4:18} 

All of those who follow him do so because they believe that he had the best answers to mankind's questions about how we should live our lives. What can be more important to mankind, than good answers to these paramount questions?  And these are the answers that Jesus gave us:


1) The Paramount Importance of Liberality toward the Needy :

{ Matthew 19:16, 21-26 }
      When a man of some means came to Jesus with this crucial question: "Good Master, what must I do to have eternal life and happiness?
        [ Jesus told him that he must begin by obeying the ten commandments. But, then...] Jesus with rich man

"If you want to be perfect, go and sell everything you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."  But when the young man heard this, he went away sadly, for he was very rich.

Most "Christians" of means are not issued this challenge, because they now own the churches they are supporting with their contributions and the clergy wouldn't think of preaching what Jesus preached.

; . . .   Then Jesus said to his disciples, "It is almost impossible for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  I say it again – 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!  When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said,  "Then who can be saved?"  And Jesus replied,  "For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible."

Some people who are very attached to their possessions have come up with clever ways of "interpreting" Jesus' teaching to mean something easier to swallow, even if it required making things up out of whole cloth.

"For the last two centuries it has been common teaching in Sunday School that there is a gate in Jerusalem called the eye of the needle through which a camel could not pass unless it stooped and first had all its baggage first removed.  After dark, when the main gates were shut, travellers or merchants would have to use this smaller gate, through which the camel could only enter unencumbered and crawling on its knees!  Great sermon material, with the parallels of coming to God on our knees without all our baggage."
        But, as the Hebrew New Testament Studies explain, regarding 'The camel and the eye of the needle',  { Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25 }  Just where is that gate in Jerusalem?   www.biblicalhebrew.com/nt/camelneedle.htm
        "A lovely story and an excellent parable for preaching, but unfortunately unfounded!  From at least the 15th century, and possibly as early as the 9th but not earlier, this story has been put forth, however, there is no evidence for such a gate, nor record of reprimand of the architect who may have forgotten to make a gate big enough for the camel and rider to pass through unhindered.
        Variations on this theme include that of ancient inns having small entrances to thwart thieves, or the story of an old mountain pass known as the "eye of the needle", so narrow that merchants would have to dismount from their camels and were thus easier prey for brigands lying in wait.
      . . .  Try as people may to rationalize away the difficulty of getting a camel through a needle's eye, it really appears that Jesus meant exactly what it appears that he meant: getting into Heaven while one is rich is as impossible as getting through a tiny space when one is the size of a camel – save through the miraculous intervention of God. – He used a beautiful Hebrew hyperbole, as in the tree sticking out of one's eye whilst one is removing a speck in another's eye!  Indeed, Jewish Talmudic literature uses a similar aphorism about an elephant passing through the eye of a needle as a figure of speech implying the unlikely or impossible.  (Babylonian Talmud, Berakoth, 55b)

Notice, however, that Jesus doesn't say "destroy your wealth".  They are mistaken who believe that Jesus viewed possessing things as evil.  If he did, it would have be wrong from him to recommend that the rich divest themselves of evil things in order to encumber poor people with those evils.  No he wanted the rich to give "goods" to the poor because they had too few of them, while the rich had more too many of them.


If we paraphrase Matthew 19:16 – 22 only a little, in order to make it a monologue applying to all of us, instead of a dialogue applying to only one person, the words of Jesus take on a powerful new meaning :"
       This is the kind of behavior that God requires of those who hope to earn eternal life:" ( Assuming that you are observing the obvious commandments)   . . .

"If you wish to be perfect, (which will be almost impossible for a rich person) go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
        When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions."

In this time of unimagined prosperity in countries like America, in contrast to unimaginable misery in many other parts of the world, how many "Christians" are being taught what Jesus actually taught, as opposed to the pablum passed off as his teaching?  Instead of being concerned about taking and passing the test of salvation which Jesus gave to the "Rich Young Man",  millions of "Christian Conservatives" much prefer Paul of Tarus' incredibly easier test of "salvation by faith alone".  { Compare and contrast the teaching of Jesus to that of Paul – in their own words – on this most important subject at http://www.LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/salvation }.

Here's my color code:
  • Red for Jesus' words
  • Green for Paul's words
  • Purple for other biblical texts
  How many churches in America take Jesus' teaching seriously when it comes to telling their members – who are rich, by the Bible's standard – that   "It is almost impossible for those who are much more prosperous than others to be saved," unless they are willing to share their extra shirts and food (and everything else) with those deprived of even the most basic of necessities of life?
        Jesus knew full well how very alienating his teaching would be to those who are "successful" at accumulating great amounts of the world's goods.  And yet, because this part of his teaching is the heart and soul of his message, there was no way that he would water it down.  Sadly, however, in order to avoid the alienation and persecution that Jesus predicted would accompany the teaching of his message of detachment, unselfishness and generosity, that is precisely what his so-called followers have done to their supposed Master's teaching.   Just look at the contrast between what the Master himself said, and what most paid clergy teach regarding the accumulation of wealth :

2) You cannot be both rich and a follower of Christ :

{ Luke 16:13-15}  

"No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth."  The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him.  So he said to them,  "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God."

For Jesus, as for many other great prophets of the Bible, the pursuit of riches and the pursuit of salvation are so incompatible  that choosing one automatically turns one away from the other.  And the more riches one possesses the harder it is to choose salvation, because the sacrifices that must be made are that much greater.  Any true follower of Christ who sees today's "Religious Right" inviting the wealthy to come into their churches, to bring all their money in with them, to share it generously – not with the poor, as Jesus taught – but with the churches and their clergy, knows that there is something very wrong with this picture.  When they see people claiming to be "men of God" sharing the hopes and dreams of the Republican Party of reducing or eliminating services for the poor, so as to lower taxes on the well-to-do,   true Christians (and Jews) recognize that this so-called "Christian Coalition" is no marriage made in heaven, but an unholy alliance, designed to advance not GOD's cause but the G.O.P.'s.
      The multi-millionaire founder and president of the "Christian Coalition" Pat Robertson, who also owns the 700 Club and the "Christian Broadcasting Network", wasn't a particularly religious Baptist until he met a Dutch "mystic" named Cornelius Vanderbreggen, who taught him that a man of God can be rich. " God is generous, not stingy,"  Vangerbreggan told Robertson, as they dined at an elegant hotel.  "He wants you to have the best."
        Given the choice between the Gospel according to Jesus, and the Gospel according to Robertson and Vanderbreggan, Conservatives don't hesitate to embrace the one that tells them they are saved just the way they are, no matter how wealthy they are, or how much misery they are able to ignore in the world around them.
        That certainly wasn't the way those closest to Jesus understood his teaching.  (according to the Acts of the Apostles, Ch.2 , 44 :)

" All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need."

{ Luke 14:33-35}  

So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.  Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away.  Let anyone with ears to hear listen!"

        This is the way the earliest of the gospels, relates Jesus teaching:
{ Mark 10:17-27}  

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "You know the commandments: 'You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'"
        He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth."
        Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
        When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
        Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,"How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
        They were greatly astounded and said to one another, "Then who can be saved?"
        Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."

{Luke 12:15-21}

And he said to them,   "Take care!   Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions."   Then he told them a parable:   "The land of a rich man produced abundantly.  And he thought to himself,  'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?'   Then he said, 'I will do this:  I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul,  'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many year; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'  
      But God said to him, 'You fool!  This very night your life is being demanded of you.  And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'  So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."  "Yes, every man is a fool who gets rich on earth but not in heaven.  Sell what you have and give to those in need.  This will fatten your purses in heaven!   And the purses of heaven have no rips or holes in them.  Your treasures there will never disappear; no thief can steal them; no moth can destroy them.  Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be."

Rich like Jesus :

It appears that the very "successful" Pentecostal African American preacher, Bishop T.D. Jakes, shares the Gospel according to Rev. Pat Robertson:
        "Jakes felt betrayed by West Virginians for criticizing his opulent lifestyle. . .  Jakes contended that soldiers gambled for Jesus Christ's cloak while he was on the cross, so he must have had great wealth (everybody who has a shirt on their back knows how weathy that makes them !?!), and therefore Christ's followers should emulate him by being wealthy."
INFOMERCIALS :

"Rather than simply spreading the gospel, Jakes' television broadcasts double as infomercials to promote his movie, his forthcoming conferences, cruises, and the sale of his latest video or book. Every time Jakes preaches a new sermon series. . .  it can procure him a fortune." [ from an http://www.dallasnews.com/ article no longer online ]



The following was reported on a web site that approved of these 15 wealthiest U.S. preachers, all conservatives and Christians (except for the 15th) :

WealthiestUSpreachers   WealthiestUSpreachers   WealthiestUSpreachers  
[ http://www.etinside.com/?p=11679 ]

Can any Bible-believing Jew or Christian actually imagine that God made this world with all of its abundance so that ambitious people like the Rockerfellers, Vanderbuilts, Gates, Waltons, the Koch brothers, and the like could end up controlling vast portions of that world for their own benefit alone, and then leave that "private property" to their children, (or even to their pets, if that was their "last will and testament")?   The Bible upon which Jews, Christians and Muslims all base their faith portrays a Creator who intended the wealth of the world he created to belong to ALL of those he would put on this earth.  Three men in America today have cornered more wealth for themselves than the combined gross domestic products of the world's 41 poorest countries, with their 550 million citizens,  How much worse do things have to get for so-called bible-believing people to recognize that this is contrary to the Creator's plans?


After riding in the same carriage to the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church in New York, along with another of the richest Christian multi-millionaires of the twentieth century, John D. Rockefeller, these are the "biblical words of wisdom" which Andrew Carnegie addressed to a bible class on that day: "I was born to the blessed heritage of poverty . . .  We hear a good deal in these days about poverty – 'Oh, abolish poverty!'  But the saddest day that civilization ever saw will be that in which poverty doesn't win its way.  The poor, thank God, we will always have with us."
        Commenting on gifts by this same Andrew Carnegie, a contemporary N. Y. Times editor gushed :   "When a man who is a great many times a millionaire, as Mr. Carnegie is, can demonstrate that he has done good both in the accumulation and in the scattering of his fortune,  there is nothing left for the Socialist and the demagogue to say to which sensible persons will pay any attention." ( Nor do such people pay any attention to Jesus, who taught that the giving of people like Carnegie was of little value in God's eyes, when compared to the generosity of poor people who have only a mite to give, and yet give it!)   Those clergy and church members who don't dare espouse the interests of the poor, for fear of alienating their more prosperous benefactors on whose contributions their churches have been made to depend have parted with Christ centuries ago.  If they are ever going to rejoin him, they are going to need to go back to his teaching and start taking it seriously.


Many so-called "Christian" preachers teach that Jesus ( or God) has no problem with people being rich.  But the following is still another powerful illustration Jesus used to show how much God disapproves of this world's wealth being hoarded into huge piles by greedy and/or clever individuals :

{ Luke 16:20-31: } 

"One day Lazarus, a diseased beggar, was laid at the door of a rich man's house.   As he lay there longing for scraps from the rich man's table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.   Finally the beggar died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham in the place of the righteous dead.
        The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went into hell.   There, in torment, he saw Lazarus in the far distance with Abraham.   'Father Abraham,' he shouted, 'have some pity! Send Lazarus over here if only to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in these flames.'  But Abraham said to him, 'Son, remember that during your life-time you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing.  So now he is here being comforted and you are in anguish. . ."

starvation figures

What if God cares enough about the whole world to hold us "Christians" in America with infinitely more wealth than millions of people in other parts of world responsible for doing our best to ignore those unlucky enough to have been born on the "other side of the tracks", in the many desperately poor communities of this world ?  Is this parable relevant only to rich vs. poor individuals?   Or does it relate to rich Christian nations vs. the many extremely poor nations of this world?

"And besides, there is a great chasm separating us, and anyone wanting to come to you from here is stopped at its edge; and no one over there can cross to us.'
        Then the rich man said,  'O Father Abraham, then please send him to my father's home – for I have five brothers – to warn them about this place of torment, lest they come here when they die.'   But Abraham said,  'The Scriptures have warned them again and again.  Your brothers can read them any time they want to.'  The rich man replied,  'No, Father Abraham, they won't bother to read them.  But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will turn from their sins.'  But Abraham said,  'If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, they won't listen even though someone rises from the dead.'

Note that despite the remarkable similarity between Jesus' parable about the rich man and Charles Dickens' parable about Scrooge, Dickens is far more optimistic about the prospects for the repentance and salvation of the rich than is Jesus.  In contrast to Scrooge, whom Dickens portrays as being moved by the  ghostly apparitions to repentance and redemption, the Gospel holds out no such hope for its wealthy villains.  On the contrary, the Gospel insists : "If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, they won't listen even though someone rises from the dead ."
        Note, too, that Jesus doesn't say the rich man is punished for the way he uses or misused his wealth, but simply because he was rich (which he wouldn't have been, if he had shared instead of accumulating his wealth).  The poor man, on the other hand, isn't rewarded for anything that he did, but simply for being poor, and unfortunate!

{ Luke 3:7-11 }  

"John (the Baptist) said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruits worthy of repentance.  Do not begin to say to yourselves,  'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.  Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."  And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?"  In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise."

Jesus, however, didn't have a problem only with the wealth of those whom we Americans call "the super rich", or the super powerful.  Does the parable which Jesus told of Lazarus and the Rich Man in { Luke 16:19-31 :} apply only to millionaire individuals?  There are literally billions of people in the world today suffering like the "Lararus" of Jesus' parable, and millions of so-called Christians in countries like the United States living every day in unheard of luxury, enjoying much more comfortable lives than the "Rich Man" in the parable could even imagine, let alone afford.  Many Christians who live in great comfort in prosperous nations like America may be in for a tremendous shock on judgement day, if Jesus says these familiar words apply to them (as the inhabitants of a very wealthy nation)  :

". . . during your life-time you had everything you wanted, and billions of your brothers and sisters had nothing.  So now they are here being comforted; and you are there in anguish.   . . .


        Jesus insisted (thru the voice of Abraham) :'The Scriptures have warned them (and us) again and again.  Your brothers can read those Scriptures any time they want to.' . . . 'If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, they won't listen even though someone rises from the dead.'

How many so-called Christian preachers do you know who are challenging America's high-living Christians, as this web site is trying to do, to live by those scriptures ?   Unless and until they do, don't wonder why the vast majority of people who imagine themselves to be "Christians" do not identify with the down-and-out, such as :

{ John, 3: 16 – 18 }  

" We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.  How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action."


Instead of being concerned about such issues, and supporting those who are, many so-called "Christian" preachers promote the idea that God is a kind of golden goose, whose job is to constantly bless us rather than to move us to "bless" others, by sharing our extraordinary wealth in this world with those who don't have enough to live on.  Such preachers and leaders have driven to the very top of the NY Times Best Seller List a book promising earthly blessings to those who read the book and pray "The Prayer of Jabez".


We think, on the other hand, that there are a lot of problems with the idea that God is in the business of constantly rewarding some people with "blessings", because, by the same token, he must be "cursing" the great multitude of mankind who aren't so blessed.  See http://www.LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/+Believable/blessings.html.

Why it's "almost impossible" for paid clergy
to preach what Jesus preached :

When Hitler came to power and started to do his worst, his aides asked how he'd keep the German churches from protesting.  ( Keep in mind that if, instead of siding with Hitler, the Christians of Germany - who represented some 96% of the population - had joined with the Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, handicaps, homosexuals and the "Liberals", there would have been no war and no holocaust !)  But Hitler responded: "I have the churches in my back pocket."  He then proceeded to arrange for the Nazi government to pay for the support of the clergy, their churches and their schools, so long as they didn't get in his way.  That is just one of the many reasons why so few of the Christian clergy dared to speak out against Hitler, no matter how heinous his policies became !

JesusGotMoney Jesus understood the dynamic of preachers being bought off by the wealthy and the powerful very well.  To paraphrase some of his own words,  "If you join their world, the rich and the prosperous will love you as one of their very own".  (or "If you don't rock their boat, they will reward you – so to speak – with a boat of your very own to enjoy".) 
        How many so-called "Christian" preachers in America today are experiencing the anger and persecution that Jesus predicted would be the lot of those who would take up his cause?
        If you read John's Gospel carefully, you will come to realize that when he uses the word "world", he doesn't mean anything like the globe that we people think of when we use that word in modern times.  You will see from the context that it means something more like what we would refer to as "the establishment" and more precisely "the religious hierarchy".

Why the clergy are often the greatest obstacle
to the good news being preached to and on behalf of the poor

{John 15: 18-21} 

"If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own.  Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world –  therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, 'Servants are not greater than their master.'  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.  But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. . ."

{John 16:2-3}  

" They will put you out of the synagogues.  Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.  And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me.  But I have said these things to you so that when the hour comes you may remember that I told you about them."

On the other hand, Jesus said this about the clergy of his day, with whom he did battle constantly until they put him to death, just three short years after he started his ministry : "You love the seats of honor in the synagogues (houses of worship) and the respectful greetings from everyone as you walk through the markets!" 
        For every Christian clergyman who shows an interest in "seats of honor and respectful greetings everywhere they go", how many do you know who are willing to pay the price of teaching what Jesus of Nazareth emphasized in HIS preaching?   And that was as follows :
        When asked how to fulfill the second of his two great commandments, Christ replied that his followers should model their lives on non-believing "Good Samaritans" who show pity on the downtrodden, rather than follow the lead of ministers and church people who don't :

{ Luke 10 : 25-37 }

One day an expert on Moses' laws came to test Jesus' orthodoxy by asking him this question: "Teacher, what does a man need to do to live forever in heaven?"  Jesus replied, "What does Moses' law say about it?"  "It says," he replied, "that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.   And you must love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself."  "Right!" Jesus told him.  "Do this and you shall live!"
      But, wanting to justify himself, the man asked,  "Which neighbors must I love?"   And Jesus replied with an illustration:
        "A Jew going on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by bandits.  They stripped him of his clothes and money, and beat him up and left him lying half dead beside the road.  By chance a priest came along; and when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.  A temple – assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but then went on.
        But a despised Samaritan* (a heretic) came along, and when he saw him, he felt deep pity.  Kneeling beside him the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them.  Then he put the man on his donkey and walked along beside him till they came to an inn, where he nursed him through the night.  The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins and told him to take care of the man.  "If his bill runs higher than that,"  he said,  " I'll pay the difference the next time I am here."
        "Now which of these three," Jesus asked, "would you say was a neighbor to the bandit's victim?"   The man replied, "The one who showed him some pity."   Then Jesus said, "Yes, now go and do the same."

        * The Jewish leaders showed just how much they despised Samaritans when they called Jesus one in { John 8:48 } :The Jews answered him, "Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?"
        Today's Pharisees would call Jesus something worst than a "Samaritan"; they would call him a "liberal".

Some other noteworthy things to keep in mind about Jesus' teaching :

The "Great Commission" :

In Mark's Gospel { 16:14-16}   we read that Jesus said   "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.  the one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned."
        There are many "Christians" who think they are obeying the Great Commission when all they are doing is promoting their misinformed version of Christianity.  The sad fact is that , despite what they imagine, many so-called promoters of "Christianity" don't even know or believe what Jesus actually taught themselves, and so are in no position to teach it to anyone else!  When Jesus spoke of "believing", he didn't mean a mere wag of the tongue, nor a profession of faith in a number of doctrines.  He meant a complete reorganization of one's scale of values in life to better match HIS scale of values, and a daily life that reflects that change all day, every day:

{ Matthew 7: 29 } 

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine (i.e. believes them) and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock .  . .  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand."

{ Matthew 7: 20-23 }  

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?'
        Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.'

        When Nicodemus asked Jesus what he meant when he said that in order to be saved, people must be "born again", this was his reply:
{ John 3 : 11-22 }  

"Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?  "Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.  If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? .  .  .  Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.  For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.  But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God."

        And Jesus spelled out what kind of deeds he was talking about in this wonderful sermon: And Jesus issued this challenge to those who would follow him:
{Matthew 25:31-46 }  

"When I, the Messiah, shall come in glory, and all the angels with me, then I shall sit upon my throne of glory.  And all the nations shall be gathered before me.  And I will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and place the sheep at my right hand, and the goats at my left.
Last Judgement       Then I, the King, shall say to those at my right, "Come, blessed of my Father, into the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.   For I was hungry and you fed me;  I was thirsty and you gave me water;   I was a stranger and you invited me into your homes;   naked and you clothed me;   sick and in prison, and you visited me."
      Then these righteous ones will reply,  "Sir, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?  Or thirsty and give you anything to drink?  Or a stranger, and help you?  Or naked, and clothe you?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?"  And I, the King, will tell them,  "When you did it to these my brothers you were doing it to me!"
      Then I will turn to those on my left and say,   "Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.  For I was hungry and you wouldn't feed me;   thirsty, and you wouldn't give me anything to drink;   a stranger, and you refused me hospitality;   naked, and you wouldn't clothe me;   sick, and in prison,  and you didn't visit me."
      Then they will reply,  "Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison,  and not help you?"
      And I will answer,  "When you refused to help the least of these my brothers, you were refusing help to me."  And they shall go away into eternal punishment;   but the righteous into everlasting life."

Here's the way some "compassionate Conservatives"
      twist the life out of these words of Jesus :

MarvinOlasky

"That is a terrific passage, but if we are to deal with it fairly we need to understand that today's poor in the United States are the victims and perpetrators of illegitimacy and abandonment, family non-formation and malformation, alienation and loneliness and much else – but they are not suffering thirst, hunger, or nakedness, except by choice, insanity, or parental abuse.
        When we lack discernment, we give money to panhandlers that most often go for drugs or alcohol. Christ does not include in his list of commended charitable acts, 'When I was strung out you gave me dope.' What are we truly doing to homeless men when we enable them (through governmental programs, undiscerning nonprofits, or tender-hearted but weak-minded personal charity) to stay in addiction?
        Here's the reality: When I was an addict you gave me money for drugs; when I abandoned the woman and children who depended on me you gave me a place to stay and helped me to justify my action; when I was in prison you helped me get out quickly so I could commit more crimes.
        If we take seriously Christ's words, 'When you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me,' then giving money that goes for drugs is akin to sticking heroin into Jesus' veins."




        (Some debatable words emphasized by R. D.  This excerpt was emailed to me with an incomplete reference (i.e. p. 272-273,) "Compassionate Conservatism", by Marvin Olasky is only a guess on my part. So, if anyone knows better, please advise R. D, )

        And Jesus issued this challenge to those who would follow him:

{ Matthew 10:32-39 }  

"Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.  "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one's foes will be members of one's own household.  Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."

If this is an accurate representation of what Jesus actually said, it is puzzling why he spoke of dissension within the basic family unit, because there is not a single example or illustration of such dissension anywhere in the Gospels.  On the other hand, there are many examples of dissension within the "religious community" of his day.  In fact, the Gospels are largely the story of the constant battle Jesus waged with the religious and/or political leaders of his day, beginning with Herod's plans kill him as soon as his birth was announced and ending with the successful campaign to kill him just three years after his public ministry began.  And Jesus told his followers that they should expect similar treatment themselves.  (If they don't receive it, they should wonder why not.  Maybe they aren't following Jesus closely enough.)
        Many Christians imagine that this Scripture is realized when the non-Christian "world" resents their attempts to invoke secular power to impose their view of Christianity on others.  But the "world" which hated Jesus was not the secular world at all.  In fact, when the leading representative of the secular world, the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, was urged to hate and prosecute Jesus, he wanted no part of it, declaring in 

{ John 19:4,6 } :  

"Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him. . "When the chief priests and the (temple) police saw him, they shouted,  "Crucify him!  Crucify him!"  Pilate said to them,  "Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him."

It's obvious from passages such as this that the real enemies of Jesus, were neither the Roman authorities, nor the Jewish people, but the priests and bible scholars and Pharisees, (the "Religious Right" of that time and place).
        When Jesus was preparing those who would take up his work for the persecution they were going to encounter,  it wasn't for persecution at the hands of the secular "world", but at the hands of the religious world.         Those who have blamed the Jews, as a race, for the persecution of Jesus display their ignorance of the Gospels, which make it clear that it was not the race or nationality, but the profession of the enemies of Jesus, that caused them to hate and mistreat him, as Jesus spelled out in:

{ Luke 9:22 -26 }  

"The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised."  Then he said to them all, "if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.  What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?  Those (preachers and followers) who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."

        See the whole section that we have devoted to the very important matter at who actually killed Jesus and why.

For years I imagined that I was "carrying my cross daily" by accepting the little aches, pains and annoyances that plague every human being.  But after reading the words of Jesus for the hundredth time or so, I came to realize that I had never actually understood or taught those words faithfully at all.
        When, on the other hand, I started telling people that Jesus bettertogive was serious about it being impossible for the rich man to be saved, suddenly rich and even middle class people didn't think very highly about me any more.   They didn't want to hear that Jesus warned that it is impossible to love both God and Mammon. They cringed at the thought that God wouldn't let them enjoy their multitude of shirts (and a multitude of other things) in peace and tranquility.  They much prefer the kind of preachers who tell them that their wealth is "a blessing" from a loving god.  ( The other side of that coin is that God doesn't love the billions of people who have to spend the entirety of their earthly lives in desperate misery! )  For much more on this important matter, click on "Blessings from God".
       When, like Jesus, I identified with the downtrodden multitudes around the world, instead of with my "successful" fellow Americans,  I came to know first-hand why Jesus predicted:

{ Matt. 10:25-28 }  

"If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household!  "So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.  What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.  Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
. . . and why Jesus said : in John, ch. 7, v. 7: "The world . . . hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil."

Although I've never quite been called "Beelzebub" (or "Satan"), ever since I have identified with Jesus' teaching about the obligation of the haves to help the have-nots, I've often been called something just as bad in America today: "socialist", "Marxist" or "communist".  (Since writing the above, I have actually been called "Son of Satan".)  I've never tried preaching the Gospel in a synagogue, so I've never been cast out of one, but I've literally been cast out of a church building for trying to preach Jesus' true teaching there, and I have been banned from several so-called Christian communities on the internet.
        If Jesus of Nazareth preached what his so-called followers do today, then why on earth would people react as { Luke 4: 29 } says they did :  "When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.  They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff."   ( Eventually, of course, they did corner and kill him.)
        If the vast majority of paid clergy continue to ignore the challenge of this message, I am going to be forced to conclude that paying the living expenses of a professional clergy has evolved into a means of bribing them to be quiet about the heart and soul of Christ's teaching – which is what the rest of my web site is all about – .
        If you have the courage to face the kind of fury that the teaching of Jesus generated in the religious establishment of his day, and which Jesus predicted that his followers would experience in our day, then you are I invited to explore and teaching at greater depth at :

www.LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/Christlike and
www.LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/GodvsGreed.
Then, I hope that you will want to join us in promoting what we believe to be the most authentic internet presentation of Jesus' teaching in America today.

Have you ever wondered what has happened to Christianity since the first generations of those who had known Christ best, when those who believed in Christ's teaching were willing to die horrible deaths rather than deny that teaching?  Why have so few felt the need to pay that price since?  Historians tell us that one of the crucial turning points in Christian history was "the conversion" of the emperor Constantine to Christianity in 312 A.D.  before that conversion, those who wanted to follow Christ couldn't work with secular rulers, because such rulers wanted to force them to worship false gods.  after that conversion, Christians were made to believe that the ruler was "one of them", and there was no longer any need to choose between the true God and Caesar's false gods.

Instead of being a thorn in the side of the secular authorities, i.e. the voice of conscience, the leaders of the church now gave their blessing to those authorities, without requiring obedience to Christ's teaching as the condition of that blessing.  Far from being a counterforce to secular rulers, the church's leaders crowned those secular leaders in their houses of worship, which the authorities now helped them build.  They themselves became "princes of the church", and they did everything in their considerable power to make sure that their Christian followers behaved as dutiful subjects of their earthly rulers.  There was no longer any need to suffer or die for one's faith at the hands of secular authorities, because those authorities now enjoyed God's blessing, thanks to the "princes of the church".
        Later, when there were splits among the churches, those churches that cooperated with the secular authorities – whether at the state or the local level – and gave them God's blessing  were themselves blessed with power and wealth by the secular authorities, and those churches which didn't were suppressed or persecuted.  Though often seemingly good for the churches as institutions, such cooperation has led to countless moral and spiritual disasters, for individuals, for churches, and for the world as a whole, not just centuries ago but in our times.


"Don't the Bible say we must love everybody?"
"Oh, the Bible!  To be sure,  it says a great many things;
but, then, nobody ever thinks of doing them."
    - Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin .  -

Actually one of the greatest ways avoid the teaching of the Gospels is to find some bible passage that can be used to undermine it.  This works much like the innoculation idea which uses a carefully controlled germ injected into one's body to immunize that body to the dangerous form of that germ.
        Those so-called "Christians" who love Mammon more than God quote the words that Jesus spoke, if we are to believe Matthew 26:11, namely "For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me." to argue that God and/or Jesus are not in favor of ending poverty on earth.  Conservatives need not feel guilty about opposing the efforts made by Liberals to radically reduce poverty, because this scripture supposedly reveals God's intention that there always be poverty. 
        I would like to draw your attention to the preference these people have for Matthew's version of this story over the Mark's version and John's.  If we can believe Mark, 14:7, what Jesus actually said was, "For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me."  Note how in this version, Jesus makes it clear that he has no intention of diminishing work on behalf of the poor
        In John's version, on the other hand, the protagonists in Matthew, who were ( all?) "the disciples", who in Mark's version were narrowed down to "some who were there" , are narrowed even further in John's version to "Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him)".  And John makes it clear that Jesus is dealing with a situation in which he himself was honored by Mary without the poor being deprived of a thing, because Judas was only using "the poor" as a decoy to feather his own nest, so to speak, and had no real intention of helping the poor with that gift.

John 12: 3 – 8  

"Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair.  The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said,  "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?"  (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)  Jesus said, "Leave her alone.  She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.  You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."


As coauthor of the phenomenally popular "Left Behind" series of apocalyptic potboiler novels, Rev. Timothy LaHaye is a millionaire many times over.  He and his wife, Beverly now live in an upscale community in Palm Springs, Calif., where gated mansions are tightly patrolled by a private security company. . .  As far back as 1981 he told the Los Angeles Times, "What's wrong with making a good living?  I don't see that God puts any priority on poverty.  I take all I have as a gift from God."
*1

According to New York University economist Edward Wolf, writing in 1998,  (although these figures change by the hour),  "The financial wealth of the top 1% now exceeds the combined net worth of the bottom 95% of Americans.   Bill Gates' wealth alone exceeds the net worth of the bottom 45%.  The personal assets of Microsoft co-founders Paul Allen and Bill Gates, plus Berkshire Hathaway's (investment mogul) Warren Buffet exceed the combined gross domestic products of the world's 41 poorest countries, with their 550 million citizens."


'What should we do then?' the crowd asked.  John answered, 'The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.' "
– Luke 3:10-11

"No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and Money.  Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" 
– Matthew 6:25

"All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need."
– Acts 2:44-45

"Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.  At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.  Then there will be equality, as it is written: 'He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.' "
– 2 Corinthians 8:13-15

"But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.   People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."  –
1 Timothy 6:6-10

"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.  Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.  Your gold and silver are corroded.  Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire.  You have hoarded wealth in the last days.  Look!  The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you.  The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.  You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.  You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter."

  – James 5:1-5


The quotes of the early church fathers are mainly from Justo L. Gonzalez's invaluable book, Faith & Wealth: A history of early Christian ideas on the origin, significance and use of money :

"Thou shalt not turn away from him that is in want, but thou shalt share all things with thy brother, and shalt not say that they are thine own."  – The Didache
        "Therefore all things are common; and let not the rich claim more than the rest.  To say therefore 'I have more than I need, why not enjoy?' is neither human nor proper.";   – St. Clement of Alexandria
        "From those things that God gave you, take that which you need, but the rest, which to you are superfluous, are necessary to others.  The superfluous goods of the rich are necessary to the poor, and when you possess the superfluous you possess what is not yours.";   – St. Augustine
        "If one who takes the clothing off another is a thief, why give any other name to one who can clothe the naked and refuses to do so? The bread that you withhold belongs to the poor; the cape that you hide in your chest belongs to the naked; the shoes rotting in your house belong to those who must go unshod.";   – St. Basil
        "The rich have that which belongs to the poor, even though they may have received it as an inheritance, no matter whence their money comes.";   – St. John Chrysostom
        "When you give to the poor, you give not of your own, but simply return what is his, for you have usurped that which is common and has been given for the common use of all.  The land belongs to all, not to the rich; and yet those who are deprived of its use are many more than those who enjoy it.";   – St. Ambrose.


"Christian thinking on wealth and property has "evolved" over the last 1,500 years.  It is rather rare, these days, to hear a Christian assert or even defend the idea that "superfluity is theft" – yet that was the consistent and universal teaching of the church during the first four centuries of Christianity.  This evolution or sophistication of Christian teaching is, likely, a concession – the gradual, frog-in-a-kettle process of accommodation to this world.  Yet despite that, again, I'm willing to entertain the idea that this evolution is also in some ways reasonable and justifiable.  But it is hypocrisy and nonsense when contemporary Christians who have sold off and abandoned every vestige of the traditional Christian understanding of wealth turn around and insist that the Christian understanding of sexuality is fixed, immutable and eternal.  These people strain at the gnat of same-sex love while swallowing the camel of credit card usury.  They are so obsessed with their mistaken belief that they live in the most promiscuous society of all time that they have failed to notice they live in the most affluent, the haughtiest, proudest and least concerned with the poor."     by Fred Clark

For a long time, I used to believe that one had to be a liberal to take the bible's teaching against wealth and the wealthy as seriously as I do. But then I discovered one conservative preacher who does as well, namely S. R. Shearer of . To his great credit he has been publishing a lengthy page at his "Antipas Ministries" for years, for which he has been vicously attacked by fellow conservatives, and accused of being a "Marxist". I have republished an abbreviated version of that page of his at my ConservativeChristiancaseagainstgreed.html.

Instead of grasping the clear message of Jesus that wealth is a great threat to salvation unless it is used to lift the needy out of poverty, so-called "Conservative Christians", (also known as "Republican Christians") have their own version of the Gospels, from which most of the above has been blacked out, and in which "the parable of the talents" is highlighted, along with Jesus words, "
        The message that they get from Matthew, Ch. 24 13-3013 is that Jesus wanted his followers to be shrewd money-makers:

" Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. "For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
        The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.
        After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.'         His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'
        And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'
        Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.'
        But his master replied, 'You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.
        As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'


If the Republican version of the Gospels is correct then the parable above teaches that no one but successful businessmen are going to heaven, and Jesus recommends in the parable below that his followers lie, steal and cheat their way to financial success.


{ Luke, Ch. 16 :1-12  

"Then Jesus said to the disciples, 'There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.' Then the manager said to himself, 'What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.' So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' He answered, 'A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.' Then he asked another, 'And how much do you owe?' He replied, 'A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill and make it eighty.' And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. 'Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?"


It's sad that some people are unable to see that when Jesus used an illustration to make a point, his teaching was the point, not the illustration. In the conclusion to the parable above, Jesus makes it clear how little respect he has for the pursuit of material prosperity, or wealth:

{ Luke 16:13-15}  

" No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth." The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him.  So he said to them,  "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God."

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