One of the constant accusations of atheists and skeptics is that Christians oppress those who are poor. Nearly every week, we read about a well-known preacher who has gotten very wealthy by his preaching, or a religious leader who has made a fortune by merchandising his or her faith. Is Christianity a faith of the wealthy?
There is no question that some people use Christianity to benefit themselves. But that is not Christianity. It is a perversion of what Jesus taught and what the Christian faith is about. In Matthew 23, Jesus describes this kind of religious leader. He says they “bind heavy burdens .. and lay them on men’s shoulders; but that they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” He talks about them wanting praise and devouring widows’ houses and points out their hypocrisy. Throughout His ministry, Jesus and His followers helped people.
In Matthew 11:2-11, John the Baptist sent his disciples to determine if Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus responded by telling John and his disciples to look at who Jesus ministered to – the blind, the crippled, the lepers, the deaf, and the poor. He then asks the crowds, “What did you go to see in John, a man in fancy clothing? Those people are in King’s houses.. but come to me all ye who labor and are heavy laden…” In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus tells his hometown crowd that He came to preach to the poor, the broken-hearted, the blind, and the captives. In Luke 6:20-38, Jesus tells the poor that they are the kingdom of God. Jesus condemned the rich, not because they were rich, but because of how they used their wealth. (See Luke 11:39-46.) Christianity is not a faith of the wealthy oppressing the poor.
In Matthew 9:10-13, Jesus ate with the outcasts of society, and the religious leaders asked: “Why?” Jesus said, “I did not come to call the virtuous people but the outcasts.” The ministry of Paul was to the poor, including those who rejected Judaism. Galatians 2:10 finds Paul talking about “giving thought to the poor.” The passage goes on to talk about Peter struggling with this, and Paul reprimanding him (verses 11-18). The early Church was all about supporting the weak. (See Acts 20:35, Romans 15:1, I Corinthians 9:22-23, and 1 Thessalonians 5:14). James even condemned congregations who gave deference to the wealthy in James 2:2-8.
There is too much need around us for any Christian to be wallowing in self-serving wealth. Skeptics and atheists are correct in condemning those who claim to be Christians but have not found the joy of giving. Those they condemn do not represent what Christianity is all about and how real Christians try to live. Christianity is not a faith of the wealthy, but a faith of caring for the needs of all.
— John N. Clayton © 2020