It is odd, really, that the passage that Jesus launched his ministry with is one we typically ignore–“good news to the poor.” It doesn’t fit well in our American Christianity. As good religious conservative capitalists (those worshippers of mammon in a Jesus costume) we ignore or, when that won’t work, spiritualize those words. Sure, the liberal “churches” tout it as justification for some socialist scheme or other, but that isn’t Christian–it’s pagan.
“Good news to the poor.”
Oddly what has brought me to think about this is all this hubbub about hell. Rob Bell’s new book and the movement of so many neo-evangelical types towards a universalist view of salvation begs the question about good news. What has hell to do with good news? It is a good question–only it misses the point we always miss here in this very blessed nation of ours; Jesus said he brought good news “to the poor.”
What about us–all of us comfortable, wealthy, priveledged American Christians with the luxury of time to sit about debating hell and universalism? We would do well to think about hell as C. S. Lewis advises. “In all discussions of hell we should keep steadily before our eyes the possible damnation, not of our enemies nor our friends… but …of ourselves.” We would be well advised to listen to James as well when he says, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you…It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure…You have lived luxuriously on the earth and lived a life of wanton pleasure” (5:1-5). No, I haven’t time for the gospel as comfortable words for us rich. Good news to the poor? This require more thought.