Jesus says a number of shocking things – he doesn’t fit into the boxes we put him in. We try to fit him around our agenda but it doesn’t work, because he is the Lord and centre of everything. Jesus is the cornerstone that was rejected – not the conveniently shaped stone we want – but the foundation we all need to build on. Throughout history there have been many ways Jesus has been put into boxes.
1. Was Jesus White or Black?
- We all have an idea of what Jesus looked like – in the western world we have a view of a white, blonde-haired Jesus, whereas in places like Africa, Jesus is pictured as black.
- Jesus and Christianity do not belong to any one particular ethnicity or culture.
- In heaven there will be people from every race, culture, language – a fully diverse people.
2. Rich or Poor?
- Jesus was a skilled manual labourer – would have earned quite a respectable income for his culture. He came from Nazareth, a town which was generally poor, and his parents also showed themselves to be poor (e.g. in the temple, they offered 2 turtle doves – the sacrifice for poor people).
- When Jesus was a travelling preacher, it was custom to be kept going by the donations and financial support of others – he was not wealthy, but neither was he destitute.
- Jesus and his disciples often got by financially completely by faith.
- There are 2 popular versions that people have got behind – the wealthy Jesus or the poor Jesus. The first camp say rich is good and poor is bad; the second camp same the reverse.
- But there was no evidence that Jesus was wealthy – no evidence for prosperity theology. But in the other camp, being poor doesn’t make you holy.
- You can be rich for good reasons – because of hard work, wise handling of finances, integrity, etc. and you can be poor for bad reasons – squandering your money away. But you can also be rich for bad reasons and poor for good reasons.
- The point is that it’s our attitude to wealth, not wealth itself, that is important. It’s about what you do with the money you have – do you give generously or do you hoard it all for yourself?
- Money is a terrible deceiver – it makes you think you’re safe and secure, when ultimately you’re not.
- It’s not a sin to accumulate a lot of money, the same way it’s not a sin to sleep with a sword hanging over your bed – it can just be very unwise and risky.
- When Jesus talked about the poor being blessed and receiving salvation, what he means is that the poor seem to have a head-start in realising their need for God as they are deeply aware of their needs – whereas the rich think they already have all they need and are content with that.
- God doesn’t need us – we need him! We are all “in the red” with God – we need him to pay our spiritual debt against him.
- Money ruins our perspective and takes us away from trusting God.
- We never have enough money!
- God knows what you need – he can be trusted to provide. And with that comes real peace, security and rest. He has your back – he will always provide for you.
- We can give generously with joy, because we know we’ve found something better than riches – Jesus. You deal with your money in the right way when you meet him.
3. Left or Right (Political)
- This has also been passionately debated through history – was Jesus left-wing or right-wing?
- In some ways Jesus was right-wing: he knew the ultimate problem is within the human heart (the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart). Jesus said no-one except God is good and we are all evil. So many human decisions/solutions completely ignore the wickedness of the heart.
- But Jesus did not promote complacency.
- In other ways, Jesus was left-wing: he brought about the revolution of God’s kingdom and fought for social justice. He was revolutionary about how people can change – not by rules but by a new birth and a changed heart through meeting Jesus.
Ultimately, where you treasure is there your heart is. Jesus is worth everything – you see that when you meet him. You find something better than your own preconceptions, better than riches – Jesus himself.