~~ The Poor ~~

~~ The Poor ~~

How many of today's Christians would willingly follow Jesus if he told them to sell off everything they own and give the proceeds to the poor? Imagine where Christians would find themselves if indeed he ever uttered such words and if indeed any Christians were to follow that command. The truth is that today's Christians willfully ignore Jesus. Mark 10:21 clearly tells us "Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One thing you lack,' he said. 'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'"

Rare is the Christian who has ever done this in the manner that Jesus suggests. The hypocrisy here lies with Christians elevating the teachings of Jesus as the standard by which we should live and then summarily dismissing those teachings that they either don't agree with or simply don't want to live up to. Jesus not only said "Take therefore no thought for the morrow", he apparently lived that mantra. Christians completely ignore Jesus' command in favor of building personal wealth. This hypocrisy is evident any time we see a Christian driving around in a Cadillac or BMW instead of buying a Ford or Chevrolet and giving the difference to the poor. This hypocrisy is evident any time we see Christians dumping money into a 401K or other investment instead of giving to the poor and following Jesus. Jesus did not have a savings account, and the Biblical account of his life leads us to believe that he was both frugal and dependent on others. If Jesus were alive today, can you imagine seeing him drive through town in a Cadillac or Lexus?

Lest you think that the hypocrisy extends only to the average Christian, let's look at the Vatican. In 2010 the Vatican reported revenues of 245.2 million euros ($356 million) and profit of 9.8 million euros ($14.2 million). In all sincerity, these financial numbers are nothing in comparison to many of today's global businesses, which was the outcome that Pope John Paul II hoped for when he ordered the Vatican to begin publishing its annual financial reports in 1981. Don't give in to your mind's mental shortcuts though and assume that this is what the Vatican is worth. When we shine a light on the Vatican's books, we'll find that they list all of their artwork and ornate buildings with a value of just 1 euro each. As funny as this might sound, it is tragically accurate. The Sistine Chapel, while officially valued at 1 euro, could be worth as much as $500 billion. Estimating the worth of the many pieces of artwork is not an exact science. Many of the items owned by the Vatican are considered "priceless" and non-commercial which is why they get the 1 euro label. Regardless of the official reason, there is inherent hypocrisy in valuing such assets so ridiculously low when the real value is so ridiculously high.

If we're being intellectually honest, it doesn't take long to reach trillions of dollars when adding up the potential value of the Vatican's assets. Even incredibly conservative estimates will put the value in the billions of dollars, and yet the Vatican ignores Mark 10:21 in the same way that the average Christian does. There are poor people all over the world who would benefit considerably from the sale of even a handful of Church assets, but we won't see that happen. So I ask, why the hypocrisy? Is a life not worth more than a painting? I am not alone in asking this question. Pope John Paul the First asked himself the same question in 1978 and remarked:

"... this morning, I flushed my toilet with a solid gold lever edged with diamonds and at this very moment, bishops and cardinals are using a bathroom on the second floor of the papal palace which trappings, I am told, would draw more than fifty million dollars at auction ... Believe me, one day, we who live in opulence, while so many are dying because they have nothing, will have to answer to Jesus as to why we have not carried out His instruction, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.' We, the clergy of the Church together with our congregations, who substitute gold and pomp and ceremony in place of Christ's instruction, who judge our masquerade of singing His praises to be more precious than human life, will have the most to explain."

Pope John Paul the First was a man who, more often than not, appears to have actually lived what he preached. He was perhaps one of the most fiscally conscious and responsible popes even though his papacy only lasted 33 days. Pope John Paul the First embodied Luke 3:11 which says "Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same." There are more than a billion Christian hypocrites walking the world today either willfully ignoring or barely scratching the surface of one of Jesus' most basic teachings.