We have seen
that throughout the Old Testament God reveals Himself as
protector and provider of the poor and needy. It has also been
suggested above that the poor and needy are people experiencing
social, material, and religious oppression. The primary concern
in the Old Testament is for innocent people who unjustly and
unwillingly have been subjected to the dominating wealthy and
powerful. Yet, those who have inflicted poverty upon themselves
are given their ticket out in Proverbs through faithful giving,
diligent work and thrifty saving.
Here is one
final, but crucial, comment concerning the Old Testament
perception of wealth and poverty before Jesus’ teachings
are examined. There is a concurring theme running throughout the
Old Testament that is important to understand in order to
appreciate what Jesus taught about wealth. Proverbs speaks of
a reversal of fortunes between poor and rich (24:19,20).
The Psalms also echo this theme as David, for example, informs
that the wealthy wicked will be brought down and the poor and
needy will be blessed and inherit the land (Ps. 37).
prophet prophesied about the oppression over the people due to
injustice (Is. 58:6-9). In chapter 61 Isaiah declares freedom to
the oppressed and good news to the poor (vs. 1). Freedom and good
news is made possible because the Lord saw that there was no
justice (59:15) and displayed His wrath to the enemies (vs. 18).
With God’s intervention there is an absolute inversion
of power and wealth. This inversion is to occur between the
wicked wealthy and the pious poor. God is not
interested in decimating wealth that is fairly accumulated.
However, those who oppress with wealth will certainly answer to
In relation to
this, those who abuse wise principle and suffer poverty as a
consequence are not the “poor” for whom
freedom is declared. Freedom is already available for
those poor by following the precepts of Proverbs. And, of course,
consideration for the needs of these poor is obligated as
previously noted. But, it is for the unjustly oppressed
poor that freedom is announced in Isaiah. An inversion of
wealth and power is declared and takes place between the wicked
wealthy and the righteous poor. With these concepts in mind
from the Old Testament, the focus now turns toward the New
Testament and specifically the life example and teachings of
Jesus Christ concerning wealth and poverty.
The Life Example
and Teachings of Jesus
first formal public address was drawn from the very passage in
Isaiah just examined. The passage applied equally to the context
of Isaiah’s time and to the historical circumstances of
Jesus’ day. Jesus employed Isaiah’s words to address
an oppressive social and economic situation in which exploitative
urbanism and powerful redistributive central institutions such as
the Roman state and the Jewish hierarchy helped to keep property
and power in the hands of the few.
is important to the interpretation of the passage in Luke 4:18.
By declaring that he was anointed to “preach good news to
the poor” Jesus was not inferring that the poor would
automatically become rich. Jesus also said he had come to
“release the oppressed.” In the dismantling of
oppressive strongholds of social and religious powers, Jesus
removed the obstacles to religious and economic growth. (It still
remained for the poor to prosper through their own faith and
industry.) Now, because of the presence of Jesus, the oppressed
had the opportunity for spiritual and economic betterment.
of Jesus reading Isaiah also seems to be related to His words at
the closing of Luke 4. In Nazareth, Jesus said he had come to
preach good news to the poor “ . . . to proclaim the year
of the Lord’s favor” (vs. 18, 19). Subsequently, in
Capernaum Jesus said that He needed to go other places to
“preach the good news of the kingdom of God” (vs.
43). The year of the Lord’s favor probably refers to the
Year of Jubilee in which debts were cancelled, slaves released,
and lands returned.
year was legally and historically an aspect of military conquest
of the land of Canaan.As an
incentive to fight, families that participated in the war would
inherit specific pieces of land. Every 50 years, each parcel of
land had to be returned to the lawful heir of the original
family. The jubilee year was the year that restored the
family’s lost inheritance. It symbolized the restoration of
all things. It is evident why Jesus chose this particular passage
for His opening address to commence His ministry. Jesus linked
the temporal concept of the Year of Jubilee with the physical
arrival of the eternal kingdom of God. In doing so, He proclaimed
much more than just the opportunity for material acquisition
– though economic gain was definitely included in the
proclamation. Jesus proclaimed the realized eschatological event
of all time. This is the kingdom of God overtaking Satan’s
oppressive authority on earth, through Jesus Christ – a
complete inversion of power. This is good news!