Good news for the rich

Church foyer come on in and hear the gospel (photo from Stevan Sheets)

The assignments I’m currently marking are all studies of Luke 9:1-6.1 The passage is pretty straightforward, for these are beginners:

Jesus calls the Twelve together, gives them authority to heal and to cast out demons. He then sends them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick, giving instructions on travelling light and suggested responses to different sorts of reception (they provide enough complexity to allow the best students to shine). They go, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.

It astonishes me how many students manage to miss the bit about demons and healing. As I read their studies of the passage, I wonder about the extent in seeking to ensure that the gospel (which was clearly from the start, as it is today, good news for the poor) can be good news for the rich we end up like some processed food, with all the goodness taken out. The gospel is no longer about a God who rules, and so who heals – if that was what the gospel was about it would not be good news, most of us (except extreme Charismatics ;) would rather visit a Doctor and swallow some pills. The gospel is most certainly not about a God who rules, and so who one day will put powerful oppressors in their place – if that was what the gospel was about it might be bad news for us! No, the gospel is safe and pleasant, good news for the rich, “still more pie in the sky when you die”.

Life is good now, you don’t want it to end, but don’t worry, it need not, you can have another and even better one later, so enjoy this one now, and make a few down-payments to ensure your place in heaven later…

No wonder the Bible read and preached in church is usually carefully censored! Jesus uncomfortable sayings are relegated to special series when the brave pastor explains them away. And anyway most of the really offensive stuff, like “blessed are the poor” and “how terrible for you who are rich now” can be “spiritualised” to hell and gone.

  1. Those of you who know Carey may wonder why the Old Testament specialist is marking Luke, the answer is simple workload equilibrium, few students choose to venture into the Two-Thirds Bible ;) []

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  1. Pingback: Biblical Studies Carnival נז (November 2010) | Bulletin for the Study of Religion