ƒ Christianity for Thinking People: Are Jesus Sayings Too Radical or Are Christians Too Conservative?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Are Jesus Sayings Too Radical or Are Christians Too Conservative?

“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Luke 12.32-34)

I have a book in my library that is entirely devoted to the "hard sayings" of Jesus. Interestingly, most of the hard sayings are actually pretty straight forward and clear. Maybe they are hard not because we don't understand them but precisely because we do. Take Jesus' statement, "Sell what you have and give alms." Is it really that difficult to understand or is it difficult precisely because it is absolutely clear? There is no argument that such an imperative would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for most of us to practice. But then why would we expect Jesus' sayings to be any less personally challenging then his lifestyle itself? Maybe his sayings are as unique and unrepeatable as his life itself. And if the bar is set too high for most people to follow is that so surprising?

Maybe the problem isn't with the radical and difficult sayings of Jesus but with our comfortable and affluent capitalistic lifestyles that are offended by such radical concepts as "selling" our possessions and "giving" to the poor. Maybe Jesus isn't too radical, maybe we are just too conservative. Admittedly, it would be nice if Jesus' sayings were less challenging to our innate self-interest and love of personal comfort. But we should be careful about wishing Jesus to be other than he is! If we make him into our image then we'll be left with no savior but ourselves. Better to have a Savior that challenges are very existence then to have no savior at all!

Beware of paring the claws of the lion! Let us be careful not to water down Jesus' radical sayings until they fit our comfortable, materialistic, 21st century lifestyles. We don't need a Jesus that validates the consumersitic pursuits of our consumption-obsessed culture. We need instead a savior that can free us from the fierce grip of greed that ultimately dehumanizes all of us, rich and poor alike. We need the radical Jesus and his sayings precisely because they challenge the equally radical demands of our consumer-culture world!

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