Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Health and Wealth

James 2:5 says, "Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?"

I have been to Rome three times, and vividly remember my first visit. I was on a bus tour that took us to the Vatican in the morning and the catacombs in the afternoon. I was overwhelmed by the magnificence of St. Peter's--an awe-inspiring display that was designed (around the time of the Reformation) to remind faithful Catholics of the magnificence of the One True Church. As a Protestant, I was duly impressed--but not converted (even though I did catch a glimpse of the Pope and even though some of my faithful Catholic friends were praying God would use that trip to bring me home to Rome).

What moved me, that day, was my visit to the catacombs. There, in those ancient corridors carved out of living rock, I saw hand-painted symbols of my faith. I visited the tombs of some of the very first bishops of Rome--the earliest popes--and I did feel "at home." These were my brothers. This was my church.

This is not to say that rich Christians aren't Christians and poor Christians are. It's just that what Christians need isn't more money, but more of Christ. That's true even when we're talking about really expensive propositions like healing the sick or feeding the hungry.

Let's talk about feeding the hungry first. Mark 6 tells how five thousand men (not counting women and children) got so hungry that Christ's disciples begged Him to send them home. Jesus answered them, You give them something to eat.” 

Some theologians think the "miracle of the loaves and fishes" wasn't a "violation of the laws of physics." They suggest that people started sharing the little they had hoarded for themselves and it turned out there was more than enough for all. Without taking any theological position on how the loaves and fishes worked, it's clear that healthcare needs might be met if many Christians shared the little they have with others in need.

Jesus didn't need a billion dollars or a government program to feed the hungry. He doesn't need a corporation or federal agency to heal the sick. He does need followers who actually follow Him, however--and that means us.

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