Luke's Attitude Towards the Rich and the Poor - by Warren Heard Northbrook, IIArticles on Christian Stewardship
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I. Luke And “The Poor,” πτωχός
Any investigation of Luke’s attitude toward wealth must deal with his use of πτωχός , “poor.” Much has been written about this term and, not infrequently, it has been asserted that this term must be taken in its purely literal sense: the economically destitute. Unfortunately, there is not unanimity among the interpreters. Indeed, “the poor” has been variously interpreted as the pious, 1 those who do not belong to the religious establishment, 2 those faithful disciples who have renounced worldly possessions 3 those who are actually destitute, 4 those who suffer, particularly Jesus’ persecuted disciples, 5 Israel 6 and the faithful remnant within Israel. 7 Though these varied interpretations are not all necessarily mutually exclusive, it is this last-named identification that will be developed here.
The term πτωχός appears in three principle texts: Luke 4:18 ; 6:20 and 7:22 . 8 Since Luke apparently is referring to Isaiah 61 , Leaney, Schtirmann, and others have underlined the importance of the Isaianic background for understanding Luke’s use of πτωχός . 9 Scholars have discerned three basic divisions in Isaiah: 1–39 ; 40–55 ; and 56–66 . Obviously Luke’s allusions come from the last of these Isaianic sections. In Isaiah 56–66 a portrait of an underclass emerges. The nation itself is out of favor with God and stands under his righteous judgment.
Come here, you sons of a sorceress,
Offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute.
Against whom do you jest?
Against whom do you open wide your mouth
And stick out your tongue?
Are you not children of rebellion,
Offspring of deceit? ( Isa 57:3–4 )
Your iniquities have made a separation between you and God,
And your sins have hidden His face from you
so that He does not hear
For your hands are filled with blood,
and your fingers with iniquity. 10
( Isa 59:2–3 )
Nevertheless, within Isaiah 56–66 , a small group of believers who have not turned their back on Yahweh is also described. This community of faith is an oppressed and outcast group ( Isa 57:1 ; 63:16 ; 56:8 ) which is powerless and impoverished ( Isa 57:15 ; 66:2 ). The larger community has excluded them ( Isa 63:16 ), apparently because of their fealty to Yahweh:
Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at His Word,
“Your brothers who hate you, who exclude you for My name’s sake,
Have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy.’
But they will be put to shame.” ( Isa 66:5 )
Moreover, this small community conceived itself as true Israel ( 65:8–16 ).
Indeed, this remnant is righteous ( 57:1 ), chosen ( 65:9 , 15 , 22), the genuine servants of Yahweh ( 65:8–9 , 13–14 ) and God’s holy people ( 63:18 ). It was this righteous remnant which truly loved Israel’s God ( 66:10 ), took refuge in him ( 57:13 ), observed the Torah ( 66:2 , 5) and abhorred the worship of heathen gods ( 57:11–13 ; 65:3–4 ; 66:1–6 ). Because of their piety, the righteous remnant was under
attack by the apostate majority who possessed the positions of power within the nation ( 57:1 ; 59:15 ; 66:5 ). These oppressors were regarded as idolatrous apostates ( 57:3–13 ; 59:5–8 ) and enemies of Yahweh ( 66:14 ) whose unrighteous behavior had been preventing Israel from experiencing God’s blessing; indeed, the nation was under divine wrath ( 58:1–14 ; 59:1–15 ). But those faithful within Israel are now the underclass, the עֲנָוִים who anticipate an eschatological salvation ( Isa 60:10–14 ).
The underclass of Isaiah 56–66 are persecuted because of their uncompromising position with regard to the Law and would, therefore, tend to be economically disadvantaged in comparison with their compromising counterparts. The positions of political power and the wealth accompanying political office would only be granted to those sympathetic to the ruling, idolatrous aristocracy. The “poor” ( עֲנָוִים ) is, therefore, not so much a socio-economic term as it is a religious one; it is the עֲנָוִים who have remained faithful to the Torah and therefore to God. nevertheless, the term should not be understood solely in religious terms. The socio-economic nuances of עֲנָוִים have not entirely evaporated, because in remaining faithful to the Torah and opposing evil (including the idolatrous aristocracy), the faithful would not be endearing themselves to the ruling elite. Moreover, the zeal of the עֲנָוִים for righteousness would preclude their participation in most of the activities that would be necessary for them to gain power and wealth. Disenfranchisement would tend to be their fate, and they would inevitably drift toward the lowest socio-economic strata. Thus in Isaiah 56–66 , עֲנָוִים almost certainly refers to that portion of the nation which has chosen righteousness and consequently are exposed to oppression and therefore economic de-stabilization. Nevertheless, the עֲנָוִים hold fast to the Torah and look forward to an eschatological deliverance from the very hand of God.
When Isaiah 61 is seen in this context, “the humble/poor,” “the brokenhearted” and “the captives” are terms which describe the same community, viz., the oppressed group of the pious within Israel. The Hebrew word here, עֲנָוִים , can mean either “humble” or “poor.” Knight is probably correct in suggesting that the author intended a deliberate double entendre: both “humble” and “poor.” 11 Indeed, in Isa 66:2 , עָנִי is interpreted as one who is “contrite in spirit” ( וּנְכֵה־רוּחַ ). Moreover, “the brokenhearted” ( וּנִשְׁבְּרֵי־לֵב )is often used in the Psalms in synonymous parallelism with עֲנָוִים , the poor/humble. 12 The “captives” to whom liberty is proclaimed are those persecuted members of the pious community who have been victimized by injustice and probably are incarcerated. 13 In the last phrase, פְּקָח־קרֹח , the Hebrew lacks any reference to prison; nevertheless, its parallel position to liberty and its grammatical relation to “those imprisoned” strongly suggests an opening of prison. 14
Isaiah 61:1 describes an underclass comprised of the faithful within Israel who are oppressed, economically impoverished and victimized by social injustice. McKenzie is correct: “The poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, and the imprisoned designate the Israelites … But the ‘poor’ and the ‘brokenhearted’ are not Israel as a whole, but the devout core of the faithful.” 15 These faithful Israelites endure suffering, entrust themselves to Yahweh and await eschatological salvation. The message of the prophet in Isa 61:1 is that the awaited Messianic kingdom characterized by social justice is very near indeed.
Further support for this understanding of the עֲנָוִים can be adduced from its use elsewhere in the Old Testament. Often “the poor” are those who because of social distress and economic privation have fixed their sights upon heaven and trust only in Israel’s God. 16 This notion parallels that found in Isa 57:15 and 66:2 , viz., God is favorably disposed toward those who are lowly and contrite in spirit. Similar expressions at Qumran continue this notion (1QM 11:9; 14:6–7; 1QS 4:3; 1QH 5:22). Moreover, “poor” and “righteous” become nearly interchangeable in Ecclus 13:17–21 ; CD 19:9; and 4QpPs 2:8–11. 17 Furthermore, some Qumran texts use “the poor” to describe those righteous who had been plundered by the wicked priest. These Qumran texts often echo the canonical psalms as they characterize their oppressed community as “poor” (1QH 2:32–35; 3:25; 5:13ff.; 1QpHab 12:5–6; 12:10; cf. 12:2–6) and “the poor” (4QpPs 37:21–2; cf. 1QM 11:13; 13:14). 18 Thus Old Testament and late Jewish data yield further support for this analysis of Isaiah 56–66 , but we
must now turn to Luke to determine whether he understands Isaiah 61 in this way.
A. Luke 4:18 — “He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor”
Luke has brought Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth forward because of its theological significance and because it contains many of the themes of Luke-Acts in nuce . 19 The pericope is set in the synagogue and narrates Jesus’ reading of the Isaiah scroll. Jesus reads Isa 61:1–2a but leaves out a line which was replaced by a line from Isa 58:6 :
The spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are downtrodden,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.
Since Luke’s quote has come from Isaiah 55–66 , it is possible that Luke’s concept of “the poor” is congruent with the Isaianic conception employed in this section. The probability of this increases when Luke’s special interest in, and disproportionate dependence upon, Isaiah is considered. 20
In his proclamation of νιαυτν κυρίου δεκτόν , “the favorable year of the Lord,” Luke follows the Septuagint. This expression almost certainly is a known Palestinian formulation for “the year which God has graciously appointed in order to show his salvation.” 21 It is likely that this expression refers to the jubilee hiddentext
year, 22 but most significantly Luke never develops its literal sense. Nevertheless, for Luke, the year of jubilee is certainly the time of God’s deliverance: in the year of jubilee all prisoners were to be released. Luke’s application of Isa 61:1 to his own day should probably be taken as a reference to those who were enslaved and experiencing grinding poverty because of Israel’s rejection of jubilary theology. In 11QMelch, Isa 61:1 is used in connection with Lev 25:10–13 and Deut 15:2 for the “release” which accompanied the jubilee year. 23 Interestingly, in 11QMelch, Isa 62:1 is also quoted with the release of captives placed in an eschatological setting. Precisely the same nuance is contained in the quote from Isa 58:6 , “To set free those who are downtrodden.” The verb that is used here, θραύω , is a hapax legomenon in the New Testament. In its literal sense it means “to break (in pieces)” and metaphorically it means “to oppress.” This verb is often used for God’s activity in turning Israel over to an oppressing nation for disciplinary purposes. 24 In Isa 58:6 , the oppression of the powerless by the powerful seems to be in view. At first, the phrase “recovery of sight to the blind” does not seem to be equivalent to its surrounding sentences, but the MT reads “recovery of sight to the prisoners.” Thus Marshall is probably correct in surmising that “blind” is likely a metaphorical reference. 25
The background of Isaiah 58 and 61 , therefore, gives meaning and unity to “captive,” “oppressed” and “blind.” The faithful within Israel are oppressed and are under pressure to compromise their fidelity to God. Many in Israel have already capitulated and receive commensurate perquisites (wealth and power). Others refuse to compromise and instead continue to practice the Torah faithfully. As a result the righteous experience social oppression at the hands of their fellow countrymen who are collaborators. The situation in first century Palestine is very similar and Jesus, the eschatological prophet who is anointed with the Spirit, announces “good news” to this underclass who are humble, poor, captive, downtrodden, imprisoned and most importantly, faithful. This class of Israelites has been oppressed for their allegiance to Yahweh and have been awaiting deliverance. As Dunn points out, the quote of Isa 61:1 demonstrates the belief that Jesus was the one in whom Isaiah 61:1 found fulfillment. Jesus is the Spirit-anointed endtime prophet who proclaims God’s eschatological salvation. 26 Thus the “good news” that comes to this underclass comprised of the faithful is freedom from their oppression and the inauguration of the kingdom of God. Ellis correctly observes that “the poor, captives, blind and oppressed represent the righteous remnant of the nation.” 27
B. Luke 6:20–21: “Blessed are you poor”
In the Lukan version of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus “turns his gaze upon his disciples” and says to them:
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you,
and cast in suits at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.
Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven;
for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. ( Luke 6:20–23 ; cf. Matt 5 :lff.)
These verses begin Luke’s rendition of the Sermon on the Mount ( Luke 6:2–7:1 ). While comparison with Matthew is essential, the attempt to recover a common vorlage against which the Lukan redaction may be critiqued might be a vain pursuit because, as Marshall rightly notes, “The sources and pre-history of the Sermon defies solution.” 28 We must, therefore, use extreme caution when using Matthean parallels to assess Luke’s redaction. More important for the exegesis of this material are transparent redactional elements: audience, setting, literary position, function, etc.
Jesus’ disciples (both the newly selected twelve and a wider group from which the twelve come) and a great throng of people are the groups that form the audience of Luke 6:2–7:1 . Minear suggests that the regions named in 6:17 (Judea, Jerusalem, Tyre and Sidon) demonstrate that a gathering representative of the Jews (Jerusalem, Israel, Diaspora) was present. 29 The attention that Luke gives to Jesus’ disciples ( 6:12–17 , 20) suggests that Jesus’ discourse concerns discipleship. 30 It is a challenge to his present disciples and an invitation to those in the audience who are contemplating a similar decision. Consequently, the beatitudes and the woes are addressed to this group of disciples and potential disciples. 31 Furthermore, Jesus is presented as no less than an anointed prophet so charismatic that “all the multitudes were trying to touch him” and so endued with the Spirit that “power was coming from Him and healing them all” ( 6:19 ).
Given this audience, setting and description of Jesus, it comes as no surprise that not a few exegetes have suggested that Luke again is presenting Jesus as the Spirit-anointed prophet; thus the mention of “the poor” in 6:20 is again an allusion to Isaiah 61. 32 If so, this opens the way for the same understanding of “the poor” here as
earlier in Luke 4:18f . Support for this understanding is found in the blessing for those who weep (Matthew has “mourn”) because a partial function of the Isaianic Spirit-anointed prophet is “to comfort those who mourn” and give them the “oil of gladness” ( Isa 61:2b–3 ). The Isaianic context mentions that the faithful must endure hatred ( 66:5 ), insults and slander ( 57:1 ; 59:15 ), and even ostracization ( 63:16 ). Moreover, Seccombe has demonstrated that Luke’s “hungry” and “rich” are not necessarily literal designations, but are often merely alternative characterizations of “humble” and “powerful.” 33 Note also that the context specifically mentions persecution (apparently at the hands of the rich) for “the sake of the Son of Man.”
Daube points out that, consistent with other examples of Jewish poetry, the last beatitude functions as a summary as well as a climax. Those who are poor, hungry and weeping are those who have identified with the Son of Man and experience persecution as a result. 34 This behavior is in contrast to that of the rich, the well-fed and the merry who possess the political power and are oppressing “the poor” whom Jesus now identifies as his disciples, and who in turn represent the faithful within Israel. It is noteworthy that Jesus proceeds to speak of loving one’s enemies which, in the sociopolitical context, certainly focuses upon the compromised apostate Jews who are oppressing the faithful.
With the above considerations in mind Dunn’s assessment seems correct: “… these Beatitudes have been determinatively influenced by Isa 61:lff.; ‘the poor’ and ‘those who weep/mourn’ clearly describe a group identical with those envisaged by the prophet.” 35 Thus, it is highly probable that Luke has used πτωχός in a consistent manner in both the rejection at Nazareth (Luke 4) and here in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus seems to be indicating that his disciples were included in that pious underclass of whom Isaiah wrote. The beatitudes themselves fulfill, at least in part, the preaching of “good news to the poor.” Interpreting the Sermon on the Mount in this way alleviates the necessity of explaining exactly how Jesus and his disciples were poor, hungry and weeping when, in point of fact, Luke never portrays poverty, hunger or sorrow as general characteristics of Jesus and his band of followers. Moreover, poverty, hunger and sorrow hardly characterize the early church.
C. Luke 7:22: “The poor have the good news preached to them”
In response to John the Baptist’s question querying Jesus’ identity as “the one who comes,” 36 Jesus responds in the affirmative by pointing to the fact that his ministry fulfills the Isaianic portrait of this Messianic eschatological figure:
And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them…” ( Luke 7:22 ). 37
John’s confusion primarily was the result of two fundamentally different concepts, as Kraeling observes:
There is for John no possible meeting-ground between the wonder-working preacher of the kingdom and the transcendent “man-like-one” who destroys the wicked in unquenchable fire, save on the assumption of a break with his fundamental convictions, for which there was no adequate justification.
John had announced that the eschaton had drawn nigh and, therefore, judgment was imminent. Jesus came and replaced John’s preaching of imminence with the preaching of fulfillment. But John had said that with the advent of “the one who comes” eschatological judgment would commence. This inevitably left confusion in the baptizer’s camp: if this Jesus, who proclaims the inauguration of the endtime, really is the eschatological figure prophesied in the OT, then where is the judgment proclaimed by John as the sine qua non of the endtime? Or, if we ask the question the other way round, “Are you the one who is coming or do we wait for another?”
Jesus, perceiving the essence of the question, carefully draws his answer from three Isaianic passages ( Isa 35:5–6 ; 29:18–19 and 61:1 ). Jeremias insightfully notes that each of these texts was chosen with great care because they all contain not only promises of blessing, but also of judgment. 38 Dunn elucidates the full significance of Jesus’ allusions:
By alluding to these passages Jesus acknowledges the point of the Baptist’s question and speaks to it. He says in effect: “Despite the absence of judgment, the blessings promised for the end-time prove that it is already here. The day of God’s vengeance is not yet; the year of the Lord’s favor is now” (cf. Luke 4:19 ). 39
Thus Jesus affirmed that the miracles of healing and of resurrection were irrefragable evidence that the Isaianic prophecies had been fulfilled and were, therefore, no less than signs of the kingdom’s presence and manifestations of God’s promised eschatological salvation.
Plummer notes that in the Isaianic quotations there are two groups of clauses, each of which should be taken literally and that each of the two groups climaxes with “the strongest item of evidence being placed last.” 40 Plummer is probably correct to take these clauses literally except perhaps the last one, “the poor have the gospel preached to them.” For if the literal poor is meant, it would be most unusual for the evangelizing of the poor, rather than the miracle of resurrection, to stand as the apogee of this verse. If, however, as has been argued above, “the poor” represent those who have remained faithful to the Torah, who have suffered as a result and are looking to God for deliverance, then the allusion to Isa 61:1 standing at the apex of the evidence cited as proof that Jesus is “the one who comes,” is not only understandable, but best fits the context. The incarcerated John the Baptizer would be the example par excellence of “the poor.” John, more than any of his day, exhibited the loyalty to God that the Torah demanded. Thus Jesus’ citing of Isa 61:1 is compassionately designed to comfort John during his time of suffering; it therefore functions as a fitting climax of Jesus’ evidence proving his identity as “the one who comes.” The fact that it is only this clause that comes from Isaiah 61 (the miracles are drawn from the other Isaianic passages) serves to confirm this analysis.
It is therefore manifest that the specific socio-political situation reflected in Isaiah 56–66 generally, and specifically Isa 61:1–2 and 58:6 , forms the decisive background for “the poor” in Luke’s gospel. “The poor” are, for Luke, the righteous within Israel who have not compromised the Torah, but who instead have remained faithful and have suffered as a result. It is to these that the good news of God’s eschatological salvation comes, though not to the exclusion of other Jews, or even the Gentiles, as Jesus’ inaugural address clearly intimates. The program of Spirit-anointed prophetic visitation enunciated in Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth ( Luke 4:18ff .) and announced in the Sermon on the Mount ( Luke 6:20 ) is ultimately certified in the ministry of Jesus ( Luke 7:22 ).
Thus there is absolutely nothing in Luke’s use of πτωχός that would suggest that the poor qua poor are the special objects of God’s grace. It is only “the poor” as understood against the backdrop of Isaiah 55–66 , i.e. those oppressed for righteousness’ sake, who are singled out as special recipients of God’s eschatological deliverance. Nevertheless, it is not enough merely to demonstrate that in his use of πτωχός Luke does not idealize poverty and identify the recipients of salvation with the economically destitute — it must also be demonstrated that Luke does not condemn wealth and reject the wealthy. To this task we now turn.
II. Luke And Wealth
A. Luke’s Redaction of the Wealth Passages
Luke has a disproportionate amount of material on the subject of wealth. While this in itself is intriguing, it is not enough to reveal the Lukan attitude toward wealth. The first step in discerning Luke’s attitude toward wealth will be a careful evaluation of Luke’s redaction of the tradition. Luke retains nearly all the Marcan passages concerning wealth and riches (cf. Luke 5:25 ; 8:14 ; 9:3 , 25 ; 18:22–30 ; 21:4 ). Notice that while Mark’s call of the disciples ( Mark 1:16–20 ) is absent in Luke, the latter more than adequately compensates by including commensurate material ( Luke 5:11 ; 9:57–62 ). Indeed, it cannot be said that Luke avoids casting discipleship in material terms. In some pericopae Luke even intensifies the demands of discipleship announced in Mark; e.g. in Luke the disciples leave all ( 5:11 , 28) and the rich young ruler is commanded to sell all ( 18:21 ). However, Luke’s intensifying of the Marcan material is not consistent. Curiously, Mark’s, “We have left everything” ( 10:28 ) has been softened by Luke to, “We have left our property” ( 18:28 ). Luke has also softened Mark’s, “There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or children or farms…” ( Mark 10:29 ) by omitting “farms.” In the commissioning of the twelve ( Mark 6:8–9 ; cf. Luke 9:3 ; cf. also 10:4 ) both evangelists prohibit the disciples from taking staff and sandals. Though other slight differences could be surveyed, even an exhaustive study will not alter that which has emerged here, viz., Luke shows no consistent tendency to increase the severity of the Marcan material he is redacting.
The material that Luke has apparently borrowed from Q is not nearly as unambiguous. The Lukan beatitudes certainly do bless those who suffer and they do warn the wealthy, but it is not likely that Luke is dependent upon Matthew or vice versa, nor is Luke himself creating this material; he is merely handing on the tradition. 41 More to the point, there is no evidence of intensified hostility to wealth in Luke’s beatitudes vis-á-vis his sources. Matthew also parallels Luke in his more demanding mission charge which, again, points us in the direction of Luke’s source and not to Luke himself. It is difficult to know how Luke derived, “Give that which is within as charity” ( Luke 11:41 ) from his sources, especially since Matthew records, “Cleanse the inside.” Perhaps it is a variation in Q, but in any case, Luke’s rendering is not strikingly redactional.
The Lukan theme of selling one’s possessions and giving alms is a theme also traceable to Luke’s sources. Matthew states this teaching negatively, “Do not store up treasures on earth” ( 6:19 ) while Luke states it positively ( 12:33 ). 42 All of this is typical of the way that Luke handles the Q material on wealth. Thus in his redaction of Mark and Q vis-á-vis wealth Luke has passed on most of the material with a minimum of alteration. Where Luke does alter his material he does not consistently intensify the material’s teaching on wealth; in fact, on occasion Luke even weakens it. Moreover, the explicit statements warning against the accumulation of wealth and the almsgiving emphasis in Q contexts is probably attributable to Luke’s sources and not to Luke himself.
The material peculiar to Luke is less straightforward. The origin and nature of Luke’s special source (or sources) remains enigmatic. Thus, conclusions about how Luke is using his sources, and whether he is accentuating or abbreviating the teaching about wealth found in his sources must remain tentative. 43 It would, however, seem prudent to assume that Luke has redacted his source material consistently. So what is true of Luke’s use of Mark and Q is also true of Luke’s use of his other source material, viz., Luke himself is not deliberately intensifying his sources’ critique of wealth. 44
Mealand’s conclusion seems correct: “The greater severity evident in Luke’s Gospel is not due to the evangelist, but to his inclusion of material from either Q or L which is unknown to Mark and lacking in Matthew.” 45 Since no bias toward the rich or the poor is discern-able in Luke’s redaction of his sources, we must, therefore, turn to the material itself and decipher its teaching in order to determine, with a little more clarity, the Lukan attitude toward wealth.
B. Wealth and Greed (Luke 12:13–21)
Jesus, after declining to arbitrate two brothers’ inheritance dispute, 46 warns the crowds about greed: “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does (the quality of) his life consist of (the abundance of or the lack of) his possessions.” 47 Characteristically, Jesus hammers his point home with a parable. The story which follows paints the portrait of a wealthy farmer who lives his life under the mistaken notion that an abundance of material possessions will bring him “the good life.” Because of this mistaken notion, when the bumper crop finally arrives, the wealthy farmer demolishes his old barns and constructs larger ones to handle his storage problem. After solving this problem, the wealthy farmer can relax and look forward to years of pleasure. The repeated use of “my” points to an egocentrism in his behavior. The farmer does not concern himself with helping others, pleasing God or even using his wealth wisely; he only concerns himself with self-indulgence. Jesus labels this man a “fool” because, as in the Old Testament, the fool rejects the knowledge and precepts of God as a basis for life; he therefore lacks piety toward God, interest in his neighbor and is even ignorant of what is necessary for his own well being. Since he is a “fool” the wealthy farmer is worthy only of judgment; 48 his death likely is meant as a direct divine judgment, probably symbolic of God’s approaching eschato-logical judgment. 49
This parable, therefore, stands as a strong warning against greed. Note that there is no critique of the means that brought the farmer his wealth. Schweizer observes that (in contrast to 17:11 ; 1 Enoch 97:8–10; Ecclus 11:18–19 ) there is no suggestion of unjust gain, and certainly no hint, as in Prov 11:26 , that the farmer is forcing prices up. 50 A rich harvest was always a sign of God’s blessing. The rich man’s sin was hoarding; he was trying to keep all of God’s blessings to himself. The wealthy farmer thought that the quality of his life was directly proportional to material gain. Luke’s alternative to the course of action chosen by the farmer is to be “rich toward God,” which, as will soon become clear, almost certainly means sharing one’s wealth spontaneously with others
C. Wealth and Anxiety (Luke 12:22–34)
This section is very similar to its counterpart in the Matthean version of the Sermon on the Mount ( Matt 6:25–33 ), but here in Luke it is intimately related to the previous narrative about wealth and greed. Nevertheless, both passages are concerned with wealth, and particularly about “storing up” wealth for oneself. 51 The previous parable ( Luke 12:15–21 ) represents a negative teaching and a warning against greed, whereas Luke 12:22–34 represents a positive teaching and an encouragement to generosity and true discipleship; it is not an encouragement to disengage from meaningful employment. It must be pointed out that general human anxiety about wealth is not in view; rather, as Minear notes, the context suggests that this exhortation is directed at that particular anxiety about possessions that inevitably springs forth from the call to follow and be Jesus’ disciple. 52 Confession of Jesus inevitably gives rise to hostility, which in turn threatens the disciple’s supply of food and clothing. In such a situation Jesus’ disciples could experience an anxiety level high enough to tempt them to compromise and attenuate their confession for the sake of material security.
Thus Luke is specifically addressing the anxiety arising over the quality and security of one’s life when a decision is made to seek the kingdom of God. The solution for the disciple’s anxiety is simply to gain the proper perspective. The follower of Jesus must see God’s gracious provision for the lesser parts of his creation and conclude, via the a fortiori argument, that provision will also be made for the citizen of God’s kingdom. When the disciple possesses this knowledge he is then freed from his anxiety and is thereby able to be generous, and sell of his possessions and give to the poor ( 12:33 ). In its context his entreaty does not seem to be a qualification for discipleship, nor a rigorous command to be obeyed by the disciples; rather, it probably is a careful teaching directed toward those who had already entered the path of discipleship and is designed to relax any anxiety which might have arisen over their personal possessions. The disciple who is able to internalize and practice this teaching would then be able to exhibit a free and spontaneous generosity. 53 It must be emphasized that total material renunciation is nowhere in the context nor is it even implied. 54
The command, “Sell your possessions and give to charity” probably should not be understood in absolutized terms, viz., the total abandonment of one’s possessions, but rather as the regular Jewish religious practice of liquidating a portion of one’s assets in order to use the proceeds for almsgiving. That this is the correct interpretation of thc command is supported by the appearance of θησαυρός in the context. Normally translated as “treasure,” it probably refers to that which is laid aside, accumulated and stored for future use; it is not presently needed. 55 Jewish writings from the intertestamental period teach that almsgiving is a way to store up a good deposit for the day of adversity ( Tob 4:7–11 ; Sir 29:11–12 ) and that the practice of righteousness treasures up life with the Lord (Pss Sol 9:9). 56
Thus, Luke is counselling the disciple not to hoard his treasure in the manner of the foolish farmer. The farmer’s bumper crop was his treasure, his security, his preoccupation, his future — in short, his life. Instead, Luke encourages the disciple to be freed from his anxiety and to don confidently the yoke of discipleship and openly confess Jesus. God has bestowed upon Jesus’ disciples the kingdom, and as citizens of this kingdom they can confidently expect to have their needs fulfilled. In fact, the disciple need not be concerned even with his present possessions; he is free to sell them and engage in almsgiving. If the disciple belongs to, and believes in, the kingdom age, then he will not behave like the farmer and stockpile goods in the present age. The alternative recommended by Luke is to give alms, which is an investment in the age to come. Almsgiving is the prescribed way in which one “lays up treasure for himself and is rich toward God” ( Luke 12:21 ).
D. Wealth and Giving (Luke 16:1–31)
1. The Parable of the Shrewd Manager (Luke 16:1–13)
In the parable of the shrewd manager, 57 mammon is personified and presented as a rival god. Mammon is called “unrighteous” because it belongs to that sphere, viz., the world, the realm of Satan. 58 The steward had acted prudently in discounting the face value of the notes to the amount of the original loan and had suspended the illegal and unjust charge of interest. 59 This action brought praise from the owner because the owner recognized that he had no legal recourse against the steward since the steward had acted justly. The steward was prudent because he secured his future. 60
The application to Luke’s readers is fairly clear. The disciple of Jesus finds himself in the midst of an eschatological emergency. Radical times call for radical behavior. Jesus, therefore, narrates the parable of the unjust steward in order to teach his disciples behavior which is consistent with the times: Jesus’ followers are to make prudent use of the mammon of unrighteousness. Eschatological judgment is near, this age and all that is in it is about to fail. Just as the steward found himself with a brief period before his master’s accounting, so does the disciple. 61 The disciple should therefore use his possessions wisely so that they will contribute to his position in the dawning age. The disciple should use his financial resources prudently in the Zwischenzeit “to make friends for himself” who will then welcome him into eternal dwelling places. The priority here seems to be upon fellowship in the new society; a reception in the homes of the inhabitants of the age to come. 62 This prudent use of possessions “making friends for oneself” is almost certainly alms-giving, as the next parable implies. 63
2. The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31)
The background of the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus almost certainly is Isa 58:7 . 64 In this decisive text the prophet accurately describes behavior which is pleasing to God:
Is it not to share your food with the hungry,
And to bring the homeless into your home;
When you see the naked to clothe him;
And not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Poor Lazarus fits this description with perfection, yet Lazarus is completely ignored by the rich man. Moreover, these two men both name Abraham as their father and, therefore, are blood related. This parable graphically paints the perfect picture of social injustice: the situation is a moral outrage and, even worse, a flagrant disregard of the law and the prophets. Thus while the exegete should not deny the role-reversal theme in this parable, Luke is certainly dealing with far more than mere role-reversal; indeed, it is no less than a warning to all of the wealthy concerning the consequences of the selfish and uncompassionate use of their wealth, especially when it is at the expense of the poor. 65
Seccombe has solidified this interpretation of Luke’s parable with a careful analysis of Luke 16:25 (the verse frequently cited for the role-reversal interpretation of the parable): “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.’“ The rich man owned. many τὰ ἀγαθά , material goods. The corresponding Hebrew ( טוֹבוֹת ) and Aramaic ( טיבותיך ) words also carry the idea of good deeds, hence merits and heavenly capital. The rich man exhausted his capital during his lifetime and convened none of it through almsgiving into heavenly treasure, even though he had opportunities daily. Consequently, there was no one to welcome him into eternal habitations. This Lukan parable stands as a clear warning about the neglect of the literal poor. 66 Further evidence that neglect of the poor is the sin being addressed in this parable is found in Luke 16:28–30 . The rich man requests that Abraham send a messenger to warn all of his family members so that they might repent and avert the fate which has befallen him. The transparent implication is that because of his failure to repent the rich man languishes in Hades. 67 Abraham, in reply to the rich man’s request, draws attention to the law and the prophets (perhaps Isa 58:7 ?) which, when they are sincerely obeyed, do not lead to Hades, but lead to repentance, and therefore to eternal life.
3. Summary of Luke 16
Taken together the two parables in chapter sixteen complement one another. The first parable teaches the positive use of the disciple’s substance: the good steward, in light of the fast approaching eschatological age, will exchange his present wealth for the currency that will be used in the new age. This transaction is accomplished via charitable acts. The second parable shows the negative use of wealth: it was used selfishly; it is therefore of no use in the age to come. Thus in both parables the disciples are warned against the love of money. Indeed, between these two parables Jesus personifies mammon and portrays it as a rival god inviting worship. For Jesus wealth is not neutral and the poor are more than just a problem of allocating resources; rather, they stand as a constant challenge to the disciple to serve God or mammon. These options are mutually exclusive. Luke is warning in the clearest of terms
that the kingdom of God may be forever closed to the one who expends wealth self-centeredly and closes his heart to the poor. The true disciple of Jesus will use wealth compassionately and hence adequately prepare for the eschatological kingdom.
III. Luke And Renunciation
A.Renunciation as a Qualification for Discipleship (Luke 14:25–35).
In Luke’s so-called “travel narrative” it would seem that the total renunciation of one’s wealth is a necessary condition of discipleship: “So, therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” ( Luke 14:33 ). Marshall’s interpretation may be best; he notes the use of the present tense for the verb ποτάσσομαι , “give up”, and concludes that this verse probably means “being continually ready” to renounce one’s wealth. 68 In other words, the followers of Jesus must have an attitude of willingness to abandon all of their possessions if the situation should necessitate it. 69
Denney’s suggestion, followed by Leaney and Schneider, viz., that Jesus’ teaching here in Luke 14:25–35 is situation specific, buttresses Marshall’s position. 70 Jesus, cognizant of his imminent crucifixion, has “set his face toward Jerusalem.” Jesus has turned his back on his family, his possessions and even his own life; in short, he knows that he is about to be martyred. Those encountered on his way to the cross, thinking that perhaps the purpose for Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem is to inaugurate the kingdom, and therefore wishing to join the company of Jesus, must be told the ultimate cost of enlisting in his entourage. To be a true disciple of Jesus means to share his destiny which, at this point, means martyrdom (cf. Mark 10:35–45 ). Thus a “saying farewell” to family, possessions, life’s ambitions and even one’s own physical life is what lies ahead for the recruit. One must therefore “count the cost” before enlistment. This situational explanation is supported by the fact that only here and in Luke 9:57–62 , which also occurs in Luke’s central section, are Jesus’ demands put in such extreme terms. 71 Unlike the young ruler, these individuals are not allowed to return, order their households, liquidate their assets, give alms to the poor and then follow Jesus; rather the call is immediate, stressing its crisis proportions.
This teaching would then apply to the reader when faced with a similar exigency, viz., in the time of crisis. In the time of crisis Jesus’ example and teaching here in Luke 14:25–35 then become paradigmatic. In the extreme situation Luke has shown the limits (or lack thereof) of discipleship. The disciple must “say farewell” to his family, friends, possessions and future, and willingly accept the identical destiny his master encountered, viz., martyrdom. If the would-be disciple of Jesus is unable to make this ultimate sacrifice, in imitation of his teacher, then he should not even begin the process because, “No one, who puts his hand to the plow and looking back is worthy of the kingdom of God.” 72 Thus, because Jesus’ command for the disciple to give up all of his possessions occurs in a situation specific context, viz., crisis, it probably is best not to universalize this imperative, but to limit it to the extreme situation. To state it positively, the absolute requirement of Luke 14:33 is an attitude of willingness to abandon all, if called upon to do so.
B. Renunciation as a Practice in the Early Church (Acts 2–5) 73
It has been commonly argued that a Christian love-communism was operative in the early church and that evident in this Christian practice was the renunciation of wealth; thus, Luke is intimating that the teaching of Jesus was being fulfilled in the early church. 74 It has already been demonstrated that Jesus did not teach that a faithful disciple must renounce all of his wealth. Moreover, it seems that the data from Acts hardly fits a levelling of both rich and poor into a single socio-economic stratum.
Rather than a centralized redistribution of goods ensuring that everyone had an equal share or that everyone had only as much as one needed, it seems that the Jerusalem church, sensitized by the Spirit to community needs, initiated a central fund to minister to the needy. That economic equalization was not achieved by a liquidation of all assets and an equal distribution from a common fund is suggested by the following:
1. Barnabas’ example of selling a field is a poor one if others were liquidating all of their assets to live from a common purse.
2. Ananias’ sin was lying, it was not the withholding of part of the land’s price ( Acts 5:3f ). The pericope presupposes the continuation of private property.
3. The mention of Mary’s house and her maidservant Rhoda suggests the continuation of private property and normal societal roles. ( Acts 12:12–13 ).
4. The continued existence of a destitute group, widows, certainly implies that various economic levels continued in the early church.
5. In Acts 4:34–35 Luke seems to describe a central fund from which the destitute were receiving money, not a communal fund from which all drew.
6. While it would be wise not to press this last point, one would expect aorists at 2:45 and 4:34–35 in describing the “holding of all things in common.” Instead imperfects are found, which suggests an ongoing or occasional activity.
With regard to this last point some discussion iswarranted. In Acts 2:44 and 4:32 we find parallel expressions, εχον παντα κοινά , “holding all things in common,” and ν ατοις πάντα κοινά , “all things were common property to them.” Haenchen suggests that the description of the life of this early Christian community in these two passages has been influenced by a proverbial Greek friendship saying: κοιν τ ( των ) φίλων . Haenchen concludes: “In short, Luke is here suggesting that the primitive church ∙.. realized the Greek communal ideal.” 75 That this is the case is confirmed by the following fact: there is no OT or intertestamental background to κοινωνία . Indeed, koinonia plays no part in Paul’s theology, and only once does koinonia find its way into the rest of the New Testament. 76 The apologetic motive for Luke is, therefore, quite possible. Seccombe concludes that Luke “is seeking to commend Christianity … to people for whom κοινωνία was a supreme virtue.” 77 Most significantly, the Greek communal ideal also incorporatecl the goal of σότης , equality. 78 If Luke does have an apologetic motive, then the absence of to6x;Is a veritable terminus technicus, becomes highly conspicuous. Luke certainly would have mentioned this community’s economic equality had it actually existed.
It seems best therefore to conclude that there probably was not a formal economic equalization in the early church, nor would Luke’s readers have understood it as such. Rather, the early church possessed a free spirit of generosity and a detachment towards wealth that allowed any who were pneumatically motivated to part with their possessions and help those in financial need. This spirit of generosity was the essence of the Greek ideal of κοινωνία friendship. As Dupont has pointed out, this reconstruction makes perfect sense out of Acts 4:32 : “No one was saying any of his possessions was his own.” 79 The exact economic structure of the earliest church can not be reconstructed precisely; the least that can be said is that although private ownership probably continued, it was accompanied by a remarkable level of sharing through hospitality, common meals, the sharing of material possessions and especially in the central fund for the needy. Apparently, this central fund was established and financed by those compassionate Christians who went so far as to liquidate capital assets in order to provide for the destitute.
Noteworthy is the fact that Luke emphasizes the charitable spirit and not the poverty itself. Moreover, it is a misnomer to call this community “the church of the poor;” rather, Luke’s purpose is to present a church without poverty. The ideal in the Lukan summaries is not poverty, but the abolition of poverty. Thus Deut 15:4 , “There shall be no poor among you,” was realized in the early church. 80 Furthermore, there was no compulsion or obligation to participate in this program; it was all Spirit motivated. 81 For Luke, the early church was the example par excellence of practicing Jesus’ teaching about not hoarding, relaxing one’s anxiety, and using wealth compassionately, by giving to the destitute. Note, however, that the giving of the early church was never formalized nor was it mandated; rather, almsgiving was always spontaneous, generous and need-oriented. Most significantly, the principles practiced by the early church are principles which are explicated in Luke’s Gospel.
IV. Luke And The Wealthy
A. The Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18:18–34)
A young ruler approached Jesus and asked what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. After a bit of preparatory dialogue to build rapport, Jesus gives this counsel to the young man, “Sell all that you possess, and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” ( 18:22 ). Jesus remarks that this is the “one thing lacking” for this rich young ruler to inherit eternal life. Notice that Jesus’ instructions concern two activities: first, the disposal of the ruler’s wealth; and, second, joining Jesus’ entourage. 82 This rich young man is being challenged to sever the ties with his old community and join a new one; this is the ruler’s invitation to eternal life. The selling-giving-following is probably best seen as a solitary act. 83 Jesus is calling for a decision from this young man to leave one lifestyle and adopt another, to sever the ties to this age centered upon wealth and to enter into the new age centered upon Jesus. This would-be disciple is being offered eternal life, viz., intimate fellowship with Jesus. The command to sell all and give to the poor is subordinate to this personal invitation.
Schnackenburg argues that this command reflects a pre-condition of discipleship that all of Jesus followers had to meet, viz., total renunciation. 84 But Luke reports that while the other disciples only left their businesses, homes and possessions (perhaps to return to them later), this ruler was asked to liquidate all of his assets and disburse them among the poor. Moreover, in earlier cases, e.g. Luke 9:59–62 ; 14:25–35 , Jesus required immediate following; would-be disciples were prohibited from going back and ordering their affairs. Luke has magnified Jesus’ imperative which demands the ruler’s complete divestiture by adding πάντα ( Luke 18:22 ) to Mark’s σα χεις πώλησον ( Mark 10:21 ) and attenuating Mark’s πάντα ( Mark 10:28 ) with τ ίδια ( Luke 18:28 ). Also worthy of note is Peter’s question whether their leaving everything qualified them for a reward. Jesus responds by promising a future reward not for those who have left everything, but for those who have left anything ( 18:29 ).
The above considerations suggest that this young man was a special case and the command to sell all is not a universal pre-condition for discipleship. 85 Rather, Jesus’ command demanding divestiture brought this particular man to the crossroads; eternal life was within his grasp. This rich ruler only lacked one thing: a relationship with God. Jesus was offering precisely this to him, but the cost was too dear. This young man sadly discovered that for him life’s first priority was not eternal life, but this present life. Jesus’ command totally exposed the rich man: he really had not kept all of God’s commandments; he was still covetous! The application of this pericope to Luke’s readers is straightforward: the deeper one’s roots in this age, the harder it is to decide to extricate oneself from it and invest in the new age. The rich become paradigmatic of this dilemma.
B. Zaccheus (Luke 19:1–10)
After the pericope which details the plight of the rich young ruler, and demonstrates the stranglehold of wealth upon the human heart, Luke intentionally includes the pericope of Zaccheus. Even though Jesus had said that it was easier for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, nevertheless wealthy individuals do respond to Jesus’ invitation. Zaccheus is a case in point. Unlike the rich young ruler, Zaccheus responds to Jesus with joyful obedience; in fact, Zaccheus is willing to repay fourfold to any he had deceived. This penalty was imposed only upon robbers; the rabbis only advised double. Furthermore, if the complaint was older than a year simple replacement was deemed sufficient. 86 Zaccheus’ response to Jesus’ call clearly demonstrates that the shackles of unrighteous mammon could be loosed.
The significance of this radical change in the behavior of Zaccheus is transparent. According to Jewish and Roman law restitution was a requirement. Among the Rabbis, restitution was the sign of true repentance. Luke clearly intends to communicate to his readers that Zaccheus had abandoned his old sinful habits, had made restitution and now was prepared to live his life righteously. In other words, Jesus had invited Zaccheus to become a member of the kingdom and Zaccheus was willing to meet the entrance requirement, viz., repentance.
There is yet another point to note; Zaccheus gave half of his possessions to the poor. Though almsgiving was encouraged in Jewish religion, this step was unprecedented. It lacks any parallel in the OT or in Rabbinic literature. In fact, the Rabbis placed a twenty percent limit on the giving from one’s estate or one’s annual income. 87 Thus, as a recipient of salvation, Luke portrays Zaccheus joyously and voluntarily going far beyond the demands of the law. As Pilgrim correctly concludes:
… by underscoring Zaccheus’ act of giving one-half to the poor, Luke forcefully informs his readers that the new way of discipleship goes well beyond what any law can require … it is a total commitment of one’s wealth for the poor and needy. The consequences of such personal sharing in the life of the Christian community are pictured by Luke in the book of Acts. Here, Luke holds up the example of Zaccheus for all his readers to consider. 88
It is important to point out that while the salvation of Zaccheus does radically transform the tax collector’s attitude toward riches, as well as his attitude toward those who are in need, poverty is not idealized nor is Zaccheus called upon totally to renounce his wealth. Zaccheus remained a man of considerable substance.
The Zaccheus pericope could possibly be the most important Lukan passage when considering the just use of possessions. The pericope, standing as it does at the conclusion of the travel narrative, in fact at the end of Jesus’ Judean and Galilean ministry, 89 underscores its significance for Luke’s gospel. The central section of Luke has raised two vital concerns: first, how does one adequately prepare for the fast-approaching eschatological age? (or, in Lukan phraseology, “store up treasure in heaven” and “make friends for oneself by means of the mammon of unrighteousness”); second, can the rich possibly be saved? In other words, “What are the demands of discipleship with respect to wealth?” Luke boldly presents Zaccheus as one who responded to Jesus, “said farewell” to his possessions and squeezed through the eye of the needle. The warning in this pericope is transparent: a positive response to Jesus requires a radical change of attitude and behavior. Zaccheus represents the paradigm par excellence of a rich man who met the costly demands of discipleship and entered the kingdom of God. Karris concludes that the Sitz im Leben behind this passage includes the question of the proper stewardship of wealth. The rich Christians in Luke’s readership are probably struggling with this question and Luke is teaching them that their allegiance to Jesus does not necessitate total renunciation. It does, however, necessitate that they produce a genuine sign that they are not so attached to their possessions that they neglect the poor. 90
C. Summary of Luke and the Wealthy
The rich young ruler and Zaccheus are probably best seen paradigmatically. Though neither of these narratives idealizes poverty or teaches renunciation, each clearly suggests that following Jesus puts one’s wealth at risk. The essence of the teaching of these passages, as Ellis points out, is a radical turning from trusting riches to putting oneself totally at Jesus’ disposal. 91 The rich ruler was rooted too deeply in this age, and therefore could not accept Jesus’ offer of membership in the kingdom; thus, he departed in sorrow. Zaccheus, on the other hand, received the invitation with joy and was motivated to show the fruit of his repentance via restitution and almsgiving. The importance of almsgiving is certainly implied in the imperative to the rich ruler, and the necessity for honesty is reflected by Zaccheus’ restitutory response. Nevertheless, generosity and joy spill out of the passage, as some idealization of these virtues by Luke in these pericopae is likely. Most encouraging for the rich among Luke’s readers is the exchange with Peter; it is clear that Jesus is promising a future regard for anything given up willingly for the sake of Jesus.
In this brief survey of Luke-Acts at least five identifiable values vis-à-vis wealth emerge. First, Jesus viciously attacks greed; he has severe warnings for those who wish to accumulate their riches and thereby “insure” their future. Those who would do so are foolhardy. Jesus’ disciples must not strive to accumulate possessions, but rather be generous almsgivers and so accumulate heavenly treasure. Second, Jesus counsels an attitude of freedom toward riches; a carefree detachment and an absence of anxiety over material possessions should characterize a follower of Jesus. Third, good stewardship means using worldly wealth to insure the future; this calls for almsgiving which is an investment in the age to come. The wealth of this age is failing but it can be exchanged for wealth that will not fail in the eschaton; this is done by giving alms. Fourth, Luke’s portrayal of the early church, as well as Zaccheus, demonstrates the voluntary nature of giving as well as its joyous and generous spontaneity. Finally, Luke-Acts always shows the priority of koinonia in the stewardship of wealth. The motivation behind the sharing of wealth is always love; therefore, Jesus’ disciples are to be an inclusive community which always embraces the outcasts, destitute and disadvantaged. Indeed, the community of faith should exclude no one, as the parable of the banquet clearly demonstrates. Luke’s emphasis is for Jesus’ disciples to live compassionately with an eye to the underclass and be swift to offer help. Not to do so brings judgment upon oneself, as illustrated in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The message of Luke-Acts is certainly applicable to any disciple whether living in the first or the twentieth century.
VI. Toward Applying Luke’s Teaching On Wealth
A. Luke and Our Unjust Social Order
Almost every one in North America has now been made aware of our global situation. Just by being a citizen of the United States the American Christian is one of the wealthiest persons resident on this globe. For sensitive Christians, the vast disparity between the first and third worlds gives rise to an acute sense of anxiety; rich Americans perched atop a world of grinding poverty is a haunting specter. Does Luke speak with any relevance to our present situation? Some would answer in the affirmative and quote this gospel writer as they encourage believers to abandon their wealth, join God on the side of the poor and fight against the rich and their oppressive socio-political structures in an attempt to overturn the present social order. 92 Some would even advocate the violent overthrow of these structures.
As we have seen, this perspective is not that represented in Luke’s writings. In addition to stating that which Luke does teach concerning wealth and poverty, it is probably also worth noting that which he does not, since he is so often misrepresented. The poor qua poor are never singled out as especially qualified because of their poverty to enter the kingdom of God. As we have seen, the term “the poor” is not so much an economic designation (though there were to be sure, those who were economically destitute among “the poor”) as a term derived from Isaiah 56–66 which describes the righteous remnant, the eschatological people of God who were trusting the Torah, not compromising their faith, but expecting God’s eschatological deliverance. Neither does Luke-Acts unilaterally condemn the rich. Though it is very difficult to transfer one’s faith from wealth to Jesus, as the pericope of the rich young ruler illustrates, it does occasionally happen, e.g. Zaccheus. It is a very curious fact that although Luke is often characterized as a social revolutionary who sides with the economically destitute, condemns the rich and advocates the overthrow of the existing socio-economic order, the majority of Luke’s writings do not explicitly deal with the literal poor. 93 Luke spends a far greater amount of time detailing Jesus’ interaction with men of average to quite substantial means — usually without any explicit or implicit criticism. 94
The social milieu forming the backdrop for Jesus’ teaching is very often (to use a term anachronistically) rather “middle class.” 95 Luke-Acts is filled with narratives involving “ordinary” people of average to comfortable means, doing ordinary things like planting and husbanding, conducting business, preparing meals, entertaining friends, travelling, conducting lawsuits and sleeping in their well-stocked households.” 96 Even in the day of judgment believers’ lifestyles are anything but destitute: a homeowner is resting on his roof, another is at work in the field, two are in their bed and two are at the grinding wheel. Even Jesus himself did not come from the proletariat of day-laborers and landless tenants, but from the “middle class” of Galilee, the skilled workers. Unlike his contemporary, John the Baptizer, Jesus was not a rigorous ascetic, he willingly participated in both feasts and festivals, and he showed no reluctance to attend opulent banquets provided by the wealthy and to receive expensive gifts ( Luke 7:36 ; 11:37 ; 14:1 , 12 ; cf. Luke 7:34 ). 97
It is striking that in spite of the widespread injustice in Palestine’s social milieu, Luke’s Jesus does not offer any critique of the system, nor are the rich charged with exploiting the poor or causing human privation. Moreover, poverty is never idealized, nor is total renunciation an absolute qualification for discipleship. Private ownership is assumed throughout and never critiqued. Communalism was neither practiced by, nor was it a prototypical feature of, this early Christian community. In short, apart from the appearance of the eschaton, there is no suggestion of overturning the existing socio-economic order. Luke does not engage in any specifically social polemic, and, as Hengel notes, even in Jesus’ parables, which often depict typical unjust situations, Luke does not use them for the “social protest,” so beloved today, but rather for a positive demonstration of God’s will with respect to the coming kingdom. 98 Thus, Seccombe is correct: “The common picture of Luke and Jesus as champions of the dispossessed ‘proletariat’ is nowhere near the truth.” 99
At the same time it would be a mistake to conclude that Luke has no interest in the literal poor, he certainly does, but the focus of Luke is always on the disciple of Christ and the disciple ’ s response to the economically destitute, not the destitute themselves, or society’s unjust socio-political structures. Over and over again the emphasis of Luke is for Jesus’ disciples to live cornpassionately, with an eye to the poor, being quick to open their hands to help. Not to do so brings judgment, as is illustrated in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The parable of the banquet ( 14:16–24 ) shows that the kingdom invitation excludes no one — not even the outcasts, the underprivileged, the handicapped or the disadvantaged. But any genus of liberation theology which would base its social or political revolution upon Luke’s theology of “the poor” has misunderstood this first century theologian.
B. Luke and Our Wealth
In light of the inequities of the present global economic system, a North American Christian might conclude that if it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, then the only prudent course of action is the renunciation of all of one’s wealth and a total identification with the poor. As shown earlier, Luke does not demand or even encourage the renunciation of wealth. Jesus’ lifestyle was hardly that of a rigorous ascetic. Even Luke 14:33 , if exegeted in its context, only demands an attitude of willingness to renounce one’s wealth, if called upon to do so. The rich young ruler was called upon to do so, but Zaccheus was not. Moreover, the early church, did not idealize poverty or demand economic equality. Besides, as a North American Christian what would it mean to “renounce” our wealth? We would still know how to read, we would still enjoy the best medical care in human history and eat plenty of nutritious food. Even the most committed of those who attempt to live a “simple lifestyle” still live in opulence compared to the rest of the world. After all,what does a stripped down, rusted out automobile really mean in terms of our standard of living, when nine out of ten people in the world today do not even own a car?
Nevertheless, we should not assume that we can ignore our wealthy global status. Rather, we are warned by Luke that greed is a major problem and we must to come to grips with it. Our natural tendency is to attempt to keep all of God’s resources to ourselves. This mistake was the rich farmer’s problem in Luke 12 ; he was hoarding all of his wealth and as a result met with a disastrous result. Hoarding is a problem in North America. A cursory glance into our attics and basements, our bank accounts and our investment portfolios, our closets and our cabinets reveals that North Americans do hoard. North American greed also takes other forms as the disproportionate consumption statistics clearly reveal. In the Third World, the per-person energy consumption, important because it indicates what work gets done other than by hand, is only about one-hundredth of the U.S. average — Ethiopia is one-three hundred and fiftieth! The U.S. consumes thirty-three percent of the non-re-newable energy and mineral resources produced each year. This includes sixty-three percent of the natural gas, thirty-three percent of the petroleum and forty-two percent of the aluminum. Yet the population of the U.S. is only about six percent of the total world population. Moreover, the average American consumes almost ten times that of the average Mexican (Lazarus at our gate?) and more than sixty times that of the average Indian. Over-consumption in rich nations not only is a manifestation of greed, but it also sets up a model of happiness-through-consumption (cf. Luke 12:13–21 , this was the rich fool’s mistake) which other nations seek to imitate. 100 Luke is clear: Greed is sin and, therefore, his writings call North America to repentance.
Luke also anticipates the result of not hoarding: anxiety. If we lack that “nestegg,” then the feelings of insecurity and anxiety begin to arise, and the average North American begins to feel economically overexposed. Niebuhr has noted that this tendency in human nature actually accentuates the insecurity from which humankind seeks to escape:
Greed . .. has become the besetting sin of a bourgeois culture. The culture is constantly tempted to regard physical comfort and security as life’s final good and to hope for its attainment to a degree that is beyond human possibilities. 101
Luke addresses this issue with a straightforward simplicity: if God cares for the lesser parts of his creation, how much more will he care for his children? North Americans need to internalize this simple teaching because the anxiety that we feel over personal economic uncertainty is often acute.
If we can conquer our greed and our anxiety, Luke also gives us some excellent investment advice: give! Luke’s teaching on giving fits the bad news-good news paradigm. The bad news is contained in the parable of the rich farmer ( Luke 12:16–20 ) — this age is ending, eschatological judgment is near and the wealth acquired in this age is failing; indeed, the wealth of this age is non-negotiable legal tender in the dawning Messianic age. The good news, however, is that this age’s currency can be exchanged for currency negotiable in the age to come. This currency exchange is accomplished by giving, especially to the poor ( Luke 12:33 ; 16:1–9 , 19–31 ).
By giving we are able to invest our money in an investment which is totally secure. This investment is not subject to the vicissitudes of the stock market, bankruptcy, inflation, the price of gold, interest rates, computer theft, or even death ( Luke 12:21 , 33). Indeed, the one who gives is investing in the age to come; this is an incredibly secure investment which offers a staggering rate of return! Even more importantly, this kind of investment is pleasing to God. In an age when the stock market can drop almost twenty-five percent in value in a single day, this is, for the wise investor, good news indeed. Moreover, this kind of investment is not only wise, it is also commendable stewardship ( Luke 16:1–9 ).
C. Luke and Our Poor
Though Luke does give good financial counselling and points us to the ultimate investment, viz., almsgiving, Luke would also have us moved by grace and compassion to care for our poor. The rich man sinned grievously by neglecting Lazarus; he had no compassion for the poor and was severely judged for it. Our compassionate giving should be relational and inclusive. Luke emphasizes these qualities in the parable of the banquet and his portrayal of the early church. The early believers practiced a remarkable level of sharing through hospitality, common meals, and the compassionate use of material possessions. Indeed, the early church was motivated by love to care for one another. Their love for one another was so deep that it put their material possessions at risk. In the ethos of the early church koinonia was experienced to such an extent that believers liquidated capital assets in order to meet the needs of the community. In our western milieu this action would be deemed unwise by virtually every investment counselor. Even Christian financial advisors have the tendency to make words like “stewardship” part of the vocabulary of accumulation. Nevertheless, according to Luke, giving is not only making a wise and prudent investment with a high guaranteed rate of return, but it is also a means by which the desired level of koinonia is reached in the community of faith.
A comparison of koinonia in the community of faith in North America with that of the early church is unfavorable. Generally, our churches do not display the compassion for the poor that Luke suggests should be normative, nor do we display the early church’s level of koinonia. The average American Christian seems too this-age-oriented, too tied to investment newsletters, and too schooled in “free market capitalism” to practice the compassion and the koino- n/a encouraged by Luke. As we anticipate the coming Messianic age with its perfect system of social justice, it is our privilege to attempt to approximate that model on both an intra- as well as an inter-church level. This kingdom ideal stands as a grave challenge to almost every North American church.
D. Luke and Our Worship
The Scriptures contain no less than 450 separate passages on wealth. Jesus taught more often on this subject than he did about sexual immobility, family life, violence, or even heaven and hell! Yet money is a topic generally neglected by North American preachers, except perhaps during fund drives when the local church attempts to increase its corporate level of consumption. Luke speaks with particular force to our own situation: wealth is nothing less than a rival god who bids us to worship it ( Luke 16:13 ). Accumulation easily becomes a black hole: the more we get the more we want. John D. Rockefeller, who perhaps accumulated more money than he could ever spend, was once asked how much money was enough; he replied with a perfect definition of greed: “Just a little bit more.” Far too many North American Christians find themselves identifying with Mr. Rockefeller. The poor stand as a constant challenge to the North American Christian: “Whom will you serve, God or mammon?”
Giving, Luke intimates, is the only way to disarm the mammon god; it neutralizes his power. By engaging in carefree giving Jesus’ disciples affirm their trust in God to provide for their needs, and at the same time declare to the mammon god that he has absolutely no power over them. Rather, Jesus’ disciples are able to celebrate life and enjoy their wealth as a blessing from God and spontaneously give it away as needs arise. They are not bound by greed and insecurity to hoard their wealth or invest it in enterprises of this age which offer hope of a visible and immediate return. Instead, they can invest it in the age to come via almsgiving. It is granted that this genus of giving seems irrational, to be poor stewardship, even to lead to financial ruin. Luke, however, presents giving as a wise course of action the disciples of Jesus must take. Indeed, it is a lifestyle which disarms the money god, practices koinonia, secures our future and, above all, is an act of worship which affirms our trust in the living God to provide for his children.
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. (1988;2002). Trinity Journal Volume 9 (Vol. 9, Page 47). Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
1. M. Dibelius, James (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976) 39ff.; N. Geldenhuys, Luke (NIC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950) 216; L. Morris, Luke (TNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974) 126–7; W. Manson, The Gospel of Luke (MNTC; London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1948) 64.
2. S. Agouridès, “La tradition des béatitudes chex Mattbleu et Luc,” Mélanges Bibliques (ed. A. Descamps and A. de Halleux; Gembloux: Dueulot, 1970), 9–27; J. Jeremias, New Testament Theology, I (London: SCM, 1971) 109–13; A. Oppenheimer, The Am Ha-aretz (Leiden: Brill, 1977) 20–1.
3. K. Schubert, “The Sermon on the Mount and the Qumran Texts,” The Scrolls and the New Testament (ed. K. Stendahl; London: S.P.C.K., 1958) 122; H. J. Degehardt, Lukas-Evangelist der Armen (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1965) 50–1.
4. A. Plummer, Luke (ICC; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1905) 179; G. B. Caird, Luke (New York: Seabury, 1968) 102; J. A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke (2 vols.; AnBib; New York: Doubleday, 1981, 1985) 1.532.
5. H. Schtirmann, Das Lukasevangelium (Freiburg: Herder, 1969) 326–8; J. Dupont, Les Béatitudes, III (Paris: Gabolda, 1973) 28; H.-H. Esser, NIDNTT 2:824–5.
6. Soccombe, Possessions and the Poor in Luke-Acts (Linz: SNTU, 1982) 35–43; L. C. Crockett, The Old Testament in the Gospel of Luke, Dissertation, Brown University (Providence, 1966) 99ff.
7. I. H. Marshall, The Gospel of Luke (NIGTC; Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1978) 84; G. Osborne, “Luke: Theologian of Social Concern,” TrinJ 7 (1978) 136; E. E. Ellic, The Gospel of Luke (NCB; London: Oliphants, 1974) 97.
8. Πτωχός also appears in Luke 14:12–24 — the parable of the banquet ( 14:13 , 21). The usage in this passage does not draw upon OT background and is quite straightforward and therefore need not concern us in this paper.
9. A. R. C. Leaney, Luke (London: A & C Black, 1958) 135; Schürmann, Lukasevangeliurn, 326–8.
10. Cf. also 55:6–7 ; 56:1 ; 57:1–10 ; 58:3–7 ; 59:2–15 .
11. G. A. F. Knight, The New Israel, A Commentary on Isaiah 56–66 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985) 51–2. Cf. also R. M. Whybray, Isaiah 40–66 (NCB; London: Olilvhants, 1975) 241; J. D. Watts, Isaiah 34–66 (Waco: Word, 1987) 302.
12. Watts, Isaiah 34–66 , 302; Whybray, Isaiah 40–66 , 241. Cf. Ps 109:16 , 22 ; cf. also Ps 25:16–17 ; 88:15 .
13. Whether this liberation is referring to the emancipation of slaves required by the year of Jubilee or the release of those pious who have been unjustly imprisoned is inconsequential. In either case the persecuted pious minority is in view.
14. Some commentators suggest an emendation for the text to read “an opening of the eyes of the blind” because the verb פָּקֳח is used almost exclusively of opening the eyes. Cf. BDB , 825.
15. J. L. McKenzie, Second Isaiah (Garden City: Doubleday, 1968) 181. Cf. also Whybray, Isaiah 40–66 , 240–2; Watts, Isaiah 34–66 , 302–3.
16. Ps 37:14 ; 40:17 ; 69:28–33 ; 72:2–4 ; Prov 16:19 ; 29:23 ; cf. Zech 11:7–11 ; Pss Sol 10:6.
17. Carson, “Matthew,” The Expositor ’s Bible Commentary (ed. F. E. Gaebelein; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984) 8:131.
18. D. L. Mealand, Poverty and Expectation in the Gospels (London: SPCK, 1980) 102. Cf. Osborne, “Luke: Theologian of Social Concern,” 136–7. The teacher of Righteousness describes himself as “the poor one” and, using categories found in the OT, he describes his experiences of suffering almost certainly originating from persecution (1QH 2:31–37; 3:23–8; 5:11–15:20; 1QpHab). Significantly the whole community suffers with him (1QH 5:21–22; cf. 1QpHab 11:17ff.). For the Rabbis cf. Midrash Psalms 9:12 , “Wherever such phrases as ‘We are brought very low’, ‘the oppressed,’ ‘the impoverished,’ ‘the neediest among men,’ ‘he that is waxen poor,’ ‘the poor of the flock,’ ‘the bruised,’ and ‘the helpless,’ occur in Scripture, they refer to Israel.” Cf. also GenR 71:1 on Gen 29:31 ; MidrPs 60:3; 68:11; NumR 11:1; PesR 36.
19. Marshall, Luke, 177–8. Cf. J. D. G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975) 54. Matthew, Mark and Luke all recount the story of Jesus’ return to Nazareth. Matthew probably is dependent upon Mark and some would argue that Luke is as well [J. Drury, Tradition and Design in Luke ’s Gospel (Atlanta: John Knox, 1976) 66–7, 85–6; R. C. Tannehill, “The Mission of Jesus According to Luke 4:16–30 , ” Jesus in Nazareth (ed. W. Eltester; Berlin: Akadamie, 1972) 52; cf. also Schtirmann, Lukasevangelium, 242]. Schürmann, however, has argued that the material has come from Q [H. Schürmann, “Zur Traditionsgeschichtliche der Nazareth-Perikope Luke 4:16–30 , ” in Mélanges Bibliques, 187–205; for the opposite opinion cf. G. N. Stanton, “On the Christology of Q,” Christ and the Spirit in the New Testament (ed. B. Lindars and S.S. Smalley; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973) 32–3]. In any event, whether the pericope has passed through the conduit of traditional materials, or whether it is a result of the author’s modification, its deliberate prominent position is a certain clue that its content will be carefully crafted to fulfill Luke’s intended purpose.
20. Cf. D. P. Seccombe, “Luke and Isaiah,” NTS 27 (1981) 252–9. Cf. also T. Holtz, Untersuchungen abet die alttestamentlichen Zitate bei Lukas, TU 104 (Berlin: Akadamie, 1968), who argues that Luke has direct access to Isaiah, the Psalms and probably three other minor prophets in an LXX version.
21. Marshall, Luke, 184. Cf. also W. Liefeld, “Luke,” The Expositor ’ s Bible Commentary 8:867; Morris, Luke, 106:
22. A. Trocmé, Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1973) 27ff. argues that Jesus was proclaiming a literal Jubilee. Trocmé is followed by I. H. Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975) 34fl.; A. Strobel, “Die Ausrufung des Yobeljahres in der Nazareth-predigt Jesus: zur apocalyptischen Tradition, Lc 4, 16–30, ” Jesus in Nazareth, 38–50. But cf. R. B. Sloan Jr, The Favorable Year of the Lord: A Study of Jubilary Theology in the Gospel of Luke (Austin: Schola Press, 1977), and J. Elias, The Beginning of Jesus Ministry in the Gospel of Luke (ThD diss: Toronto School of Theology, 1978) who both argue against a literal jubilarian interpretation. Most commentators balk at a literal jubilee because of the chronological difficulties.
23. Cf. J. A. Fitzmyer, Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament (London: G. Chapman, 1971) 249–57.
24. Cf. Deut 28:33 ; Num 16:46 ; 17:11 ; 2 Chron 6:24 .
25. Marshall, Luke, 184. This phrase in Hebrew, however, is a mixed metaphor. The verb פָּקַח , and all of its cognates, is always used of the opening of eyes (excepting Isa 42:20 where ears are “opened”) never gates, doors or prisons. Moreover, פָּקַח always means “one bound” or “prisoner.” Thus the MT mixed its metaphor: either פָּקַח is figurative for being freed from a prison (so BDB) or אֵסוּר is figurative for blind. The LXX (followed by Luke) opted for the latter. In doing so, as France (Jesus and the Old Testament [Grand Rapids: IVP, 1982] 252–3) rightly notes, “the LXX version, used by Luke, conveys at least a part of the sense of the MT.” Seccombe (Possessions, 59–61) also argues with Marshall and France (so also Ellis, Luke, 97) that the phrase is metaphorical by adducing parallels from Qumran e.g. 1QH 5:32–9. Seccombe says that in these texts “we find a natural blending of ideas of darkness and blindness with those of imprisonment and bondage, just as we find in the quotation from Is 61:1 . “The opening of the eyes might indicate… deliverance from anguish.” France (Jesus, 253, footnote 41) also opines that a literal understanding of this phrase would be nonsensical in that no healing of the blind has yet occurred in Jesus’ ministry. Cf. also H.J.B. Combrink, “The Structure and Significance of Luke 4:16–30 ”, Neotestamentica 7 (1973) 31 who argues that based upon their structural parallelism “opening the eyes of the blind” and “release of the captives” are probably synonymous.
26. Ellis, Luke, 97. So also Osborne, “Luke: Theologian of Social Concern,” 136; Marshall, Luke, 84.
27. Dunn, Jesus, 60–1. Cf. H. Windich, “Jesus und der Geist nach synoptischen Überlieferung,” in Studies in Early Christianity (ed. S. J. Case; New York: Century, 1928) 209–36. Cf. also R. Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition (Blackwell: Oxford; 1963) 128.
28. Marshall, Luke, 245. This conclusion applies with even greater force to the beatitudes and woes [cf. W. L. Knox, The Sources of the Synoptic Gospels, II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1957) 12–3]. Because of the similar order of the pericope in Matthew and Luke it has been suggested that both evangelists are using the same written source (cf. Schürmann, Lukasevangelium, 323ff. and Dupont, Béatitudes, 1:343). Moreover, the description of Jesus’ ministry preceding both versions of the Sermon and the healing of the centurion’s servant succeeding both versions argues well for linking these with Q [cf. W. Grundmann, Das Evangelium nach Lukas (Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1961) 139–40; S. Schultz, Q-Die Spruchquelle der Evangelisten (Zurich: Theologischer Verlag, 1972); T. W. Manson, The Sayings of Jesus (London, 1949) 46ff.l. However, these literary theories have been rightfully criticized on the grounds that the differences between Matthew and Luke can not be explained by appealing to a redaction of a common source; rather, the data demands the postulation of independent oral sources [cf. H.-J. Wrege, Die Überlieferungs geschichte der Bergspredigt (Tübingen: Mohr, 1968) and H.W. Bartsch, “Feldrede und Bergpredigt Redaktionsarbeit in Luk 6 , ” TZ 16 (1960) 5–18.]
29. P. S. Minear, “Jesus’ Audiences, according to Luke,” NovT 16 (1974) 104ff. The use of λαός (6:17) strengthens Minear’s suggestion. Cf. Marshall, Luke, 242; G. Lohfink, Die Samralung Israels (SANT 39; München: Kösel, 1975) 35.
30. Manson, Luke, 63; E. Schweizer, The Good News According to Luke (Atlanta: John Knox, 1984) 118; Liefeld, “Luke,” 890; Plummer, Luke, 179–80.
31. So Ellis, Luke, 112–3; Marshall, Luke, 255–6; Minear, “Jesus’ Audiences, 107–8.
32. M. Delonge and A. S. Van der Woude, “11QMelchizedek and the New Testament,” NTS 12 (1965–66) 306; Marshall, Luke, 249; Dunn, Jesus, 55; A. Finkel, The Pharisees and the Teacher of Nazareth (Leiden: Brill, 1964) 155–8; Dupont, Les Béatitudes, 2:92–9; Schürmann, Lukasevangeliurn, 327; Manson, Luke, 64–5.
33. Seccombe, Possessions, 77–81. Cf. Nissen, Poverty and Mission (Leiden: Interuniversitar Instituut voor Missiologie en Oecumenica, 1984) 90. Particularly persuasive is Seccombe’s discussion of Luke 1:52–53 . In this passage rulers and rich, and hungry and poor are linked together in chiastic parallelism. He then adduces many references from late Jewish and Christian literature demonstrating that those politically oppressed are often pictured as hungry, thirsty, and poor: God’s eschatological salvation alleviates these needs.
34. D. Daube, The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism (London: Athlone Press, 1956) 198–9. So also Ellis, Luke, 112–3; Seccombe, Possessions, 90.
35. Dunn, Jesus, 55.
36. The title ὁ ἐρχόμενος is probably a vague Messianic reference. Cf. Hab 2:3 ; Mal 3:1 Dan 7:13 ; cf. also Mark 11:9 and Luke 13:35 with Ps 118:26 . So Marshall, Luke, 290; J. Schneider, TDNT 2 (1964) 670; Ellis, Luke, 120; Manson, Luke, 78; Geldenhuys, Luke, 226. For discussion cf. Stanton, “On the Christology of Q,” 29–32.
37. C.H. Kraeling, John the Baptist (New York: Scribner’s, 1951) 129. Cf. G. Bornkamm, Jesus of Nazareth (London, New York: Harper, 1960) 49; P. Hoffmann, Studien zur Theologie der Logienquelle (Münster: Verlag Aschendorff, 1973), 201; Schweizer, Matthäus, 1:65–6.
38. J. Jeremias, Jesus ’ Promise to the Nations (London: SCM, 1958) 46. The judgment passages are: 35:4, “Behold, your God comes with a vengeance”; 29:20, “The ruthless shall come to nought; 61:2, “the day of vengeance of our God.”
39. Dunn, Jesus, 60. Cf. Carson, “Matthew,” 261–2. The following verse (7:23), “Blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over me,” as Dunn also notes, “matches this precisely: the stumbling block is Jesus’ proclamation of the presence of God’s eschatological grace and the ‘not just yet’ of his final judgment; the ones who might stumble are those who have believed the warnings of the Baptist.”
40. Plummer, Luke, 203. Cf. L.T. Johnson, Sharing Possessions (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981) 14.
41. So Degenhardt, Lukas, 51–3; Schfirmann, Lukasevangelium. 339–41. Cf. also Schweizer, Matthew, 82–3.
42. Cf. H. Schürmann, “Sprachliche Reminiszenzen an abgeänderte oder ausgelassene Bestandteile der Spruchsammlung im Lukas- und Matthäusevangelium,” NTS 6 (1960) 203–4, who argues that Matthew possessed in his Q tradition equivalents of Luke 12:21 and 12:39 . Cf. also Degenhardt, Lukas, 88ff; and Marshall, Luke, 523ff.
43. It has been suggested that all the non-Lukan material formed a proto-Luke, but this theory has not been generally accepted. Of greater probability is an enlarged sayings source which included both Q and L. However, attempts to distinguish Q from L have been less than convincing. This has led Schürmann (“Sprachliche Reminiszenzen,” 193–210) to suggest that the material only in Luke was also in Q, but omitted by Matthew. Also possible is the theory that Luke’s Q material was an expanded version of Matthew’s Q material. In sum, we should be careful not to assume one coherent source (L) from which Luke derived all of his special material.
44. Though it is arguable that some places in Luke’s teaching on wealth show traces of Lukan redaction, those who have carefully analyzed the material suggest that the vocabulary contains too many non-Lukan features and therefore must come from older source material. Cf. Mealand, Poverty, 16–35; Schfirmann, Lukas, passim; and Degenhardt, Lukas, passim.
45. Mealand, Poverty, 35.
46. Seccombe (Possessions, 141) suggests that Jesus’ refusal demonstrates, at least on this occasion, his reluctance to fulfill the role of social reformer.
47. Luke 12:15 . The “fool” is worthy only of judgment because in Jewish usage the concept describes not only one who rejects wise counsel, but also one who is ensnared by evil and is characterized by godlessness, e.g. Nabal ( 1 Sam 25:25ff ). Cf. 2 Sam 13:13 ; Job 5:3–5 ; 30:8 ; Ps 14:1 ; 53:1 ; 74:22 ; Prov 9:13–18 ; 14:16 ; 19:29 ; Isa 32:5–8 ; Jer 17:11 ; 1 Enoch 98:9–10.
48. Luke 12:15 . Following MJ. Lagrange, Évangile selon Saint Luc (Paris: Gabalda, 1948), 358; Schweizer, Luke, 207; Caird, Luke, 163; Marshall, Luke, 522–3; contra K. H. Rengstorf, Das Evangelium nach Lukas (NTD; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck, 1958) 159, and F. Rienecker, Das Evangelium nach Lukas (Wuppertal: R. Brockhaus, 1974) 310, who argue that security derived from possessions is in view (cf. JB). Plummer ( Luke, 323) gives both options.
49. So J. Jeremias, The Parables of lesus (London: Scribner’s, 1963) 165, Seccombe, Possessions, 143; and Nissen, Poverty, 80.
50. Schweizer, Luke, 207.
51. Cf Marshall, Luke, 525ff for a discussion of the rodactional differences; he concludes that the teachings of both accounts are essentially the same.
52. P. S. Minear, Commands of Christ (Nashville: Abingdon, 1972), 132ff. So also Seccombe, Possessions, 150–1; Liefeld, “Luke,” 964.
53. So Seccombe, Possessions, 154; Rienecker, Lukas, 316; Degenhardt, Lukas, 87ff. Cf. also Liefeld, “Luke,” 964.
54. This is confirmed by the absence of πάντα . Cf. Liefeld, “Luke” 964; Plummer, Luke, 329; Morris, Luke, 216. But cf. W.E. Pilgrim, Good News to the Poor (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1981) 94, who argues that πάντα is implied.
55. Seccombe, Possessions, 154. Marshall (Luke, 531–2) suggests that it could also refer to the receptacle, hence, treasury (cf. 6:45; Matt 2:11 ; 13:52 ). In either case the security of one’s possession is that which is in view.
56. ∙Cf. also Luke 16:9 ∙ For comment cf. supra, 19–20∙
57. The literary structure of the parable is extraordinarily complex. We follow the majority of commentators and view 16:10–13 as secondary applications or further developments of its theme. Moreover, it also seems likely that 16:1–9 has come to Luke with verse nine already governing its interpretation because of the unlikelihood of Luke composing a conclusion with such obscurities and barbarisms. So J.D.M. Derrett, Law in the New Testament (London: DLT, 1970) 80; Marshall, Luke, 622; P. Bigo, “La tichesse cornroe intendance, dans l’ Évangile à propos de Luc 16:1–9, ” NRT 87 (1965) 267–71; M.D. Goulder, “Characteristics of the Parables in the Several Gospels,” JTS 19 (1968) 64; M. Kramer, Das Rätsel der Parabel yore ungerechten Verwalter (Zürich: PAS-Verlag, 1972) 132ff. For discussion and bibliography cf. Marshall, Luke, 613ff.
58. So H. Kosmala, Hebräer-Essener-Christen (Leiden: Brill, 1959) 195–200; idem, “The Parable of the Unjust Steward in Light of Qumran,” ASTI 3 (1964) 114–21; Ellis, Luke, 199; Liefeld, “Luke,” 190; Jeremias, Theology, 222 and Marshall, Luke, 621.
59. Following J.M. Derfete, “the Parable of the Unjust Steward,” NTS 7 (1960–1961) 198–219; cf. also idem, “Take Thy Bond… and Write Fifty (Luke xvi.6) The Nature of the Bond,” JTS 23 (1972) 438–40.
60. This interpretation follows Morris, Luke, 248; Manson, Sayings, 292; Fitzmyer, Semitic Background, 166ff; Derrett, “Parable,” 198ff; I.H. Marshall, “Luke XVL8 —Who Commended the Unjust Steward?”, JTS 19 (1968) 617–9, who all understand lc6otos to refer to the servant’s master, not to Jesus.
61. C.H. Dodd, The Parables of Kingdom (London: NISBET, 1941) 30ff; Jeremias, Parables, 45ff and Marshall, Luke, 121, all emphasize the parable when applied to the disciple. Cf. also G. Bornkamm, Jesus of Nazareth, 87–9.
62. Seccombe, Possessions, 168. Cf. also Ellis, Luke, 250, who agrees with the emphasis upon community in the new age, but identifies those who welcome the angels. Ellis’ suggestion is certainly possible. Cf. also Creed, Luke, 205; G. Stählin, TDNT 9 (1974) 164; Marshall, Luke, 622. Cf. F.E. Williams, “Is Almsgiving the Point of the ‘Unjust Steward’?”, JBL 83 (1964) 295–6, who suggests that the friends are personified alms deeds.
63. So Marshall, Luke, 621; Morris, Luke, 249; Derrett, “Parable,” 207–8; Williams, “Almsgiving,” 293–7.
64. K. Bornhäuser, “Zum Verständnis der Geschichte vom reichen Mann und armen Lazarus. Luk. 16:19–31 , ” NKZ 39 (1928) 835–6; Seccombe, Possessions, 176–7. It has been suggested that the Egyptian tale of Khamuas and his son Si-Osiris is the background for this parable [Cf. H. Gressmann, Vom reichen Mann und armen Lazarus (Berlin: Verlag der K6niglich akademie der wissenschaften, in kommission bei G. Reimer, 1918)]. Though there very well may be some literary dependence, there are sufficient differences in the two stories [e.g. the two main characters do not have a personal relationship in this life; the purposes of the stories are different; the conclusions make contrasting points; cf. T. Lorenzen, “A Biblical Meditation on Luke 16:19–31 , ” ExpT 87 (1975–1976) 39–43; leremias, Parables, 186] which, taken together, make it unlikely that this Egyptian tale forms the decisive background for Luke’s parable.
65 65. So inter alia Nissen, Poverty, 79–80; Schweizer, Luke, 262; Plumruer, Luke, 390; I.H. Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971) 142, Manson, Luke, 189–190; Morris, Luke, 252.
66. Seccombe, Possessions, 177. Unfortunately, some have interpreted this parable without proper regard for its relationship to the immediate context (the parable of the unjust steward) or the larger picture in Luke-Acts. Thus Mealand, Poverty, 32: “In fact the (rich) man’s wealth seems to be the main reason for his translation to Hades.” Cf. also Johnson, Sharing Possessions, 15: “Clearly, God loves the poor and hates the rich … Otherwise why punish a man simply because he was rich and reward another simply because he was poor?” Cf. also Pilgrim, Good News, 113–9; L. Schottroff and W. Stegmann, Jesus non Nazareth: Hoffnung der Armen (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1978) 38ff, who commit the same error.
67. So Nissen, Poverty, 79; Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian, 242; Plummer, Luke, 397; Schweizer, Luke, 261; Morris, Luke, 254.
68. Marshall, Luke, 594. Cf. also Schweizer, Luke, 242; Liefeld “Luke,” Plummer, Luke, 366; Geldenhuys, Luke, 399 who also feel the readiness to renounce all is in view. But cf. Degenhardt, Lukas, 2741 who argues that the command is restricted to those who hold special office in the church. Meland, Poverty, 58) and Bornhauser (Der Christ und seine Habe, 42) suggest that only “disposable possessions” are in view. Johnson (Sharing Possessions, 17, 683) argues that this command applies literally today. Schottroff and Stegemann (Jesus, 108–13);. Theissen, (“Wanderradikalis-mus. Literatursoziologische Aspecte der überlieferung von Worten Jesu im Urchristen-tuna,” ZTK 70  245–71) and S. Brown (Apostasy and Perseverance in the Theology of Luke [Rome: Pontifical Bible Institute, 1969] 98–107) restrict this command to Jesus’ ministry and argue that the command is now rescinded.
69. In Lukan parlance it seems that a “disciple” is anyone who responds positively to Jesus’ teaching and considers him their “discipler” (Minear, “Audiences,” 88–9). Luke 6:17 and 19:37 seem to use “disciple” in a wider sense. Often, however, as Marshall (Luke, 242) points out, “disciple” is used for the comparatively small group that accompanied Jesus (cf. Lohfink, Sammlung, 74f who argues for “inner” and “outer” groups of disciples). The twelve receive the designation of “disciple” only because they belong to the general genus. This interpretation best explains why there is no alternative term used for those within or without Jesus’ travelling band and that Luke used “disciple” to designate Christians in Acts without any re-definition of terms. Though some disciples were called to follow Jesus by severing their social, vocational and economic ties with their old community, that call applied only to those individuals in their specific situations. Care must therefore be taken so that “disciple” and “follower” are not seen as equivalent terms [ pace M. Hengel, Nachfolge und Charisma (Berlin: Topelmann, 1968)].
70. J. Denney, “The Word ‘Hate’ in Luke 14 , 26, ” ExpT 21 (1909–1910) 41–2; Leaney, Luke, 214; G. Schneider, Das Evangelium nach Lukas (Gütersloh: Mohn, 1977) 320–1. Cf. also Schmithals, “Lukas-Evangelist der Armen,” ThV 12 (1975) 160–7, who argues that the situation specificity is vis-à-vis a crisis which Luke’s readers were facing, not one facing Jesus’ disciples. For dosely related interpretations, cf. Karris, “Poor and Rich: The Lukan Sitz im Leben,” Perspectives on Luke-Acts (ed. C. H. Talbert; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1978) 120–1 and J. Dupont “Renoncer à tous ses biens (Luc 14:33, ” NRT 93 (1971) 561–82. Some portions of the “travel narrative” have no historic relation to Jesus’ trip (e.g. 10:38–42 ), other portions undoubtedly do (e.g. 13:22–35 ; 18:31–34 ; 19:11–27 ). The occurrence of πορεύομαι and the appearance of the crowds in 14:25 , both characteristics of authentic occurrences on Jesus’ final journey, indicate that by this introduction Luke intends for his readers to conclude that 14:24–35 was an actual occurrence on the way to Judaism.
71. On the central section or so-called “travel narrative,” its historicity and its interpretation, cf. Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian, 149–53; W. C. Robinson, “The Theological Context for Interpreting Luke’s Travel Narrative (9:51ff),” JBL 79 (1960) 20–31; J. H. Davies, “The Purpose of the Central Section in Luke’s Gospel,” TU 87 (1963) 164–9; G. Ogg, “The Central Section of the Gospel according to St. Luke,” NTS 18 (1971–72) 39–53; J. Drury, Tradition, 138–64; K. E. Bailey, Poet and Peasant (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976) 79ff.
72. Luke 9:62 . Perhaps it is significant that every disciple in Jesus’ entourage heading toward Jerusalem failed; only Jesus was able to fulfill the demands of disciple-ship. This may be the reason that that μαθητής is not used by Luke in his Gospel after 22:45 . If so, then Luke is warning his readers that in the time of crisis successful discipleship will be arduous and failure all too easy; but if one follows Jesus’ example, victory is possible. Encouragingly, the exact ones who failed in Luke’s Gospel are victorious in Acts.
73. Considerable ink has been spilled on the question of Luke’s sources in these chapters, especially 2:41–47 ; 4:32–35 ; and 5:12–16 . A consensus is slowly emerging that the apparent repetition and paralleling found in these passages are not due to the influence of different parallel sources, but represent the author’s own editorial work. These passages are said to be a literary device called “the summary” which generalizes and universalizes material received from tradition. Form criticism has also pointed in this direction. For a review of the positions, cf. E. Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971) 193–6; Degenhardt, Lukas, 160–3; H. Zimmermann, Neutestamentliche Methodenlehre (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1968) 243–57. Haenchen (Acts, 195) concludes: “To us the summaries appear to flow entirely from the pen of Luke,” This conclusion seems generally correct; moreover, as Hengel (Property, 31–4) argues, these summaries are essentially historical. Cf. also G. Stählin, Die Apostels-geschichte (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Rupresht, 1912) 80; Longenecker, “Acts,” Expositor ’ s Bible Commentary, 9:288–9; W. Nell, The Acts of the Apostles (NCB; London: Oliphants, 1973) 80; and Marshall, Historian, 288–9; who all argue for the historicity of the summaries.
74. Cf. for example R. Shurden, The Christian Response to Poverty in the New Testament Era (Ph.D. dissertation, Southern Baptist University, 1971) 262. Shurden cites Weiss, Troeltsch and Schnackenburg in support of his statement.
75. Haenchen, Acts, 231–3. Cf. also Nissen, Poverty, 86; Cerfaux, Recueil Lucien Cerfaux (3 vols; Glembloux: Duculot, 1954) 2:152; Plümacher, Lukas als hellenistischer Schriftsteller (SUNT; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck, 1972), 18; Hengel, Property, 8–9, 31; Degenhardt, Lukas, 170–1; Hauck, TDNT 3 (1965) 794, 796; J. Dupont, “La communauté des biens aux premiers jours de l’Église,” Études sur les Actes des Apôtres (Paris: Cerf, 1967) 505ff; D. L. Mealand, “Community of Goods and Utopian Allusions in Acts II-IV,” JTS 28 (1977) 96–9; Seccombe, Possessions, 201–3 who all see the influence of the Greek friendship ideal upon Luke.
76. The word κοινωνία is found only three times in the LXX ( Lev 5:21 ; Wisdom 8:18 ; 3 Mac 4:6 ) and never in the sense found here. The dosest Paul comes to this notion is Gal 2:9 (cf. Phil 1:5 ). Only in 1 John 1:3 , 7 can a similar concept be located. The Qumran community practiced a communal ownership, but that was very different from the practice of the early church as will be argued later. Moreover, Qurnran does not speak at all of κοινωνία .
77. Seecombe, Possessions, 207. Acts 4:32 also contains ψυχὴ another terminus technicus of ideal friendship. The absence of φὶλια is to be explained by the fact that φὶλια became a title in some political contexts (cf. John 19:12 ). Also worthy of note is the fact that φὶλια never occurs in the NT in a positive sense!
78. Stählin , TDNT 3 (1965) 347. C.f. Aristotle, Eth. Nic, 8.10.1159B; 9.8.1168B; Diogenes Laertius 8.10; 8.33; Pol 3.16.1287B; cf. Dio Chysostom 17.9; Ps Sol 17:41 ; Philo Spec. Leg. 1:295; 4:187; Quod Oran. 79, 84.
79. J. Dupont, “La communauté,” 503–19. Cf. also Haenchen, Acts, 231; Longenecker, “Acts,” 311; Pilgrim, Good News, 151.
80. Cf. L. E. Keck, “The Poor Among the Saints in the New Testament,” ZNW 56 (1965) 105; Nissen, Poverty, 87; Hengel, Property, 34; Haenchen, Acts, 233; F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, 1954) 108–9.
81. Contrast this pneumatically inspired sharing with the Qurnran practice which was “compulsory and required total renunciation of possessions” (Marshall, Historian, 207, footnote 2). The dissimilarities (especially this one!) are noted by almost every commentattor. Cf. Degenhardt, Lukas, 188–207; Haenchen, Acts, 234–5; Nissen, Poverty, 86; Mealand, Poverty, 8; Hengel, Property, 32; Keck, “The Poor Among the Saints in the New Testament,” ZNW 57 (1966) 66–7; L. T. Johnson, The Literary Function of Possessions in Luke-Acts (Missoula: Scholars, 1977) 3–4.
82. Δευρο κολούθει is uncommon in the gospels and paralleled only by the call of the twelve ( Mark 1:17 ; Mt. 4:19 ). This imperative is no less than an invitation to take up residence in Jesus’ community and live in the presence of the one who embodies and imparts eternal life.
83. Degenhardt (Lukas, 141–4) argues that the “one thing” this man lacks is Jesus, and selling-giving-following is clearly the way to attain it. Cf. also Seccombe, Possessions, 125; Marshall, Luke, 685–6; Plummer, Luke, 424.
84. R. Schnackenburg, The Moral Teaching of the New Testament (New York: Crossroad, 1975) 48–9. Cf. also Manson, Luke, 206; E. Lohmeyer, Das Evangelium nach Markus (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck, 1953) 212ff; Johnson, Sharing Possessions, 16–7; S. Legasse, L ’ appel du riches (Marc 10:17–31 et parallels) (Paris: Beauchesne, 1966) 97ff; C. Boerma, Rich Man Poor Man and the Bible (London: SCM, 1979) 48; R. Sider, Rich Christians in an Age Hunger (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1978) 96–7. This view demands that “treasures in heaven” be equated with eternal life. If so, then Luke does not use this term consistently.
85. So Marshall, Luke, 683ff; Liefeld, “Luke,” 1004; Schweizer, Luke, 286–7; Plummer, Luke, 423–4; Geldenhuys, Luke, 460–1; Morris, Luke, 268; Nissen, Poverty, 81–3.
86. Str-B 2:249–50. Cf. J. M. Ford, My Enemy is My Guest (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1984) 77; Grundmann, Lukas, 360.
87. Str-B, 4:546ff.
88. Pilgrim, Good News, 133.
89. Marshall, Historian, 116–8.
90. Karris, “The Poor and Rich,” 124. Cf. Seccombe, Possessions, 120–1.
91. Ellis, Luke, 102.
92. Cf. Johnson, Sharing Possessions; Pilgrim, Good News to the Poor; Schottroff and Stegmann, Jesus von Nazareth. Cf. also G. Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1973); J. Miguez, Bonino, Christians and the Marxists: the Mutual Challenge to Revolution (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975); J. Miranda, Marx and the Bible (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1974); H. Camara, The Spiral of Violence (London: Sheed & Ward, 1971).
93. Yes, there is the pericope involving the hopeless widow of Nain who was mourning the death of her sole source of income, as well as the encounter with the blind beggar Bartimaeus, but both stories are carefully balanced by Luke: the widow’s funeral destitution is preceded by the healing of the wealthy centurion’s slave; the pericope of Bartimaeus is anticlimactic when compared to the following story, Zaccheus, which Luke also identifies as one of the Jericho pericopae. This leaves only the traditional story of the widow and her two mites. Perhaps the many sick that Jesus healed could be included but the social status of these individuals is not emphasized by Luke and, with one or two exceptions, there seems to be no de-mancling evidence that they all came from society’s lowest economic strata. It would be fair to suggest that the lepers (and certainly the tomb-dwelling demoniac) that were healed in Luke’s gospel were economically destitute, but this is hardly the reason for their inclusion.
94. Fisherman ( 5:2ff ], a centurion ( 7:2ff ), Jairus ( 8:41ff ), Mary and Martha ( 10:38–42 ), Herod’s steward’s wife ( 8:3 ), Zaccheus ( 18:35ff ) and other tax collectors all receive far more of Jesus’ interest in Luke’s Gospel than the poverty stricken. “Sinners” are singled out, but it is likely that these were hellenized, cultured and cosmopolitan Jews who had ceased to order their lives by the Torah, rather than an economic category (cf. Ford, My Enemy is My Guest, 65ff).
95. This backdrop includes the female homeowner with a ten drachma savings ( 15:8–9 ); the flock owner of one hundred sheep ( 15:30 ), the unrighteous steward who gets the sack ( 16:1 ); the farmer/slave owner plowing or tending sheep ( 17:7 ) and the wealthy landowner ( 18:11ff ).
96. Seccombe, Possessions, 188.
97. Hengel, Property and Riches, 26–7.
98. Ibid., 28.
99. Seccombe, Possessions, 188.
100. L. Wilkinson (ed), Earthkeeping: Christian Stewardship of Natural Resources (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980) 80.
101. Cf. R. Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man: I. Human Nature (New York: Scribner’s, 1941) 303.