Working class Jesus

Now, I am not religious.  I do not believe in a god at all.  Most people believe in the existence in a supreme being and most of their respective faiths advocate against the accumulation of wealth.  I admit, this may appear to be a lazy post (The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible assisted me greatly in The New Testament quotes), but it took a fair amount of research.

  • Christians seem to have a lot of mention in the New Testament that to be rich and lead an opulent lifestyle while others suffer and struggle does not earn you brownie points in the afterlife

Luke

16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
16:20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
16:21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
16:24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.


Matthew
19:23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
19:24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
19:25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

or (about the same gist)

Mark
10:23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
10:24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.


Luke
6:24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
James
5:1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
5:2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
5:3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
5:4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.

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Islam doesn’t seem to specifically forbid the accumulation of wealth, but uses the language ‘woe unto him that doesn’t pay the zakaah’ (summary).

“And those who hoard up gold and silver (Al‑Kanz: the money, the Zakaah of which has not been paid) and spend them not in the way of Allaah, announce unto them a painful torment”

[al-Tawbah 9:34]

Zakaah is one of those words that would take a 2 page explanation to properly translate (especially since it is one of the 5 pillars of Islam), but I can loosely define it as a combination of a poor tax, voluntary charity, emergency relief, and support for new converts.  This is NOT a literal translation.  Zakaah literally means purity.  It is said that if you have an annual income of $15 or more, that you are obligated to give 2.5% of your income to purify your possessions and purify your heart of greed.  The 2.5% is the bare minimum and can also apply to cattle and land.  It’s a form of insuring the welfare of the poor and to allow the poor to suffer is not acceptable in the Muslim belief.  One more quote:

2:177 It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah.fearing.

-Ch. 2:177

————————————–

Judaism seems to put an emphasis on Charity, but does not seem to give specific punishment for riches.  Then again, I’ve been reading for about an hour and a half at this point and my attention span is waning.

Proverbs 19:17 He that is gracious unto the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and his good deed will He repay unto him.

The Torah mentions using fair business practices.  One could argue that this is intended for fairness in trade only, not in the employment of others.

Leviticus 19:35: Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah[19.7 litres] and an honest hin [3.7 litres].

It is said that love of money brings unhappiness, but having great wealth is inherited from your family.  Poverty is not seen as a virtuous thing in the Jewish faith, but an unnecessary form of suffering to be avoided.  Poverty is seen as a strain on the rest of society and rather than to receive welfare, all should seek to work and earn money. Now, in the Talmud (Sota 14a):

“Ye shall walk after the Lord your God” [Deuteronomy 13.4]. But how can a man walk after God who is a devouring fire? [Deuteronomy 4.24]. It means, walk after His attributes: clothe the naked, visit the sick, comfort the mourner, bury the dead.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11:  7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

The Torah itself seems to give very little info on charity, but the Talmud provides much more information.  The levels of Tzedakah, from least to greatest are as follows:

  1. Giving begrudgingly
  2. Giving less that you should, but giving it cheerfully.
  3. Giving after being asked
  4. Giving before being asked
  5. Giving when you do not know the recipient’s identity, but the recipient knows your identity
  6. Giving when you know the recipient’s identity, but the recipient doesn’t know your identity
  7. Giving when neither party knows the other’s identity
  8. Enabling the recipient to become self-reliant

Bottom line:  Even as someone who does not believe in god, there are wonderful concepts laid out here and I hope that as a society we can continue to strive to help our neighbors and thrive as a people.  We are all human beings and no one should suffer while so many prosper.

P.S. My apologies for only going into Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.  There are also many examples in other religions, but I’ve been working on this project on and off for about 3 and a half hours and I’m exhausted.  If you have anything to add, please feel free to comment.  Thank you!

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About Calling All Comrades

I'm from Portland Oregon, I'm raising my 4 year old daughter, and I clean an Elementary School for a living. I'm pretty sick of "conventional" politics and am basically using this as a medium for my rants and random thoughts.
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One Response to Working class Jesus

  1. Brian Thomas says:

    Well written. I am an a skeptical atheist that shares your thoughts on organized religion.
    You can show them their hypocrisy. but they will never see it.

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