Rich Man, Poor Man | Sojourners

Rich Man, Poor Man

"Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me." These words in the 12th chapter of Luke begin one of the most relevant discourses of Jesus for today. (Luke 12:13-34) The complaint came out of the crowd, much of which was poor. It came from a "have-not," from the brother who had come out on the short end of his father's wealth.

Like so many of us, this brother coming to Jesus said, "I need something else to make me what I'm supposed to be; I need something outside myself to make me complete." I identify this have-not brother with black people in our society. We as black people many times haven't been able to distinguish between light joy and real happiness, between the true and the counterfeit. We may even have the Cadillacs and the clothes, having used our resources on ourselves.

Jesus uses the example of the haves to communicate his spiritual message to the have-nots. In responding with the example of the rich man with many barns, Jesus lets us know that many times his message to the poor and the rich is the same. He stands against a whole value system that traps the hearts, minds, and souls of people in all classes.

Jesus uses the have-not brother's own covetousness against him, taking an example of the most positive symbol in this world's value system and showing how even that is bankrupt. He hits the brother where he longs with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength to be. Jesus knew that there was no virtue in being poor. He knew that in many cases the only thing that made the poor different from the rich was that the poor trusted riches they did not possess.

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