Radvent Day 10, Evening – Good News to the Poor

A certain ruler asked Jesus a question.“Good teacher,” he said, “what must I do to receive eternal life? “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good except God. You know what the commandments say … “I have obeyed all those commandments since I was a boy,” the ruler said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You are still missing one thing. Sell everything you have. Give the money to those who are poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.” When the ruler heard this, he became very sad. He was very rich.
Luke 18:18-24, NIRV“

Jubilee was good news for the poor. Sabbath, and especially Jubilee, was the awaited opportunity for new starts among marginalized people. The Acceptable Year of the Lord was the chance the oppressed needed in order to find new hope. Paradoxically, while the Year of the Jubilee was good news to the poor, it might have felt like bad news to the rich and prosperous. Jubilee was good news to the oppressed but bad news to the oppressor.” 

Randy S.  Woodley, Shalom and the Community of Creation


It’s a, a new wave, it’s a, a new day
Rise up to the light, the sound is so pure
It’s a, a new wave, it’s a, a new day
In these trying times, what you fighting for?
It’s a, a new wave, it’s a, a new day
Keep your head up high ’til we end this war

A New Day,  GRiZ (ft. Matisyahu)

***


Poverty is not merely defined by levels of wealth. The holistic human being is never fully made up of what is in his or her pockets. Social poverty can be seen in one’s hyper individualism; spiritual poverty can be seen in one’s hierarchy of theologies. One can be uber wealthy and uber poor at the same time. Good news to the poor is always, unequivocally, very good news. But when those of us who are privileged in society, by race, gender, religion, and a slew of other identities, approach the good news of Christ, the good news of Jubilee, and the good news of Sabbath with our identities masking our humanity—that is we approach the Good News with our whiteness, our genderness, our educatedness, our Christianness first—those identities become walls that block us from seeing actual goodness. Ironically, it is our impoverished way of understanding humanity and divinity which tells us that Good News to the poor is bad news to the privileged.

In these trying times, what are we fighting for? Are we fighting to keep the Good News of Jubilee bad news to us, the privileged? Are we fighting to hoard our manna that we know will reap maggots but somehow it makes us feel protected and safe? Are we fighting to never have to give up the straps we say we’ve pulled ourselves up by? Are we fighting to protect our oversized homes and 401Ks in such a way because we are fearful of the Good News of Jubilee, of Sabbath, of Christ himself? Are we fighting in a way that points others to see what is actually good is perceived badness so that we have more people fighting on our side?

The Good News of Christ requires us not to see past our identities, but to see through them. Beyond my whiteness, my femaleness, my Christianness, is my humanity. I am not human despite these identities; my humanity is distinguished because of them. But all too often, I distinguish humanity through them rather than through the Imago Dei innate in every human being. Rather than asking, “What is good about the Good News to me, the privileged?” I should be asking, “What does it mean to be privileged in light of the Good News of Christ?” I think it first means we need to see ourselves differently. Until we see our privileged selves as poor in certain areas, the Good News of communal shalom will only ever be felt as bad news. When a ladder is our visual for Good News, goodness is defined always and only by upward movement. 

The Good News for the rich, young ruler was felt as downward movement, and for him (as is the case for so many of us) down equates to bad. I think Jesus knew exactly how this man defined “good,” and Jesus challenged that definition. Essentially, he was saying, “Do not call Me good and then not live by that same standard of goodness.” What does good mean to me? To you? Jesus’ life challenged—and continues to challenge—what good means to the privileged and how dominant societal groups allow good to be defined.

Gena Ruocco Thomas lives with her husband, Andrew, and two kids in Tennessee. She’s an author and a faith wrestler who works for a nonprofit equipping churches in holistic economic development. You’ll find her most active on Twitter.

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