[ the actual title of this page:]
http://LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/GospelPassages.html

Gospel Passages While the prophets of the "Religious Right"
extoll the virtues of the rich, and
sing the praises of  "the Profit Motive",

Jesus had very different ideas about
what it takes to be    ;

{ Matthew 5: 2–12}

"When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and his disciples came to him.  Then he began to speak, and he taught them, saying:

xinvite.gif "Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger
and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for
they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are
persecuted for righteousness' sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.< P class="Jesus">Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
       Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven,  for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who went before you."

 

How can anyone claim to believe in Jesus, and not get the point of this and similar sermons as to how dangerous it is to accumulate this world's possessions for oneself and/or one's family, instead of sharing them with those most in need of them ?

{Matthew 25:31-46 }  


"When I, the Messiah, shall come in glory, and all the angels with me, then I shall sit upon my throne of glory.  And all the nations shall be gathered before me.  And I will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and place the sheep at my right hand, and the goats at my left.

Last Judgment

Then I, the King, shall say to those at my right, "Come, blessed of my Father, into the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.   For I was hungry and you fed me;  I was thirsty and you gave me water;   I was a stranger and you invited me into your homes;   naked and you clothed me;   sick and in prison, and you visited me."
      Then these righteous ones will reply,  "Sir, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?  Or thirsty and give you anything to drink?  Or a stranger, and help you?  Or naked, and clothe you?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?"  And I, the King, will tell them,  "When you did it to these my brothers you were doing it to me!"
      Then I will turn to those on my left and say,   "Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.   For I was hungry and you wouldn't feed me;   thirsty, and you wouldn't give me anything to drink;   a stranger, and you refused me hospitality;   naked, and you wouldn't clothe me;   sick, and in prison,  and you didn't visit me."
      Then they will reply,  "Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison,  and not help you?"
      And I will answer,  "When you refused to help the least of these my brothers, you were refusing help to me."  And they shall go away into eternal punishment;   but the righteous into everlasting life."

[ For those tempted to make an issue of  "right" vs, "left", keep in mind that it is the left side of a courtroom who are at the judge's "right hand".]

 The wealthy support Christian Conservatives precisely because the DON'T promote WHAT JESUS PREACHED !

{ Matthew 19:16, 21 – 26 }

Someone came to Jesus with this question: "Good Master, what must I do to have eternal life?  Jesus[ Jesus told him that he must begin by obeying the ten commandments. But, then...]

"If you want to be perfect, go and sell everything you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."  But when the young man heard this, he went away sadly, for he was very rich.

Without walking away, most "Christians" just tune out this teaching of Jesus these days, and pretend to follow Christ without really doing so.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "It is almost impossible for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven.   I say it again – it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God!  When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, "Then who can be saved?"   And Jesus replied, "For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible."

{ Luke 16:13 – 15}  

" No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth." The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him.  So he said to them,  "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God."

For Jesus, as for many other great prophets of the Bible, the pursuit of riches and the pursuit of salvation are so incompatible  that one cannot choose ONE without turning away from the OTHER.  And the more riches one possesses the harder it is to choose salvation, because it requires the repudiation of those riches.   Any true follower of Christ who sees today's "Religious Right" inviting the wealthy to come into their churches, to bring all their money in with them, to share it generously – not with the poor, but – with the churches and their clergy, knows that there is something very wrong with this picture.   When they see people claiming to be "men of God" sharing the hopes and dreams of the Republican Party of reducing or eliminating services for the poor, so as to lower taxes on the well-to-do,   true Christians (and Jews) recognize that this so-called "Christian Coalition" is no marriage made in heaven, but an unholy alliance, designed to advance not GOD's cause but the G.O.P.'s.
      The multi-millionaire founder and president of the "Christian Coalition" Pat Robertson, who also owns the 700 Club and the "Christian Broadcasting Network", wasn't a particularly religious Baptist until he met a Dutch "mystic" named Cornelius Vanderbreggen, who taught him that a man of God can be rich. "God is generous, not stingy," Vangerbreggan told Robertson, as they dined at an elegant hotel. "He wants you to have the best."
      Given the choice between the Gospel according to Jesus and the Gospel according to Robertson and Vanderbreggan, Conservatives don't hesitate to embrace the one that tells them they are saved just the way they are, no matter how wealthy they are, or how much misery they are able to ignore in the world around them.
        That certainly wasn't the way those closest to Jesus understood his teaching.  (according to the Acts of the Apostles, Ch.2 , 44 :)  " All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need."

{ Luke 14:33 – 35}  

So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.  Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away.  Let anyone with ears to hear listen!

{Luke 12:15 – 21}

And he said to them,   "Take care!   Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions."   Then he told them a parable:   "The land of a rich man produced abundantly.  And he thought to himself,  'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?'   Then he said, 'I will do this:  I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.   And I will say to my soul,  'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'  
      But God said to him, 'You fool!  This very night your life is being demanded of you.   And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'   So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."  "Yes, every man is a fool who gets rich on earth but not in heaven.  Sell what you have and give to those in need.  This will fatten your purses in heaven!   And the purses of heaven have no rips or holes in them.  Your treasures there will never disappear; no thief can steal them; no moth can destroy them.  Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be."

Jesus explains God's preference for "tax collectors", ( the lowest of the low, in those days, because they did the dirty work for the Roman occupation government ) over the self-righteous religious authorities of his day.

{ Luke 18: 9-14 } 

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were were righteous and regarded others with contempt:
      "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.'
      But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'
      I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."

How similar to the Pharisees are all these "Religious Right" types who think they are God's gift to mankind and imagine they know what is wrong with everyone but themselves!  And how similar to the lowly "tax collector" are to the "Liberals",   who may not be saints, but don't claim to be either.
      How refreshing it will be if,  on the day when God makes his preferences known, he chooses those on the left to be with him in paradise,  instead of those on the right!

{ Luke 16:20 – 31: } 

Still another powerful illustration Jesus used to teach that God's plan calls for this world's wealth to be redistributed by the "haves" to the "have nots", not hoarded into huge piles by clever individuals.

[ The Scriptures are set apart by the color maroon and indentation.]

"One day Lazarus, a diseased beggar, was laid at the door of a rich man's house.   As he lay there longing for scraps from the rich man's table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.   Finally the beggar died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham in the place of the righteous dead.
        The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went into hell.   There, in torment, he saw Lazarus in the far distance with Abraham.   'Father Abraham,' he shouted, 'have some pity! Send Lazarus over here if only to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in these flames.'  But Abraham said to him, 'Son, remember that during your life-time you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing.  So now he is here being comforted and you are in anguish."

What if God cares enough about the whole world to hold us "Christians"starvation figures in America with infinitely more wealthy than the rest of world RESPONSIBLE for doing our best to ignore those unlucky enough to have been born on the "other side of the tracks", in the many desperately poor of the world ?  Is this parable relevant only to rich vs. poor INDIVIDUALS?   Or does it relate to rich Christian NATIONS vs. the many extremely poor nations of this world?

"And besides, there is a great chasm separating us, and anyone wanting to come to you from here is stopped at its edge; and no one over there can cross to us.'
        Then the rich man said,  'O Father Abraham, then please send him to my father's home – for I have five brothers – to warn them about this place of torment lest they come here when they die.'   But Abraham said, 'The Scriptures have warned them again and again.  Your brothers can read them any time they want to.' The rich man replied, 'No, Father Abraham, they won't bother to read them.  But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will turn from their sins.'  But Abraham said, 'If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, they won't listen even though someone rises from the dead.'

Note that despite the remarkable similarity between Jesus' parable about the rich man and Charles Dickens' parable about Scrooge, Dickens is far more optimistic about the prospects for the repentance and salvation of the rich than is Jesus.  In contrast to Scrooge, whom Dickens portrays as being moved by the  ghostly apparitions to repentance and redemption, the Gospel holds out no such hope for its wealthy villains.   On the contrary, the Gospel insists :
        "If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, they won't listen even though someone rises from the dead."

 

Can you imagine "Religious Right" types
treating "Prodigal Son" types the way
the father did in Jesus' Parable?


{ Luke 15:11-32 :}  

"A man had two sons. When the younger told his father, 'I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die!' his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.  "A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there wasted all his money on parties and prostitutes.  About the time his money was gone a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.  He persuaded a local farmer to hire him to feed his pigs.  The boy became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the swine looked good to him.   And no one gave him anything.
          "When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, 'At home even the hired men have food enough and to spare, and here I am, dying of hunger!  I will go home to my father and say, "Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and am no longer worthy of being called your son.  Please take me on as a hired man.'  So he returned home to his father. 
       And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming, and was filled with loving pity and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  "His son said to him,  'Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, and am not worthy of being called your son.   "But his father said to the slaves, 'Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him, and a jeweled ring for his finger; and shoes!  And kill the calf we have in the fattening pen.  We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has returned to life.  He was lost and is found.'  So the party began.
          "Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working; when he returned home, he heard dance music coming from the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on.  "'Your brother is back,' he was told, 'and your father has killed the calf we were fattening and has prepared a great feast to celebrate his coming home again unharmed.'  "The older brother was angry and wouldn't go in.  His father came out and begged him, but he replied,  'All these years I've worked hard for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to; and in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.   Yet when this son of yours comes back after spending your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the finest calf we have on the place.'
          "'Look, dear son,' his father said to him, 'you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours.  But it is right to celebrate.   For he is your brother; and he was dead and has come back to life!  He was lost and is found!'"

 

{ Luke 10:25 – 37 }

Whoever called this the parable of "the Good Samaritan", may have missed the point, because Jesus didn't just highlight the genuineness of the non-believer.   He contrasted it to the phoniness of the two religious leaders. This might just as well be called "the parable of Phoney Men of God"?

One day an expert on Moses' laws came to test Jesus' orthodoxy by asking him this question: "Teacher, what does a man need to do to live forever in heaven?"  Jesus replied, "What does Moses' law say about it?"  "It says," he replied, "that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.   And you must love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself."  "Right!" Jesus told him.  "Do this and you shall live!"
      But, wanting to justify himself, the man asked, "Which neighbors must I love?"   And Jesus replied with an illustration:
        "A Jew going on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by bandits.   They stripped him of his clothes and money, and beat him up and left him lying half dead beside the road.   By chance a priest came along; and when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.  A temple – assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but then went on.
        But a despised Samaritan* (a heretic) came along, and when he saw him, he felt deep pity.   Kneeling beside him the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them.  Then he put the man on his donkey and walked along beside him till they came to an inn, where he nursed him through the night.  The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins and told him to take care of the man.   "If his bill runs higher than that,"  he said,  " I'll pay the difference the next time I am here."
        "Now which of these three," Jesus asked, "would you say was a neighbor to the bandit's victim?"   The man replied, "The one who showed him some pity."   Then Jesus said, "Yes, now go and do the same."

  *The Jewish leaders showed just how much they despised Samaritans when they called Jesus one in { John 8:48 } :The Jews answered him, "Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?"
        Parochial-minded "Conservative Christians" talk about being "born again" or "baptized" as a way of being initiated into a select club of the saved.  But that's not the way the Scriptures see things.  In the passage below what Paul says about being Jewish and about circumcision clearly applies just as well to being "Christian" and being "baptized".   It is not labels and rituals that matter to God.  The labels that are pasted on the outside of containers are supposed to represent what is inside those containers, but are not guaranteed to do so.  Although we human beings are easily fooled by people mis-labelled "believers" and/or "men of God", such labels don't fool God !

  { Romans 2: 25 – 29 }  

"Being a Jew is worth something if you obey God's laws; but if you don't, then you are no better off than the heathen.  And if the heathen obey God's laws, won't God give them all the rights and honors he planned to give the Jews?  In fact, those heathen will be much better off than you Jews who know so much about God and have his promises but don't obey his laws.  For you are not real Jews just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the Jewish initiation ceremony of circumcision.  No, a real Jew is anyone whose heart is right with God.   For God is not looking for those who cut their bodies in actual body circumcision, but he is looking for those with changed hearts and minds.  Whoever has that kind of change in his life will get his praise from God, even if not from you."

You or I can call ourselves "Christians" all we want.   But, when Jesus puts us all to the test which He has told us that He will use,  the labels that we have worn in this life are not going to matter one bit.  Many of the "Religious Leaders" of our day may well be told what their predecessors were told in { Matt. 21:31 }:  "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you."

 

Jesus and his religious rivals couldn't have been more different!

{ John 8: 2 – 11 }  

Early in the morning he came again to the temple.  All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  Now what do you say?"  They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.

What an amazing chapter this is.  It's packed full of worthwhile lessons:
          First, if there's one behavior that Jesus couldn't abide, it was sinners playing down their own sins while playing up someone else's.  In this instance, the sin of one party (the adulteress)  was being used by a second party (the even more sinful religious right hypocrites),  to bring harm on a guilt-free third party (Jesus himself). 
          Then, there's a point so obvious that Jesus may not have felt it even necessary to emphasize. But, as the father of seven daughters, I wish Jesus had asked these sanctimonious male accusers explicitly, "Was this woman ALONE at the time of this adultery?"
          And finally, there's the magnificent way in which Jesus turns the table on the hypocrites doing the accusing, and puts the judges themselves on trial :

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."   And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.   When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?"  She said, "No one, sir."   And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you.  Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."

Some people found fault with Larry Flynt's recent effort to expose the Republican party leadership for its astounding hypocrisy.   Rather than condemn their own friends, whose closets are bulging with a whole brothel full of worse adulterers than Democratic President Clinton ever dreamed of being, they insist on condemning the messenger.   How interesting that the mainstream media, after racing to publish everything salacious about the Democratic president that they could lay their hands on, including the whole of Kenneth Starr's pornographic report, has made no effort to expose Republican immorality and hypocrisy!   Could it be that, just as Jesus published the sins of the hypocrites of his day by writing them in the dirt at his feet, God has had a hand in publicizing the sins of today's hypocrites in a "dirty magazine"?  (Actually, this report was not nearly as pornographic as many of the women's magazines in our supermarkets.)

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Ray@LiberalsLikeChrist.Org
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