A Raw Deal?
3. The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked.
4. He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.
22. The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.
23. In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.
24. The crown of the wise is their riches: but the foolishness of fools is folly.
3. Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:
4. And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
There is a theonomical problem with assuming that God condemns all riches. The Bible lists quite a few righteous men who were rich! Further, Their riches were because of their faith and righteousness.
Abraham and Jacob were rich. Their animals were healthy and multiplied quickly. Joseph was governor of Egypt. Daniel was one of the most powerful men in Babylon. Job was rich at first, and then had his riches restored after he was tested.
David was rich when he died [1 Chronicles 29:28]. Solomon was blessed with riches because he asked for wisdom to judge his people well [2 Chronicles 1:12]. He was the richest king on earth! [2 Chronicles 9:22] The other two kings of Judah who were described as rich were Jehoshaphat [2 Chronicles 17:5] and Hezekiah [2 Chronicles 32:27]. These were the righteous kings, the ones who were the most faithful. (Actually, Solomon slacked off over time, and his heir paid the price.)
Given these examples, I find it hard to see why the Pharisees should be cursed for being rich, per se. The old teachings indicated that it was possible to be righteous and rich. Indeed, they often imply that riches are a consequence of righteousness!
This is especially true when it comes to the wealth of a nation as a whole. In Deuteronomy 28, Moses lists a great many blessings that were to be bestowed upon Israel if they adhered to the Law, and curses to be experienced if they did not. So, should a nation feel guilty if it is blessed? Are the anti-globalization activists and eco-puritans right when they curse the U.S. for its immense wealth? (Conversely, are our wealth and freedom due to the piety of the Puritans? Are we doomed to suffer the fate of later Israel because our loss of piety?)
Perhaps there has been a change in the rules because of the New Covenant. Ancient Israel was blessed with wealth and power in the current life for obeying the Commandments; Christians are to be blessed in the next life for being righteous and putting up with injustice from the unrighteous. I think there is some truth to this, but it still doesn’t explain why the Pharisees were described as evil vipers, and why followers of Jesus have to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees in order to get into the Kingdom. It is hardly just to condemn someone for failing to meet new rules before they have been given.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ time must have doing something wrong according to the standards explained by Moses. What were the sins of the Pharisees?
28. He that trusteth in his riches shall fall; but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.
7. There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.
31. He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.
16. He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.
Copyright© 2007, Carl S. Milsted, Jr. All rights reserved.
Quotations from the NET Bible®, copyright© 1996-2006 Biblical Studies Press L.L.C. All rights reserved. Used by permission from http://bible.org. (The NET Bible is available in its entirety as a free download or online use at http://netbible.org)