Third Sunday of Advent
Luke, in chapter 4, records the story of Jesus’ visit to Nazareth not long after he began his ministry. He was invited to read the day’s scripture, a common practice when visitors of note were in town. After the reading, Jesus said, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. NIV
He read the following from Isaiah:
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me;
He has sent me as a herald of joy to the humble,
To bind up the wounded of heart,
To proclaim release to the captives,
Liberation to the imprisoned;
To proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor. JSB
By the First Century, all synagogues followed a standard daily reading throughout the year. There would have been a reading from the Torah not recorded by Luke. It is also possible that Jesus read more of Isaiah, but the verses above are the important ones for Christians.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me. The me was understood in Jesus’ day to be the Messiah. Therefore, Jesus claimed the title for himself. Notice in the Luke passage that the other people had no problem with, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Only when Jesus pointed out that both Elijah and Elisha performed miracles on non-Hebrews did they get cranky.
The story in Luke is worth keeping in mind as we consider the passage in Isaiah.
The first phrase, The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, or similar expressions is used throughout the Bible to prove that the individuals were chosen by God for specific tasks. People live without the control of the Spirit most of the time, but God will step in when needed. To say it another way, I may choose to do what God wants, but if there is a special challenge that I’m not aware of, God will fill me until I can’t refuse. (Don’t take that too literally. We always have the right to refuse God.)
Jesus had a job, to be a herald of joy to the humble, or the more familiar, to proclaim good news to the poor. NIV We Christians are too eager to talk about the sacrifice Jesus made to save us. We cannot forget that he spent three years delivering the Good News, the Kerygma.
Who are the poor? The hard answer is anyone with less than I have. Easy to see if I’m listed by Forbes, or in the highest tax bracket, but it is also true if my family of four brings in $20,000 per year.
Does that mean that Bill Gates at $89 billion net worth should give $88.9 billion to the poor? No. Nearly all that money is in shares of Microsoft and other companies. The super-rich don’t have vaults filled with cash. That means if Bill wants to buy a couple of Koenigsegg CCXR Trevitas for he and Melinda to drive around Seattle, he might have to sell a few shares to come up with the $9.6 million price tag—not counting tags and taxes.
Bill and Melinda did put $28 billion into their foundation, mostly in shares of stock. Warren Buffet added another $8 billion, and others have joined in. The foundation operates on the money that is paid to the foundation as shareholders. That alone would give them half a billion dollars for 2017 on just the original startup amount.
Are the Gates’ doing enough? I don’t know. What I do know is that I have a responsibility as a follower of Christ to offer as much help as I possibly can. When I say, responsibility, I do not mean that I have no choice; it is not a tax. Jesus did what he could, so should I.
By the way, the tithe is a requirement for all Jewish men to pay every year to the Temple. Since there is no Temple, there is no tithe.
We Christians have latched onto the word and attached the 10% amount to it and pushed the idea of the tithe as an obligation. If a congregation wants to use that idea to support the church, then they should realize that giving to the poor, etc. is extra and totally voluntary, given with a glad heart.
When we look at Jesus as our example to follow, we see him speaking to the poor, offering them comfort, often just looking at them. How often do we walk past the poor and those who are suffering without even looking? While it is not polite to stare at someone in a wheelchair, it is worse to avoid all eye contact. A smile can go a long way.
Read my earlier comments on this theme here.
Be righteous and do good.