There is no way to read scripture and come to the conclusion that you can own any substantial amount of property and be a follower of Christ’s. It’s the big lie of our era. Over the past two thousand years the church in the West has increasingly married itself to prosperity. In doing so it has adopted a tremendous strategy to secure its financial stability and lucrativeness. It’s just that simple. This approach allows its members to acquire whatever they want for their own ends. It has dismissed Jesus’ teaching out of hand: sell everything you own, take nothing with you, give away your second coat, it is impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, no one can serve two masters, am I my brother’s keeper? The references that call Christ’s disciples to poverty are virtually endless.
For twenty eight years I preached those things simply, directly, and pointedly. And I had plenty of people argue with me about this over that time. But I kept on anyway. We served small churches intentionally in order to not neglect this foundation. For three-quarters of my more-than full-time employment by the church we lived under the poverty line (sixty hours a week of work was typical, eighty was not uncommon, and there were even a few one hundred hour weeks). These churches all grew. People liked what they heard. They just never did it. See, although we qualified for food stamps the discrepancy never seemed to impress itself on the white middle class people who employed me…people who drove multiple new cars, and lived in nice homes, and who went on several vacations a year, and who could go out to restaurants to eat, and who could buy pretty much whatever they set their sights on. But we could do none of that. And the point of my writing this is not that I was somehow shortchanged or taken advantage of. No no. The point of my writing is that they missed the essential message of the call of God to die to themselves, which means to divest themselves of everything, and to enter freely into the vagabond life of compassionately caring for others which forms the proof of whether they are followers of Christ’s or not.
In my entire twenty eight years in ordained ministry I only once had someone come to me and tell me that they had ‘gotten’ this. But even he did not do anything about it.
How is it that people can listen and listen and not hear, let alone to not follow it up with obedience? It’s no wonder that the church has made itself irrelevant and become a laughing stock in the West today…
And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. – Mark 7:9
The Catholic Worker Movement has not forgotten the call to serve others from a standpoint of poverty.