For a guy who doesn't have much money, Jesus sure talks a whole lot about it. On second thought, maybe that's why he mentions it so much. So what does Jesus think about income inequality?
Time after time, Jesus comes down pretty firmly on the side of the have-nots. Here are just a few select verses that don't look so highly on the rich:
Those are some pretty firm words. It's clear that Jesus is really suspicious of those who put their effort into making money, rather than serving God. Get your nose out of those checkbooks and into some scripture, guys.
It's not that wealth, in and of itself, is immoral. Take the Parable of the Talents (25:14-30). A master gives his slaves some money (or "talents," in the biblical parlance). The ones who invest and double their money are rewarded, but the ones who fearfully squirrel their money away are thrown into the darkness where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (25:30). Does this mean Jesus wants us to put all our money in the stock market? Just point us toward the right ticker symbol.
Jesus also seems to shrug off the problem of poverty at one point. He tells the disciples, "You always have the poor with you" (26:11). It sounds like, try as we might, there's nothing we can really do about income inequality. Heck, even God is throwing his hands up.
Though Jesus doesn't seem to be saying that money is the root of all evil, he does pretty much agree with another biblical author: "Love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). Jesus wants us to put all our energy toward God, and that can be pretty hard if we're busy counting our piles of cash.
Sure, rich people can be socially and morally responsible. It's just a lot harder for them. And, naturally, everyone thinks they're the generous rich guy. Even Ebenezer Scrooge thought he was nice for giving Bob Cratchit one day a year off with pay.
So, are the wealthy doomed? Are the poor going to inherit the earth? It remains to be seen.
When speaking of the sacred bonds of marriage, Jesus said, "What God has joined together, let no one separate" (19:6). Yeah. Tell that to the 50% divorce rate.
Jesus is pretty clear when it comes to divorce—just don't do it. He acknowledges that Jewish law has permitted a man to divorce his wife in the past, but then says that, from here on out, that's not how we should roll (5:31). He even goes on to say that anyone who divorces his wife and marries someone else is nothing more than a big ol' adulterer (5:32).
Even the disciples are taken aback by this teaching. No divorce? Then, "it is better not to marry," they tell Jesus (19:10). Wow. They really seem kind of commitment-phobic for a group of guys who are prepared to go to their deaths for what they believe in.
But there is some wiggle room with this rule. Jesus says not to divorce your wife, "except on the grounds of unchastity" (5:32, 19:9). So there's a loophole. If you catch your lady cheating, feel free to throw her to the curb. This seems to make sense even in the case of Joseph and Mary. When Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant, he plans to break off their engagement because she's been unfaithful…or so he thinks (1:19).
Does this mean that Jesus would recognize other exceptions to this no divorce rule? What if your spouse is physically abusive? Verbally abusive? An addict? A criminal? Or what if, after lots of trying, you just can't get along anymore? Should Christian couples be released from their marriage bonds if, like adultery, something else crops up that harms the relationship?
Though most Christian denominations frown upon divorce today, many of them also accept the view that sometimes stuff just happens. Catholics, for one, don't allow divorce and regard remarriage after divorce as adultery. But you can also be awarded an annulment which means that, according to Church law, "a marriage was invalid from the beginning." Though this is not considered "divorce" per se, it does show that many denominations are willing to bend the rules past what Jesus said.
This one seems like a no-brainer. How could anyone think slavery is a good idea? It's not something Jesus could have supported, what with his love for the poor and downtrodden, right? Well, let's take a look.
Jesus actually talks quite a bit about slavery in Matthew's Gospel.
Jesus never once takes any opportunity to condemn slavery. Even a little bit. Jesus talks about slaves as if they are a fact of life. People are just owned by other people. No big deal. Nothing to see here. Carry on.
Okay, but there is one verse where Jesus compares himself to a slave. Now we're getting somewhere. He says, "the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve" (20:28). Here Jesus seems to be saying that a life of servitude is laudable and that slaves have a Christ-like quality. Sure, it's not the same thing as abolishing slavery, but it's a start.
Sadly, these verses from Matthew and elsewhere in the Bible have been used to defend slavery in the past. Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America said, "[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God [...] it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation" (source). He's right that slavery was around in biblical times, but you know what? Too bad.
There were also Christians who used the Bible to support abolition efforts (source). Eventually, the majority of Christian churches would come out against slavery as well:
Thought slavery is more or less a thing of the past in developed countries around the world, there are still places where the institution lives on. Even in the United States, human trafficking, a type of slavery, is still a terrible problem. We're guessing Jesus wouldn't have been down with it.