Power, Wealth, and Equality
June 27, 2021*
By Pastor John Partridge
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27 Mark 5:21-43 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
I have two words for us to consider today.
Wealth… and Power.
Those two words bring with them a whole host of emotions, ideas, thoughts, and baggage of all sorts. There are elements of our culture and our politics that divisively try to convince us that we should hate people who are rich, which others try to convince us to hate the poor. We are told that the problems of the poor are caused because the poor are lazy. But any of us who know poor people, or who have been poor people, certainly know different. Most poor people work hard.
We are told that the rich are lazy and make all their money on the backs of the poor. But the truth is quite different. Only 21 percent of millionaires received an inheritance of any kind, only 3 percent of millionaires inherited a million dollars, and 84 percent of millionaires inherited less than $100,000. Some time ago, I heard that the number one vehicle driven by millionaires wasn’t some fancy sports car but was instead the Ford F-150 pickup truck. What does that mean? It means that almost every millionaire that you might ever meet, worked for a living, made their money for themselves, and probably still works, and sweats, for a living.
But that really isn’t my point. My point is that hating the poor, or envying the rich, isn’t what Jesus has called us to do. Wealth isn’t a sin, and poverty isn’t a curse. Likewise, political power, or the lack of it, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The part where we get in trouble, is when we begin to use our wealth and power in the wrong ways. Scripture is filled with stories about money and power, and this morning we’re going to read two or three examples and look at some of God’s instruction on how we are supposed to use what we have for the good of everyone, and for the good of God’s kingdom.
We begin this morning in 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27, where we hear of the end of King Saul’s life, David’s grief, and learn a thing or two about integrity, honor, and being a godly example.
1:1 After the death of Saul, David returned from striking down the Amalekites and stayed in Ziklag two days.
17 David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, 18 and he ordered that the people of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):
19 “A gazelle[an ancient symbol for a dignitary or important person] lies slain on your heights, Israel.
How the mighty have fallen!
20 “Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.
21 “Mountains of Gilboa, may you have neither dew nor rain, may no showers fall on your terraced fields. For there, the shield of the mighty was despised, the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.
22 “From the blood of the slain, from the flesh of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.
23 Saul and Jonathan— in life they were loved and admired, and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.
24 “Daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and finery,
who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.
25 “How the mighty have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.
27 “How the mighty have fallen! The weapons of war have perished!”
David grieves for the loss of Saul and his son Jonathan and not just because Jonathan was David’s best friend. David writes a song, or story of lament and ordered that it be taught to the entire nation. David declares Saul and Jonathan to the national heroes and pours out honor on their memories, despite the years that Saul had pursued and hunted David. Saul had often sent the entire army out into the wilderness so that he could find David and kill him.
But even when David was alone in a dark cave with Saul and had the opportunity to kill him, David refused and gave Saul honor instead. Even though David had already been anointed as king by God’s prophet, David refused to bring dishonor upon himself, or upon Saul and his family, by taking God’s judgement into his own hands. And in this story, we see that even though Saul was dead, and even though David would soon be given Saul’s throne and become the king of Judah and a united nation of Israel, David still chooses the path of honor, integrity, and godliness.
And today’s passage in Mark 5:21-43 gives us several more examples in the actions of Jesus and the people in search of miracles.
21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came, and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”
36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother, and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this and told them to give her something to eat.
There are several people here that are worth mentioning. The first that we encounter is the woman who suffered from a bleeding disorder. Whatever it was had caused her great suffering for more than a decade. She had gone from one doctor to another, one witch doctor to another, each one tried their own medical experiment, and each one was happy to take more of her money, until she was poor but still suffering. In desperation, she sets out to find Jesus, thinking perhaps that Jesus was such a great healer, such a great man of God, that if she could just touch him, she would be healed. And that is exactly what happened. She reaches through the crush of the crowd to touch Jesus’ shirt. Some translations say it was only the “hem” of his garment and some have said that the Greek word that is used here is more accurately translated into English not as “hem” but as “fringe,” the dangly threads that would hand from a Jewish man’s clothing. And she is healed.
The woman touches the barest edge of Jesus’ clothing… and is healed.
But Jesus feels it. Jesus feels the power of God flow through him and into… somebody. And once Jesus meets the woman, he declares that it was her great faith that has healed her, and he releases her to go in peace and freedom from her suffering.
But while Jesus was stopped, the child he had been asked to heal had died. But when Jesus is told that she is dead, he goes there anyway. But it is important to consider the girl’s father. We are told that he was a synagogue leader. From our reading, we know that the synagogue leaders were typically skeptical of Jesus’ power, but Jairus has nowhere else to turn. His daughter is at death’s door, and he is willing to sacrifice his reputation, his position, and his power to save her. Similarly, Jesus had every reason to say no to one more religious leader after so many of them had tried to trap him, humiliate him, and worse. But Jesus honors the man, follows him home, and brings his daughter back from the dead.
Why did Jesus act this way? And why does it matter?
And in answer, we turn to Paul’s letter of 2 Corinthians 8:7-15 where he explains this way:
7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness, and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”
Paul says that Jesus became poor for us, that through Jesus’ poverty, we have become rich. Jesus was powerful, but through grace, chose to share that power with the people around him, and with us. Jesus shared his power to bring healing to the woman who suffered even though she was poor, and Jesus shared his power to bring life to Jairus’ daughter even though he had every right to be suspicious of Jairus’ intensions. Jesus had power, and by his actions, showed us that the proper use of power is to share it to help the people around us.
Paul said that if we excel, in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in earnestness, in passion, or in love, then we must also excel in giving. Whatever God has chosen to bless us with, we are called to share that wealth with others just as Jesus did. Our assignment, therefore, is to carry on the work of Jesus, to continue the mission that he began, to seek and to save the lost children of God’s kingdom. Whomever has much is to share with those who have little. Sometimes we may be on the giving end, and sometimes we may be on the receiving end. The goal, Paul says, is equality such that no one has too much, and no one has too little.
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.