Skip to content

Poverty and Jesus

“[Jesus's] kingship has no worldly luster, his power is powerlessness compared to the strength of others. ‘He who alone is rich is . . . the poorest of the poor’ (167). In word and deed he turns especially toward the poor; their poverty corresponds to his. The royal man’s activity shows a marked affinity for the shadowy side of human existence. This, in turn, is closely linked to the ‘revolutionary character of his relationship to the orders of life and value current in the world around him’ (171). Precisely because Jesus proclaimed no program of his own, he called all human programs and principles into question. Living under the ruling order of his day, he nevertheless had the royal freedom to testify to the Kingdom of God, which is the limit of all human activity. No human system is fully valid for God, not is any fully applicable to the human Jesus. God is the one who shatters all human conventions, the judge of all human constructions. And Jesus manifests this in his existence ‘as this (if we may risk the dangerous word) partisan of the poor, and finally as this revolutionary’ (180). But in all this he is not opposed to the human race, but for it—as the Savior of the world, whose assault on the world is spearheaded by the gospel. God judges the human race only in order to restore it.”

~ Eberhard Jüngel, Karl Barth: A Theological Legacy, 136. (Page references in the quote are to Barth, CD IV/2)

One Comment

  1. Thanks Halden. This is a deeply spiritual insight, and one that Jüngel echoes in his book on justification. Recognizing the poverty and weakness of our Lord, we are being called into question for basing our identity in our performance every day. We would do well to remember that our true identity is in this powerless one, and that Christ’s daily strength came in being conformed to the will of the Father as Immanuel. Though we may ascend to the idea that God loves us and is with us and for us, we do not benefit from it nor witness to it if we spend all our time and energy trying please people and justify ourselves through the quality of our work each day. Even the best of us will surely be driven to despair by such a strategy, no matter how good we might be at keeping up appearances. This is such a simple thing, and yet it is so difficult to master that Jüngel says that often it is those who are elderly who finally come to realize this wisdom of the cross through their fragility. Having worked with mentally ill patients this summer, I am blessed to get a taste of this poverty of the kingdom on a daily basis.

    Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

Switch to our mobile site