“The incarnate Lord knew what it was to be rich, incomparably so, but he came into the world as the poor, the child, the outcast, the refugee. He showed humanity the path of self-denial. The crucified Lord shared our human weakness, even unto death. He sent the Holy Spirit to help us grow to full maturity as persons. He calls each of us to use rightly the gifts we have received.
We have been asking how the ancient church understood the ministries to the affluent that they were actually offering. The answer we found not only in their letters, poetry, hymnody, and homilies, but also in their detailed exegesis of scripture texts on wealth, coveting, temptation, philanthropy, the fleeting, value of worldly goods, reparations, and generous giving. Christianity has been engaged in this challenging dialogue with the affluent for two millennia.
Jesus’ message to those who have wealth is evident in narratives that treat the wealthy not with contempt but respect, yet challenge them to total accountability in relation to their eternal destiny. The rich can be saved, but special difficulties lie in the way. Speaking honestly to the rich about their moral responsibilities requires a strong hold on one’s identity, an attitude of candor, and the willingness to penetrate defensive dodges.
A key evidence of the Christian life is intentional, ordered stewardship. Those who possess resources are called to use them for good purposes, to be ready to give cheerfully. It is within the range of every believer to practice these simple good works: stewardship of resources, willingness to live the simple life, being content with what one has, and giving generously.”
Thomas C. Oden in The Good Works Reader (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2007) 319-320.