Did Jesus’ Disciples Boycott Sinful Businesses Or Engage With Them?
In this series so far, we have seen that the clearly-discernible pattern in Jesus’ social dealings, including those which offer material gain, is to move freely among sinners, to engage with them in socially intimate settings and manners, to benefit from His association with them, to be grumbled against not just for association but for the benefits received in accordance with rabinnical tradition, and to show by His words and actions that He does not share their conception of the nature of holiness and contagion.
We are told in Scripture to imitate Jesus, but some might argue that this is not an area in which we should imitate Him, perhaps due to His divine nature or sinlessness (neither of which we share). It is relevant, therefore, to see if Jesus’ disciples also operate in a manner similar to His. It appears that they do. Not only Jesus personally, but His company of followers received financial support that came from a highly corrupt source.
And it came about soon afterwards, that He began going about from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God; and the twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.
Luke 8:1-3 NAS
Let’s be clear who Herod was. He was the murderer of John the Baptist, the greatest of prophets before Christ. He used an illegal semi-incestuous marriage to consolidate power, for which John had publicly rebuked him. He set out to murder Jesus (which the Pharisees warned Jesus about), and Jesus, in response, offered an insult calling Herod ‘that fox (or perhaps jackal)’. He was a vicious, sexually debauched, unprincipled (Jesus called him ‘a reed blowing in the wind’) dictator. And via his steward, Chuza, Jesus received Herod’s ill-gotten gains, and so did his disciples.
But some might argue that the disciples’ receiving support from Chuza was only permissible because Jesus was there. In other words, Jesus maybe got the support and then distributed it to his disciples (unlikely, given that Judas kept the common purse). Maybe only then could the disciples share in such ill-gotten gains without bringing sin onto themselves.
I’m afraid that will not work. Jesus sent the seventy into the world, out from under His direct supervision, with explicit instructions not to bring financial resources, but rather to depend on the patronage of others.
Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them two and two ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. “Go your ways; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. “Carry no purse, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. “And whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ “And if a man of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him; but if not, it will return to you. “And stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.
Luke 10:1-7 NAS
Please note that the only condition for this patronage arrangement is that the peace which they offer rests upon them rather than returning. In other words, the patron shows that he is a man of peace by accepting the peace offered. No condition is placed in terms of ritual status, religious status or moral status. No condition is imposed regarding the source of the income. Ill-gotten gains are not the same thing as ill-given gains.
Jesus explicitly recognizes that this is an economic transaction in citing the Levitical principle (later cited by Paul in regards to pastoral salaries) that the ‘laborer is worthy of his wages’. These are wages. Jesus also appears to recognize the financial patronage nature, in what appears to be a contrast with other forms of ancient patronage in which philosophers would ‘trade up’ in terms of household patronage. The disciples are forbidden that form of advancement – they must stay with their original patron.
Originally published on Townhall Finance.
Jerry Bowyer is a Forbes contributor, contributing editor of AffluentInvestor.com, and Senior Fellow in Business Economics at The Center for Cultural Leadership.
Jerry has compiled an impressive record as a leading thinker in finance and economics. He worked as an auditor and a tax consultant with Arthur Anderson, as Vice President of the Beechwood Company which is the family office associated with Federated Investors, and has consulted in various privatization efforts for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He founded the influential economic think tank, the Allegheny Institute, and has lectured extensively at universities, businesses and civic groups.
Jerry has been a member of three investment committees, among which is Benchmark Financial, Pittsburgh’s largest financial services firm. Jerry had been a regular commentator on Fox Business News and Fox News. He was formerly a CNBC Contributor, has guest-hosted “The Kudlow Report”, and has written for CNBC.com, National Review Online, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as many other publications. He is the author of The Bush Boom and more recently The Free Market Capitalist’s Survival Guide, published by HarperCollins. Jerry is the President of Bowyer Research.
Jerry consulted extensively with the Bush White House on matters pertaining to the recent economic crisis. He has been quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, The International Herald Tribune and various local newspapers. He has been a contributing editor of National Review Online, The New York Sun and Townhall Magazine. Jerry has hosted daily radio and TV programs and was one of the founding members of WQED’s On-Q Friday Roundtable. He has guest-hosted the Bill Bennett radio program as well as radio programs in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.
Jerry is the former host of WorldView, a nationally syndicated Sunday-morning political talk show created on the model of Meet The Press. On WorldView, Jerry interviewed distinguished guests including the Vice President, Treasury Secretary, HUD Secretary, former Secretary of Sate Condoleezza Rice, former Presidential Advisor Carl Rove, former Attorney General Edwin Meese and publisher Steve Forbes.
Jerry has taught social ethics at Ottawa Theological Hall, public policy at Saint Vincent’s College, and guest lectured at Carnegie Mellon’s graduate Heinz School of Public Policy. In 1997 Jerry gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Robert Morris University. He was the youngest speaker in the history of the school, and the school received more requests for transcripts of Jerry’s speech than at any other time in its 120-year history.
Jerry lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Susan, and the youngest three of their seven children.
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