Is Christianity a lifestyle? Remember Robin Leach had a TV show, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Being rich is one lifestyle. A rich man once came to Jesus asking the secret of eternal life. This sounds like a spiritual question. In Mark 10:17-31, Jesus changes it into a lifestyle question. He says, “Sell what you have. Give to the poor. Come and follow me.” The man had a decision. Continue in his rich and comfortable lifestyle or enter a lifestyle where you are dependent upon God for daily bread, and you know what it is like to have compassion for the poor. The man chose not to follow Jesus.
To make sure that we see this as a lifestyle choice, Jesus tells the story of the rich man and a beggar that lived at his doorstep named Lazarus (Luke 16:19). Here are two people living opposite lifestyles. When they both die, they find their lifestyles reversed. The poor man finds comfort in Paradise, the rich man torment in eternal poverty. Father Abraham tells the formerly rich man that this is only fair. He was given the chance every day, to see the poverty of Lazarus and change his lifestyle into a more compassionate one.
In the real world, the rich rarely trade-in their lifestyle. We don’t see them stopping to notice the needs of others. It was easy in 2017 for fifty US Senators to give trillions of dollars in tax breaks to the wealthy and to corporations. This week it has been hard to get fifty US Senators to pass the things those who have been impoverished by COVID-19 desperately need (childcare, infrastructure, improved health care, etc.).
Jesus says that it is easier for a camel to go through a needle than for rich people to sufficiently change their lifestyle so that they might understand the poor and join into the kingdom of heaven. The Koch brothers own 85 billion dollars and for many years have been using that excess cash to fund political actions against the poor. The Sam Walton family (Walmart) owns more stuff than 40% of the rest of us. Literally. That means that they could give a hand-up (like childcare or free college or decent housing or public transportation that gets you to a real job) to every family that is financially struggling in the US and still have a billion dollars for pocket change.
With that in mind, let’s look at the lifestyle Jesus lived. Even though he could have been born in a palace. Instead came into a community that understood poverty. When it came time for him to enter his life-changing ministry, he went out into the dessert to live a radically impoverished lifestyle for forty days. For him, lifestyle was a spiritual matter, not a political one. He knew that people couldn’t change their political attitudes without first changing their spiritual attitudes. The way to change your spiritual attitude is to adopt a more compassionate lifestyle.