Acton Institute Powerblog

‘With God All Things Are Possible’

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Matthew 19:23-26 (New International Version)

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

During an appearance last week on “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” Congressman Charles Rangel from New York did us all the service of exegeting the above passage from the Scriptures.

Here’s the exchange:

MATTHEWS: I mean, Charlie, Jesus didn’t hang around with the swells, the rich people.

RANGEL: Well, he said the rich are going straight to hell.


MATTHEWS: Well, he did not.



MATTHEWS: He said it is harder to get through a needle’s…


RANGEL: No. But the deal with St. Matthews and all these people are trying to get into heaven. And he said, hey, when I was hungry, you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty. I was naked. I was sick. You didn’t do all these—he’s talking about food stamps, Social Security.


RANGEL: He’s talking about taking care of those who haven’t got. So, when it comes to moral value, my Republican friends can decide which side the pope was on.

It’s refreshing that Chris Matthews was keen enough to provide a somewhat more accurate description of Jesus’ words than did Rep. Rangel. So often, however, the critically important conclusion to the exchange between Jesus and his disciples is overlooked: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

But back to Rangel’s point. In Jesus’ words about the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), was Jesus talking about food stamps and Social Security? Or was he talking about the practice of private charity? Or something else?

Rep. Rangel has long held that the biblical mandate to care for the poor, the orphan, and the widow is identical with the activities of the governmental welfare state. Here’s video of an exchange from Jan. 20, 1995 between Rep. Rangel and Rev. Robert Sirico on “Illegitimacy and Welfare,” testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee.

HT: hubs and spokes

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.