“And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.”
Mary’s song emphasizes how God keeps His promises to His people and by way of implication it emphasizes the humiliation of the Lord Christ who was born in such a lowly situation. However, the left in the Church instead emphasizes Marxist themes. In a recent Tim Keller facebook status we see this. Tim wrote,
“Jesus wasn’t born among heads of state but among those who were at the bottom of the social ladder.”
Tim has flirted with this soft Marxism before. In his book “Generous Justice” he basically advocates a soft Marxist “social justice” approach and re-labels it as “Generous.”
The position of Mary (or Zechariah, or Simeon, or Anna, etc.) is not important because they were low on the social ladder but because they were saints of God despite their poverty and oppression. Poverty as poverty doesn’t score you any points in the Kingdom of God if one doesn’t belong to Christ and the people of God. The antithesis in the Scripture is not between Rich vs. Poor but between the Seed of the Serpent vs. The seed of the woman.
The emphasis in Mary’s Song is that God remembers His people who are being oppressed by the Wicked mighty. The whole thrust of Luke’s songs is to demonstrate that God has not forgotten His people despite the fact it might look that way and despite the fact that they are being oppressed by wickedness in high places (Herod, Augustus Caesar etc.). The fact that the Lord Christ is born among the lowly does not prove that lowliness as lowliness is a virtue. After all Jesus was born of the line of great King David and God includes the High Born in the Nativity story by including visitation from the Kings of the East. In Scripture God esteems those in Covenant, rich or poor, and destroys those outside of covenant, rich or poor.
The point in Luke’s Songs is not that God favors poor wicked people over righteous rich people. The point is that God has remembered Israel and that despite her captivity and the low status she has sunken into. This is Redemptive History and what is being accentuated is God remembering His promise to raise up a Messiah. The character of God is what is being put on display, not the status of those whom He is remembering. What is not being accentuated is that God is social class conscious. Believe me, if the story were written today, given how much the Wealthy are hated by the Communist Clergy, God would have His Messiah born among the rich and royal to add the factor of “isn’t God amazing that He brought His Messiah among such ignoble filthy rich people.” However, we don’t see in the nativity narrative of the Marxist clergy is the amazing God who keeps His promises no matter what. No, what we see are the amazing poor people who, “naturally enough” are lifted up. Given their noble poverty they deserve it after all.
Does God bring down all the “Mighty” from their thrones? Did God bring down Job? Abraham? David? Are Zaccheus or Joseph of Arimathea to be counted as less saints in the New and Better covenant because they were wealthy? Is the New and Better covenant characterized now by God hating all rich and loving all poor regardless of their faith or lack of faith in Christ? Has lack of wealth become the new standard of inherent righteousness? Is God now for the proletariat and against the Bourgeois? Did God inspire Das Kapital?
This preoccupation of the Church in the West with Marxist categories completely flummoxes me. God loves the righteous in Christ regardless of their socio-economic status and he hates the wicked outside of Christ regardless of their socio-economic status… even if they are as poor and wretched Dicken’s Artful Dodger.
Why is it that we seem to think that God loves the impoverished more than the Wealthy simply on the basis of their impoverishment? God loves His people in Christ. The Wealthy saints have a charge to keep in terms of their brethren of low estate but those of low estate are not superior to those of wealth if they are both looking to Christ and resting in him, just as the wealthy are not superior to those of poverty in terms of status before God just because they are wealthy.
God hates the unrighteous wealthy wicked because they do tend to oppress the poor but he equally hates the unrighteous impoverished wicked because they do tend to envy the rich. It strikes me that we have made the envious unrighteous wicked poor some kind of gold standard to aspire to. It is all very strange.