Several years ago, I attended a conference where I heard a message on Luke 4:14-30 which deeply unsettled me. In a conference that was intended to motivate its audience toward evangelism, this pastor used the majority of his time to tell us everything Jesus is not saying in this passage; why we shouldn’t use this passage to address social issues, how it couldn’t have any literal (physical) meaning, and why the emphasis of the passage is on gospel preaching – and preaching alone.
While I’m sure this wasn’t the pastor’s intention, I’ve never been so unmotivated to tell someone about Jesus as I was in that moment!
But more than that, I was really troubled. In a room filled with predominantly middle- and upper-class White Americans, the group which statistically already gives the least percentage of their income away, we did not need a (bad) theological excuse to be even less generous. Furthermore, if Jesus is not at all concerned with physical realities in this text, what do we do with passages like Luke 7:20-23 where Jesus confirms that he at least had physical realities in mind? What is it about the evangelical consciousness that is so afraid of “saving” the gospel that we actually “lose” it by twisting Scripture to meet our own ends?