Candida Moss was on Bill O’Reilly this week, taking him to task over his new book, Killing Jesus. Toward the end of their interview she says, “I think in your book that you do not contribute a sustained historical methodology, and you misrepresent and cherry-pick the facts.” She’s probably correct, but I think it’s sort of ironic since that’s exactly what I think of her book.
Moss complains that O’Reilly neglects the social teachings of Jesus, and O’Reilly complains that Moss wants to turn Jesus into a socialist. It’s difficult to discuss anything profitably in a five-minute exchange on FoxNews, but I hesitantly give Moss the win on this one. O’Reilly doesn’t even seem familiar with his own book. (He probably didn’t write a single word of it.) Even so, I was disappointed in both sides.
Moss complains that O’Reilly overlooks Jesus’ teaching that the rich give away possessions in order to care for the poor. O’Reilly’s initial defense fails miserably. He says that his book is a history, not a theological text. Moss presses him, pointing out that the historical Jesus taught that the rich ought to sell their possessions and give to the poor.
I think this is the crucial part of the interview.
Moss: “Jesus says very clearly, Bill, and we have to agree on this that in order to go to Heaven you must give away your possessions.”
O’Reilly: “Then there’s nobody in Heaven. There’s nobody there. He’s all by himself.”
That exchange sums it up nicely. It sounds a lot like Jesus and his disciples in Matthew 19.
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person 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 person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
“Who then can be saved?” O’Reilly provides the only logical answer: “Then there’s nobody in Heaven.” That’s exactly Jesus’ point. As he tells his disciples, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” This truth of Jesus’ is what both Moss and O’Reilly seem to be missing. With man salvation is impossible. We just can’t do it. We can’t be good enough. We can’t sell enough stuff to get to Heaven. Only with difficulty will a rich man enter the kingdom. Thankfully, Jesus bore that difficulty himself as he hung on the cross in my place.
O’Reilly chastises Moss for portraying Jesus as a socialist. (On a side note, I think it’s very telling that O’Reilly doesn’t seem to know what the word “anachronistic” means, but this post isn’t about the intellectual rigor of FoxNews.) O’Reilly correctly notes that Jesus didn’t come to talk about our politics. He came to deal with souls. But he’s so wrong when he says that Jesus wanted to deal “with the goodness of people.” Jesus came to deal with the sin of people. He came to deal with their incapability of reaching Heaven.
Rich people can’t get to Heaven. That’s why God himself, who has infinite riches, gave up everything in the person of Jesus. He gave up everything for a destitute humanity. The story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 isn’t really about the rich young ruler. It’s about Jesus. Jesus did what that rich man was incapable of doing, and through faith in Jesus’ resurrection we appropriate his righteousness.
In this clip, Moss and O’Reilly both seem to be advocating Jesus as a good example, though they argue over what example he’s setting. Neither get to the heart of the gospel in this clip. Jesus did the good works that fallen humanity couldn’t do, suffered what fallen humanity should have suffered, and rose from the grave as evidence that fallen humanity can be redeemed through faith.
Nobody’s in Heaven because they gave up their possessions. Everyone in Heaven is there because Jesus gave up everything.