The love of money
Heb 13:5 Be ye free from the love of money; content with such things as ye have: for himself hath said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee.
1Tim 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Matt 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Over the last thirty years or so, serving two masters has become one of the most dominant occupations of Christians in the West. Hat-tip to A conservative blog for peace for this link Is Stealing a Virtue? – by Jim Johnston – Heartland Perspectives:
I am profoundly disappointed in Caritas in Veritate, the encyclical issued on June 29, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. It contains no fewer than six endorsements of wealth redistribution by government. It must be understood that wealth redistribution by government involves the use of its coercive powers to take resources from those who have earned them and give them to those who have not.
What Jim Johnston says “must be understood” is in fact the core of the Big Libertarian Lie (using “libertarian” in its new-fangled American sense) — that those who are rich “must be understood” to have “earned” their wealth, and that the poor deserve to be poor. That is a profoundly un-Christian notion, and I think the Roman Pope Benedict XVI has more credibility on that score than Jim Johnston. Johnston asks if stealing is a virtue, but what does St John Chrysostom say?
“See the man,” He says, “and his works: indeed this also is theft, not to share one’s possessions.” Perhaps this statement seems surprising to you, but do not be surprised. I shall bring you testimony from the divine Scriptures, saying that not only the theft of others’ goods but also the failure to share one’s own goods with others is theft and swindle and defraudation. What is this testimony? Accusing the Jews by the prophet, God says, “The earth has brought forth her increase, and you have not brought forth your tithes; but the theft of the poor is in your houses.” Since you have not given the accustomes offerings, He says, you have stolen the goods of the poor. He says this to show that they hold the goods of the poor even if they have inherited them from their fathers or no matter how they have gathered their wealth. And elsewhere Scripture says, “Deprive not the poor of his living.” To deprive is to take what belongs to another; for it is called deprivation when we take and keep what belongs to others. By this we are taight that when we do not show mercy, we will be punished like those who steal. For our money is the Lord’s, however we may have gathered it. If we provide for those in need, we shall obtain great plenty. This is why God has allowed you to have more: not for you to waste on prostitutes, drink, fancy food, expensive clothes, and all the other kinds of indolence, but for you to distribute to those in need.
And a hat-tip to Brian McLaren for this link: Richard Stearns and Lamar Vest: Christians losing their way:
Despite the fact that God’s heart for the poor is mentioned in some 2,100 verses of Scripture, many of us simply miss it. In a recent survey of adults in America conducted by Harris Interactive, although 80 percent of adults claimed to be familiar with the Bible — the best-selling book in history — 46 percent think the Bible offers the most teachings on heaven, hell, adultery, pride or jealousy. In fact, there are more teachings on poverty than on any of those topics.
I’m not sure I’d go along with Stearns and Vest in their project to produce a “Poverty and Justice Bible” — that seems to turn the Bible into a political football almost as much as the Conservative Bible Project. It takes the frequently heard polemical phrase “My Bible says…” to a new level of meaning, accentuating the difference between “my Bible” and “your Bible”. And I have very serious reservations about their references to “God’s DNA”. I wonder if they would acknowledge that God’s DNA — all of it — came from the Theotokos, the Mother of God, the virgin Mary? Because that is the only sense in which God has DNA at all.
But I digress.
The main point here is the seduction of Western Christianity into attempting to worship both God and mammon. And it is not confined to “the West”. Recent obituaries of Oral Roberts have suggested that he was the originator of the “prosperity gospel”, though that has been queried, and Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland are more likely candidates. But no matter how it originated, it is undoubtedly the gospel contextualised for the yuppies and wannabe yuppies of the West. Yet it has also taken root in Africa, where it has contributed to what the late Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Bill Burnett, called “the politics of greed and envy”, which affect rich and poor alike.Those values have spread to Africa, where, though lip service is paid to ubuntu, among the elite ubuntu has in fact been muscled aside by the desire to be rich, and not just ordinary rich, but filthy, stinking obscenely rich.
Well, let mammon worshippers worship mammon — they always have and always will. But Christians are not to serve two masters, or even attempt to. G.K. Chesterton puts it rather well:
Is there any answer to the proposition that those who have had the best opportunities will probably be our best guides?
Is there any answer to the argument that those who have breathed clean air had better decide for those who have breathed foul? As far as I know, there is only one answer, and that answer is Christianity.
Only the Christian Church can offer any rational objection to a complete confidence in the rich. For she has maintained
from the beginning that the danger was not in man’s environment, but in man. Further, she has maintained that if we come to talk of a dangerous environment, the most dangerous environment of all is the commodious environment. I know that the most modern manufacture has been really occupied in trying to produce an abnormally large needle. I know that the most recent biologists have been chiefly anxious to discover a very small camel. But if we diminish the camel to his smallest, or open the eye of the needle to its largest–if, in short, we assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean, His words must at the very least mean this–that rich men are not very likely to be morally trustworthy.
Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags. The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world. For the whole modern world is absolutely based on the assumption, not that the rich are necessary (which is tenable), but that the rich are trustworthy, which (for a Christian) is not tenable.
You will hear everlastingly, in all discussions about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man. The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck.
It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor. A Christian may consistently say, “I respect that man’s rank, although he takes bribes.” But a Christian cannot say, as all modern men are saying at lunch and breakfast, “a man of that rank would not take bribes.” For it is a part of Christian dogma that any man in any rank may take bribes. It is a part of Christian dogma; it also happens by a curious coincidence that it is a part of obvious human history. When people say that a man “in that position” would be incorruptible, there is no need to bring Christianity into the discussion. Was Lord Bacon a bootblack? Was the Duke of Marlborough a crossing sweeper? In the best Utopia, I must be prepared for the moral fall of any man in any position at any moment; especially for my fall from my position at this moment.
So compare the two statements:
Jim Johnston: It must be understood that wealth redistribution by government involves the use of its coercive powers to take resources from those who have earned them and give them to those who have not.
G.K. Chesterton: The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man.
I don’t believe that governments are necessarily qualified to handle wealth redistribution. But that is a side issue, almost a red herring. Jim Johnston’s biggest whopper is where he asks us to believe that the Roman Pope Benedict XVI advocated taking resources from those who have earned them and giving them to those who have not. Jim Johnston needs to show exactly where the Roman pope said that. I suspect that Jim Johnston’s allegation not only begs the question, but it twists the pope’s words, and tries to misrepresent him as saying something he did not say. Is bearing false witness a virtue?