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Wealth And The Kingdom Of God


des
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Here's another one. I have read some fundie boards and the question of whether it is ok to be rich comes up, and most of the time members say it's ok to be rich. Also my sister is very wealthy, so I said well what about when Jesus says to sell all that you have and give to the poor (granted I am not doing this but while I think it might be a very great thing, I don't really feel it is workable, and don't in any case take it quite literally-- did he mean EVERYTHING.) But anyway. My sister's answer was that Jesus was talking to a specific person. Of course, Paul's letters addressed certain peoples and Jesus talked with specific groups all the time. So why this is a special case....

 

Nevertheless I can think of numerous instances where Jesus specifically addresses wealth as a bad thing, and poverty as a good thing. The Beatitudes (although in Matthew they become "blessed is the poor in spirit".) In Luke, "blessed are you who are poor"; etc.

And I'm sure these are the source of oaths of poverty in Catholic monks, etc.

 

My comment is that if something is easy for them-- like not being a homosexual say, then they can oppose it. But if it is hard... It's human nature of course. I'm NOT saying I would give up everything either-- so I don't think I am better than them. Just seems like a bit of an inconsistency here.

 

 

So what do people here think?

 

 

--des

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IMO, wealth in and of itself is not sinful but it is problematic; i.e. it does tend to sway people into thinking that they don't need God and that they somehow deserve to hold onto their wealth.

 

Studies have long indicated that poorer congregants tend to give a higher percentage of their income to their churches than wealthy ones do.

 

Moreover, indeed, I do think that many Christians tend to scapegoat homosexuality (something that affects but 5-9% of the population) so that they don't have to look at a sin that affects the vast majority of Christians, namely, Greed.

 

========

CAMEL SWALLOWING 101,

by Drew Dyck

 

Swallowing a camel is tricky work - almost, some would say, impossible. For starters, camels are hotheaded. An aspiring Swallower faces the Herculean task of wrestling the obstreperous creature into submission. And camels are clever. One hint of your intention to consume and a camel takes to thrashing, making the swallowing step excruciating. Even after subduing the camel, you still face the highest hurdle – the sheer size of the beast. You can probably imagine stretching your mouth wide enough to accommodate a tail, or perhaps even a hoof. But the head and haunches (not to mention those massive humps) present a formidable challenge. Some literature suggests the animal be dismembered, citing the paltry capacity of the human mouth and esophagus. The subsequent instruction, however, allows for no such concession. We will not acquiesce to constraints of anatomy. We mean to swallow camels; not camel parts. No, despite the impediments, after this short lesson you will be able to ingest the entire creature.

 

The inherent difficulty of the job demands an interdisciplinary approach. My most startling breakthroughs came when I employed techniques perfected in other fields. For instance, I discovered helpful analogies in the practices of many Christians. Now, we all know that without prudent editing, the commands of Christ can be quite unsettling. They call for bizarre action: treating the beer-soaked bum on the corner like the Son of God, caring for total strangers, loving enemies, abandoning violence. Such commands are clearly outlandish. Unfortunately they are also clearly in the bible. Like swallowing a camel, remaining a Christian while ignoring these central aspects of the faith is no easy task. It involves tremendous discipline and ingenuity. And yet it is accomplished on a wide scale, with relative ease. When I stumbled upon this phenomenon I knew I had the answer. By carefully extrapolating their methodology I met with unmitigated success in the practice of camel consumption. Soon I had swallowed my first desert dweller, humps and all.

 

The primary tactic is distraction. Here I must confess my deep indebtedness to Christian friends. For most churchgoers, focusing on the lofty mandates found in the gospels only leads to cognitive dissonance and bowel irritation. In an effort to avoid these problems, one Christian I know hides virulent racism behind a perfect tithing record. Another scrupulously avoids alcohol while nursing a grudge against her neighbor. Still another uses flawless church attendance to exempt his antipathy for the poor.

 

You can learn much from their example. As you attempt to swallow your first camel, avert your eyes from the beast. Busy yourself with a useless, but tedious task - something that demands your full attention. Remember the examples mentioned above and do likewise - simply focus on something easier to stomach and whoosh, the camel will slip right down your throat! The distraction technique has a paradoxical beauty: the smaller and less significant your preoccupation, the larger the camel and the more effortlessly you can swallow it. As I like to remind my students: Aim small to swallow big. Strain out the gnat and the camel will go down like candy.

 

However, the distraction method will only take you so far. You must still do your stretching exercises. Because forcing a full-grown camel down your throat is nearly a physiological impossibility, increased flexibility is of the utmost importance. Again we turn to the Christian example. Theological flexibility is crucial for a Christian walk that dispenses with the teachings of Christ. It calls for a very supple hermeneutic. I remember the unbridled awe I felt hearing one preacher justify decadent living in the name of Jesus – a homeless, marginalized Jew. “You’ll be rich,” he promised his parishioners, “because Jesus was rich.” Wow, I thought, as my credulity stretched and snapped. That takes flexibility. He had transformed the servant Messiah into a ruthless, esurient billionaire. Don’t laugh. That’s no easy task, especially in a world where one-third of the population goes to bed hungry. The preacher knew the value of rigorous stretching. He had also conquered the gag reflex. For such an expert, a 900-pound camel is a mere dinner mint.

 

Well, now you know the technique, but the application is up to you. I hope you’re getting hungry. Shut your eyes. Open your mouth. Then tackle your camel with confidence. Just remember the procedure outlined above. If you execute just right, you may never even realize what you’ve done.

 

(Drew Dyck is a freelance writer currently pursuing his Masters degree in theology at Fuller Theological Seminary.)

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A key distinction is that it is the "Love of money," not money, that becomes sinful. Do we own our money and possessions, or do they own us? I heard a pastor say that as Christians, we need to hold things "loosely." If God blesses me with a raise at work, Great! But if next week He tells me to part with it and give it to a specific ministry, I need to do that.

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I heard one guy say that money is just another form of energy (you know, that stuff that eminates from God). If we treat money the same way treat God's sustaining energy then everything will be cool. For one, energy wants to flow. If you let it stop in your own selfish little circuit, it will stop flowing to you. It has to flow from you just as freely as it flows to you. Abundance is infinite, scarcity is the finite one.

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Nevertheless I can think of numerous instances where Jesus specifically addresses wealth as a bad thing, and poverty as a good thing. The Beatitudes (although in Matthew they become "blessed is the poor in spirit".) In Luke, "blessed are you who are poor"; etc

Here's my take on wealth in Luke-Acts. Something to consider when looking at Luke-Acts. The author seems to want to use material possessions as a narrative symbol of status. A couple of instances here.

 

First, the establishment of the "deacons." They were created as a group to serve the hellenist widows, at least so the narrative goes. But instead we see them serve as a prophetic extension of the apostles. The responsibility of prophetic office is symbolized in trappings of table service.

 

I like to think of this as being like the Prince of Wales. It really has nothing to do with "Wales." Rather, it is a material symbol of status.

 

Second, look at the narrative of Ananias and Sapphira. In this narrative, these two were not slain by God because they refused to give their 10% tithe. Rather, they were slain because they did not give all. Again, the issue here is material used symbolically. The lack of material giving symbolized a lack of spiritual commitment. By being part of a community to which they themselves did not feel committed, they were, in effect, trying to "buy off" God. (Not that anyone would ever join a Christian community for the self-serving reward of salvation with minimal regard for mission of God itself. </sarcasm> )

 

So, when we look at how harshly treated wealth is in Luke-Acts, I think it is important to note that it is largely used symbolically. Therefore, I am in agreement with BrotherRog who said, "IMO, wealth in and of itself is not sinful but it is problematic; i.e. it does tend to sway people into thinking that they don't need God and that they somehow deserve to hold onto their wealth," and Darby who said, "A key distinction is that it is the "Love of money," not money, that becomes sinful. Do we own our money and possessions, or do they own us?"

 

Perhaps that was an awful long way of saying, "ditto."

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Like any other gift of God, the spiritual value of wealth is how you use it. If you use your wealth to

do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God

Micah 6:8

you're on the right path. If feel that your wealth somehow makes you better than others or are using it to make yourself look good you are on the wrong path.

 

This applies to any gifts that God gives us. We must realize that all gifts come from God and that we should use them for God's purposes.

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