Wealth and warnings

Mark DeVine writes on “The Other 6 Days” about whether money really is the root of all evil:

What about the many biblical caveats concerning wealth and riches? Which sort of warnings confronts us here? Do these expose wealth and riches as intrinsically and irredeemably evil or only illumine dangers that threaten where misuse or abuse of wealth arises? …

Insistence upon the intrinsically pernicious threat of riches boasts an ancient and honored pedigree within the Christian tradition. The rich young ruler disobeyed Jesus’ command to sell everything and follow him, but thousands across the centuries and around the globe have since complied, taking vows not just of chastity and obedience, but also of poverty. Countless Christian communities have arisen across two millennia within which all property is shared and no one says that anything is his own.

Middle and upper-middle class believers not yet willing to alter their own lifestyles often harbor pangs of guilt for not doing so and sometimes even glamorize “the simple life.” We may be rich by any global or historic standard, but at least we feel really bad about it! Such entrenched, reflexive identification of riches as evil (even among rich Christians) takes much satisfaction in the admittedly pervasive biblical warnings on this score.

At the other extreme we find spunky Bible-toting preachers of the prosperity gospel and the vibrant communities of faith who follow and support them. They too find much aid and comfort for their views throughout the pages of Holy Scripture. The divinely inspired images of the good life God brings and promises to bring to his children include these: a paradisiacal Garden free of want; a promised land flowing with milk and honey; a messianic banquet; a new heaven and a new earth replete with a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven to be traversed along streets of gold. In fact, these images are made to frame and punctuate the whole history of God’s primal and periodic and promised provision for his people—images of neither want nor moderation nor simplicity but of abundance and affluence.

Read more here.  Image: “The Money Lenders,” follower of Quinten Massys, courtesy of the Grohmann Museum at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

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