Scripture Guide, Part 7–Wealth, Materialism, and the Bible’s View of an “Ownership Society”

Scripture Guide, Part 7–Wealth, Materialism, and the Bible’s View of an “Ownership Society” August 27, 2012

One would think that those who supposedly care so much for the moral and spiritual well-being of their fellow Americans would not be so eager to pass legislation with the sole purpose of enabling their friends to store up treasures in earthly places, where moth and rust destroy (Matthew 6:19).  After all, was it not Christ who suggested that we give all we have to the poor so that we can have treasures in heavenly places where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:20)?

If Republicans are so eager to legislate morality, perhaps they should start by doing all they can NOT to appeal to our base desire to increase our own wealth, because Jesus told us that we “cannot love both God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24), and as Paul said, “the love of money is the root of many kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).

Yet the Ryan-Romney budget and Republican campaign talking points are based on an appeal to wealth and using wealth as a proxy for a person’s worth and value.  Plenty of secular and economic arguments can be made for those appeals, but one cannot make a Biblical argument for those values.

In fact, the opposite is the case: “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.  2Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.  3If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6But you have insulted the poor” (James 2:1-6).

From the Law of God proclaimed to Moses:  “Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants…in this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to his own property…the land must not be sold permanently because the land is mine and you are but aliens and tenants…if one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells property…what he sold will remain in the possession of the buyer until the Year of Jubilee.  It will be returned in the Jubilee, and he can then go back to his property” (Leviticus 25:10-28).  Jubilee does not prevent commerce, but it helps prevent a strong stratification of rich and poor that results from wealth being passed down and built upon generation after generation, what we refer to today as “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”  And it provides to the poor who are motivated to make something of themselves the means to do so.

As with most calls on our life in Scripture, these are difficult ones.  It’s especially difficult for any government in our fallen world to operate under these rules.  But again, the same legislators who claim Scripture must be the guide for how we legislate the bedroom shouldn’t find it so easy to ignore Scripture when it comes to the boardroom.  Any politicians who says it’s impossible for him to “check his faith at the door” when it comes to hot button social issues should also be fighting tooth and nail against the GOP appeals to wealth and materialism.

And it’s a given that a “Christian legislator” should never use the argument that taxes are “your money” that you have every right to retain possession of.  After all, God created the world, and we are all merely stewards of what God has given us for a brief time (1 Chronicles.  29:14-16).

Other passages:  1 Timothy 6: 6-10, 6:17-19; Chapter 2 and 4 of Acts; Luke 6:20-26


Read Part 6:  The Blessedness of the Poor and Our Christian Responsibility to Them


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