It may have come to your attention that Jerry Fallwell, Junior, doesn’t know his Bible very well.
Some of us have known this for years, but recently he really put his foot in it in a tirade condemning those who don’t support the president. Specifically, everybody is shocked at his declaration: “Think about it. Why have Americans been able to do more to help people in need around the world than any other country in history? It’s because of free enterprise, freedom, ingenuity, entrepreneurism and wealth. A poor person never gave anyone a job. A poor person never gave anybody charity, not of any real volume. It’s just common sense to me.”
Thankfully I’m by far not the first person to get out my Bible and thump Jerry Fallwell Junior about this remark, but I’m going to thump him anyway.
It’s important not to look at Fallwell’s follies as some kind of quaint American Protestant notion that Catholics are immune to, because it isn’t. I’ve known plenty of Catholics who were completely taken in with this Falwellian heterodoxy– that Christians are supposed to value wealth, serve wealth, admire the wealthy and see wealth as a sign of Divine favor. I’ve known plenty of Protestants, including some who would self-identify as fundamentalists, who see through this garbage. Michael’s grandfather the Baptist deacon, a self-professed “North Missouri hillbilly” who was Falwell’s target audience, would’ve had no patience for it. By contrast, a Byzantine Catholic troll who used to pester me on the blog until he was banned and still rants about me on Facebook whenever he gets the chance loves to mock Patheos bloggers because they allegedly “have no money”and don’t “support to the church” monetarily. This is a notion that exists in the minds of professed Christians of all stripes, and it’s anti-Christ.
I’m not being hysterical when I say that. I mean it quite literally. The notion that riches are to be pursued and that rich people are better than poor people because they can afford to give a larger volume of things, is against the teaching of Christ. Not only foreign to it but against it.
Christ is on the record, in the very Bible Fallwell claims as his authority to teach such nonsense, for being unimpressed by people who give charity “of real volume.” Christ looks upon those who have no volume to give but give anyway, and declares that their gift was the greatest.
I’m going to copy and paste that Gospel passage here, in case anyone can’t click on the link. I’ll use the King James translation my Protestant brothers and sisters so justly love, because it is beautiful:
And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.
You see, God is not impressed by large volume. Volume means nothing to a Being Who is infinite. God has everything already. Ten cents and a billion dollars are both equally unimpressive to Someone whose checking account is without limit. Infinity is equally beyond both. A God of infinite power doesn’t care about nothings like enterprise, ingenuity, entrepreneurism and wealth; they are meaningless to Him. And as for freedom– I don’t think Jerry Fallwell Junior would like what Jesus Christ has to say about freedom.
From the same King James Bible:
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
You see, for Christ, freedom has nothing to do with the right to bear arms or the right to pray in public schools, freedom from taxation without representation, freedom of association and worship, freedom to build up earthly wealth without an inheritance tax, or any other liberty recognized by any earthly law– no matter how useful and necessary these other liberties might or might not be, all other things being equal. The kind of freedom Christ cares about is freedom from sin. And greed is a sin. That idolatry that places wealth above the things of God is a sin.
Christ Himself said that No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. And in that same chapter of Luke, He tells the story of a rich man with great volume and a poor man unable to give even a widow’s mite to charity, nor to save his own self. One of the characters in that parable goes to hell. I’ll leave it to you to study your Bible and find out who it was.
It’s not that having money on hand is in itself evil. It’s not that you’re not supposed to enjoy it when your earthly needs are comfortably met. I live on tips from this very blog to feed my family, and whenever someone gives me a tip it makes my day. I like money. But when you start to serve mammon– when you turn to pursue the buildup of worldly wealth and profit as your goal in itself– you automatically stop serving God. This particular issue is an on-off switch; you can’t have it both ways. God or mammon, not both. Perhaps part of your vocation in serving God is being a shrewd, innovative businessperson so you can provide for those who have less than you from what you’ve earned with your talents and hard work. It often is. But once it becomes about amassing material things for yourself, it’s not about God anymore. It cannot be. Wealth for wealth’s sake actually is evil. Pursuing wealth as an end in itself is a sin.
I pray that Jerry Fallwell Junior turns away from the service of mammon and comes to serve our Lord Jesus Christ instead.
In the meanwhile, every one of us must choose which master we serve.
(image via Pixabay)