on immoral wealth

It is months since I have last written and months since I had the privilege to attend the Lausanne Congress in Cape Town. The months since have been full and busy and I have not had the time to think or integrate or even remember all that happened at Lausanne. I think the time is now – to start at least.

I do remember one conversation. I was in a session in which Richard Stearns (The Hole in our Gospel) gave one of the first unequivocal positions and statements on immoral wealth, greed, capitalism, consumerism, the creation of desire, and entitlement I have ever heard. During the comment session, I got up and said so. As I left the building a man approached me and asked if we could meet to chat about something I had said in my comment. During supper, I went and sat down with him and he introduced himself as a German MP and asked me what I had meant by “the creation of desire”. I went blank for two reasons: first, he was an MP and I felt completely out of my depth even sitting down to dinner with him. This was excacerbated by the fact that as he asked the question I realised I had nothing more to say on the topic. I didn’t really know what I meant by it. But it was something that stirred me, something that had come up in the past week and somehow felt like one of the keys. And so I sit now with the sense still that all of this – poverty, immoral wealth, consumerism, the prosperity gospel, the creation of desire – is all vitally linked and must be spoken too. I guess I am trying to “understand the times, with knowledge of what [the Church] should do” as the men of Issachar did (1 Chronicles 12:32). Someone else at Lausanne spoke of the need for a prophetic critique of how we live – but what must be said?

I guess I am tired of a “Gospel that protects the injustice of the status quo” (Richard Stearns). I am tired of wealth that perpetuates and sustains itself at the expense of the majority. I am tired of greed that justifies itself by itself . I am tired of a christian culture that buys into consumerism and the creation of desire. I am tired of the problem continually being defined as “poverty” without any consideration of the counterpoints of wealth and greed. I am tired of a prosperity doctrine which is insiduous in “western” conceptualisations and responses to wealth – “I am entitled to all the wealth I have because my wealth is a sign of God’s blessing. I deserve what I have”. I am tired of all the justifications that absolve our consciences – that say that conviction is condemnatory and therefore can be ignored. I am tired of not knowing how this all fits together and what is right and how much is too much and how this plays out in my life. I am tired because I think this is another one of the myriad things that is “too big for a divided church”.

And after all I am left thinking about two things:

“Use honest scales, honest weights, and honest measures. I am the LORD your God, and I brought you out of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19v36)  In other words, “don’t you dare oppress people when I’ve just gone to all this effort to save you from being oppressed.”  (Peter Houston – http://conversation.lausanne.org/en/resources/detail/10767#article_page_1)

And this:

“I was hungry; while you had all you needed. I was thirsty; but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger; and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes; but you needed more clothes. I was sick; but you pointed out the behaviours that led to my sickness. I was in prison; you said I was getting what I deserved.” (Richard Stearns; paraphrase Matthew 25:42)


33 thoughts on “on immoral wealth

  1. well written lady, this is a page of sameness that we are on… maybe next year will hold some answers, til then don’t stop asking, starting with us who peer back from the mirror…

  2. Yes Val! I’m with you on all of the above. Praying with you, standing with you, and back you. Glad to call you a friend and hope we can make time for kingdom seeking together this next year 🙂

    1. hey arthur, would be cool to hang out some more – perhaps we should make a plan for that supper we chatted about – keen to meet melissa and seek kingdom together.

  3. I love this. We really need to look past clinging to our comforts… As individuals and as the church body. We’ve fallen to greed as a body, and we need to get out of it together. I’m definitely not perfect in this area, but i get so upset at how so many people seem to be indifferent. At the end of the day, i feel that people have let their idol of comfort keep its living space in their attic, because they are afraid of the dark and are to freaked out what it means if they try to forcibly evict it. I believe that people will buy into Christianity when they see us giving up all of our idols (comfort and materialism probably right at the top). Its only then that they will see us giving everything up for Jesus counting all we had as ‘gain’ as loss compared to his awesomeness. And its only then that we will reach our potential in shining our light to our broken world.

  4. Good stuff Val.
    What I’m interested in, is the problem that you pointed out, which is that this is
    “another one of the myriad things that is “too big for a divided church”. ”

    How on earth are we going to tackle issues like these, in our current church contexts. It’s too easy to say “we’ll start with ourselves and hope to lead by example”. I think there is a grave need for people like you and I (or anyone else really) to stand up like the early day prophets and speak, loudly, ‘harshly’ and with the same conviction, anointing and power that they did.

    its bin a while,
    love to you and brett

    1. yeah joel, been thinking a bit about the “prophetic voice to our times” thing – guess I’m not convinced i’m that voice though, haven’t clearly heard God giving me words to say, and if it ever came to it the most important thing would be that it is done in the right spirit. at the moment I’m just grappling. but, at the same time longing for that voice of conviction, anointing and power. an unapologetic truth-sharing. a spurring on. an iron sharpening iron. a speaking of the truth in love.

  5. I’m going to go with “honesty” over “politically/religiously correct”…

    I’m not sure I’d be okay donating (much) of my blood to a severly injured patient who was bleeding out, who wouldn’t allow the doctors to close the wound. Or to use another metaphor… I wouldn’t bail out companies who deliberately squandered the money they had (and I believe the bible speaks about responsibility and wisdom and so on).

    So, more literally… I’ve begun to feel the bigger need isn’t to “do more to for the needy” but to reduce the number of needy. I’m not saying we shouldn’t help people, or should be culling the poor, or anything crazy like that, but a corrupt or unfair government may create the situation and cause people to become needy, but them having 8 kids, generation after generation, REALLY messes things up and I think that while giving helps, it probably doesn’t often prevent tr growing need to come.

    Just thinking out loud, don’t mean to be a bad person :/ if the “need” was removed, wealth might not be quite so immoral…

    1. I think I agree with you Ross – for me it’s a both/and situation. All very well to be helping the people who have fallen off the cliff, but somebody needs to run to the top and put up a tall fence too! (to use another flawed metaphor!) I always think of that fishing analogy (which gets on my nerves a bit, I won’t lie) and while it is all very well to teach a guy to fish, if he is so weak from lack of sustenance that he can’t even hold the rod straight then chances are he is not gonna catch much. know what i mean? So I am all for the micro plus macro solutions and I do think that some of us are more called to the one than the other. I hear what you are saying about the 8 kids generation after generation thing – couple of thoughts on that: 1. i have read some stuff which suggests that having multiple children is a survival trait since chances of survival of any of them are so slim that to ensure the well-being of the family – i.e. higher potential income generation – families have more children. the thing is that now with improved medicine and increasing access to things like childhood immunity shots and such, more of the childen do survive beyond the first year (and then the fifth year) of life – leading to the problem you suggest. 2. You would think people would catch a wakeup, but I also think that the “problem” goes beyond a corrupt and unfair government – what about education? And if we talk about education then I am not just talking about access to school because I don’t think that automatically puts us all on the same playing field. Children with educated parents are going home, doing their homework in good light, eating good food to help concentration and age appropriate mental development, reading books which are available in the house, and getting reinforcement. Children with uneducated parents are going home (often early, to help with house work), not doing their homework because there is light/paper/pencils, not eating good food, not reading books, and not getting reinforcement or help from parents, who are absent because they are trying to eke out a living. 3. I wonder which of these scenarios (your trailer-trash one or my structural inequality one) is the exception and which is the rule. Because there are definitely cases of both. Just wondering where the majority of the world’s poor fit in.

      I know you know this stuff. I know that they are the common arguements now days as well. But I think a holistic view is needed. And i don’t believe these problems will disappear in a generation or two of well-meaningness. Perhaps, in response to your last line, if wealth became less immoral, perhaps the ‘need’ would be removed….

  6. I am glad you have the makings of a warrior. You are beginning to open the rabbit hole. Time to see how deep the rabbit hole goes..

    1. Money is an illusion. Gold coins and silver was the last time we had money. Now it is created as numbers on a computer by a select few who control the world. It is used as a tool along with the charging of interest to enslave and control the masses. How can one lend something that does not exist, charge interest on it and then take your meager possessions when you cannot repay a fictitious loan? If we give it value or use it, we support the system of oppression. You can do some good with money, but in doing so you support an oppressive system that does far more harm than what good it can do. We need to give of ourselves and grow crops to give to the poor. Money as we know it does not exist.

    2. Too many parasitic professions such as bankers, accountants, stockbrokers, lawyers, governments. What do they make? What food do they produce? We need more farmers and scientists and engineers.

    3. We need to get back to using gold coins and bartering. We need to abolish charging interest. Ban parasitic professions.

    1. Hm… thanks for the input jeremy. I do feel that abdicating completely from a monetary system is impossible (and yes, as you say “money” may be an illusion – but just because it had form/structure once – i.e. gold coins – doesn’t mean it was any more real back then). However, abdicating from all the rules/norms associated with such a system may be more do-able – such as, norms of entitlement, norms of greed, norms of constant satisfaction of want, norms of desire, norms of consumerism, norms of materialism etc. I don’t think gold coins and bartering is the solution. When Jesus wrote all that stuff about looking after the poor, the harsh words of warning to the wealthy, the praise of the woman who gave the single coin, the Matthew 24 stuff I quoted below, the sitting with the tax-collectors and speaking to their injustice – the gold coins and bartering was the monetary system in place. Replacing “money” (credit cards, checques, paper) with money (gold, silver, vegetables) is not going to fix the human heart which desires accumulation, which tends toward greed, and which places value on things, not people.

  7. As long as Christians think money exists then I am Santa claus. It does not exist. Why does the church perpetuate a con? You’re creating waves. I want to see some tidal waves. Question the core of our belief system. Question the monetary and economic system, the government and the systems that enslave us. Money is not real. Interest is enslavement. We need to discourage parasitic professions – jobs that exist on the backs of other peoples work.

  8. Once we give up all our possessions and forget about tomorrow, stop using money- only then will a revolution begin. If not, then we are just actors on a stage.

  9. I agree with most of what you’re saying, but what do we do with prisoners? Sway them onto the right path in the first place so that they don’t commit crime is the best way. I understand most prisoners are thieves, but what about child molesters, serial killers and others whom it seems can’t be helped? I have a question: can all be saved? I would say most, but what about those who kill repeatedly and love to molest and hurt others? How do we save them? Or can’t we? Maybe these individuals need to be kept apart from potential victims? I can’t say they deserve to be there, but they do need to be in the prison or similar place away from society.

    1. Hi Steven,

      Thanks for the input and comments. I am not saying that the prisoners should be let out – in Matthew 25:36 Jesus says, “I was in prison, and you came to visit me” – this is a parable he is telling to his disciples and they ask him, “Lord, when were you ever in prison.” His response is “Whatever you did, for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” and later “Whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me”. The way we treat people – yes, even child molesters and murderers – is how we are treating Jesus. His words, not mine.

      I truly believe all can be saved. We can’t save them – only Jesus can. But we can respond to them in love. If i believe that Jesus is able to redeem my life and restore me then I must believe he can do so with anyone. This doesn’t mean that the consequences for their actions in this world are done away with – think about the two robbers who died on the crosses next to Jesus. The one calls out to him, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” and the other responds “Don’t you fear God, sins you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our sins deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” And then Jesus restores him to relationship with God saying “Today you will be with me in paradise”. (Luke 23) But the robber still dies. I’m not advocating for capital punishment here, but I am responding to your comment – yes, I believe there is justice on earth – but it doesn’t always look like we think it should. I believe in redemption and restoration which is why I am such a fan of restorative justice programmes in prisons because their aim is to reconcile people to God, to their victims, and back to society: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself thorugh Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).

  10. Materialism is everywhere. Materialism is a form of idol worship. When I see Christians stop by with their trademark sunglasses on their head, car keys and cell phone in hand and a smile on their face; I wonder if they are smiling because of Jesus or because they are on the go and have wealth. They use money which is not real; as the guy above said; it’s just a figure on a screen and a small percentage has most of these figures. Most magazines on the shelf show actors, famous people and sports stars. They are there for worshipping and the magazine is their church. We are encouraged to seek fame, money, status, popularity and to collect worthless items. The day I see Christians bringing food, time, crops that they’ve grown, clothes that they’ve sown to church as opposed to imaginary money, that would be a start. You cannot serve two masters. Take off those hiccup sunglasses and walk to church instead of driving (if you are within range of course), and slowly take all materialism and money out of your life. Seek not of fortune, fame. Jesus is a way of life. The more materialism we have in life, the less we are following his way. Do we seek fame for Jesus or for ourselves? The church should not pass a tithe bowl around. They need to have a storeroom for all the food and clothes people bring. Eventually it will be for all the crops and home-made clothes and foods that people bring. We need to get away from this modern system.

  11. We need to live simpler lives. Live on communal farms, grow crops, live organically and in harmony with the earth. Then there will be no need for money. The bible days had people living with the earth. Return to the earth.

  12. Most Christians today live great comfortable lives. It’s easy to call yourself a Christian. Socializing at church is great. Youth camps are fun. Christians use money, buy unnecessary items and live in this worldly world. They claim to follow Jesus but do they?

  13. Most churches propagate a system where materialism is king. We see ministers driving porsches and enjoying holidays to preach to the poor in the Seychelles, Maldives, Monaco or the French riviera. Tithing is done using cash, thereby supporting an illusionary system of money. Tithing should be done with food, clothes and time. There are some churches that do good, but they are hard to come by. Why do the churches focus on money?

    Christianity doesn’t seem that radical enough to get a following any longer. It’s bloody boring and it supports enslavement by putting value to money. The only people who join are impressionable youth or student types. I really hope they don’t have cheesy church bands playing in heaven one day. If Jesus were here in the form of a man, would he be using paper money? Too much greed, materialism and consumerism in the church. It’s watered down and boring- no better than any ol group.

  14. We can get by without money. Many ways of doing it. A farming commune is one. Becoming a vegetarian lessens the burden on the earth and allows for better and more productive use of the land. We can feed more people by growing crops on an acre than by grazing cattle on an acre. Christians love meat but it’s selfish to eat it when others starve. Let’s make better use of the land then.

    Hundreds of small communes all trading and helping each other is the answer. Walking barefoot, getting in touch with nature again. Every person growing crops, providing for themselves. Then we need doctors, but as the people are healthy we’d need fewer doctors. We’d need botanists, scientists and engineers to build huts and create water utilization/storage facilities. No accountants, stockbrokers, bankers or other parasitic jobs needed. No person would be solely a priest. They would be primarily involved in crop growing and village upkeep. It can be done and it is being done. And it is successful.

  15. Each community has it’s own credit system, controlled by the community. This is used in a similar way to money in order to enable certain trades. But on the whole it is almost solely run as a large family. All food is shared equally with those who work harder getting slightly more. No parasites, no bankers, no interest and no manipulative professions.

  16. Women must keep silent in church, it says so in the bible. If one works one should be paid but if one loafs then they become poor. Make a list of what you buy and you will see that women have corrupted men and they buy all kinds of makeup creams and clothing. You should have let the guy speak and not interrupt and show him respect. It is hard making speeches in a crowd so consideration is something you must show.

    1. ah, Brits, there are really no words. Welcome to my blog, after doing the same on my husband’s.

      P.S. I only spoke during the “please-make-comments-and-ask-questions-now” part. And if you read the blog you will see that I was complimenting the speaker and agreeing with what he said. Oh, and it wasn’t in church.

  17. I do agree that priests becoming rich is a sin. They shouldn’t use the bible to con people out of cash. If I tithe sometimes I feel pickpocketed, so I don’t tithe any more. They should sterilize the masses as they put a burden on those who work. Only if you have a matrix can you be allowed to go and make babies. They vote in the wrong party and still they poor, so it’s also that they like being poor with handout from people who work. It has become to easy yo be lazy. If they starve, they will get up and find work. To many doing nothing in this country. For every one worker we must support 3 who don’t work and just fornicate making more. Socialism can only work if everyone pulls the cart. Otherwise we become slaves to the poor lazy. But ya, I agree that people who work only with money should not be So rich as they make nothing we can use.

  18. I think everyone must get back to grafting with their hands. Talk is cheap and doing leads to a better society. We must not fall into trap of laziness and handouts.

  19. Val, you wrote: “I am tired of a christian culture that buys into consumerism and the creation of desire.” Me too : )) I really like that term “creation of desire” That said, the creation of desire is there for everyone. I think as followers of Christ it takes an intentional decision on our part to allow Him to be the creator of the that desire and not allow the capitalistic machine that we live in a place in that creativity–this is challenging to say the least!

  20. Wow lots of Good intentions here, but everyone is grappling with the application: renounce money, don’t buy name brand sunglasses, go back to susistance, etc. Why don’t we let the challenge be made by the Holy Spirit and respond as he leads, don’t worry about what other people must do, you aren’t responsible for them, just worry about your own response. If for you that means subsistence farming good, if it means going no name brand, great. For me it means taking responsibility for those in need close to me who haven’t had the same privelages I have, not just my money, but also my time, care and patience, no matter if they appreciate it or deserve it.
    Keep loving hard!

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