More Than Money
Issue #7
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Money and Spirit

Table of Contents

“Opposing Directions on the Spiritual Compass”

Turning Away From Wealth

Jesus' concern with the dangers of affluence was not a casual, occasional remark, but a major emphasis in his teaching. Yet even the most biblically committed of us often carry three common but false assumptions that remove us from the biblical indictment on the rich: (1) "Others might be rich, but not me--I'm just an average American"; (2) "It's my attitude towards possessions and not the number of them that is the most important"; and (3) "The Old Testament teaches that wealth is a blessing from God; God has simply been good to me." Here's a response to each of these:

  • In the eyes of most of the world, average middle-class Americans with a "just comfortable" standard of living are not only the rich of the world, but the super-rich. (For instance, the average American kid's yearly pocket money--$230--is more than the annual income of half a billion poor people around the globe.)
  • While many wealthy Christians believe that giving away large proportions of their income shows they are not too attached to possessions, the mark of sacrificial giving in the New Testament is not how much is given, but how much is left over after the giving is finished. In the Bible's view, wealth is always gathered at the expense of the poor (and thus is oppressive even if the means of accumulating wealth are "legal"), and maintained at the expense of charity.
  • While community wealth in the Old Testament is regarded as a blessing of God, individual accumulation of wealth is seen as a spiritual danger which twists people's priorities and distorts their sensitivity to God, others, and themselves.

The ideal of prosperity is an ideal for the people of God as a whole, not for isolated individuals; a life of relative ease in the midst of the suffering of others is never seen as good. Thus, biblical lifestyle is one in which needs are met, but in which one lives close enough to the edge of one's resources to have to trust in God to meet his or her needs.

-- Adapted and combined from the articles "God and Mammon" by Peter H. Davids and "The Bible and the Poor" by Bob Sabath. From the study guide "Who is My Neighbor? Economics as if Values Matter" by Sojourners magazine, a ministry of the Sojourners Community, 2401 15th St. NW , Washington DC 20009 , 1-800-714-7474.

Embracing Wealth

Throughout history the church has promoted poverty as a path to holiness. This teaching has been a powerful weapon for keeping power over the faithful... Voluntary poverty is a valid spiritual path. Renunciates like Gandhi and Mother Teresa have inspired millions. Celibacy, as practiced by certain religious disciplines, is also a spiritual path, but most of us don't believe that being celibate is the only spiritual path. Likewise, renouncing wealth is not the only spiritual path. We can choose to be stewards of wealth to serve the planet. If all spiritual people rejected wealth, then by default they would give the power to others who would spend it quite differently.

The real solution to the problem of lack of money comes from a change in our fundamental attitudes toward, and hence our relationship with, power and wealth. You can personally redefine money in your mind to be an extension of the universe or God-energy flowing through you. Your job is to channel money into the physical plane to use in a way that supports you and others. .

-- Adapted from Money Freedom: Finding Your Inner Source of Wealth and Power, by Patricia Remele. ARE Press, Virginia Beach , Virginia , 1995.

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