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HolyGround >> Christianity and wealth


8/20/12 7:55 PM
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ChanceDuBois
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This thread is inspired by something Rev John said on another thread:

"a CEO shouldn't get over three hundred times what the average worker makes either. Jesus very clearly says you cannot serve God and money"

I am wondering who is to stop a CEO getting over three hundred times the wage of the average worker? Do those people voluntarily giving this wage to a CEO do something wrong? Does the CEO do something wrong in accepting what is freely given to him?
8/20/12 7:57 PM
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ChanceDuBois
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Is it impossible to be rich without serving money (I assume that means letting it take over your life)?
8/20/12 9:24 PM
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micmac
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The matter, as with all things related to your faithfulness to Jesus, is what is in your heart? There is nothing wrong with earning 1000000000000000 x your employees if you use these resources - God's resources - to glorify God. That can mean an unlimited number of things, but if you hoard wealth and ignore the suffering of your hungry neighbor, then you are not serving God. Phone Post
8/21/12 11:57 PM
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DyingBreed
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micmac - The matter, as with all things related to your faithfulness to Jesus, is what is in your heart? There is nothing wrong with earning 1000000000000000 x your employees if you use these resources - God's resources - to glorify God. That can mean an unlimited number of things, but if you hoard wealth and ignore the suffering of your hungry neighbor, then you are not serving God. Phone Post
THIS


You can be a slave of money, or make money your slave. Phone Post
8/22/12 9:28 PM
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gord96
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Edited: 08/22/12 10:44 PM
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Not saying there is anything wrong with making a decent wage working. In our imperfect society, money is something that is needed to go about your business. But money easily can become your master, even when you think it's your slave.
8/23/12 7:14 AM
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ChanceDuBois
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Money is merely a medium of exchange and a store of value. If you have something that lots of people value more than you value it yourself then you will naturally accumulate money in exchange for provision of that good or service.

How is this accumulation of money or things bought with money to be prevented without preventing people from seeking and gaining what they desire and what makes them happy? I suppose you could eliminate ownership, but in a world of limited resources that only leads to worse problems and allocation by queuing or by force or by political favour (i.e. force).
8/23/12 8:16 PM
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Ridgeback
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 The warnings of Jesus about people who thrive and prosper in this fallen world go well beyond merely saying "be careful if you want to be rich."  His warnings are much more dire and much more stern than that.  He appears to say that those who thrive under the "prince of this world" will find the Kingdom of Heaven to be a reality of suffering and torment because they have made themselves citizens of a fallen world marked by an ethic of power and self-love.  Hence the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
8/23/12 11:25 PM
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OneScoup
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This is a curious argument. I know this sounds like a joke, but is Tim Tebow going to hell for this reason?

Serious question...
8/23/12 11:33 PM
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Grakman
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OneScoup, it's kind of a conundrum, because on the one hand some Christians would say Tebow is saved and will go to heaven if he has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. He evidences this belief in his life with his philanthropy and good works, and 'fruits of the spirit.'

On the other hand, well, he is rich and famous and probably keeps too much of his own money, so some would question whether he is really saved and just a part of the system of oppression that keeps down the poor and marginalized.

It's a question I have often asked on the forum: How much money is too much money? Where do we draw the line? Even the poor in American are luxuriously rich compared to the poor in Africa and Latin America and others parts of the Third World. Should the poor Americans give to the poorer people in other parts of the world?

I feel like those in the Bible who asked, 'Well, who is my neighbor?' I used to feel that once I became aware of a problem it was my responsibility to do something about it, even if it was sending cash or sponsoring poor children. When I didn't, I'd feel guilty about it. I'd feel guilty about having pizza and watching TV, or driving to work in my 5 year old used car, because you know, there were people who had no cars, or no shoes, and it was my responsibility to make sure they all had shoes or else I wasn't being a good Christian.

Oops, looks like my inner monologue has leaked out into my post. O_o Feel free to comment if you like.

Cheers!
8/24/12 12:58 PM
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ChanceDuBois
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Grakman - OneScoup, it's kind of a conundrum, because on the one hand some Christians would say Tebow is saved and will go to heaven if he has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. He evidences this belief in his life with his philanthropy and good works, and 'fruits of the spirit.'

On the other hand, well, he is rich and famous and probably keeps too much of his own money, so some would question whether he is really saved and just a part of the system of oppression that keeps down the poor and marginalized.

It's a question I have often asked on the forum: How much money is too much money? Where do we draw the line? Even the poor in American are luxuriously rich compared to the poor in Africa and Latin America and others parts of the Third World. Should the poor Americans give to the poorer people in other parts of the world?

I feel like those in the Bible who asked, 'Well, who is my neighbor?' I used to feel that once I became aware of a problem it was my responsibility to do something about it, even if it was sending cash or sponsoring poor children. When I didn't, I'd feel guilty about it. I'd feel guilty about having pizza and watching TV, or driving to work in my 5 year old used car, because you know, there were people who had no cars, or no shoes, and it was my responsibility to make sure they all had shoes or else I wasn't being a good Christian.

Oops, looks like my inner monologue has leaked out into my post. O_o Feel free to comment if you like.

Cheers!

I don't see how someone keeping too much (how much is too much?) of their own money keeps down the poor and marginalised. Wealth is continuously being created. Having more money does not mean that someone else has less, provided that wealth was gained via mutually beneficial exchange rather than taking by force.
8/24/12 1:29 PM
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ChanceDuBois
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Ridgeback -  The warnings of Jesus about people who thrive and prosper in this fallen world go well beyond merely saying "be careful if you want to be rich."  His warnings are much more dire and much more stern than that.  He appears to say that those who thrive under the "prince of this world" will find the Kingdom of Heaven to be a reality of suffering and torment because they have made themselves citizens of a fallen world marked by an ethic of power and self-love.  Hence the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

I'm struggling to see the reason behind this teaching. Is it ok if we try and fail, or only if we don't try at all? Wouldn't the world be a much worse place if people didn't accumulate capital and use it to create more wealth? Can't wealth be a good thing? After all if there is no wealth and we exist only in our original state of nature then what is there to give to the poor?
8/24/12 3:51 PM
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gord96
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8/24/12 6:11 PM
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Grakman
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Edited: 08/24/12 6:12 PM
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Do you believe the Bible gord? If so how would you answer these questions:

How did Solomon get all of his wealth? Was he blessed by God or not?

How about Job, how did he become so prosperous? The Bible says that God had a hedge about him, and that Satan had to ask permission of God to attack Job and take away all of his earthly possessions. After all was said and done, the Bible says that God multiplied Job's blessings - more sheep, goats, land, children, etc, i.e. wealth - for remaining faithful.
8/24/12 6:15 PM
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ChanceDuBois
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Is monasticism possible without a wealth generating culture to support it? If everyone turned to monasticism then the human race might cease to exist.

Religion is supported and maintained by culture. It is a cultural institution. Culture comes from capital and wealth generating potential.
8/24/12 6:54 PM
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gord96
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I hear ya Chance. I mentioned that I don't think everyone should be a monastic, nor do I advocate everyone should give away all their money. If they want to, that's great. If they don't then so be it. Monasticism is a special calling for those who desire it. It's definitely not for me! Using monasticism was just an example of the far end of the spectrum.

My main point is not the evils of wealth, but how it CAN hinder a person spiritually. That's all. I have no plans to give away all my money. My wife would kill me ;)

On a side note I would imagine a monastic community to be pretty self sufficient.
8/24/12 7:09 PM
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gord96
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8/24/12 7:48 PM
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ChanceDuBois
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Gord, I can't imagine how a monastic community could exist without the context of a society generating wealth and capital. When you are living in a cave and scraping a meager living from what nature provides I find it difficult to believe that there will be much time for rejection of what is worldly.

For monasticism and any other type of spiritual life, wealth creation is required. How then can wealth creation, which at base is about making the world a more habitable place for us to exist, be a thing that God disapproves of?
8/24/12 8:59 PM
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gord96
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You could be right. You probably are. I can't really disagree with you.

I don't know if we are really on the same page in this discussion. My viewpoint on this doesn't extend beyond a single person. You are looking at a more cultural/world view. I really don't think much beyond the here and now and what i can see before my eyes, for better or for worse.
8/24/12 9:26 PM
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ChanceDuBois
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Is Christ telling us that we should strive to fail in material terms, that we should be poor at supporting our families, that we should not provide goods or services that other people want in return for what we want from them?
8/24/12 11:43 PM
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RoidsGracie
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ChanceDuBois - Gord, I can't imagine how a monastic community could exist without the context of a society generating wealth and capital. When you are living in a cave and scraping a meager living from what nature provides I find it difficult to believe that there will be much time for rejection of what is worldly.

For monasticism and any other type of spiritual life, wealth creation is required. How then can wealth creation, which at base is about making the world a more habitable place for us to exist, be a thing that God disapproves of?

In the early Christian community as described in the New Testament the vast majority of Christians were indeed not living the monastic style. Even Paul of Taurus had to have some sort of trade to support himself - and he was still supported financially by others in the community when it came to his religious work. He mentioned in his letters about how he was going to come visit a church and bring along some money with him that was gathered from Christians in another church.

I don't doubt that some people are called to the Monastic life as some other people are called to serve in different ways - as written in Paul's letters. Even Jesus himself didn't appear to call everyone to leave behind their old life completely and follow him around as he did his preaching. For the women who was caught in adultery - he told her to simply go and sin no more. For Zacchaeus the tax collector he asked to eat at his home and afterwards Zacchaeus then pledged to return the money plus some to the people he cheated - I'm assuming he still continued to do his old job but only without his previous greed and corruption.
8/25/12 1:37 AM
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Ridgeback
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ChanceDuBois - 
Ridgeback -  The warnings of Jesus about people who thrive and prosper in this fallen world go well beyond merely saying "be careful if you want to be rich."  His warnings are much more dire and much more stern than that.  He appears to say that those who thrive under the "prince of this world" will find the Kingdom of Heaven to be a reality of suffering and torment because they have made themselves citizens of a fallen world marked by an ethic of power and self-love.  Hence the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

I'm struggling to see the reason behind this teaching. Is it ok if we try and fail, or only if we don't try at all? Wouldn't the world be a much worse place if people didn't accumulate capital and use it to create more wealth? Can't wealth be a good thing? After all if there is no wealth and we exist only in our original state of nature then what is there to give to the poor?

 In asking this question you are not even conceiving of a world where people are primarily motivated by a self-sacrificial love for their fellow humans (and not just their own blood relations or kinsfolk) and what that would look like vs. the will to horde at the expense of our fellow humans and dominate and exercise control over them through material means.  

Furthermore, in the Christian cosmology if man did not fall out of communion with God he would not have been subject to "corruption and death" which means people would not be poor or want for anything.  You can't start with an already fallen world and derive a Christian ethic from that starting point.  One of the big themes of Jesus' ministry is that mankind has strayed very far from his original purpose and has fallen far short of his original potential.  Jesus was never treated as some kind of super being in early Christian theology, but rather he was viewed as what humans should have been.  So his mastery over nature means he never would have had to die or starve or succumb to illness.  

Can wealth itself be a good thing in our fallen state?  Sure.  If it is generously given away it can do a lot of good.  I don't think anybody can deny that.  But poll after poll reveals that the majority of the wealthy don't do this.  They are less generous with what they have than the poor are with what they have in the US.  And that seems to verify the teaching of Jesus regarding the wealthy and what the wealth does to their souls.  There have certainly been wealthy saints in the history of Christianity, but they all freely gave of their wealth.  St. Nicholas (of Santa Claus fame) gave away his inheritance over time to those in need and did not spend it on his own wants.  Can you imagine if every wealthy person in the world was like this?  But they clearly aren't and they clearly aren't by a wide margin, which is why the desire for wealth appears to be exactly the spiritual hazard Jesus warned people about.
8/25/12 3:45 AM
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ChanceDuBois
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All people freely giving all wealth away for nothing in return would lead to disastrous poverty and suffering on a huge scale and the collapse of civilisation, unless the rules of existence changed in some way. I understand that Jesus is promising a kingdom where everything does indeed change, but the message for Earth now with earthly limited resources seems destined to lead to misery
8/25/12 3:57 AM
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ChanceDuBois
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Imagine a world where capital didn't accumulate, where investment didn't happen, and where the economy shrank persistently to zero.
8/25/12 12:21 PM
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Ridgeback
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ChanceDuBois - All people freely giving all wealth away for nothing in return would lead to disastrous poverty and suffering on a huge scale and the collapse of civilisation, unless the rules of existence changed in some way. I understand that Jesus is promising a kingdom where everything does indeed change, but the message for Earth now with earthly limited resources seems destined to lead to misery

  But you can't even conceive of people working in harmony.  Let's say that people want to build a hospital.  It has to be profitable why?  People have to hoard wealth to be a part of it why?  What you are really saying is that you can't conceive of an economic system where people are not primarily motivated by the desire to acquire more wealth than they could ever use or enjoy in a lifetime.  Nothing is stopping a group of people from working communaly on a project.  It has happened with monasteries, where people put their own desires second to the community.

As far as economic systems that have been proposed in a fallen world with selfish people these exist as well.  One pope proposed a system called "distributism" which was popularized by GK Chesterton.  Basically the idea behind this system is to extend ownership as broadly as possible, with the emphasis on a family farm or small business rather than corporations owning most of the means of production or the state doing so as in a socialist system.  

But your point is certainly taken.  The teachings of Jesus are indeed incompatible with a fallen world.  I think that is what makes it very obvious that we are fallen very far from our potential.  We know on some level he is right and then when we start to think about how it would be to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth we realize how far we have gone astray.  And at that point a bit of humility goes a long way.  You do what you can with what is set before you.  You don't expect to overturn the economic system you are in, but you can use some of the money you have to give to those in need and to alleviate the suffering of those who are sick or injured.  The key is which Kingdom has your loyalty as a human.  Are you loyal to a fallen kingdom where selfishness and the use of your fellow human for your own ends is the norm, or are you loyal to a kingdom marked by self-sacrificial love.  Hence the phrase "in the world but not of the world."  
8/25/12 5:11 PM
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ChanceDuBois
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I think that people pooling capital and using it to build a hospital to run as a not for profit venture still requires the accumulation of capital in the first place, which requires normal mutually beneficial for-profit interactions.

I don't know anything about distributism, I will read about it.

I honestly don't see free market interactions as exploitative or selfish- they are by definition of benefit to both parties, otherwise they would not happen. What I do find exploitative and selfish is the exercise of political power for control of these free interactions via the threat of violence. Do you perhaps disagree with personal ownership of resources and the means of production?

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