19 September 2007

The Problem Of The Rich

It's funny how often we (I!) would rather accept the spiritual dangers of physical wealth rather than accept the physical dangers of spiritual wealth... as if the physical world was somehow more real, more important or more lasting than the spiritual. I know, I know, it sure seems like it's more real, important, etc... I can hardly blame those who have that world view (that's me letting myself off the hook).

However, wise people across the entire spectrum of human history, geography and theology seem to concur that physical prosperity comes with some significant risk and an attachment to riches is not a good thing. Yeah, I know about the "prosperity gospel" types who say wealth is a sign of God's blessing... but I wouldn't put them in the "wise people" category.

Along those lines here are some interesting ideas from the Apr/May 2007 issue of Gilbert Magazine (please, go get a subscription if you haven't already!):

Why should not the poor visit the rich...? Chesterton was not concerned with their visiting the rich to learn how to be rich and how not to be poor. He though rather that the poor could teach the rich the dangers of being rich, something rather often mentioned in the New Testament...

The great "need" of the age of "philanthropy," Chestertson thinks, is a series of "missions to the rich," not to the poor. After close observance of the rich and their actual lives, "their gloomy, cynical, and lawless lives," one may still catch glimmers of hope in the lives of the rich. The great problem is to concentrate on the problems of the rich, not the poor.

The real problem of the poor is not primarily how to become rich. The problem of the rich is not necessarily how to become poor but how to become virtuous, whether rich or poor. The poor have something to teach the rich about the danger of riches. Chesterton says someplace else that the New Testament teaches that the worst environment for a man's soul is the environment of the rich.

Someday maybe I'll write a story about a convocation of poor people, having a conference to decide how to help address the needs of the rich... I'll probably write it, because I think I'd like to read that story.


Eric said...

Where to start...? I've tried to come to terms with verses like Proverbs 11:25, which says that the generous will prosper. What does that mean? My current take on it is that if we're generous, there will definitely be spiritual benefits, but also that generosity will be perpetuated (sort of a "Pay It Forward" idea), plausibly coming right around and benefiting us. Of course, there's plenty of scripture that tell us not to do things for the earthly benefits, and also that there's no guarantee that giving will make us rich. As you say, spiritual riches are so much greater than any earthly riches anyway. So let's aim to not be generous in order to get favor from God in earthly stuff, but to be generous because we love Him and others.

And I love the idea of addressing the needs of the rich. I'm currently putting together some curriculum for our local church on Biblical finances and budgeting, and I think I'm going to have to include a section on that.

It's tricky though. I think "Financial Freedom" (as Crown Financial Ministries promotes) is still a worthwhile pursuit. By "Financial Freedom", they mean free to be more generous with our time, money, and gifts than we are currently with mortgages, car loans, and small-ish emergency savings. Debt is bondage after all. So we need to remember that we're doing everything for God's glory and humanity's enjoyment of Him, not our material benefit.

Dan said...

Hey Eric - I love seeing you grappling with this stuff too. I'm still sorting it all out in my head - definitely don't have it all put together yet (ever!?). Keep me posted as things develop!

brian said...

All the world's problems would be solved if everyone was just the right kind of Christian. Well at least the problem's of the worlds priests and kin.

That's right folks. If you just bow down to the right authority, utopia will be realized.

The problem with rich people is there are way to many who don't deserve it who have it and way to many who do deserve it who do not have it. If economic polarity were reduced, this phenomenon would be reduced as well.

I think maybe you guys should try to come up with some answers that are not informed by story tales from 2000 years ago. Also, it would be advisable to only consider solutions that are not informed by supernaturalism. Proper solutions from supernatural frameworks can only come about through coincidence considering that reality is highly unlikely to be of supernatural structure. If I asked how to boil water, would the appropriate answer be to refer to some deity? Why should procuring a social outcome be any different since it is an empirical state?

By the way, am I to believe that there was only one zombie in existence who coincidentally was the only monokayrotic (or possibly apomictic) hominid in existence?

Pasta be with you,