“The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world. For the whole modern world is absolutely based on the assumption, not that the rich are necessary (which is tenable), but that the rich are trustworthy, which (for a Christian) is not tenable…The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt.”
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
There are too many verses in Scripture which speak out against the rich for us to ignore. In our own life experiences we know that Chesterton’s following assertion is also true:
“To be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck.”
To say that the rich are necessary is tenable from a Christian perspective. You could argue that in this fallen world the rich are a necessary evil; perhaps this is what Jesus meant in telling the confusing parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16).
But to say that the rich are trustworthy (whether verbally, as in a conversation, or politically, as with your vote) is not a tenable position for Christians to take. And yet the contemporary church seems wrecked upon the rocks of riches:
- The Health and Wealth message is preached under the guise of the Gospel, though this is really magical thinking at best, rather more akin to heresy than orthodoxy
- In direct contravention of Scripture (James 2:2-3) the rich in the Church are given preferential treatment, places of honor within the organization, and are frequently recognized publicly
- American Christians (I include myself in this group) are more likely to twist Scripture to fit their lifestyles than change their lifestyles to match Christ’s mandates regarding wealth
Everywhere in the Church you see the rich trusted and celebrated, and what’s so heartbreaking is that the Church is the one place in our world where this should not be.
But the rich help build bigger churches. They fund amazing church programs. They buy nice equipment and carpets, and they support bigger salaries which are used to attract better preachers. Long-story-short: Church without the rich ain’t sexy. What’s more, many churches are closing up shop these days because they don’t have the financial resources to carry on. Armed with these facts, leaders in our Church justify their idol worship of the rich by arguing that wealth allows them to reach and ‘save’ more souls.
Pastors: I get it. Like you, I want to preach the Word. I want to save souls, help to heal pain, and love the body of Christ. And yes, sometimes I want to be rich. I want to write a best-seller, make my blog commercially lucrative, and get a high-paying pastor-gig at a mega-church somewhere. We’re all susceptible to the same temptations, but my fear is that many of you no longer see riches as a temptation of the Church but rather as a trusted comrade-in-arms.